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zen habits: Edit Your Life, Part 3: Closets and Drawers

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Edit Your Life, Part 3: Closets and Drawers

Quick note: Every Thursday is Simplifying Thursday, and for the next few weeks, these posts will be a series called "Edit Your Life," looking at ways to simplify different parts of your life.

I'm a former newspaper editor, and one of the things I learned was to edit brutally (no sarcastic comments about why I don't do that with my blog posts). Cut out everything that's not necessary, and you've got a more meaningful story.

I highly recommend editing your life.

Today's edit: Edit your closets and drawers.

Last week, I talked about a method for editing your rooms, removing the clutter, and only leaving what's necessary. I suggested that you skip the closets and drawers, saving them for later, and only focus on what's visible when you walk in the room. The reasoning is that if you include everything at once, including closets and drawers, it can be overwhelming, while if you only focus on what's immediately visible, you can make a big difference on how you feel about that room with a shorter amount of time dedicated to your editing.

But this week, let's focus on what's not immediately visible. Every room has closets and drawers, and they can easily accumulate junk from years of putting stuff in there and forgetting about them. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Yes, but every time we open the closet or drawer, we are reminded of that junk and clutter. Let's create simple, stress-free spaces!

Start with drawers, because they're simpler. Take one drawer at a time, and follow these simple steps for each drawer:

  1. Empty everything out of the drawer. Everything.
  2. Clean out the drawer. Clear all junk and debris, then clean with a wet rag or use a cleaning product. Make it nice and clean.
  3. Remove all junk from the pile of stuff (that you took out of the drawer), and toss it.
  4. Now go through the remaining stuff, and sort: stuff you'd like to give away (put this in a box to give away, and put the box in your car to drop off when you're done), stuff you want to put in other places in the house (do this immediately after you're done), and stuff you want to keep in the drawer. Try to keep related stuff in the drawer -- don't have junk drawer. Only keep school supplies, or underwear, or whatever, in that drawer, so you know what belongs there.
  5. Put the stuff back in an orderly manner. You should have a greatly reduced amount of stuff to put back in the drawer. Don't have too much stuff, or the drawer will still be cluttered. Put it back neatly, in some kind of order -- it helps to get a drawer organizer that fits the stuff you're putting in there. This is great for office or school supply stuff, like pens and tape and scissors and paper clips.
  6. Now that it's nice and neat and de-cluttered and simplified, celebrate. And keep it that way! Never just toss stuff in the drawer. Make sure that it belongs there, and put it back in an orderly manner. This habit might take some time, but it will pay off in less cluttered drawers.
You can either stop after doing one drawer, and tackle the next drawer tomorrow, or keep going if you have the time and energy.

Now on to closets, which are a little more complicated. However, to simplify things, start with one section of the closet: one shelf, or the floor of the closet. For each shelf, follow the same steps as above with the drawers. Do the same with the floor of the closet -- in fact, remove everything from the floor and keep the floor clear if at all possible. A clear floor greatly simplifies a closet.

Next would be clothes or other things hanging in the closet. It's best to take all these out, and follow the same basic procedures, simplifying, tossing, and only putting back what is essential. This is a great exercise that will greatly reduce your wardrobe (get rid of clothes you no longer wear or fit!) and simplify the closet.

Closets can be intimidating, so you might tackle one area at a time, and do it every day for a week. Each day should only take 15 minutes or so, if you work quickly and make quick decisions about each item.

See also:


Dario Manoukian said...

Very good tip! Gotta get started right away!

FYI: Your blog inspired me so much, I decided to make my own similar blog but in spanish!

Feel free to visit! I'm linkin' to you! :v)

Bushido Blog

Leo said...

Hi Dario! Very cool. If I've inspired you to write about these topics and start your own blog ... then you've just made my day. Thanks for that. I love the look of your blog but unfortunately, tho I took Spanish in high school, I can only remember a few words! I know Google can do translations but I don't know how to do that.

If you would like to write a guest post for me sometime, in English, email me (zenhabits at gmail.com) so we can talk about it. Good luck with your blog!

Debbie said...

I just edited my dresser drawers in a way very similar to what you recommend.

However, first I decided that I really don't need any more t-shirts, sweaters, socks, undies, or shorts than my dresser can hold. So my goal was to get rid of things until everything remaining would fit easily.

Then for each drawer (such as the one for long-sleeved solid t-shirts), I split everything into the following piles: 1) stuff I love and wear, 2) stuff I love and don't wear, 3) stuff I wear and don't love, and 4) other.

Then I tried to figure out why I wear some things I don't love and don't wear some things I do love. Mostly it came down to which clothes went with something else I already owned. So for t-shirts, I only wear shirts that go with black, khaki, navy, or red shorts. I also have shirts that go with yellow shorts, but I just ruined mine.

So I started by keeping all my shirts that I wear and love. Then I looked at how many shirts went with each pair of shorts and added more shirts to the pile for the shorts with fewer matches until my drawer was full (but not too full). Then I put everything else in a "leftovers" bag which I will dig through whenever I buy new shorts. After a while I may be able to toss these things, but for right now I'm still a 'fraidy cat. I don't like shopping and would rather shop in my garage for free for stuff that fits than to have to go to a store.

(During a previous drawer clean-up, I removed everything that didn't fit.)

SpiKe said...

I've found the bottom of closets to be great storage spaces. None of my clothes are so long that they reach to the bottom so I bought some small canvas boxes and use them for socks, underwear etc rather than having a seperate set of drawers. Saves loads of space.

Organize IT

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Great stuff. You must be a mindreader!

Thanks for the link at Technorati. I've reciprocated.

Leo said...

@Debbie ... that's a great method for decluttering your drawers! Congratulations on your success. It seems that you are already a simplifying master and don't need this article! :)

This is a good opportunity for me to note that the methods I present are just one way of doing things. Obviously Debbie has another great way, which is very similar but with a nice emphasis on what you love. I think that's a great addition to what I've said. But always remember that you should do what works for you, not what works for others.

Keep up the great work, Debbie!

Leo said...

@Spike: Your method of using the floor of the closet sounds good. My comment on that in the article was simply because many people use the floor as a cluttered way to put any ol' thing. When I completely cleared the floor of my closet, it was beautiful. But if you use nice storage containers, and it isn't cluttered, that would work too!

@Jeremy: thanks for the link and the nice comment!