No matter what room, space, or project you are organizing, the first two steps in the organizing process are sort and purge. Sorting means that you group items together by putting “like with like.” This helps create categories and subcategories of your “stuff,” such as books, holiday décor, and art supplies for example. Furthermore, sorting helps you get a good estimate of what you truly have.

After sorting, the next step is to purge. This is a very important step when going through the organizing process. If you don’t purge, you are merely rearranging, not truly organizing. Purging, however, isn’t so easy. In fact, as a professional organizer, I believe that purging is the most difficult and the most emotional part of organizing. If you agree, then read on for my secrets to help make the purging process easier!

Keep What You Truly Love and Use

Did you know that 80% of the time we typically use only 20% of what we own? Most likely you already know what items are your favorites. Knowing this will help you categorize items into “best friends,” “friends,” and “acquaintances.” Dig deep and be honest with yourself and keep the items that fall into your “best friends” category.  After all, wouldn’t you rather spend the majority of your time with your best friends?

Best friends forever…keeping items that are your “best friends” means you keep what you truly love!

Hazel Thornton, a well-known Professional Organizer, coined the term replacement value. Here’s the idea: On a scale of 1-10, keep items that have a ranking of eight or higher in terms of needing/using again and their replacement value to you in terms of money, time, and energy.

For example, you may not use a bread maker very often and therefore it probably has a low ranking in terms of its replacement value. It certainly doesn’t take much money, time, or energy to replace it, right? A family heirloom, however, would have a higher ranking because it’s basically irreplaceable regardless of money, time, and energy.

When Feelings Get in the Way of Purging

As I mentioned above, purging can be an emotional process. The reason for this is we often assign human like traits to inanimate objects. We infuse our sentimental thoughts or feelings of guilt into our “stuff.”

Happy or sad…we infuse our feelings into our “stuff.”

Here’s an example, several years ago after my uncle passed away, my aunt gave my husband a few of his sweaters. These were beautiful sweaters, but they did not and never would fit my husband. The sweaters sat untouched in our closet for many years. When my husband proposed donating the sweaters I initially found myself objecting. After all, I loved my uncle…how could I get rid of these sweaters? I then realized that just because we donated the sweaters didn’t mean that my uncle was any less important to me. In fact, I gave them a new life and generosity was definitely something that my uncle valued.

So, how do we avoid this emotional process? For one, try not to touch every single object. Have a friend or family member help you through this phase. Moreover, reframe attachments to items by recognizing your thought process and purposefully viewing the object through a different, nonjudgmental lens.

Avoid Decision Fatigue

When I work with clients, I acknowledge that after a few hours my clients get tired of making decisions.   When this happens, clients tend to make “sloppy” decisions by keeping everything or purging everything.

Our brains get tired after making so many decisions.

Giving yourself breaks to walk around the block, eat, or call a friend can ward off decision fatigue. Here are a few other ways to cut down on making so many decisions:

  • When you’ve gone through the steps above and truly cannot make a decision about an item, store the item(s) in a box for six months. If the box is unopened during that time, you can feel confident that the item is not necessary to carry into the future with you.
  • Create rules for elimination such as only keep clothes worn in past 12 months or books/magazines less than three months old. Items are easily dispersed when they don’t fall into these guidelines.

Although difficult, purging is an important part of the organizing process. The reality is, we each only have a finite amount of real estate. On the positive side, purging allows the items we do love and use to shine. By clearing away clutter, we allow ourselves to put a spotlight on the items we truly want in our life. Additionally, the good news is that once this part is done, the rest of the organizing process flows smoothly and you’ll be able to take advantage of all the benefits of an organized space!

If you need to remind yourself of those benefits of living an organized life, click HERE for my blog post Five Reasons Why I Love Organizing.”  

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