Step one in getting organized is NOT organizing.
Step one in getting organized, whether it’s your house, your office, your car, or your garage does NOT involve organization.
Step one is all about decluttering.
When we declutter first, we make the task of organizing so much easier.
Just think about it.
Why spend your valuable time and energy organizing things you don’t even need?
Instead, by getting rid of the excess and clearing out the unnecessary stuff, you’ll not only have less to organize but more space to do it.
And if you ask me, that’s a double win.
This week on episode 117 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, we’re diving into part two of a two part series on all-things decluttering and organization. (Check out part one here!)
So if you’re ready to get rid of the excess, simplify your living space, and create some structure in the chaos, be sure to check out episode 117 now.
You can listen to the episode above or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:
Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.
In This Episode, You Will Discover How To…
- Create a plan for decluttering so your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed
- Follow a simple framework that walks you step-by-step through deciding what to keep and what to release
- Maintain a state of organization without letting the dreaded clutter creep take over
Links From The Podcast
- Sign up for your free consultation with me here
- Learn my top 6 strategies to boost your focus and concentration (free training)
- Get the top 10 tips to work with your ADHD brain (free ebook!)
- Discover my favorite ADHD resources here
- Listen to part one of the Organization series here
- Get your free declutter & organization roadmap here
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Episode #117: (Transcript)
Hello everybody! How was your week? Have you been gathering all the data on your clutter situation? Have you noticed any of the sneaky thoughts that create the urge to bring more things into the house? What did you find? I’d love to hear about it.
And if you missed last week’s episode. If you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about. We took a deep dive into part one of a two-part series on all-things decluttering and organization. We talked about the importance of decluttering and minimizing our stuff BEFORE we spend all our time organizing things we don’t need. And we explored the impulse buy thoughts that have us buying more things. As well as the beliefs that keep us holding onto things that we no longer need. I also gave you the challenge to identify one part of your home or office that you want to tackle first when it comes to decluttering and getting organized.
Now if you missed part one, it was clearly packed with concepts and ideas, so I do encourage you to go back and listen to that episode. It’s really the basis on which we can apply the strategies and tools we’re going to talk about today. So, after you finish listening to today’s episode, be sure to scroll back and check out episode 116, too. That way you have everything you need to tackle your space, get it decluttered and organized in a way that feels good for you.
But for now, let’s dive in. Let’s talk about how we can create a living space that’s not overflowing with stuff that we don’t need. Let’s talk about how to create a space that only has items that we’ve chosen intentionally because we love them.
Not because we don’t know what to do with them. Not because we feel bad about donating them since they were a gift, or we worry we might need the thing someday 10 years from now. Instead, we have things in our living space that we’ve deliberately decided to keep either because it has a clear purpose, or it brings us joy, or both!
Minimalism Not Required
Now, here’s the deal. This doesn’t mean you have to be totally minimalist! You don’t have to have stark white walls and only one set of dishes and five items in your wardrobe. So, if you’re getting leery, don’t worry. That’s not my message here.
Heck, I like stuff. I like having more than one coffee. With that being said, I do think it’s powerful to not only know what you have but to also know that you love it and intentionally chose it. AND you know exactly where to find those things whenever you need them.
There is no more scrambling to find the scissors or remembering where you put that black dress. And you know which purse you want to use without dealing with unbelievable decision fatigue sorting through 12 purses you kind of like.
Your papers are filed and organized, and you have space in your cabinets and closets for everything to easily fit. There is no cramming and stuffing required. Dare I even say that when people stop by for an unexpected visit, you happily open the door without apologizing for the state of the house
You feel at home. You’re calm. You love your space. This is what we’re going for today. You in?
The Clutter Struggle
Awesome. So let’s first talk about clutter, okay? Because let’s face it. We all have it. And if you’re like me, the level of clutter and disorganization might ebb and flow depending on how busy your brain is right now. In fact, you can always tell when my husband Ryan or I have a lot going on during a particular week because little piles start collecting in areas.
