ASKING THE HARD QUESTIONS
By Ramona Creel of OnlineOrganizing.com Let's talk for a few minutes about "waffling." You know what"waffling" is, don't you? It begins one day, when you decide toget rid of that old waffle iron you never use. As you put it inthe donation bag, you think to yourself, "But what if someonewants waffles?" You take it back out. Then you think, "That’ssilly. No one has wanted waffles in 5 years." You stick it backin the bag.
This goes on for another 15 minutes until you finally think theunthinkable – "But I might need it someday." You put the waffleiron back in the cabinet, where it continues to collect dust foranother 5 years. Why do you do this? It’s not because you are anevil and indecisive person. You have simply never had a solid setof CRITERIA for determining an item’s worth. No longer!
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU USED IT?
If you haven’t touched something in the past 12 months, chancesare that you’re not going to use it in the next 12. Clothes andsporting goods seem to be some of the worst offenders! It’snatural for people to have a hard time letting go of the past.And if an old outfit or a bowling ball really means that muchto you, then put it away with your keepsakes. If you feel likeyou need to hang onto ancient financial paperwork, send it tooffsite document storage. Just don’t take up valuable space inyour ACTIVE storage areas with items you don’t use.
WILL I EVER NEED THIS AGAIN?
Be honest and realistic about this one! At what point will agreen shag toilet-seat cover be crucial to your survival? Ifyou can picture a specific, concrete instance when you willneed it in the foreseeable future, then by all means keep it."I might need it someday" isn’t a good enough rationale.
CAN I ANSWER THE 5 W's?
If you can’t conjure up at least one plausible scenariorequiring the use of that green shag toilet-seat cover ordot-matrix printer from 1988, you may want to ask yourselfif it is worth hanging on to. Try to provide solid answersto each of these questions:
- WHY WOULD I NEED IT?
Try to come up with one specific concrete occasion when youwould need that exact particular item again -- not just"I might need it someday."
- WHERE WOULD I NEED IT?
If the item in question is only useful up north and you nowlive in Miami -- or only useful in a corporate environmentand you're now self-employed, why keep it?
- WHAT WOULD I NEED IT FOR?
What purpose does this item serve? Are you still involved withthat activity? No reason to keep letterhead from an old job ortap shoes if you gave up dancing.
- WHO WOULD ASK ME FOR IT?
People seem to hang onto stuff because they are afraid someonewill ask them for it someday. If it's the IRS or the police,keep it. If not, think twice.
- WHEN WOULD I NEED IT?
Okay, you might need it "someday" -- but when is will that dayarrive? Three months or 35 years from now? Is it worth hangingonto that long?
IS IT EASILY REPLACEABLE?
Okay –- so let’s say you do get rid of something, and thendecide that you need it 6 months later (my mother claims thisalways happens to her, as a justification for postponingcleaning out!) This isn’t always a problem. Ask yourself whatwould be required for you to replace this lost treasure. Ifwe are talking about an expensive or hard-to-find item, youare certainly justified in thinking twice before tossing it.You have to consider cost versus benefit –- it may cost youmore (in time, space, energy, or money) to keep the item thanto replace it IF and WHEN you ever need it.
WHAT IS THE WORST THING THAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I GOT RID OF IT?
When my clients are anxious about discarding an item, they arereally saying, "I’m afraid of what might happen if I got rid ofit." This is simply fear of the UNKNOWN -– uncertainty about theconsequences of their actions. So I ask my clients to let theirapprehensions run wild, and to imagine the absolute worst-casescenario. Quite often, the worst-case scenario is not that bad.Will the world end if you toss out that ring binder you haven’tused since college? Probably not. This knowledge helps dissipatethe fear and makes letting go a little easier.**********************************************************Ramona Creel is the founder of OnlineOrganizing.com -- offering
"a world of organizing solutions!"Visit OnlineOrganizing.com for organizing products, free tips, a speakers bureau
-- and even get a referral for a Professional Organizer near you. And if you
are interested in becoming a Professional Organizer, we have all the tools
you need to succeed. (Copyright 2000, Ramona Creel)***********************************************************
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