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Basic Principles
of Organizing

Step 6: How to Drill Down
The Clutter


Step 6:  How to Drill Down Clutter

We’re getting closer to starting on that first organizing project. Are you getting excited yet?

You completed Step #1 Start-Here. You read Step #2 Organized Mindset and realize why that’s important. You asked (and answered) your honest questions as you went through Step #3 Questions to Ask Yourself. You refined your ideas through Step #4 Start Somewhere. You worked through the tips in Step #5 Baby Steps.

Now you’re ready for Step #6 -- Basic Principles of Organizing.


It’s time to ask some questions about those Keeper items from Step #5 Baby Steps (Tip #4, Item #6). This will help you drill down the clutter!!

Basic Principles 2

Questions to Ask Yourself

Question #1: Does this add real value to my life?

  • If the answer is “Yes,” go to Question #2,
  • If the answer is “No” --- get rid of it,
  • If the answer is “Not sure” – keep it for now and proceed through the rest of the questions.

Question #2: When was the last time I’ve seen it or used it?

  • If it's a seasonal item (6 months to a year), consider keeping it,
  • If it's been 2 but it's a family keepsake or heirloom or if you really like it and use it occasionally, considering keeping it,
  • If it no longer fits the intended purpose but is still in good shape, consider donating it,
  • If it is pretty much useless to you or anyone else, trash it!

Question #3: How long should you keep something?

Good question!  Every professional organizer will give you a different opinion. Here's what I do:

  • I go through things once or twice a year (spring and/or fall cleaning).
  • Except for tax filing records, if I haven’t used the item in the last year, out it goes!
  • Other organizers will recommend six months.
  • 2 years would be the maximum. Unless it’s a family keepsake, if you haven’t seen it or used it in 2 years, give it another home!
  • It's really up to you!

Question #3: Do I have duplicates of this item?

Basic Principles of Organizing #3: Is the answer: “Yes?” You do not need duplicates of any item (unless it’s a necessity – food, paper towels, soap, etc.). You gotta let go!! Pick the one that is the best and trash the rest!!

Basic Principles 5

Question #4: Does it need to be repaired?

Basic Principles of Organizing #4: Is the answer: “Yes?” What will it cost to repair the item (time and money)? Is it worth repairing? If it’s a sentimental item or an antique, maybe it’s worth repairing.

Frugal people need to keep what they have and repair it. Others can’t stand having something that isn’t new or has been broken and repaired. Either way, it’s okay.

If you can repair it yourself (or have it repaired), do so quickly. If you can’t stand having an item that’s been repaired (and you can afford to replace it) --- buy new and give the old one another home!

Question #5: Is this “junk” or could someone else use it?

Basic Principles of Organizing #5: This is a very subjective question. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

It needs another home unless:

  1. It’s a family heirloom
  2. It's an antique or collectible (but do you really need it? --- consider selling it -- Ebay it Baby!)
  3. You have sentimental attachment to it (but be careful with this one --- see Baby Step #5 about getting rid of emotional baggage).

Question #6: Can this item be repurposed?

If the answer is: “Yes,” consider keeping it.

Need an example?

I recently married and my new husband and I moved into our new to us home. He likes to keep mail, coupons, magazines, etc. spread out flat on the kitchen counter. I don't like the piles. During the move, I had no use for a kitchen rack that’s designed to hold pot/pan lids. It worked perfectly as a stand to organize those items. It kept the items where he could find them. It kept them off my kitchen counter top. Now we’re both happy!!

If the item can’t be re-purposed, get rid of it!

Consider that someone else could benefit from having it.

Basic Principles 8

Question #7: I’m keeping it so where does it belong?

If it’s a kitchen item, it shouldn’t be in the living room (unless you can re-purpose something – see Question #6 above). Put it where it belongs!

Once you get through all the steps, you can go to the project areas for ideas on how to keep it organized. Or, if you're a fast learner, you can go there now.

You're now ready to go to the next organizing step -- Step #7

Other Things to Consider

Have a Great Back to School Story or Tip?

Do you have a favorite memory of going back to school? Do you have a funny back to school story you would like to share? Know of a great back to school tip you want to share with others?

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Go to:  Step #1 Start Here

Go to: Step #2 Organized Mindset

Go to: Step #3 Questions to Ask Yourself

Go to Step #4 Start Somewhere

Go to: Step #5 Baby Steps

Go to: Step #6 Basic Principles

Go to: Step #7 Other Things

Go to: Step #8 Last Things

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