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Clearing out can be so easy


Statista.com, YouGov

Illustration: Statista.com, YouGov

The trend toward small apartments or the new minimalism practically demands a tidy apartment. However, where do we put all the clothes, books or postcards that have accumulated over the years? Throwing them away, giving them away or selling them are some ideas. Clearing out. Germans are quite avid at this.

A look at the figures of a survey from Statista and YouGov confirms this: nearly every tenth German clears out at least once a month. More than every fourth clears out twice a year. Only one percent of those surveyed claimed to not clear out at all. Here, spring seems to be more popular than winter. 24% take spring cleaning as an occasion, while only 9% clear out before Christmas. The main reasons are a love of orderliness (49%), lack of space and new purchases (41% each). Most (79%) don't have a particular method for the process. In the following we will present a few methods and tips with which we can approach clearing out systematicall.

Speed and consistency

The KonMarie Method

Photo: anaumenko, Adobe Stock

First a cup of tea, then check your mail and run down to the mailbox. A thousand things are suddenly more important when it comes to tidying up and clearing out. And then we usually don't even start anymore. Tidying up should be done quickly. Set yourself deadlines and consistently complete task after task. Feel free to make an event out of it – first 20 minutes of concentrated clearing out, then a round of Anno 1800 as a reward. This way one can take on the whole household piece by piece.

Less is more

It is the aversion to a mountain of work that keeps many people from tidying up. And then we don't do it at all. It would be enough if we just planned for a few minutes every day. Today the desk, tomorrow the little cabinet in the hallway. This method is recommended when we want to have a basic sense of order in our apartment again. However, it's not so easy when it comes to the stuffed wardrobe or the overflowing bookshelf.

Sort by category, not by place

"Today I will do the bedroom, next week the kitchen". Most of us proceed according to this method. However, this could be exactly the wrong way. Especially when we only relocate the problem cases from one room to the other. The result is a vicious circle that doesn't allow us to really clear out consistently anymore. Here it makes more sense to tidy up by categories instead of rooms. The following order is recommended:

Clothing, books, papers, small objects, mementoes, or generally things with a lot of emotional importance. This is because, and all experts agree, we find it easiest to let go of clothing. Once the initial pain of separation has passed, media are next, books, CDs and DVDs. Followed by papers. Bills and operating instructions for devices we no longer have and documents that are more than 10 years old. This is followed by little stuff. This includes makeup, office supplies or the postcard collection. In this way we approach the "separation problem" of mementoes step by step. Of things with a great deal of emotional value that we find especially difficult to let go. Here is where everything from the torn favourite blouse to the shabby teddy bear from our childhood collects. Here too, the rule applies that we don't have to throw away anything, but we can.

Pile up and touch

Pile up and touch

Photo: Sarah Brown, unsplash

The Japanese "tidying up queen" has also caused a real orderliness hype here in Germany, not least with her Netflix series "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo". In the Konmari method bearing her name, she recommends that we gather together all of the things from one category from the entire apartment and place them in one pile. What we see will give us a shock. We should see just how much clothing we actually have and how urgently we need to clear out here.

And then things can get started! We take each item in our hands and ask ourselves if we really still need it? Here is where we should turn off our brains and listen to our gut feeling. This results in the next piles: yes, no, maybe. The maybe pile is evaluated again and again until everything has been sorted to one of the other two piles.

Does it still bring me pleasure?

When we clear out, we constantly ask ourselves if something can go. So now turn the question around. Don't ask if something can go, but instead whether you wish to keep it. Am I going to read this book again? Do I still wear this shirt? How do I feel about it? Does it make me happy? However, these questions aren't only helpful for clearing out. When we ask ourselves this question, Marie Kondo promises us that we are also taking a look at ourselves. We bring ourselves into question, as well as the things with which we want to live in future. In the advanced method, one asks oneself whether one really needs something even before buying it. This may prevent us from purchasing things that we will later need to clear out again.

Everything has its place

Things we have decided to keep or that we need for everyday life should have a fixed place. So, not back into the drawer where we will find them again 10 years from now. This way everything remains manageable and close at hand. Pleasure in reduction can also grow when it comes to everyday objects. Do I really need 30 pens? Do they even still write? Then perhaps only three really good pens instead of 30 bad ones. The same applies to lipstick, notepads, scissors or screwdrivers.

If you don't want to throw away, you can give away

Don't throw away, give away

Photo: Goffkein, Adobe Stock

"That's still good" is one of the most frequently heard arguments against clearing out. It's of course entirely understandable when we don't simply want to throw away things that are dear to us or that still work, even if we don't need them ourselves anymore. We also shouldn't measure things according to their material value. You aren't doing yourself a favour by keeping things just because they were expensive. It's better to sell them. Because things that lie around unused in cupboards don't become more valuable. Especially if we are keeping them to sell them at a flea market sometime. Then it's better to donate them or give them away. Giveaway boxes are increasingly found at the edge of the road these days. Charity shops like Oxfam are also happy to accept donations.

We should feel a real emotional attachment to things we ultimately don't want to give up. That's because these things have a value higher than their purchase price. Regardless of what they cost. Those who internalise that will find it much easier to let things go in future. And maybe they won't even buy so much in the first place.