I coach people on every issue imaginable, but right now they all want to talk about organizing their stuff! We usually hear about spring cleaning because the spring is about starting fresh and clean, but then isn’t the New Year also a great time for in with the old and out with the new? I used to be a professional (go-to-your-house) organizing coach before I was an all around Life Coach (and now parent coach too!) This is because of my strong belief that physical clutter creates mental and spiritual clutter. It’s really best to organize at the beginning of every season, but let’s just start with the beginning of this year!

Organizing and Shedding will save you money precisely because you will have a small enough bundle of stuff to know what you already have before you buy more of it. If you can make a new year’s resolution to live with a quarter less stuff, your psyche will learn that it can live with less, will get used to it and will even enjoy it- making you less inclined to fill your home and empty your pocketbook.

Clutter is hard to avoid when you live in a very small space and want lots of creature comforts or have a frugal “savers” mentality. Still most people I’ve organized for have large living spaces with lots of storage. Unfortunately this causes what I call “Lazy Lookers Syndrome”. It is less time consuming to buy a replica of what you already have stocked away than to go look for it (because you have too much and you aren’t organized).

Are your clothing drawers hard to close? Are you afraid to go into the basement? Have you bought many pairs of scissors because they don’t have a “home” so you can never find them?  Did you buy more wrapping paper because you have no idea where the old stuff went? Did you buy another pair of corduroy pants forgetting the one in the storage container? [note from the fashion police: own only one pair of corduroy pants if you must own them at all.]

Shed Your Stuff Now! Here is your free life-coachy tutorial:

If you have any difficulty with shedding an item, ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Do I absolutely love it?
  • Is it very useful to ME (your art is an exception to this question of usefulness)
  • Is it free from negative associations/memories?

If YES to all three items and you don’t own multiple copies, you can move on to asking yourself how long it’s been since you’ve used it. “Shelf-Life” in this context means how long you can have gone without using an item before I urge you to purge it.

Clothing Shelf life: 1 year for seasonal items and 3 months for non-seasonal. Your funeral outfit and scuba-gear are exceptions to the rule. If you don’t wear it, you can sell or consign it for CASH. Common Sense Example: If you do laundry once a week and one day a week you wear a brown sweatshirt one day a week, you do not need four brown sweatshirts. Wear one and keep one more in case that one kicks the bucket- get rid of the other two.

Jewelry Shelf-Life: 6 months. Up to four keepsakes make sense if they bring you joy to look at. The rest should be taken to consignment pawn or metals melted down for cash (if you used to be Mr. T.)

Book Shelf Life: 3 months. If you go to it for reference or it’s old or signed, or an absolute favorite, keep it. Everything else can be sold to a book store for cash or lovingly donated to your local library where you will find them again, should you need them. I’m a writer, book freak and lit lover but I do not find use in “collections.” -Unless you really have room for a library.

Kitchen Items Shelf life: 6 months. If you do not cook, sell your appliances and nicer kitchen items on E-Bay or Craigslist. If you use a blender once a year, you can borrow one from a neighbor or a friend.

Now that you’ve purged (and possibly made some cash), write a list of free or inexpensive things you can do to fill the internal void and avoid going shopping. Example: Walk the dog, write in my journal, go to the gym, call a friend, eat a handful of nuts, take a bath, or organize an area of your house. You can also find a very simple-living clutter-free friend to hold you accountable for what you have bought each week (She can look at you very disapprovingly if you buy another pair of scissors or corduroy pants.)

Now that you’ve shed a bunch of stuff:

Always think about purchases for at least a full day before you make them. Never buy on impulse. If it’s important enough to go for or go back for, you will do it later (usually it’s not important and you can talk yourself out of it if you just leave the store). And we all know not to buy things when we’re HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired). Do buy things if you can say to yourself, “I have been needing____ and forgetting to buy it.” Self depravation of actual needs is not psychologically healthy.

Of course, most people are somewhat confused about how their personal wants differ from their needs. And there is sometimes grief and psychological stress in figuring out whether to “let it go.” If you’re still stuck after reading this, I am offering Queercents readers a very special 45 minute phone coaching session on your individual organizing and shedding needs for an astounding $25 (usually $70). My New Years resolution being already organized myself, is to help as many people as I can for very little money. I will help you make sensible clutter-related decisions based on what you tell me it looks like now and what you want it to feel like afterward. Offer is good through Jan 31, 2009. Just email me! Mooreamalatt@hotmail.com to get started.

Photo credit: stock.xchng.