So, we all have different levels of clutter. And whenever you’re listening to this episode, I invite you to do a mental inventory of where you’re at right now. What’s your level of clutter and organization?
Maybe you’re looking at your house thinking, “Paula, it’s everything. My house is just filled with stuff in every room and I’m totally swamped with it all.” Or maybe you have young kids, and the biggest obstacles for you right now are their toys and things everywhere.
It is a complete visual overload, because there is so much information for your brain to process and scan every time you look around.
And as a side note, this may seem like a minor thing – the visual overload. But the reality is that any extra visuals for your brain to process creates more work for your brain. And when you have to think about stuff everywhere – whether it’s toys or clothes, or mismatched Tupperware, or piles of paper on your desk at work – you’re asking your brain to work harder.
Maybe you’re like I was when I talked about my clutter last week. Most of the surfaces were decent, but if you opened any doors, drawers, or closets, it was all over. I can remember before I did this work my husband trying to help put away some baking dishes, and he would open a cupboard and say there’s no room here. And I’d say something to the effect of – if you turn it sideways to slide it in and then balance it in the back there, then it fits perfectly. Seriously. I kid you not. And perhaps not surprisingly it is SO MUCH EASIER to navigate the kitchen now that everything has its place. It’s so much easier when it fits with ease. Plus, now Ryan actually knows where things go, which makes it easier for him to put things away, too. Bonus.
Another space that can quickly gain unnecessary clutter and stuff is the bathroom. Just think about the drawers or medicine cabinet and all of the half-used cosmetics you haven’t opened in months, maybe years. Expired medications. Products you bought, tried, didn’t like, but then still kept “just in case.” As if I would magically start liking a hair product that did not work for my hair. Anyone else? Just me?.
Maybe your area is the garage or the basement. Or perhaps you have that one room where everything gets stored. You know what I’m talking about, right? Put it in the guest room. Put it downstairs. Famous. Last. Words.
So take a minute and check-in with yourself. What is your current clutter situation?
Choose one place to start
Now from there, we want to decide on one space that we want to tackle first. And the reason we want to do this is so we can give your brain a place to focus.
Otherwise, you’ll think to yourself, “well, it’s time to start decluttering the house.” And your brain will think, “ahhh, nope. That’s way too much work and I have zero idea where to start. I’m going to take a hard pass.”
So create clarity for yourself. What is the area you want to declutter FIRST? Remember you can always go back and do another round. But choose one place to start.
Five Questions For Clutter-free Organization
Now. To create this direction for yourself, I recommend first getting clear around what you want to accomplish. Once you have that clarity, then it’s time to create a plan to make that happen. (And if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, this probably isn’t a surprise. Getting clear on your plan is almost always number one.
We don’t want to dive in blindly and think to ourselves, I’m going to declutter and organize everything. That thought will most likely lead to others that completely overwhelm our brain. Our brain will likely jump to: I don’t know where to start, I don’t know what to do. This is too hard. I don’t have time, etc.
So, to create that clarity and plan for yourself, you want to start by asking yourself these five questions.
First: What do I want to do? Am I tackling the entire house? If so, where am I going to start? Is it the master bedroom or the bathroom? The kitchen? The linen closet? My desk drawers?
If you listened to last week’s episode, this might be the area that you decided on then.
And the reason why it’s so important to make this decision is that it gives your brain structure and direction. It helps you put up your blinders and allows you to focus on ONE area without getting distracted by everything else.
Then, question number two is: When will I finish it?
This question adds further clarity because it gives your brain a timeline. You know how much time you have to get things done. And from there you can map out when it happens, which leads us to question number 3.
Question three is: What days and times will I work on this decluttering project?
When you ask yourself this question, you gain even more direction. You know to carve out spaces in your day and your week to ensure that it will happen. If we tell ourselves, I’ll do it sometime this week, nine times out of ten, it won’t happen. So, give your brain direction → when will I work on it? What days? What times? And how long?
