Conquering Clutter With the 4-Container Method

Sad Young Woman with Messy Room
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We all aspire to a more streamlined life, but getting rid of the clutter in your home is not as easy as it sounds. Even the things we might have used only once or twice seem to call out to us with its greater purpose in the scheme of our lives once faced with the trash can. With this simple-to-follow method, with a little willpower, it is possible to give clutter a life far away from yours.

Determining the Categories for Conquering Clutter

Find 4 boxes and label them with the 4 categories:

1. Trash: This box should include any item that you do not need or want, but that is not worth donating or selling. Damaged and broken items should be included in the trash if they are not worth someone buying it and repairing it.

2. Give Away/Sell: Here is your chance to be generous. Think about the uses someone else might get out of the items vs. the use it gets in your home buried in cabinets or closets. You should also consider the financial benefits of selling your stuff at a garage sale.

3. Storage: This is where you put items that you cannot part with but do not need on a regular basis. Make an inventory of the items as you box them. Group similar items together. Remember one good way to clean out closets is to store out of season clothing.

4. Put Away: This should be your smallest category. These are items that need to be out on a regular basis. Monitor yourself by determining if you have a place for each item.

If the items in this box will not fit into your home without cluttering an area up, try to reassess if you really need them. If you do need these essentials, try to come up with a storage solution that fits into your home.

The Method

Working room by room, sort items into the appropriate boxes. Work with one item at a time determining its proper place in your newly organized life.

Do not forget to go through closets, cabinets, and storage spaces. Removing clutter from rooms like the kitchen and bathroom may be very easy to do, while rooms with storage containers and closets may take a lot more time.

Work on one room at a time to provide yourself with an easy stopping point for interruptions. When you come to a stopping point, be sure to throw out the trash immediately. Box up the storage box. Place the give away/sell box in the garage, or out of sight. If you allow yourself to contemplate the decisions you have made, your brain can trick you into rescuing the clutter. 

Things To Remember

  • Items are not equivalent to memories of the person who gave them to you, but pruning items with an emotional attachment can be very difficult. Consider carefully if you need the item to have the memory or emotional attachment. If you simply aren't sure, consider storing items on a trial basis, or giving them to another family member for safekeeping. Think about taking photos of the item that will store more readily, but give you tangible proof of the memory. If you really feel the need to keep items of this nature, don't fight it, but instead try to incorporate these memories into decorative displays or organized storage.
  • Get rid of old clothing even if it's the size you used to be and hope to return to. It's tempting to keep them for when you reach your goal but think about instead rewarding yourself with a new wardrobe when you get to your goal weight.
  • Don't force yourself to keep sets if you only use part of the set. If you cannot break up a set, at least store the portions you do not use.
  • Keeping things just because you might need them someday may seem like a good reason for clogging your closets. Remind yourself that what you really need is space and organization.

Now your trash is gone. Your storage is packed away, every item you have decided to keep is in its proper place, and you have given away or sold everything else. Take a moment to look around your home. You have just taken a major step to organizing your life and freeing up your time and space -- now it's time to begin enjoying the results.