Addressing Stuff & Clutter

Through the holiday season I’ve been quite aware of the amount of time I’m spending on keeping our home tidy. Too much time. While there are plenty of contributing factors, one of the most accessible ways to deal with it is to go through a decluttering exercise to lighten the load of stuff that would otherwise need to be tidied.

Berenstain Bears Book Cover: Messy RoomIt’s not like we have piles of stuff sitting everywhere, but when I look in closets, drawers, and at shelves there’s usually too much stuff in there for my liking. A one-time purge isn’t the right approach because I’m afraid we’ll end up where we’re at today or worse. Instead, I’m taking this on as a project and will keep track of progress.

Below are the shed measures I’m establishing along with the target values for the first 4 weeks.

Shed Ratio – 3:2

3 or more things out for every 2 things in

The core idea is that more needs to go out than what’s coming in. It’d be shortsighted to look only at what I’m getting rid of and ignore what is accumulating. The 3:2 ratio is high and unsustainable in the long term but that’s where I want to start for the first 4 weeks to get out of the blocks fast. After that I’ll have a much better sense for where I’ll adjust the value to for the next month but my guess is a 5:4 or 4:3.

The long-term ideal is to get down to a manageable amount of stuff then keep the ratio at 1:1.

Net Weekly Shed – 7

7 more things out than things in each week

This number establishes a target pace of how much is going out. I’m starting this at the very cliche “1 thing per day”. This is mostly because it’s a round number I’m bullish that I can maintain that for 4 weeks.

The long-term ideal drive this toward 0 as the clutter falls away.

Gross Weekly Shed Minimum – 9

9 or more things go out each week

This gives even further context and meaning to the shed ratio. It would be easy to game the shed ratio  and net weekly shed on their own (especially in the short term) by simply delaying purchases which simply isn’t sustainable in the long run. To establish a good habit, I want to make sure that the goals include room to get stuff we need, so by setting a target shed value of 9 I am basically giving myself a buffer of 2 new things coming in each week.

In the big picture, this adds some gravity to the shed ratio since my “1 thing per day” is in reality more than 1 thing.

The long term ideal here is to drive this value down to 0 as the clutter falls away, but trailing the net weekly shed.

Other Notables

What if these are the wrong shed measuresThey may well be, however I’m usually pretty good at coming up with metrics that will help guide me to my goals. Part of the challenge is that the numbers for any given week vs. the aggregate should be connected but right now they feel very different. I’ve chosen these because a few scenarios I ran seem to have a good balance to chart the course toward my overall goal, though as noted I very much expect to revisit and adjust the specific values.  We’ll see how these hypothetically-reasonable measures prove out 🙂

Won’t there be a lot of administrative overhead in the tracking of stuff? Yes, this will take some work and I’ve already worked out a plan for how I’ll deal with this (details in another post, maybe?). In short I will not track absolutely every single thing in and out.

Conclusion

The measures and targets above are set for the first 4 weeks and will get evaluated and adjusted as necessary. This time period is intentional so I can build the habit here in January. My intent is to keep my foot on the gas of this project for at least 6 months, then evaluate whether I can go into more of a maintenance-mode (or maybe another big push…who knows?).

It’s worth noting that I feel like Jess and I have a pretty good practice of not just buying a bunch of new stuff willy-nilly. That said, I haven’t been paying too close of attention to it and I could be surprised. Regardless, if this works how I intend there should be less stuff to tidy, which will mean more time back in my day. That’d be swell.

Anybody have thoughts on the shed measures, timelines, and targets? Thoughtful comments welcomed.

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