Next we have question four, which is: Why do I want to do this?
If we go into a project of decluttering with a negative attitude and thoughts like, “ugh, I don’t want to do this. This is awful. I have to do this. I always have to do everything myself. This is going to be so tedious” I guarantee you you’re either not going to do it at all. Or, you’re not going to enjoy yourself whatsoever. You’ll probably experience the entire process from a place of dread or resentment or frustration.
So we want to get clear on why you WANT to do this, because identifying those reasons – finding those thoughts – gives your brain a boost of motivation and commitment. And you may fight me on this. You may hate decluttering and roll your eyes at the thought of WANTING to do it. But I promise you, you want to. It may be future you who is so excited to have more space and less stuff around. But there is some part of you who wants to do it.
And then finally, we have question five. How will I know when I’m done? What does “done” look like?
This final question creates clarity to check the box for completion.
If we don’t know what “done” is, we could say that choosing one pair of socks with a hole and throwing them away is done. And on the flip side, we could keep telling ourselves there is more and more and more to do and we NEVER finish.
So, decide what done is. For example, when I sorted through my clothes at the end of the summer, my “done” was: I’ve have sorted through all of my clothes, tried them all on, and chosen the ones I love to keep. I’ve put the rest in donation bags and scheduled a pickup with the Vietnam Vets of America (which do pickups by the way)
So those are the five questions we want to start with to help us create our decluttering plan. And I want to mention that I created a cheat sheet with each of these questions as well as an awesome flow chart that we’ll talk about in a minute that walks you step by step through the actual decluttering process. So, if decluttering is something on your mind, and if you struggle to let things go, you absolutely want to grab this workbook.
Three Step Process
Once you have your plan, I then recommend following this next simple, 3-step process.
Again, start small and choose ONE place to begin within the room or space you’ve identified. So, if you are working on the master bedroom, maybe you decide to start with the dresser or you start with the closet.
Step two is to clean everything out because this allows you to start fresh.
You might be wondering if this is necessary. I say YES, it is. It really makes a difference when you clear everything out. Don’t leave that one t-shirt hanging in the back of the closet.
Literally everything. Just like Marie Kondo. Get everything out of your space as if you were moving. Because this way, anything you put back in the closet is something you know you have intentionally chosen to include..
Now sometimes, you might find that you’re in a space that is too filled with clutter to be able to concentrate properly on what you’re clearing. Maybe you’re working in that “one room” where everything gets stashed, and it’s absolutely packed. If this is the case, remove the one drawer or one box that you’re working on and go to a separate space that feels good to you.
So from there, it’s time to deliberately choose each item that you put back in the closet.
Admittedly, this can feel really challenging. This is especially true for people with ADHD or ADHD tendencies.
Decision fatigue and decision overwhelm is very real. Our brain goes crazy thinking, “I don’t know! I might need it. I don’t know what to keep! etc.”
So, to help with this, I created a simple yes or no workflow process to help you decide on what you want to keep. In the workbook you will see the actual flowchart. So I will go through the steps here, but I also know the power of visual learning, and if you really want to start decluttering, I encourage you to download this workbook because it does have a beautiful workflow to walk you step by step through the process.
Ask yourself these questions
First: Is this in good condition. And what I mean by this question is could I donate it if I don’t keep it? Does it work? I love to ask myself – would I feel comfortable giving this to a friend or a coworker because they’ve been looking for one and I know it’s in great condition. If you knew your sister was looking for a fleece jacket and you have one with three holes and the zipper usually doesn’t work, you probably wouldn’t offer it to her, right? Is the answer is NO? Then either throw it away or recycle it. If the answer is yes, then move on to question two.
Second: Do I use this? Have I used this in the last year? If the answer is no, then donate it. Now of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Maybe you don’t use your camping equipment every year but you know you want to keep it. Or maybe you were pregnant over the last year and you didn’t use your rock climbing gear but you know you’re going to start again.
