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Tips for Living: Steps to decluttering, organizing

Today: Steps to decluttering, organizing

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Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion." (Doctrine and Covenants 132:8)

PROVO — Laurie A. Reeve, a professional organizer and the president of Simply in Order, has the method to organize anything:

1. Choose the project.

2. Plan it out.

3. Sort it into groups.

4. Create a home for it.

5. Return it to order when you use it.

Organization is important, Reeve told a class on Aug. 16 at BYU's Campus Education Week, because it affects the religious life. "We know that the Spirit is a very still, small voice and when we have clutter it is what I call emotional noise. And it's screaming to you the time. And so if this clutter is screaming at you, you are not going to be able to hear that still, small voice," Reeve said.

This article will focus on Reeve's sorting into grouped steps — four groups to be precise:

1. Sort preparation.

2. Quick sort.

3. Reduction sort.

4. Sort finish.

Sort preparation

If you are really serious about organizing and sorting something, you need to set aside the time. This means not answering the phone and even having someone babysit if necessary.

Gather up the supplies you need, such as sticky notes to label things, markers, garbage bags and file boxes. Also, grab your digital camera to take before, during and after pictures. "Once you start sorting … the process makes things look worse before they look better," Reeve said.

Part of the preparation includes labeling the file boxes or piles. The boxes are going to be the temporary places you put things. Each label helps in the process:

1. Garbage/recycle

Put a garbage bag right into the box. This is for the stuff that is broken, torn, stained etc. Use a shredder if necessary for personal and sensitive documents.

2. Donate

For things that are going to places like Deseret Industries.

3. Elsewhere

This label is for stuff that belongs in a different room or space. Reeve said she put it in the doorway so that she can move the items to the right space when she leaves the room.

4. Returns

You borrowed it from a neighbor or friend. When the project is over, this box goes into the car.

5. Sell

For those items that will fetch a great price on eBay or on consignment or at a yard sale. "The reason I don't like to have a sell pile is because it doesn't actually remove things from your location," Reeve said. It can be more hassle than it is worth.

6. Missing pieces

Put all the incomplete items and missing pieces here. If you continue to declutter your whole home, eventually everything will either be made whole again, or the pieces are lost and should be tossed.

7. Unsure

A temporary pile for things that require more thought. Reeve said not to use it very much.

8. Stays here

This is for the things you love and use.

Reeve added one more label after telling about how she made the mistake of getting rid of her husband's ratty, but beloved, banana shoes. "Thirty years later he still talks about his banana shoes." The label will vary according to the family.

9. Spouse/Children

For things that just simply not yours — no matter how much you think they are trash.

Other preparation includes coming up with guidelines to help you make decisions. For example, you may have the goal to reduce your possessions by 50 percent or you may decide to get rid of anything you haven't used in more than a year. Perhaps you will decide to only keep publications from the current year. Reeve said such pre-sorting choices help the process to go faster and helps the decision to not be emotional. Post the guidelines where you can see them.

One last item goes into preparation. Reeve had a set of questions that should also be posted where it can be seen while sorting. The list will help decide what to do with items:

1. Do I love it?

2. Do I use it or will I use it again?

3. Do I have the space for it?

4. Is it of good quality?

5. Do I really need it?

6. Is it easy to replace?

7. What is the worst thing that would happen if I got rid of this?

Quick sort

Now comes the actual sorting. The first sort is done quickly. Reeve said work on the visible items first, leaving the hidden hidden. Work from the bottom up and work clockwise or counterclockwise around the room. The point is to do it systematically. "Trust your instincts," Reeve said. "As I've worked with people for over 20 years now, I've never had anybody come back that has regretted getting rid of something."

Reeve warned about the traps people get into while sorting:

Q. I might need it again someday.

A. It is usually easy to get again or replace.

Q. It is still good — I should use it.

A. Give yourself permission to get rid of it.

Q. I'm planning to fix/finish it.

A. Really? Give yourself a deadline and the item an expiration date.

Q. It was expensive.

A. Sell it. How much does guilt cost?

Q. It was a gift.

A. Once a gift is given, the giver's job is done. Get rid of it (unless it is the mother-in-law) or take a picture to remember it by.

Q. I'm keeping it for someone else.

A. Encourage them to get a storage unit, or give it an expiration date.

Q. I inherited it.

A. Give it to another family member who would appreciate it.

If you are really worried about getting rid of something, have a trial separation. You simply box it up, put an expiration date on it and give it to a family member or friend and ask them to toss it on that date unless you come and get it.

Reduction sort

The reduction sort is similar to the quick sort. Now you are getting rid of duplicates. You are more familiar with the process and have a better idea of what you have and what you need to get rid of to reach your reduction goals.

Sort finish

This is the end. Throw out the garbage. Recycle the recyclables. Take the donation items to the car. Put the elsewhere items in the other spaces. Put the return items in the car. Schedule a date to sell the sell items.

Now enjoy the clutter-free space. "It's good for you to get rid of clutter," Reeve said. "You can receive personal inspiration and have more peace in your life."

e-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com