As much as I would LOVE to dive into some fun organizing tips and ideas, I really need to address a major issue at the heart of getting organized. The issue is that most of us simply have TOO MUCH STUFF!! All the organizational tips, tricks, and systems in the world are not going to help you get and stay organized if you don't REDUCE AND SIMPLIFY.
The 80/20 Rule of Organizing is the theory that we only use about 20% of our things 80% of the time. That means that 80% of our things are used rarely, if at all! Some may rationalize that they paid good money for those things and there's no harm in holding onto them. But in reality, all that stuff is costing you something: space, time, peace of mind. If you desire to get organized, it is likely because you have a greater goal in mind for yourself and your family and holding onto stuff will only impede your progress.
Confession time. For years, I accumulated and stored kids' clothes: hand-me-downs, yard sale finds, items I found on clearance. If it wasn't in shreds, you could be sure I was keeping it. Even if the older child never wore it before outgrowing it, I was still going to pass it on to the next kid. With 5 children to dress (4 of them girls!), I thought I was being budget-conscious and responsible. I believed whole-heartedly that more was always better. Bins and bins of "well-organized" kids' clothes consumed what little storage space and time I had. As seasons would change, I would pull out the appropriate bins, swap clothes around, add a few newly purchased items into the mix, and stuff dressers and closets to max capacity. I noticed that my kids had a difficult time finding things, struggled to put laundry away, and wore the same things over and over, yet I could not let the clothes go.
I'll save the psychology behind our inability to let go of things for a future post, but eventually I recognized why I couldn't let go and understood the costs of maintaining all those clothes. I still believe in hand-me-downs, being financially responsible, and avoiding waste, but my approach is more in line with my understanding of the 80/20 Rule. My kids are NEVER going to wear ALL those clothes!
Now my kids make their own decisions about keeping and discarding their clothes and hand-me-downs from siblings. They are, after all, the ones who have to wear them and they are often the ones who purchase them. But as any good mom would do, I provide some guidelines. I encourage them to only keep items they LOVE to wear and to not let feelings of regret over a bad purchase, guilt due to getting rid of a gift, fear of hurting a sibling's feelings, concern about money, etc., influence their decisions. (Granted, my kids are older now. If I still had babies and toddlers, I would use the same criteria to decide what clothes to keep for them). They have only ever chosen a small armful of hand-me-down items to keep. This is not being wasteful--it is being realistic--and all unwanted items can be donated for use by someone who needs them. Does that mean I purchase them a new wardrobe every year or season? No way! I give them a very limited amount of funds for new clothes each school year and beyond that, they provide for themselves or go with hand-me-downs. And they're totally okay with it because they see the benefits of not having excess.
Naturally, the amount of clothes we now store is dramatically less than in years past. In fact, I no longer have any clothes stored in my storage room. Each of the kids can store seasonal and hand-me-down items easily in their own bedrooms. Because there is less, my kids are more aware of what they have so they wear a greater variety. They are also more aware of what they need, making shopping more productive and frugal. They appreciate how much easier it is to keep their rooms clean having fewer clothes to deal with and they have become more sensible about their clothing purchases. We all feel a sense of freedom and relief knowing our time can be spent on more important things than dealing with too much stuff. The benefits of purging far outweigh the costs of maintaining excess.
I'm not suggesting you get rid of 80% of what you have, but I want to challenge you to consider the 80/20 Rule and pay attention to how much of your stuff you actually use versus how much you don't. Do you recognize any personal costs, financial or otherwise, caused by your excess belongings? Are these costs preventing you from living a life in accordance with your beliefs, values, and goals? The answers to these questions should provide the motivation you need to de-clutter and simplify.
We become very emotionally connected to our things so getting rid of stuff, or purging, can oftentimes be the most difficult part of getting organized. It is also very time consuming and requires a lot of decision making. Sometimes the stuff seems never-ending and overwhelming. In upcoming posts I will share some specific guidelines to help you through this process. If getting through the sorting and purging process seems overwhelming to you or you'd like to speed up the process, I can help! Please contact me above.