Back to basics

If you’re reading a simplifying blog, you probably already know basic steps for taking charge of your stuff. In case you’re not already taking advantage of those basic steps, however, here’s a list straight from the August 2013 edition of Family Circle magazine,* with my comments.

1. “Stow as you go”

As much as possible, put things away as you go. Hang up clothes when you take them off. Keep countertops free. Open/recycle/attend to mail every day (tips for reducing junk mail in the U.S.).

2. Spend just a few minutes a day de-cluttering.

The idea is to make a daily habit of not letting unwanted/unneeded items accumulate.

3. Carve out a place to store bulk items.

I’m generally not a fan of buying in gross, unless it’s something like toilet paper or dog food. “Only purchase what you really need and have plenty of space to store,” concludes Family Circle.

4. Streamline rooms fast by tossing trash.

If you have kids, especially, you’ve probably got broken bits, odds and ends, and plain old junk that can easily be recycled or thrown away.

5. Give storage an expiration date.

“Pack away anything you haven’t used in the last year. After six months, reevaluate whether you still need it. Ask yourself what’s worth more, the belongings or the real estate they’re occupying in your life,” says Family Circle.

6. Use the 30-second rule to pare down.

When you can’t easily decide if something should stay or go, use technique number 5 above and consider shortening the storage period to one month.

7. Divide and conquer.

To make the process of reducing your things easier, tackle one small area or one group of like items at a time. For example, put all shoes and boots together, then sort and evaluate. If you’ve got a few hours of uninterrupted time, here are my tips for taking on a kitchen or bathroom.

8. For each item you buy, get rid of one in its place.

A rigid one-for-one approach doesn’t work for me, but I think the spirit of this is critical. We need to be more intentional about what we bring into our homes and avoid reverting to old buying habits or we risk undoing all of the hard effort we’ve already put into reducing our stuff.

9. Beware of gifts and freebies.

“We should ask ourselves, ‘Would I spend money on this?,'” says Brooks Palmer, author of Clutter Busting. I decline all promotional giveaways, even if I get confused or rejected looks in return, because I don’t want another plastic water bottle or bag or cheap plastic toy.

10. When you need help deciding what to part with, enlist someone whose opinion you trust.

Look for someone who can give you an honest and objective—but caring—assessment. It’s even better if that person has experience and can advise you on different ways to get rid of unwanted items (consignment, Craigslist, freecycle.org, donation, recycling, trash).

It goes without saying that the steps above are ideally a household affair, not the domain of a single person. Here’s my post on negotiating the simplifying journey with others.

* The women’s magazine Family Circle was a staple in my home growing up, so when an old edition turned up on the reading cart at work it caught my eye!

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