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Edit Your Life, Part 3: Closets and Drawers

Every Wednesday is Simplicity Day on Zen Habits.

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!

Drawers
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.

Closets
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.

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