On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you need to declutter? Dorothy Breininger shares a favorite tip for cleaning up.
Although I have always been organized, there were two significant moments in my life that taught me how to manage clutter.
The first was when I returned from a backpacking trip around the world. Having visited homes in many developing nations, I no longer wanted to have such excess in my own home. My possessions were organized, but I had too many of them for my taste.
After I unpacked from my journey, I began a thorough review of my stuff. I started upstairs, removing unnecessary items floor by floor. By the time I reached the basement, I had enough stuff to set up a second apartment.
My second decluttering lesson was right after my divorce. Just months after the split, I was facing bankruptcy. I began my climb out of sudden and severe financial debt while simultaneously making a name for myself in the organizing industry. I hired a top-tier PR agent, but I knew I had to come up with some big bucks to cover his fee and all the expenses that go along with creating a brand. I decided to sell my home and everything I owned to make it happen.
As I sorted my belongings for a second time, I created the ranking system below to help me decide what to keep and what to toss. It worked beautifully for me, and I think it can work for you too.
The clutter scale
5 — Important items whose place in your home is non-negotiable. For me, this included my green-stained Depression glass, photos, business files, office equipment and car.
4 — Items that are difficult to replace and items you use every day. This pile included most of my clothes, some furniture, a favorite sheet set, towels and jewelry.
3 — Items you use occasionally but haven’t used within the last six months.
2 — Items you rarely use but feel hesitant to toss.
1 — Items you never use, like seasonal items, specialized tools or kitchen gadgets. I got rid of stationery, extra wrapping paper, old boxes and my printer.
You know what I found as I used the clutter scale? There were rarely items that rated a 2 or 3. And once I established some criteria, I sorted and purged the 2s and 3s like never before. As you sort your less important items, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I love it?
- What’s the special story behind it?
- Do I have the space for it?
- Can I replace it?
- Can I easily borrow it or rent it if I need it again?
- Does it support my goals and values?
- Does it compare to the items I ranked as a 5?
The clutter scale is a great way to get back in touch with your priorities. My priority at the time was starting my business, so I kept the bigger goal in sight and let go of anything that didn’t support it.
What I didn’t know then was that I was already practicing what I was going to preach in my business. I learned to organize my life and stuff based on my values. I chose to collect experiences — not things.
As you declutter and rank your possessions, don’t forget to take a few minutes to think about your goals and values. You’ll find your home to be much more intentional and peaceful if you do!
DorothyTheOrganizer (Dorothy Breininger) is America’s most innovative organizer and can be seen weekly on the critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated show “Hoarders” on A&E. She also appears on The Doctors, The Dr. Phil Show and The View. Creating organization solutions that change people’s lives is her passion. Follow DorothyTheOrganizer on Facebook and Twitter.