I recommend starting with a small space like your bathroom counter top, in fact, that is where I started. I was having a hard time keeping it clean and it frustrated me because there always seemed to be a mountain of stuff on it. One day I looked at the contents of the counter and realized half the stuff didn’t belong there or I rarely used it. That day I decided to do an experiment to see what I really used. The steps that developed during this experiment are the steps that I am now sharing with you. This experiment helped me realize that I was shifting the unused things around to get to items I needed. Ultimately, it wasn’t giving me the feeling I wanted when I entered my beautiful bathroom. These steps provided an easy way to determine what I really needed without feeling overwhelmed. Now, let me show you the steps I used so you can regain clarity in your space too:
Step 1 – Identify the space you want to address
In this exercise, I want you to make sure the space is small…especially if this is your first time. We have to crawl before we walk, so I don’t want you to bite off too much right out the gate. It should be a space that can be handled pretty quickly (i.e., a desk, your bathroom countertop/drawers, your kitchen countertop, etc.)
Step 2 – Identify your goal and purpose for the space
Think about how you currently use the space, what is working and what isn’t. Don’t overthink this process, you can consider this your first round of decluttering. You see many people get so overwhelmed with the state of their space that they overthink the process. Start small then build momentum as you go. You can always revisit the area once you are full steam ahead to see if you want to make any additional tweaks.
Step 3 – Clear your space of everything
This is the easiest and honestly most stress relieving action (well to me it is). Think of it as starting fresh, having a clean slate and being able to make the rules up as you go. Just remove everything from the space as if you were moving. I recommend using an empty box to help you clear the space (you guys know how I feel about my paper boxes)! That being said, if you don’t have a box the floor or a nearby table will do just fine.
Step 4 – Process and Return Necessary Items
Now this is where a lot of people get into trouble LOL. Seriously, think very carefully here…I want you to think through how you use the space and what you need to do whatever it is that you do. As you think about that process, return only the things that enable you to complete it. For example, a bathroom sink you need your eyeglasses and contact solution near. The question is do you need them on top of the cabinet or in the top drawer where they are easily accessible? Go with your first instinct, it is usually right.
Step 5 – System Development and Test
Now that you have made your decisions in step 4, you probably have a number of items left in your box. All remaining items should remain in this box and be placed out of the way. It should be close enough so you can access it if you are looking for or needing something, but far enough away so that it is out of your immediate sight. The purpose of this step is to identify items that you REALLY need versus those that you THINK you need. You should live with this setup for 7 – 14 days.
Step 6 – Evaluate
At the end of your 7 – 14 day period you will have an understanding as to what you really use and what you don’t. You will have pulled out items that you needed out of the box…is there anything in the space that you originally placed there that you really didn’t need? Now, there may be some items that are seasonal or are things that make you happy when you see them…this is a personal choice that you will need to think through. The key is to get yourself to a point where you feel better about your space. A place where your happiness levels are higher.