I've started a project to declutter and downsize. My basement is filled with rows and rows of bankers boxes of business records me and my handyman husband are required to keep for business. Each of us has 7 years worth of boxes. Our collection of documents has grown to quite a collection of bankers boxes that require way too much room. If the IRS is going to require me to keep all of these documents, I should be able to charge the IRS a storage fee. Who can I talk to about that?
The basement in my home is the last unfinished space, and I have the itch to pretty-it-up. I'd like to put in a softer warmer floor, paint the walls, and just make it a little more inviting. This is the reason I started this project to declutter and thin out all those bankers boxes. This all began in November, before Thanksgiving.
I thought it would be fun to share my process with you. When my clients sell their home they've lived in for 40 years, they go through a similar process to this. I've walked hundreds of clients through this process to declutter. Perhaps my sharing my process with you out-loud, I'll learn some new things, and very likely, provide you with a few chuckles.
This should be easy,right?
The recipe to declutter is really very straightforward. Pick up the first item in the first box, make a decision about it, put it in the appropriate pile. For this project dealing with mostly paper, my piles are (scan, shred, and "Oh, I should do something with this!") Pick up the second item in that box, make a decision about it, put it in the appropriate pile, rinse and repeat. It sounds so straightforward, so simple. But if it were that simple NONE of us would have piles of stuff laying around our house.
As a real estate agent I have gotten very good at managing HUGE amounts of paper for my client's transactions. If you've purchased or sold a house recently you know what I'm talking about. My client's files are meticulous. Everything in it's place. Things are tidy and organized. Then, as soon as I'm able to, everything is scanned electronically so I am able to find a document just be searching on my computer. But even I have some piles in my house. My piles represent things that I haven't yet made a decision about, or the aforementioned "Oh, I should do something with this!"
The first two piles of "shred" and "scan" are easy. It just takes a little while to run things through my scanner to turn them into electronic files, and I can bag up the things for shredding and hit one of those community shred events and likely get it shred for free.
I started so strong. I sorted, sifted, scanned and shred 3 boxes the first night I began. I was so excited! The new space in the basement is going to be so awesome! Going through those first 3 boxes left empty space on the storage unit shelf. I could see the progress I was making. I thought "I'll be done with this in no time! I'll have the basement completed before the spring real estate market starts!"
Then I tackled the "Oh, I should do something with this!" pile. I sorted through this pile and made mini piles. Some of the new categories were 1) I'd like to keep this in paper form 2) This might be something I can use for a new marketing idea 3) I should share this with someone it might be helpful to them 4) I should call about this one, I'm not sure what this is from 5) I'm not sure what to do with this, I don't think I can get rid of it yet. So that dratted "Oh, I should do something with this pile!" has now had babies! It's multiplying! Instead of one pile, I now have FIVE piles scattered around the floor of my home office. The first 4 piles are a to do list, and the fifth pile is a pile I STILL had to make a decision about!
Great progress! Time to take a break!
After a number of hours the decision making had taken it's toll and I took a break. I left those baby piles because I knew I'd get back to them before long. Well, before I knew it I was planning Thanksgiving dinner and was having my family over. I simply couldn't have all those baby piles scattered around the floor while I was entertaining, so I gathered them up and put them BACK in the banker's box. I knew I would get back to it after the busy Christmas season. Then we took a vacation in January.
Those papers haven't moved.
It's now February, it's time for me to dig back in. I'll update you on the next phase of the decluttering and let you know how it goes.
In the mean time, I encourage you to tackle your "Oh I should do something with this!" piles too...before they have babies.