Decluttering: Making a Plan

I’ve been stuck for years trying to get rid of stuff. It’s time to observe The. Most. Important. Thing. So I’ve made a plan, and started to Take Action.

First, I consulted an expert. A friend of mine is into lifestyle design and minimalism, and I asked her to tour my apartment and help me figure out what to do with my clutter.

(She lives in an apartment the size of a prison cell. I think she knows what she’s doing.)

The first lessons she imparted:

The 20/20/20 Rule:

For things you’re struggling to get rid of: if something can be replaced for $20, or in less than 20 minutes, or by traveling less than 20 miles, get rid of it.

The Minimalists call this the 20/20 rule for Just In Case items: “Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location.” It’s slightly different, but the point is the same: don’t hold onto things “Just In Case.”

The Value Rule:

An item is more valuable if you can give it away to someone who will find it useful, than if you hold on to it, even if there’s some tenuous sentimental value to you.

(She didn’t give me a name for this one. Maybe one already exists?)

You can see how this might apply to your stuff. Got an old table you can’t get rid of because it’s been in the family? Maybe it’s more useful to someone who needs a table, than as clutter to you. A book that’s been sitting unread on your bookshelf? A more expensive tool you’ve been hanging onto ‘just in case?’ It’s easier said than done, but look at your valuables through a different lens.

After I gave my friend and consultant a tour, I made a plan.

My objective: reduce the objects in my bookshelf by 90%.
My reason: the bookshelf is a source of stress and anxiety, representing a big pile of things to get done, and I should start there
My deadline: October 11th, 2015 (4 weeks)
My reward: the new iPhone (I’ve been waiting to get one anyway… I’ll put it off until I’ve achieved my objective)

I started tonight. Here’s a photo of my bookcase before:


Here’s my strategy:

  • remove everything from my bookshelf
  • separate the items into different categories
    • partially read books, unread books, knick-knacks, maps, music books, cds, personal documents & photos, magazines
  • Decide which items I would definitely like to keep
  • Decide which items I can part with immediately
  • Use an “Outbox” to help me sift through items I can’t decide about
  • Get outside help for perspective and for accountability!

I’m ready to get started. Let’s go!


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