Reduce, Release, Reset

Step three of SORT and Succeed is actually my favorite. This is where we start to see the payoff, getting lots of space back when you reduce, release, and reset your space into a more organized room or storage area.

Reduce Release Reset- SORT and Succeed

Reduce, Release, Reset

Have you noticed that I’ve barely brought up the idea of throwing things out yet? That’s by design, as many people get attached to things and resist making changes at all if they think they have to part with their stuff.

This has a name in the psychology literature: loss aversion. Loss aversion means that our brains feel the pain of loss roughly twice as much as the good feelings that we get from new things or happy gains. This is true even if we don’t want or use the things we are losing. How crazy is that? This phenomenon plays out differently for each person, of course, but it’s a real thing.

In order to help your brain feel the losses the right amount and at the right time, we do Step 2 of SORT and Succeed (organize into groups) before Step 3. Once you’ve got things grouped, your brain can decide what can and should stay, instead of feeling deprived of what you are “losing.”

We found over a dozen pair of scissors, enough to create this lovely “bouquet,” for a client when we emptied out one of her storage units. She had three other storage spaces that also had scissors. This woman was prepared to cut just about anything…except her dependency on scissors! She laughed at herself and let them all go to donation when she packed up for her cross-country move.

scissors organized in a mug

Step 3 – Reduce, Release, Reset.

Ways to Reduce and Release

Whether you are just tidying up your home a bit or preparing for a big downsizing move, there are only a few ways to reduce the amount of things you own today so that you end up with less tomorrow:

  • Recycle
  • Donate to charity
  • Give to friends
  • Sell online
  • Sell via an auction service/site
  • Trash

If you’ve decided to part with some or most of your things, you can set up bins and boxes for each of those cases in the bullets above, and move them out of your house box-by-box, or all at once.

Reset for Organizing Success

Don’t dump things back where they were just because you don’t know where they go. 

Don’t keep things in your home after you’ve sorted them into donate and trash bins. 

Don’t keep things just because you own them. Keep them only if you would buy them again today.

Don’t let your past lives steal your joy for the life you want to live today. 

Don’t let “loss aversion” win. 

What is the right way to reset while organizing?  Here are some examples:

  • in the home office: clear your desk so it only has items you want on it
  • in the kitchen: eliminate dishes, tools, and gear that you haven’t used or that annoy you. Reset the shelf heights, if needed, so things you need and use are easier to reach. Make a list for a handyman if you need small repairs or adjustments beyond your skill.
  • in the playroom: Make sure games and toys are easy for little ones to get to. Move things up higher to make them pet-safe and child-safe. Recycle obsolete electronics.Move furniture to create different zones for the way you live today, especially if grandchildren are now on the scene.
  • in the bedroom: Remove things you are unlikely to ever wear again. Arrange your clothes so you can get to the things you wear all the time. If you aren’t ready to part with things entirely, put them in a box to age out after a pre-determined amount of time. If you haven’t gone into the box by a date you decide, then donate them at that future date. Arrange your hanging clothes in groups by season and color.

reduce release reset -closet


This Step Seems Like a Lot of Work?

You can keep breaking down almost any big organizing project until it’s something you can do in the time you have available. Most people don’t want to spend a whole day organizing, nor do I advise it. Try to keep your organizing session to a MAXIMUM of 3-4 hours of work, or you will bump into the next mealtime and likely lose momentum and motivation.

Trying to organize your office? Just focus on the desk. Or just a single drawer in the desk. Or just a shelf on the bookcase or in the closet. Reduce, release, and reset just that small area today. You can do another area tomorrow.

If you are downsizing, planning to sell your home, don’t try to throw everything out You don’t want to show an empty house. You want to show what feels like a model home, one that is clutter-free but inhabited by someone with really great taste and a sense of space. Expect to spend one to three days in each room to reduce, release, and reset each room, unless you are working with a professional organizer or home stager. With their help you may find it goes faster.

Step 3 of SORT and Succeed

Step 3 of SORT and Succeed is where you’ll likely feel the tug of some big emotions. Remember that “loss aversion” doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. Humans are wired to be attached to our stuff. All of us. It’s OK if you are attached to your mother’s pickle plate or your letter jacket from high school or your photos or…well…anything else that is yours. Your stuff is part of your story, just like my NYC subway tokens are part of my story.

That’s why an important part of Step 3 is to reset the things you choose to keep in your life. But reset them in a way that honors both your history and their usefulness.

Putting things in bins does NOT make you organized. Get your favorite things out on display. If you love it, use the good China. Stack the pretty baskets in your closet, holding your clothes, instead of getting musty in the basement. Wear your favorite jewelry every day, even if they are diamonds. Today is for living. Don’t wait for permission.

Putting things in bins

Image from the Upbeat, Organized Home Office. 

No matter when you found us, catch up with all of this month’s organizing articles here.