I had the great pleasure of working with a dedicated school teacher to help her downsize her school materials. I’m happy to share this step-by-step process with you. This is the process we followed.
I. Do a room-by-room walk through: Using a note pad, list the categories and items needing to be sorted. Here are some common categories:
Stationery: Papers, binders, writing paper, cards, stamps, pens, stickers
Books/DVDs/CDs: Personal, work-related, reference books, conference materials
Knick Knacks: Home décor and display items
II. Gather the materials you’ll need to sort and package items for removal such as:
1. Boxes, packing tape, paper, and strong garbage bags
2. Labels and markers (to identify boxes and bags)
3. Bags and boxes for items for donation
4. Bags and boxes for items to recycle or for garbage
5. Bags to hold papers needing to be shred
6. Boxes or bins to hold papers to sort at-a-later-date
7. Boxes to hold items that belong in other rooms of your home
8. Boxes to hold items-for-return-to-original-owner (ex: borrowed books)
9. Boxes for toxic waste, electronics and such to deliver to your local eco-centre
III. Schedule a timeframe for the sorting and downsizing process: Ideally schedule to work in three-hour blocks of uninterrupted time.
IV. Identify a staging area: You’ll need a space to sort, ideally a table or clear floor space. Make sure that the area around the sorting station is organized with boxes placed neatly for a good sense of order.
V. The sorting process: Sort items one category at a time, clearly label the boxes and bags, and remove them from the home as soon as possible within a defined deadline. For storage keepers ex: Christmas decorations, label the box accordingly and place into your storage area.
VI. Schedule the removals: Define when you’ll do the drop offs for the items-for-return-to-original-owner, eco-centre, and donations for pick-up. You can use a calendar to schedule the phone calls or emails on when to return items from your return-box. As you probably will have shredding to do (everyone has papers!) you’ll need to schedule when to do that and buy a shredder if you don’t have one. Continue the process until you’ve completed your decluttering.
VII. Acknowledge your progress: As you work through the process and get those piles thinned out, please give yourself a pat on the back (and a gold star if you have one) as it’s a good job you’re getting done!