My wonderful clients know I have one simple rule at the Decision Table: “Nothing stays on the table.” When sorting a large quantity of stuff, it is important to recognize that EVERYTHING has a category and, therefore, a plan forward. Some categories, like “toss” and “donate” are obvious, but to keep the momentum going, you need more options. Here are a few.
Décor. Like most useful categories, this one is very general. It can include everything from a framed picture to a Homer Simpson figurine. They are items you would like to see on display, when you can find the space.
Keepsakes. A keepsake would be an item that brings back a good memory, but you don’t need to display it. These can include photos, gift cards, and even that Homer Simpson toy.
Office Supplies. Don’t over think this one. Everything from pens and pencils, to stationery and computer supplies would go in this box. You can sub-sort them later, when you’ve cleared some room to work. For now keep it together and keep going.
To File. Sorting is not the time to stop and file. Keep a box to collect all documents you need to be to able find reliably, continue the sorting, and file that box later.
To Do. Uncovered a bill that you’ve just got to pay? Chuck it in the To-Do box and keep sorting. This may seem less important, but you will never finish the sorting if you leave at every distraction.
Information To Enter. For all those scraps of paper you’ve been meaning to enter into your address book or database, don’t do it now, but do collect it in one place. A gallon Ziploc works great.
Ask [insert spouse name here]. Got an urge to call your spouse over a certain item? Don’t. There will be more such items, so collect them all in one place and ask all your questions later.
Elsewhere. Before you run that coffee cup back to the kitchen, stop and establish an “elsewhere” container near the door. When you’ve finished sorting, you can then distribute the contents to their appropriate rooms.
Giveaway. If you find an item that you no longer want and would like to give to someone you know, collect it in a “giveaway” box. This is different from a “donate” box, because you have someone specific in mind and you need to make a point of getting it to him or her. It matters less who gets the “donate” box.
Slow Review. I hesitate to include this category and caution against overusing it, but sometimes a hasty decision is stressful. If there is a large document that you may not need, but must carefully review to make sure, put it in a “slow review” box. It is more important to keep the momentum going with the sorting process. Nothing will slow this momentum faster than regret.
All these sorting categories are very general, because otherwise you will run out of space to work. You can easily get more specific with your sorting in the next round. One category that is TOO general and unhelpful is “keep.” A “keep” pile does NOT help you move forward, because you are not addressing why you are keeping these items. You will not be inspired to return to the “keep” pile, because it is too much like the original area you sorted. Not much progress. If, however, your next stage is reviewing just the keepsakes, for example, then it is much easier to find a focus and see your progress.