In response to a question that I addressed last week on cluttering, I gave reasons why we clutter. This week I have listed several ways to actually deal with it.

To begin with, know it is going to take time, but consistent work on it will yield progress. Often just getting started helps get the ball rolling and you can move along more quickly. First, it is necessary to understand that there simply is not enough space for everything to fit. One general rule of thumb I apply is that everything needs a place to be stored. If something doesn’t have a place to be, then either create a place, or don’t keep the object.

Juli Shulem

If you don’t do this, it is guaranteed to be tucked under something, lost behind something, or otherwise rendered worse than useless. It will become forgotten among items it has nothing in common with. You will end up wasting time looking for it in places it shouldn’t be, and if you don’t find it, you will most likely end up buying another one!

What do you do when you are stuck with the decision of whether to keep or toss out an item? If you unearthed it from under a pile of junk and you forgot you even had it, chances are you don’t need it any longer. When an item is useless, at least in the foreseeable future, and you know you should get rid of it, but are pulled – therein lies the challenge.

Don’t feel too bad. Many people are stuck when it comes to making these types of decisions. Try asking yourself, and answering honestly, “What are my reasons for keeping this?” Below are questions from my book, Order! A logical approach to an organized way of life. These questions should help guide you through the decision making process to determine if something should be kept or discarded.

1. Do you like it? While this may seem obvious, many times we need to literally ask ourselves if we even like the item in question. If you truly do not care for it, then let it go. Donate it or give it to someone else who might really enjoy it.

2. Will you realistically use it again? If you answer “no” then that is a no-brainer and it just needs to leave the place now. Your home/office is not a stockroom where you can hold onto everything. Even if you have the space for it, that is not justification to keep something that you don’t use or need.

3. Have you ever used it? If not, you can probably safely get rid of it. After all, if you haven’t missed it, and see no immediate use for it, then storing it makes little sense.

4. Have you forgotten what it does? If it’s valuable, then deal with it appropriately, if not, then let it go to the best place where it can be used.

5. Do you own another, better one? I can’t tell you how many times clients who are purging their environment discover multiples of a particular item. This happens because they couldn’t find it when they were looking for it the first time, so they went out and bought it again. The same thing happened the next time they were looking for the item, and they bought yet another. This can be very annoying, not to mention expensive. And it can happen over and over unless you have a logical and consistent place to put things.

6. Is it not working, inefficient, aesthetically offensive, or obsolete? If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these, it really needs to go. Why in the world would you be holding onto something like that?

7. If you throw it out and then find you need it, can you get another? Keep in mind that almost everything can be found again, either used or new. With access to the Internet, you would be hard-pressed to not find something again, should you later determine you need it.

8. Has it been over a year since you have used it? If you have made it through all four seasons and haven’t used it, chances are you simply don’t need it. If you’re truly unsure, place it in a box with other such items, label it with a “toss date” one year from the day you put it in the box, and place it in a closet. If, in a year, you haven’t pulled it out of the box, it’s pretty safe to assume you don’t need it!

9. Does it make you feel bad, ugly, stupid, or guilty? That cannot possibly be good for your self-esteem! This is particularly important when purging your closet.

If you are unable to go through the mental process of dealing with so much clutter alone, enlist a friend or a professional. Being coached through the beginning often gets the process started and many times that is all a person needs in order to purge a room with less stress. Remember, as always, go through your space in small blocks of time. Take breaks when needed.

Just start. And remind yourself of your goal to have more simplicity and order in your life.

If you have a question you wish answered, email me at with “Question for column” in the subject line and I will answer it as soon as possible.


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