how to start decluttering with one more basket

I have a moderately unhealthy addiction to storage solutions. I love a good basket or a canvas tote with a funky graphic. My eyes glaze over in the storage container aisle of just about any store. And, don’t even get me started on my deep and abiding affection for mason jars.

I can store anything, beautifully. But, why? Why all the stuff in the first place?

Cue the lightbulb and my “one more basket” system of incremental decluttering.

For the record, I understand the value of removing everything from the space that is to be decluttered and then only putting items back in that are meaningful, useful, and wonderful. It just doesn’t always work for me.

Chunking out half a Saturday to trim down my closet only to discover that, evidently, I still love everything is not a productive use of time. To do nothing is also not a viable option, if for no other reason than a girl only has so much space for 18-gallon totes.

So, what does work?

Weaving decluttering and “stuff reduction” into the fabric of my daily routine and making it part of the habits that already work. Habit bundling can be surprisingly effective, especially when ‘getting started’ is the toughest hurdle to overcome.

As the name indicates, habits are linked together, sometimes even including a reward for good measure, thereby increasing the probability of sticking with the habit long term. Check out Katy Milkman’s work on temptation bundling for an even deeper understanding of how reward factors into this equation.

The key is to pair a strong, existing habit with a new one to help jumpstart adoption of the new one.

Which brings me to my “one more basket” system of organization.

1. Pick a basket and declare it the cornerstone of your decluttering system. It could be something new and beautiful, something repurposed from elsewhere in your home (a joy that rivals shopping, in my humble opinion), or an entirely different type of storage unit. Whatever makes you happy and works for your space.

2. Place it near the area you want to whittle down so there are no hidden barriers to getting started. Heaven forbid you have to walk an item to another room; you may as well just scrap the whole project.

3. And, then start. Add a little bit to the basket each day or week. Keep adding until it’s full and then…

4. Move it out. Recycle or donate…whatever you prefer. 

In my case, it was a repurposed laundry basket placed near my closet. I have way too many clothes; it’s my vice and I know it, but ThredUp! As I get ready for work, I add to the basket. It starts with the sweater that just makes me say ‘meh’ and fills up more with the three shirts I always bypass on my way to my favorite gray sweater.

Just a little bit each day.

On occasion, items from elsewhere in my home make their way to the basket, too. And, as days go by, it gets filled with any number of things that outlived their usefulness, never fit quite right, or just “don’t live here” anymore. Once full, it’s time for a donation run.

And, here’s the key. Do Not Review!

Everything in the basket is there because, in the context of everyday life, it was deemed unnecessary. It was an organic process that resulted in decisions made from a place of pragmatism and practicality. Trust yourself and let them go.

And, then begin again.

“One more basket” might provide you with just the right blend of decluttering ease and noticeable progress. It may even prove to be the catalyst for tackling your desk, your junk drawer, your shed, and any number of other places in your world that are in need of a reset.

Go forth and organize…”one more basket” at a time.