There are always exceptions but be on to yourself. Notice if you genuinely like your reasons for why you haven’t used it in the past year and whether or not you truly think you’ll use it again or if your brain is being sneaky thinking, “I might use it again.”
Third: Do I have duplicates? How many do I truly need? (Hint: unless you are a baker, you don’t need 5 spatulas) Which ones can I donate?
Fourth: Do I love this? Do I like wearing it? Do I like how it works? And do I feel love or joy when I think about it? Is it useful to me today? No? Donate it. Allow someone else to find joy in the thing. Share the love. Pass it on! Remember, you already identified back in step one that it IS in good condition. You would feel comfortable giving it to your best friend or your sister and they’d love to use it. So that means you can feel confident donating the item knowing someone else can find joy in it, too.
Fifth: Would I buy this again today? I absolutely love this question. I find it SO helpful for the sneaky thoughts like “it is so nice” or “it was so expensive.” If I wouldn’t make the same decision again today, then I don’t need it now. It’s just nice clutter taking up space.
Go through these five steps of the flow chart and keep what serves you, donate or recycle or throw out the things that don’t.
Alright, are you still with me? How are we doing? Let’s do a quick recap to make sure we’re all on the same page.
So again, we pick the space to begin.
We clean it all out.
And we deliberately choose each item we want to keep using our 5 step questions. If we get through all five questions and we decide we want to keep it, then we put the item back in its specific space. And we enjoy and appreciate everything we have and the additional breathing room we have so much more.
Taking action and moving forward
Alright, so you have your steps. You know exactly what to do. But what happens when you don’t take action? What happens when you keep resisting creating the schedule or you don’t actually set aside time to do it.
Maybe you get started, but then do it half-heartedly and never actually get rid of anything. Or perhaps you hire a professional organizer, everything looks beautiful for a few weeks, maybe longer, but before you know it, the clutter creep begins again. Before you know it, you have to start the whole process over again.
What can we do?
When I work on decluttering and organization with my clients, these are the areas that we really focus on.
Because the reality is if we’re not taking action. If we aren’t following through on these plans, that means there are some thoughts or feelings holding us back. Remember, our thoughts and feelings are the fuel to our actions. They are what decide whether we do the thing or not.
Perhaps you feel a lot of guilt about donating things you never used, so you find yourself holding onto the items even though you never use them. Maybe you feel super overwhelmed because there is so much stuff and you literally can’t figure out where to begin.
Or maybe you struggle with letting things go because you’re afraid you might need the item later, that you’ll regret getting rid of it, or you have special connections to different items.
Here’s the deal – the concept of decluttering is simple and beautiful. And it can feel great when you do it. But when you really dig in and do the work, you might also stumble upon some obstacles.
And that’s where coaching comes in.
I help my clients literally declutter their minds so they don’t slip into overwhelm as they work through the process. We create clear, concrete goals to help them keep moving forward. We coach on those thoughts and feelings that are bound to come up through the process, so they feel clarity and confidence in the decisions they’re making. No more second-guessing whether they should keep the items or not.
No more worrying about how to make the time and finding the motivation to follow through on those plans. And we learn how to maintain this state of decluttered organization. We learn to keep the things organized and tidy by learning to manage our minds and keep our brains clutter-free.
The author Gretchen Rubin has a saying, which outer order → inner calm. I love this concept. AND I would argue that the flipside is also true. Inner calm creates outer order. Often the more stressed or overwhelmed we feel, often the messier our space is.
So we need to learn how to clean up our thinking and declutter our thinking so we can not only declutter and create a space we want, but also keep it that way without the dreaded clutter creep sneaking back in.
So if you would like to make this happen. If you want to learn how to declutter your mind and get yourself, your space, your schedule, and your life both decluttered and organized, sign up for a consultation with me. We can talk about your goals, what obstacles are in your way. And we’ll create a plan to get you moving forward.
And from there, we can decide whether my 1:1 coaching program is a good fit to make that happen. So head to imbusybeingawesome.com/coaching to find a time that works for you.