Tidying in 3 Steps: Step 1: Purge and Clean

When it comes to tidying and decluttering your home, there are really only 3 concrete steps. Yes, only 3. I promised you I would keep it simple, and I will. Here goes:

  1. Purge and clean
  2. Organize
  3. Maintain

This first step is KEY! You cannot skip the purging stage. Neither should you skip the cleaning. But please don’t skip purging. If you must skip anything, skip the cleaning and come back to it later. But it’s really much easier and simpler if you do these two things together.

Purge, Purge, Purge!

Now purging is something that is easy for some people and excruciating for others. It involves going through everything you own and deciding what to keep and what to throw out. It sounds easy enough but what I find is that people do not go deep enough when they are purging.
Here is where I put a sound bite in for one of my favorite books, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Many of you may have already read this book or heard of it. Marie Kondo is a professional organizer and she has a step-by-step process, the KonMari method of purging through your belongings and getting them organized all neat and tidy. It’s become really popular and has been a really successful method for many. Order the book. I recommend it.
What I do to declutter my space and organize is loosely based off of the KonMari method, if not slightly watered down and not so regimented. While I love her ideas, some of them didn’t work for me. I’ll get into that in another post.
You can decide how you want to do this part, but basically, you sort through things in your house by category.
The KonMari method says to gather all like-items from all over the house and then sort. But I won’t judge you for going room by room. If you have lots of set aside time to make a project out of it, it is much easier to do by category. It makes it easier to see how much you own in each category and find duplicates. But most of us have too many other things vying for our attention and distracting us. For me, it’s my son, Aiden. With countless interruptions, a project like this would take me months, and piles of things lying all over the house for weeks at a time is my number one motivation-killer.
Once you’ve decided how you’re going to sort, then comes the fun! (No, that’s not sarcastic. I do think this part is fun! Nerd that I am.)
Feel free to use my Purging Checklist

Decide What to Throw Out and Keep

If you’ve read “Life-Changing Magic”, Marie makes a big deal of holding each item while asking yourself if the item sparks joy or not, and from there, you determine whether or not to keep it. I tried this and felt a little silly. I don’t think my “sparks joy” radar is fully operational.
What I have taken away from this is that you must make a conscious decision with each item in your house. Ask yourself these things:

  1. Do I use this/need this?
  2. Do I want this/Can I live without this?
  3. Are there duplicates?

If you don’t need or use it, then chances are there is no reason to keep it. If you don’t want it, don’t love it, or can live without it AND there’s no need for it, then get rid of it. If you have more than one, keep one and get rid of all the others. That’s it. No excuses.
This is why the purging step is so hard. You must be stringent and firm with yourself. If you say to yourself, “Oh, I don’t use it now, but I might need it another day,” you’re going to have a hard time getting rid of most things.
Do your future self a favor and get rid of unnecessary, duplicate, and unused items. You won’t miss it. If you do, I’m sorry and I’ll send you chocolate.
Now, when it comes to sentimental things, that’s an entirely different ball park. I’m not here to tell you that you need to throw away old photos, your son’s baby blanket, your wedding dress, or the box of birthday cards you’ve collected from over the years.
I will ask that you carefully consider the space that these items take up and how often they are being viewed or used. Photo albums and home videos can be digitized and saved. Baby blankets and outfits can be donated or passed on. There are also many ways to repurpose sentimental items. I recently came across a bunch of suggestions on Pinterest for repurposing your wedding dress. Whatever you do, take comfort that things will always be just things, even things connected to memories. Memories are intangible. Things are disposable.
The first time that I purged through my guest closet, I got rid of 3 trash bags of paper. Most of it was old school papers and projects dating all the way back to Kindergarten. Why was I keeping that? Who knows? You’ll be surprised what crops up when you start going through your drawers and the back of your closet. Maybe you’ll even rediscover some lost treasures. No matter how you slice it, an honest purging of your stuff is necessary to working your way to a tidy home.

Don’t Touch Other People’s Stuff

It should go without saying, but you should not sort through your husband’s memorabilia, his clothes, his games, or anything that doesn’t belong to you. If you have kids that are old enough to notice things that are missing, encourage them to sort through their toys on their own and help them determine what they really want to keep, but let the decision be theirs.
Hear me out! Don’t sort through anyone else’s stuff and don’t force anyone to sort through their stuff. Doing so would only undermine the peaceful environment you’re attempting to create in the first place by tidying your house. If they aren’t up to the task, ask them gently to keep their belongings in their spaces, take a deep breath, and eat some chocolate. Be patient. Decluttering and tidying have a contagious effect. The more they see you sorting through your own belongings, the more likely they may be motivated to do the same.
With shared household items, make sure your family members have a chance to weigh in before you get rid of something. You may think that a cheese slicer is a space waster and not needed, but your husband might deem it a necessity. True story.

Trash, Keep, Donate/Sell

After you’ve sorted through your stuff, either by category or by room, you want to have it narrowed down to 3 piles: Trash, Keep, Donate/Sell. Don’t be alarmed if your house looks like a war zone.

I actually enjoy purging through my stuff. Something about it just makes me feel lighter and freer.

Throw away the trash pile right away! No need for it to be sitting around your house taking up space. If you have things to donate or sell, don’t procrastinate. The longer that stuff sits around, the more likely you, or another family member, will regress and start reclaiming things in that pile. You don’t want to take a step backwards when you were doing so well, so get that stuff out of the house as soon as possible. Also, like I said before, piles of stuff that don’t have a home are a motivation killer the longer they hang around.

Waiting to be donated/sold. Not a pretty sight.

Well, you’ve done it! You’ve purged through all of that “back of the coat closet” miscellaneous junk, and you’ve hopefully thrown out all the expired condiments and food in your fridge and pantry. Now all that’s left is: CLEAN!
Before moving on to step 2, suppress the urge to put everything back in it’s place right away. You’ve emptied shelves, drawers, and other spaces so you could sort. You likely have a pile of stuff lying around. Take the time here to clean its previous home. It will be harder to get to and you will be less likely to once things are back where they belong. While you’re on a roll, clean the rest of your house. The sparkly neatness will attract good vibes and leave you feeling refreshed and ready for step 2! Time to organize!

How do you sort through your belongings? Leave a comment below.

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