Organizing 101: Purge, but Don’t Throw….. Yet

More often than not, one of the keys to instilling order is decluttering.  We have too much stuff.  This is not news.  I am not telling you something that you don’t already know.  And yet, the idea of going through stuff and throwing it away is something that we avoid.  Or, the idea of purging, on a macro level is appealing, but the actual task of picking specific items and parting with them is much harder in practice.

We all have our reasons for holding on to stuff.  Whether it’s sentimental, practical, well-intentioned or good-old laziness, we’ve got an excuse.  So, if we actually take the first step and make the effort to go through stuff in an attempt to condense, we are met with any one of these excuses.

We need something to help us push through those excuses and help us determine what we really need.

SOLUTION: When sorting through stuff, create a ‘Purge, but Don’t Throw…. Yet’ pile.  Some examples of items that go in this pile:

  • The sweater that you haven’t worn in ten years, but that someone special bought you and you can’t bring yourself to get rid of
  • The pants that haven’t fit since you were in college, but that may fit in six months if you keep up with your running routine that you’ve been doing really well with these last couple months
  • That picture frame that was a homemade wedding gift from a dear friend, but that you just haven’t found the right spot for on a wall

(These examples are all, of course, hypothetical)

Put all of the items in a box or bin and keep the box in an accessible & visible place for a pre-determined amount of time.  

This softens the blow of purging.  It allows you to feel the success of purging without having to make the final separation right away.  In the window of time between putting items in that box and the pre-determined ‘get-rid-of date’, you are free to take anything out of the box.  Once you get to the pre-determined date, whatever is left in the box gets donated or thrown away.

A key to making this work is that you choose what that amount of time is.  If you have a really hard time parting with things, make it a year so that you give yourself plenty to time decide if you are ready to part ways.  Pick a time frame and write that date on a label or piece of tape, and adhere it to the box.  Put it in a visible place.  When that date comes, you will have gone an adequate amount of time without needing anything in that box and proven to yourself that those items have fulfilled their purpose.


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