Editing: the Secret Sauce of Organizing

Editing is hands down the secret sauce of organizing your life, your mind and your space. It’s also called decluttering, thinning, sorting, and culling (although culling makes me think of thinning a herd of cattle).

Photo by Francesco Paggiaro on Pexels.com

Editing is the process of looking at your possessions and deciding what makes the cut and what doesn’t. It’s taking a red pen to your life and space. It allows you to intentionally and methodically evaluate your things and decide what you want to hold onto and what you want to let go. Editing done well will be the most impactful and rewarding part of your organizing process.

When I was a teacher, I taught the writing process to children, and editing was a way to “make it better” by either getting rid of the parts of the story that didn’t work or make sense, or by making those same parts even more exciting by adding in rich details. Getting out the red pen became an exercise in creating something fabulous instead of focusing on what had been done incorrectly. The same principal applies to editing our lives after loss.

Julie Martella

Editing makes it better, whether “it” is a closet, a bedroom, a garage or the kitchen. You are evaluating objects and asking yourself some questions about those things. You are taking the red pen to your life and asking yourself what doesn’t make sense anymore, and what can you keep as you create the “new” space?

  1. Does this serve me?
  2. Will keeping it make my life better?
  3. Do I have a home for it?
  4. Is it broken, missing pieces, or otherwise unusable?
  5. Is it time to let it go so that it can serve someone else and make their lives better?

Editing is the third step in the organizing process. It is the most time consuming step, but also the most important!

Example: Your Spouses Drawers

The clothes is an area everyone will have to tackle, and an excellent place to start a small project. Perhaps begin with the underwear or sock drawer. You’ve made your plan and envisioned what you want things to look like when you’re done. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. Maybe you need a place to store your t-shirts, or maybe you want to get rid of a dresser. Remember your why.

My big why was, “The homeless shelter may be able to use some of these things. They may be exactly what some man needs in order to go to work.”

  1. Pick a drawer (I started with underwear).
  2. Dump everything out onto the bed.
  3. Ask yourself your questions: for this drawer it was easy. His underwear wasn’t going to serve anyone else. It just needed to go in the toss pile. First drawer done.
  4. Moved onto sock drawer and dumped everything onto the bed. Sorted through the extra treasures he stored with those socks.
  5. Asked myself the same question: Could socks be of service to anyone else? As a matter of fact, they could!
  6. I sorted the socked into pairs or homeless. The pairs went into a donate bag and the homeless ones into the toss pile.
  7. Next drawer: work jeans. My husband was a farmer, so lots of jeans. It’s getting a little harder now, and I ask myself my question: Could these serve us? No. Could they serve someone else? Yes, those men at the shelter could really use these pants. Pants with big tears or holes in them went to toss pile, the rest to the donate pile.
  8. I thank myself for having my big why and my plan done ahead of time to anchor me.
  9. Next drawer: t-shirts. Oh boy… this is getting harder. I ask myself the same questions, and this time I have a slightly different answer. My girls want several of the t-shirts. So I sort them into keep or donate. Interestingly enough, we aren’t interested in the new ones; we want the ones that are torn, stained or have holes in them from farm welding jobs. The more distress the shirt, the larger the proof of his life exists on that shirt.
  10. The shirts that made the cut are actually lovingly folded and placed in a safe tote.
  11. Last drawer: hoodie sweatshirts. The same thing happens here. The girls select a couple that most remind them of dad, and the rest get put into the donate pile. Those that remain go into the tote.

By the end of that day, those drawers were emptied, the back of my car was full of donations, and a nice tote that was clearly labeled was sitting in the closet, waiting to go out into storage. I made sure that I did a donation drop that day so that the cycle could be completed. The girls appeared that night ready for bed, wearing their dad shirts. This is exactly how they are serving our family every day.

Editing is your ability to sort though your loved ones possessions and decide what to keep and what to let go. It’s never an all or nothing situation, and there are no wrong answers. There is only what works for you.

Blessings my friends,

Julie Margaret

P.S. If you read this post and feel ready to tackle the organizing process but are a little overwhelmed, I’m here for you. This is part of a larger program I run called Navigating Widowhood where we address the logistics of organizing life after loss.

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