by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: Keep similar things together - pens, spatulas, sneakers, etc. - so you can see what you own.
I’m still thinking about decluttering indecision. While the other day I suggested having a packing party for that stuff you’re convinced that you use (until you find out you don’t even use half of it), today I want you to acknowledge what you have.
When you bring similar items together, you can see what you own. This can help you realize that you don't need to go out and buy another box of rice because you already have two boxes on your pantry shelf. Or, you don't need to buy more shampoo because you have one brand new bottle in your clothes closet, another in your linen closet, and two more under your bathroom sink.
And, if you're a crafter, this technique can really help you save money when shopping because you won't be tempted by another roll of washi tape since you remember that your bin of washi is filled to the brim.
Step One: Get It Together
Really truly gather all the stuff for a category and bring it to one place so you can see what you have. You might be able to use the dining table, your bed, or another flat surface – like the floor. You want enough space so that you can not only pile stuff but move it around into smaller groupings.
If you are going to sort cleaning supplies, gather up everything, from every room and storage area. You may have some cleaners in the bathroom, some in the kitchen, some things in your linen closet or cleaning closet or laundry room or garage.
Bring all your books to one area. Gather all your fashion scarves or belts or yarn or acrylic paint or whatever it is that you want to sort through. Focus on a single category during each session. (So, if you work with a few different art and craft supplies, don’t simultaneously sort yarn, rubber stamps, paper, embellishments, paint, etc.)
Step Two: Group Similar Items
Within your category of stuff, group similar items. If you were sorting belts, you could sort them by color or width or whether you’d wear them with casual, work, or dressy outfits. Sort cleaning supplies by bathroom cleaners, glass cleaners, spot removers, etc. Sort jewelry by necklaces, bracelets, pins, etc. Pile books by their subject or genre.
There’s no right or wrong way to group items – and if you want to create subgroups, go for it. Maybe you have a lot of necklaces and dividing them into silver and gold still leaves you with overwhelming piles. You could further divide those groups by length.
I’m going to say that you want a subgroup of three-to-five items so that you easily compare the items. One item by itself is probably an aberration from your normal style or interests, a specialty item, or a gift. Ten items in a group could be overwhelming to compare.
If you notice that something is in poor condition, decide if it’s time to get rid of it. If you realize that you don’t like something and don’t use it (and have no intention of using it again), put these items in a donation bag. Stop moving them around your home.
Step Three: Notice the Excess
If you notice that you have forty-three books on home gardening, focus on this pile and figure out if you refer to all of them on a regular basis. Maybe you have seven bathroom cleaners. Or, seventeen scarves in different shades of blue. Do you use all these items? Were you shocked to discover duplicates or near-duplicates in your groupings? If this happened, then take it as a sign that you have too many of these types of items and you can’t keep track of them all.
If you felt a bit like you were shopping and were excited to rediscover some of these things – great! And that means that you weren’t using them at all. Use this discovery to remind yourself to use these items … or, realize it’s the time to move them along.
Step Four: Use it and Save Money
I love yarn and colored cardstock, but it gets to a point where too much is too much. I can make a lot of projects without buying a single supply. I’ll clear away some of the excess, my crafting space will be neater, and I’ll save cash.
Save money on grocery shopping by using the canned and dry goods in your pantry, particularly if you’ve stocked up on pasta, soup, or tuna in the past.
All those scarves – wear ‘em and don’t buy another one. Wear the jewelry you own. By sorting through everything in a category, you can see what you truly own and how you use it.
Step Five: Store Like with Like
Have a lot of similar cleaning products? Line up these items from least-to-most full. Use up the products that are nearly empty first. Keep the products together so you can better maintain a sense of your inventory. It might make more sense to have a cleaning caddy filled with products if you have more than one bathroom as opposed to having a full set of supplies in each room.
This also works with beauty and grooming supplies, stationery (use up partially used notepads and notebooks; use pens that are half-filled with ink), and some craft supplies.
The Benefits of Being Organized
Keeping similar items together helps you keep track of what you have, and you’ll save money by avoiding buying things you already own. Also, you’ll have an easier time decluttering because you’ll see where you have duplicates and you can compare the condition or quality of similar items and decide to keep the best.
In my book, Decadent Decluttering, I take you through the process of sorting a wide variety of categories of things you have in your home. Save the physical clutter and purchase the book for your Kindle or the Kindle app.
Sign up for emails from A Less Cluttered Life and learn how simple, everyday practices can eliminate the scattered feeling of trying to do too much. Join the free program, A Year of Decluttering, and get access to the 7-day e-course, Distraction-free Decluttering.
The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).