Killer Organizing and De-Cluttering Tips to Simplify Life (or just be ready for a move...)

Partially due to the packing and moving looming over my head as the end of August draws nigh, and partially due to my ongoing quest to order and prioritize my life, I've been doing a lot of organizing and de-cluttering lately. In fact I'm a little obsessed, selling furniture and books helter-skelter and hustling off superfluous possessions as quickly as I can freecycle and thrift-store 'em. I can see the surfaces of both my desk and my kitchen table at the moment, and that in and of itself is a feat! Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for organizing and de-cluttering at the moment.
  • First of all, be honest, really honest, about which of your stack of "to read" books will actually ever get read. If you have stuff on your shelf just because you think you should read it, or because you think it looks intellectual, or because once upon a time you read it for a class, get rid of it! Donate them, or better yet trade them at a used bookstore or for something you actually do want to read. There are too many amazing books in the world to waste time with ones that don't captivate you! If you're interested in a topic but just can't get through that danged book, find another one on the same subject that you find more engaging.
  • Along the same lines, be honest, really honest, about which of your projects you will finish. Are you ever actually going to beat the last few levels of that video game? Is that button ever really going to be sewn back onto the shirt? Yes? Then sit down and do it. And if you realize that the game isn't really that great, or that the shirt wasn't actually your color anyway, move it on out!
  • Don't hold on to "wishful thinking" items. I have a hard time finding shoes that work for me, since I was blessed with oddly shaped feet and some genetic bone-misalignment (yeah yeah, they're bunions, but that's such an old-lady word...). Due to this misfortune I've accumulated quite the little collection of shoes that almost fit... so last week I made myself go through my closet and get rid of all my "wishful thinking" shoes, even the really cute ones. As it turns out, I had about five pairs of shoes, all of which I couldn't wear for longer than about fifteen minutes, just cluttering up my closet. Oops... Similar items might be a musical instrument you'll never bother learning to play, the educational videos your kids never want to watch, the language tapes that are sitting warping in your poor old cassette player, or the notes from that amazing class that you will never in a million years actually try to decode. If you're still hoping this stuff will be used and useful someday, then they're probably "wishful thinking" items. And if you're bristling right now as you read this, then prove me wrong! Get them out, dust them off, pop them in the player, by all means! But don't just let that stuff sit. Get a tax write-off and give someone else the opportunity to benefit, and your house a little breathing room.
  • Divide up your closet. I am not a morning person, and even just finding the right clothes for a day in the office can require more brain power than my sleep-addled mind can handle... an issue I solved simply by putting my work clothes into a "work zone" in my closet. Even the specific t-shirts I can wear on casual Fridays I hang up now, so that every single item I might need to get dressed is always on hand in the exact same place, without having to shuffle through drawers.
  • Maximize containers. Being crafty, I have a lot of paper scraps, photos, ticket stubs, and other things that are destined for a future role in a collage or scrapbook. The answer to all my paper scrap storage needs takes the very simple and affordable form of a expandable, velcro-shut folder. One for each project even, clearly labeled with sharpie on the outside, and *VOILA!* no more bits of this and that falling behind my dresser or getting crushed in the back of my closet. For those of us who have been known to clip a coupon or two the mess of paper that hobby can generate is easily consolidated into a shoebox or, if you work in an office, an empty envelope box works beautifully too. Recently an antique china gravy boat I discovered at the thrift store turned into a desk-receptical to contain my jumble of paperclips, tape, and rubberbands in a tidy, attractive way, while I put clear plastic sheet protectors to work to corral the loose papers, receipts, to-do lists, etc that will later be filed or shredded, but temporarily need a home on my desk. This alone has nearly ended my cats' favorite hobby, "Knock Stuff On the Floor." Score one for me!
  • Remember that your things are tenants in your home. If something is going to be given a place in your house it needs to be somehow earning it, whether in aesthetic appeal or though utilitarian means. If an item is gathering dust, or broken, or just not important to you any more, then either find a way to put it to new use or evict that sucker! Remember too, just because something was important to you in the past, it might not be important to you now... hold on to things that trigger memories certainly (there are several books I plan to keep simply because of the clear mental picture I have of where I was and what I was feeling when I read them), but if you've forgotten why you kept the item in the first place then you're probably safe sending it on its way.
  • The box trick. If you have things that give you the impression of being tenants way behind on their rent, but you can't quite decide whether their nostalgia or usefulness factor is high enough to retain them, then stick them all in a box and seal it up. In a month, test yourself. Can you even remember what's in it? Best case scenario from an organizing point-of-view, you will have forgotten about the contents all together, and can cart the whole thing off to the thrift store. Otherwise, keep what you have missed and dispose of the rest.
The aim of this game is to feel blessed by our many possessions and not tied down to them... to value what we have because it is actually has value, and not merely because we can call it our own. Be selective with your stuff, and try to think through what ways of organizing can save you time and hassle in the future. Sort through stuff now rather than later, and take pride in the mere fact of having carried a task or project through to completion. If it isn't worth completing this moment, analyze whether it's worth finishing at all and then act accordingly. Evict those worthless tenants! And gradually enjoy a simpler, tidier, more balanced life.

Not to mention, you'll have a hell of a lot less to pack when it comes time to move someday... and THAT works for me.
This post is part of Works for Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family and is included in Real Life's Your Life Your Blog as well. Check out both for more awesome posts and ideas!


  1. I need the box trick in my life. I really think it could change my life. Thanks for sharing these ideas..I totally need them right now.


    Stop by and visit me over at Free2BeFrugal.

  2. I love the idea of my stuff being a tenant in my house that I can evict if it's not living up to it's expectations. I'm so glad I asked you for help. Thanks!

  3. The idea of dividing your closet into zones is a good one. I think I will adopt this. Then I won't have to think too hard about what to wear to work when I'm at my morning foggiest!

  4. The box trick is brillant. I'll have to try it, if I can find the box I put in the box for the box trick I put around here somewhere...

  5. Great tips!! I really need to get back on the decluttering bandwagon again. I fell off awhile back and my house is showing it. :(

  6. Great reminders! The "wishful thinking" items are my weak area. I come from a long line of packrats and I really have to keep myself motivated to keep the tendency from creeping up on me. Good luck with your move!


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