Absolute # 7 – Subtract Before You Add

imagesIf you remember the “order of operations” in basic arithmetic it went: “My Dear Aunt Sallie” which stood for: multiply, divide, add then subtract. Well I’m flipping that around because my dear Aunt Sallie has a lot of clutter! So I suggest she subtracts before she adds. This can apply to a lot of operations we perform while organizing.

First example, lets take the clothes closet. Many of us do the seasonal clean out in the fall and spring. You really need to look at every piece of clothing, make sure it fits, it makes you look beautiful or feel wonderful and you are going to wear it! Those clothes can stay. Everything else should go to an appropriate donation center. So you subtract what doesn’t work for you. Then comes the fun part. Make a list of what you need to replace and any basic items that you don’t have (like a little black dress or a blazer) and go shopping! That’s the adding. You also want to take out clothes before you buy any bins, dividers or organizers for the closet. Too often people rush out to buy bins before they have pared down. Rookie mistake.

Another example of subtracting can happen in the kitchen. Why would you go food shopping if your refrigerator is stuffed so full, there’s no room on any shelf? Most likely you’ve got some old stuff in there that needs to go. Or if you have a ton of leftovers that don’t look appealing to your family, get creative. Mix some veggies and rice together with a sauce and cook fresh chicken or steak to go with it. Or if you have meat leftover, consider making a fajita, or stir fry dish. Just adding something new makes it so much better! Leftover fruit goes great into a smoothie or milkshake. Of course anything with mold should be tossed. Then you can go food shopping and add. One thing I like to do on food shopping day is take all the half-eaten snacks in the house and put them in a divided party dish. Those are the snacks for the day and until they are gone, we don’t open anything new.

One more example is with paper. Don’t just look at the piles you have and buy bins or file drawers to fit everything. First categorize & purge them. Then you can see what you’re left with and you can go buy file drawers, bins or file folders to put them in. And always take care of the backlog before you filter in any paper that has just come in.

I hope you remember this rule as you tackle your next organizing task.

In what ways do you subtract before you add?