One of the most common problems I come across when helping clients go through their paperwork is keeping items because they’re unsure of when it’s time to let documents go. You don’t need all paperwork forever! For any specific questions it’s best to consult your CPA or attorney, but I have general rules you can follow to organize financial paperwork.
“Forever” documents should be kept your entire lifetime, and in some cases passed on to any beneficiaries you have. These are things like your social security card and your birth certificate. Keep these documents in a safe place so they can’t be lost or tampered with. Create backups online or in a separate location in case of a natural disaster or fire.
“Permanent” documents are kept for the life of the item they’re for. These are things like documentation related to stocks and shares. Once you let go of an item, there’s no reason to keep its paperwork! Make paperwork a part of your overall decluttering process–if your vacuum is ready to donate, look around for any paperwork associated with it and let that go too.
Often, knowing your items are going to a good home can be motivation enough to let them go. Sometimes that’s not enough. In this post I’m going to go over some common roadblocks that keep people from starting to declutter, or from decluttering effectively. I hope they’ll help you on your organization journey—and if you’re struggling with something or have a question, leave me a message in the comments!
Gifts can be a sticking point for decluttering! You may feel someone would be disappointed if they found out you let go of their gift, but let me frame it this way: the person giving you the gift hoped you would enjoy it! If you’re not enjoying it anymore, the gift no longer serves its purpose.
When someone gives you a gift, the gift becomes yours to do with what you want, including letting it go! There’s no contract binding you to keep things past their point of use, so if a gift has outstayed its welcome, it’s time to pass it on.
Any large project looks easier when broken into smaller pieces, and decluttering is no exception! Here are three easy ways to break down the decluttering process so you can start with confidence.
Categories: Narrowing your focus to certain types of objects is a great way to break through the where-do-I-start anxiety. Whether you’re working solo, with family, or alongside an organizer like me, you can choose a category of item to go through to get used to the decluttering process.
You can choose to focus on one room in your home, or go by item type. When you collect one type of item and bring it all together, you can see at a glance how much you have. I’ve seen it over and over: you had no idea you had seven hairbrushes until you got the ones from the downstairs bathroom, upstairs bathroom, kids’ rooms, and the vanity all together! It’s easier to let go of extra things when you know they’re really extra.
Many people feel overwhelmed when they think about letting go of items to declutter their home, but I’m here to tell you that you have more power than you think! Actually, you have all of the power! After all, this is YOUR home you’re decluttering. That means you make the rules. You get to decide:
what goes in it,
how much goes in it, AND
what to let go of!
Imagine your ideal home. What’s it like? Is it cozy, filled with objects you love and display proudly? Is it functional, with everything you need and nothing you don’t? Is it sleek and minimalist, a place where you can think clearly and feel freedom?
How does your ideal home differ from your home now?
I’m asking all these questions to clarify what your goal is when it comes to decluttering. As famed inventor Charles Kettering said, “A problem well-stated is half-solved.” When you know what you’re working toward, it’s easier to see the path to it. Find useful questions to ask about your space, like:
This seems to be the hardest part of “being organized” for many of my clients. So often, I see people put in a big effort to clear the clutter they have accumulated over many weeks, months or years without making the small changes every day that would help make their lives easier in the long term.
Being organized is all about the habits that you have and that you create. Habits that promote being organized will lead to an organized life, leaving you free from worries (at least, freer!) and the opportunity to live life in the moment – those Zen moments when you get to be totally involved in what you are doing, who you are being, or the experience you are having right now!
What could a small step towards a new habit be?
Here are a few options, and I hope you’ll find one or two that would be ridiculously easy to implement – that’s the idea. To maintain organization, start with your smallest achievable step, the one small change to make this week that you’ll find so easy. Then check the list again next week and if you find another ridiculously easy change to make, do that one too. And before you know it, you’ll be on the path to an organized you!
If thinking about organizing your entire home makes your palms sweat, you’re not alone! Decluttering and organizing every space in your house is a big commitment, involving a lot of effort and time. Having an organized home is a completely reasonable goal, but where do you start?
The short answer is: start small! When a project seems too big and too daunting, start with the smallest achievable step. To find your smallest achievable step, ask yourself: What sounds so easy that it makes you laugh?
If you want to declutter your garage but the thought makes you nervous, scale it back. How about decluttering one category of item, like gardening tools? Maybe your smallest achievable step is sorting your toolbox. Maybe it’s the top half of your toolbox, or even one compartment!
When you’ve found a part of the project that is laughably doable, do it! Sort that single compartment in your toolbox, then congratulate yourself on a job well done. That one small task gets you closer to your goal and starts you off with a win. Little accomplishments are as addictive as big ones, and you’ll soon find yourself taking the next step, and the next. You’ll get the hang of organizing and start modifying what you do to achieve your goal even faster.
Success fuels success, and if you keep the momentum up, organizing will become part of your routine.