Tidy or not, making big changes or not, taking stock of your home and possessions can be a powerful way to jump-start the New Year. It takes your relationship with your environment to a deeper level of ownership, a more conscious way of managing the things you own and the space you live in.
Taking stock might sound ominous, but it can be approached slowly and paced in ways that won’t be overwhelming. Here is some good news; in my experience things do NOT have to be all tidy and shipshape before you start. In fact, you’ll probably never bother taking stock if everything is already put away and things seem to be in order. This might seem like a leap, but when things are untidy, you have been given an opportunity, a chance to both take stock and clear up your environment.
Beware! If things are indeed messy, avoid “cleaning up” by tossing things into another room, a closet or (shudder) a box of mixed stuff. This is NOT taking stock, this is perpetuating a nightmare.
Rather than getting tidy in order to take stock…consider that the process of reviewing what you have and considering where things belong can lead you back to tidiness!
Let’s get started:
There is one kind of clutter that you can address right away: anything that can be thrown away or returned to where it belongs…WITHOUT ANY HARD DECISIONS.
Get warmed up for taking stock by facing the simple choices first. Examples might include recycling the junk mail and taking out the container, putting tools back in the garage or tool box, or hanging up clothing currently draped over furniture. Without even thinking much you have started moving towards tidiness. Save the difficult decisions for a time when you plan to face them.
Next, decide on how your scope is defined. Are you taking stock of a space or a category? This is very important. If you think you’ll review things randomly, as you encounter them, I guarantee you’ll be off down the rabbit hole in no time. What do I mean by that? I mean that one or several of these things will likely happen:
- An unexpected project that you forgot to finish will consume your attention.
- You’ll feel over whelmed and go have a coffee.
- Stuff will get shuffled around and then sit there for weeks until you’re in the mood again.
Scope is crucial, and can be either a clearly defined space (under the sink, a surface or closet, or a part of a room) or it can be a category. (Photographs, pantry contents, knitting stash, shoes) The key is to know the limits of what you are reviewing. This is how to avoid being pulled off track, and also how to know when you’re done. If you must choose an entire room, break it down into parts. I have helped tackle rooms in which we began with JUST the FLOOR. If I had jumped around between that room’s closets and surfaces it would have taken days to just clear the floor.
Define a Reasonable Scope, as above.Schedule a time: Don’t wait for the right moment; it won’t happen!Decide how much time and energy you have. Try an hour just to start.Set up required tools: Recycle and trash bins, boxes or bags for donations.
The basic steps of organizing can be used to move forward from here.
Sort things into broad categories…..without making hard decisions.
It helps to have room for this process, a table, bed or surface. Resist running around putting things away until everything in that category has been gathered!
Purge each category, putting things either in trash, recycle or donate.
Now you can make decisions, when you can see that you have multiples of stuff. Here is where you decide what to let go of, and if there are things you can sell or give away.
Contain what stays in efficient ways that match how you think and function.
Once you know you have 15 pairs of shoes, only now do you put them away. You might even realize that you only really wear 11 of the pairs and some can now be donated.
Maintain: Watch and notice: you’ve just taken stock!
Rather than overloading my expectation for the New Year, I plan to do smaller versions of this process over time. Last fall I did photographs and memorabilia, and managed to create several empty shelves for storing other things. I take stock of clothing and shoes twice a year, when the weather changes.
By being open to taking stock as you go, your home can actually support you rather drain your energy with tasks and projects. My husband, the cook, takes stock of his spice cabinet while making meals. I take stock of the product under the bathroom sink the first time I realize I can’t see the back of the cabinet. When the file folders become too densely packed to easily slide a piece of paper in – that is the moment to take stock.
If this sounds boring, not to mention daunting, consider that by developing the willingness to take stock as you go, you will never find yourself reeling in horror at the prospect of downsizing, or moving or having to manage a major remodel. A few moments of conscious engagement with your environment can save you in the long haul, but that is not the main benefit.
The most valuable and satisfying result of taking stock is the knowledge that your objects and surroundings are accounted for and chosen by you.
As I write this I am aware of the people whose homes just burned down in California. I can only image the horror of loss they are experiencing.
In the face of life’s uncertainty, I recommend staring the New Year with clarity and willingness to manage your stuff, tidy or not!