Most decluttering articles focus on what you should get rid of, or how to store all the stuff you have. This one does the opposite.
Step 1: Before going to bed, get a box. This can be a cardboard box, a crate, a laundry basket, or a bag. For the purpose of this exercise, I'm going to call your receptacle a box. The size of the box is going to depend on your goal. If you want to be a minimalist, you won’t need a very big box. If you have five kids, you might need a larger box, or better yet a box for each kid. However, since I don’t recommend doing this for your whole family on the first day, I’m going to recommend a medium-sized box.
Step 2: When you wake up, and as you go through your morning routine, take everything you USE and put it in the box. Sound backwards? Most articles tell you to take everything you don’t need and put it in the box, right? Well, how are you supposed to know what you need or don’t need without studying that first? Trust me, this way is simpler.
- Do not succumb to the temptation of “packing.” Packing is when you’re trying to plan ahead for the future. That's not what we’re doing. We’re just taking what you are actually using and setting it aside. We’ll deal with the other stuff later. So, for me, I didn’t put my whole makeup bag in the box. I only put my concealer, powder, blush, powder/blush brush, and mascara in it. I zipped the rest of my makeup back up in the bag and put it back in my vanity drawer.
- If you go to work, leave the box at home. Today, we are only concerned with your home, but you can certainly follow this model for other spaces. When you get home, continue putting whatever you use in the box. You are allowed to take things out of the box and use them again, just make sure they go back in the box once you have used them.
- Before you go to bed, put the clothes you wear into an empty laundry basket. Feel free to re-wear clothes if you want to. You don't have to. It will accumulate the clothes you wear throughout the week.
- Continue this process every day for 5-7 days. Again, you are allowed to use items from the box, but you are not allowed to put items into the box which you do not use.
Step 3: At the end of the 5-7 days, take a good look at everything in the box and then look around at everything that did not end up in the box. Here's where you get the value of this exercise. You will have a very real view of what you actually use. With this information, you can do a few things:
- Become a minimalist. Get rid of (donate or sell) everything you haven’t used in the last week and only keep what you have used. You might not think I’m being literal, but I am. It’s an option.
- Get rid of everything you thought you used, but that you actually don’t: the extra makeup, hair products, clothes, electronic gadgets, shoes, food, etc., that you know you don’t use every day, but didn’t realize how little you need them on a weekly basis.
- Buy an expensive organization system to store everything you own, and keep just using the stuff that went into the boxes. Or just pack it all up in free boxes from behind the liquor store.
- Nothing. Yup. You can do absolutely nothing with this information, and just go back to juggling clutter.
This is the simplest and least emotional way I have found of calculating how much clutter you have in your house.
P.S. This is a great exercise to start if your house is already somewhat tidy and your laundry is done. That way you can get a realistic view of how simple your life can be and how little you need to live through your day. But you don't have to have a clean house and laundered clothes to declutter backwards. In fact, you might find cleaning easier once you've donated everything that you don't use in your life.