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The Sift of Life

Some of you may not be at the downsizing stage yet, but I’m betting that at least the thought “How do I sift my possessions down to a manageable level?” has crossed your mind. If we look to the handy kitchen tool, the sieve, we see that it sorts out what it wants and purges what it doesn't. A tidy metaphor for organizing if I've ever heard one! Sounds simple, but when do you find time to do this? It can be an overwhelming job. Organizing isn't an event, but a gradual process. It is very do-able when broken down in small pieces as you go through life. Here are some tips that I have used through the years:

Pick a day to tweak some items in a storage area. I always picked a three-day weekend. Any weekend works well for this, but a three-day weekend can give you a little more wiggle room in your schedule. This allows you to still enjoy a full weekend and get back to life feeling a bit more in control of your possessions. . Don't work all three days, just a few hours. If possible, get everyone in the family involved, multiplying the hours worked. Give them ample warning that this is the plan. Put it on the family calendar. There is no better way to set yourself up for disappointment than springing a work session on your family with no warning.

When that day arrives, set a goal of what you want to do and a time frame in which it will be done. (More than two to three hours in a single setting is probably the limit for time.) This gives both direction in the work and hope for those who don’t really want to spend aaallllll daaaaayyyyy (insert whiney voice) going through excess storage/life items. Goals could include 1. separating school papers into piles by family member - keeping only the best/favorite papers. 2. going through toys and donating those no longer used and tossing/recycling broken toys. 3. sorting through sporting equipment or art supplies to see what works and what is no longer used. Keep in mind, you are not here to "fix" the storage area, just tweak it.

Make it short and sweet so when you ask for another family work day, no one will dread it. Bring donuts and juice and enjoy the time reminiscing as you work or reward yourself at the end with a family ice cream trip. I think my family always knew there was some project or another to be tackled as a family on a three-day weekend.

Cull out plenteous, old, or out of fashion clothes as the seasons change. How many black pants do you need? Are some of those white summer tees getting a little faded and yellowed? Is your favorite blue sweater stretched and pilled? Let go of these items. When you re-evaluate each season, it takes little time. Make a list of things you actually do need to replace and shop for those items without guilt. Doing this twice a year is an easy way to stay on top of it.

Linens Do you have sheets that no longer fit the size beds you own? How many quilts/blankets does each bed need? How many pillows? Some people like to fold their sheets and store them in the pillow case that matches. Others like to put like items together, all pillow cases, all top sheets etc. Keep only what you will use and organizing it should be easy. Labeling where items go in any family storage closet/room is key in the upkeep of the system you set up. If others have to guess where something goes, it will inevitably get lost in the shuffle. On laundry day, make sure everything is back in its place for the next week.

Magazines Most are, by nature, designed to keep up with current events.Keeping more than a year's worth of magazines is like recording the news and watching it months later. Besides, do you know libraries keep back issues for a time period. You could probably safely sift through your periodicals every month, keeping only six months or so of back issues. After all, your library has a lot more storage space than you do! If you really want to read an article when you have time, tear it out and put it in a file, stored where you naturally read.

I could keep making suggestions about kitchen utensils and tchotchkes, books and tools. The key is to make this an ongoing part of living. Sieve as you live! (Ha! I just made that up!) Not only are you getting these areas of life under control, you are teaching your children valuable skills in sorting and culling. Building this skill is like building muscles - the more you do it the easier it becomes. You can do it! (a little bit at a time)

Laura - your organizing girlfriend

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