I read a tweet the other day that said “decluttering is as simple as picking up each item, and making one of the following choices”. It linked to a blog post showing six different options for what you could do with the item.


The problem has never been that the process is complicated.

The problem also isn’t that we don’t have enough blog posts telling us to “pick up each item, and decide whether to keep it or get rid of it”. And while I’ll admit that giving people six options instead of three is at least a change of pace (as far as decluttering methods go, anyway), the problem has never been that we don’t have enough options.

If we could pick up each item in our possession and make clear, rational choices about what was truly valuable to us, the entire “professional organizer” industry would implode with an amount of force that would make a black hole look like a busted dollar-store vacuum cleaner.

Here’s the thing.

Processing is simple. Processing is the part where you pick up each item, and put it into some sort of a “keep” or “toss” pile. Yes, it can be time consuming, but there’s nothing complicated about the procedure. The problem is that what we usually choose to do with everything is “keep it!”, mostly because….

Decluttering is hard. Decluttering is the part of processing where you dig into the depths of your psyche and rip apart the completely irrational attachments that you have to stuff. It’s the part where you come to grips with the fact that….

  • Grandma is gone, and hoarding her stuff won’t bring her back.
  • A three-thousand-dollar piece of exercise equipment isn’t currently worth twenty cents on the dollar.
  • Much of what you’ve been told about happiness is a complete and utter lie

And all the professional organizers and decluttering systems and storage options and time-saving gadgets and “tips and tricks” blogs and everything else that’s sprung up to separate desparate people from their money? None of it will do a damn bit of good if those people don’t change the processes (both mental and physical!) that got them into the mess in the first place.

And the funny part? If they change their processes, they find they usually don’t need the rest of the “tips and tricks”. That’s the real key to decluttering.

This is why I typically don’t write “100 tips for decluttering your basement” posts. I’d much rather help you get to the point where you know what you want, you know what’s in the way of that, and because of that knowledge you can declutter your basement without a “100 tips” article.

That’s what I’m after. I could be crazy, but I’d like to think that’s what you’re after, too. What are your thoughts?