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Downers Grove, IL 60515


From Piles to Smiles® organizing and productivity service provides personalized, non-judgmental, professional coaching and hands-on organizing assistance that can help you claim control of your hectic personal and business life.

De-clutter by Setting Limits


Organizing and productivity ideas to help you experience the simplicity, harmony and freedom of being organized and in control.

De-clutter by Setting Limits

Sue Becker

How many times in the past have you unsuccessfully tried to pare down the clutter in your home? Too many to count? Maybe a different approach can help.  Read on to discover a different way of looking at things.

As you create your de-clutter plan, what if you turned your focus to how much space you’re willing to give to each category of item, rather than directly focusing on how much of each category you actually have? Recognizing that giving space to any one category takes away space that might otherwise be used to store something else, you can use containers, furniture, or areas of a room to limit the amount of space you’re willing to dedicate to any one category.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say books are a primary source of clutter in your home – they not only fill up a multitude of shelves, but also spill out of boxes in your attic and are piled on surfaces throughout your home. What if you declared that you’re only willing to have as many books as you have space on bookshelves?  If you have more books than shelf space, you have a number of options:

  • Keep all the books because you want to and you don’t see any reason to get rid of any of them. Fair enough, you only need to consider doing something different if the pain of the clutter is greater than the pain of paring down.
  • Buy more shelves
  • Pare down your book collection to fit on the shelves you currently have, and if you bring in more books, let go of enough so that they will all still fit on your shelves.

I’ve taken a similar approach to keepsakes – I have a plastic bin on a closet shelf that holds old greeting cards, my kids’ school work, etc. Several times the box has been filled to overflowing, but rather than give in to the temptation to buy more boxes, I pared down the contents. Although you might suspect that this would have been a gut-wrenching experience, it was actually quite enjoyable: It gave me a good reason to visit the treasures I otherwise would probably have never looked at and choose those that still hold meaning. Putting some time between my original saving of the items and revisiting them made it clear that what was once meaningful was no longer all that special for many things. If I ever get to a point that I can’t pare down enough to have it all fit in that bin, I’ll scan items so I can save the memory while also saving space.

So whether it’s books, keepsakes, food storage containers, papers, clothes, kitchen utensils, or something else, set a limit on how much you’re willing to store, and enjoy the beauty of owning less.