Declutter Your Way to a More Organized, Intentional Home

On a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you need to declutter? Dorothy Breininger's clutter scale is here to help.

Although I have always been organized, there were two significant moments in my life that taught me how to manage clutter.

The first was when I returned from a backpacking trip around the world. Having visited homes in many developing nations, I no longer wanted to have such excess in my own home. My possessions were organized, but I had too many of them for my taste.

After I unpacked from my journey, I began a thorough review of my stuff. I started upstairs, removing unnecessary items floor by floor. By the time I reached the basement, I had enough stuff to set up a second apartment.

My second decluttering lesson was right after my divorce. Just months after the split, I found myself facing bankruptcy. I began my climb out of sudden and severe financial debt while simultaneously making a name for myself in the organizing industry. I hired a top-tier PR agent, but I knew I had to come up with some big bucks to cover his fee and all the expenses that go along with creating a brand. I decided to sell my home and everything I owned to make it happen.

As I sorted my belongings for a second time, I created a ranking system to help me decide what to keep and what to toss. It worked beautifully for me, and I think it can work for you, too.

The Clutter Scale

5 — Important items whose place in your home is non-negotiable. For me, this included my green-stained Depression glass, photos, business files, office equipment, and my car.

4 — Items that are difficult to replace and items you use every day. This pile included most of my clothes, CDs, some furniture, a favorite sheet set, towels, and jewelry.

3 — Items you use occasionally but haven’t used within the last six months.

2 — Items you rarely use but feel hesitant to toss.

1 — Items you never use, like seasonal items, specialized tools, or kitchen gadgets. I got rid of stationery, extra wrapping paper, old boxes, and my printer.

You know what I found as I used the clutter scale? There were rarely items that rated a 2 or 3. And once I established some criteria, I was able to sort and purge the 2s and 3s like never before. As you sort your less important items, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I love it?
  • What’s the special story behind it?
  • Do I have the space for it?
  • Can I replace it?
  • Can I easily borrow it or rent it if I need it again?
  • Does it support my goals and values?
  • Does it compare to the items I ranked as a 5?

The clutter scale is a great way to get back in touch with your priorities. My priority at the time was starting my business, so I kept the bigger goal in sight — and let go of anything that didn’t support that goal.

What I didn’t know then was that I was already practicing what I was going to preach in my business. I learned to organize my life and stuff based on my values. I chose to collect experiences, not things.

As you declutter and rank your possessions, don’t forget to take a few minutes to think about your goals and values. You’ll find your home to be much more intentional and peaceful if you do!

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