True Confessions of a Closet Clutterer

I am not neat by nature. I enjoy a tidy, sparkling clean space, but it's a struggle to attain and then maintain it. I would happily collect every kind of object, and am prone to stacks of paper on every surface. This is just to say that I get it; the struggle is real.

While minimalism and organization don't come easily to me, I do love their pursuit. I get an endorphin rush each time I fill a bag for the thrift store, or clean out a bulging file folder, or scrub out the refrigerator. A big part of my client work is helping people learn to embrace their inner clutterer and erase the results of unbridled acquisition, one step at a time.

Today I was casting about for a project. You know when you've got a block of free time and no task seems sufficiently motivating? I decided I needed to find an untidy area of my home and take before and after photos. My three-tiered inbox caught my eye. I haven't done anything with it but stuff it to the gills in at least three months.

And here's the magic of starting: I began sorting papers and quickly realized I needed a shredding bin. And more file folders. And perhaps a new color-coding system! I got so excited at the prospect of purging ALL my files and completely reorganizing my life that I almost lost the whole project. 

Because that's the pitfall of organizing for the un-inclined. You may get so excited that you rush off to the office supply store and spend a pile of money, only to return home with the pilot light of your enthusiasm doused. But I persevered (over the course of 2 days) doing the actual work of sorting and recycling and reorganizing, and then rewarded myself with a trip to Office Depot. It's the little things, am I right?

And voilà, a file box that is slim, beautiful and easy to navigate. This project followed all the rules I give to just-starting-out declutterers:

1. Pick something small. Redoing a whole filing system may not seem small, but mine is already pretty lean. If this does not describe your reality, you might want to start with one section of your archive.

2. Don't be seduced by beautiful organizing accessories. Once you've done the work you can purchase new boxes, bins, folders, etc., but you really don't know what you'll need until you've shed a bunch of extraneous stuff. 

3. FINISH this project before you move on to anything else. I recommend taking before and after pictures so you can remember what an amazing job you've done. 

Look, this isn't easy. We live busy and complicated lives and we all have way too much stuff. I mean, even if you are a minimalist you have twice the stuff your grandparents did; that's just our current reality. But keep taking on bite-sized projects and you'll get there. Best of all, these little projects can really give you the motivation and confidence you need to take on the larger projects.

Want me to send you a text every Sunday with a 15 to 20 minute decluttering project? Just text the word “throwaway” to 31996. You can also sign up for my newsletter here for a tiny bit of monthly motivation.

You can do this - I can help!