The lifehacker post suggests a list of typical things one might want to get rid of in order to de-clutter, but the list is rather generic (and thus applies to only few people). Also, the article doesn't talk much about how to go about it. These are two things I'd like to cover here.
First: the list of things to toss.
I find that my own personal list doesn't line up well with the list in the lifehacker article. But that's cuz I'm weird. Things I toss include: old paperwork; old textbooks; old tests, exams, and other student work; old CDs with old software on them; stuff in my "someday" pile that I know is now "never."
You may find the list of things you tend to de-clutter is also different from both mine and the one in the article. So how exactly do you make your list? Here's a simple meta-list that you can use to review and identify things - and because it's meta, it should work for nearly everyone. You should get rid of:
- anything you haven't used in a year;
- anything that's broken;
- any document older than 10 years; and
- extras anything that you have more than one of.
Of course, you may find there's some things really want to keep in spite of these rules - memorabilia, for instance; even if you don't use it, and if it's broken, and you have another one that works, I doubt you'd want to throw out your grandfather's gold pocket-watch.
These things, that violate the rules, need to be dealt with somehow. If you leave them scattered about, you'll likely never deal with them. Gather them all up and put them in boxes. Label the boxes with something obvious, and don't put them in storage. Leave them somewhere not really underfoot, but also not somewhere you'll forget about. Keep them under your nose; make them an annoyance. As more and more boxes accumulate, you'll get so frustrated that you'll set aside a Sunday afternoon and sort it all out.
Second: how to do it.
Here's what I do: once a week, I spend 15 minutes wandering around the house looking for stuff to toss. It might just be a magazine. Or it might be a chest of drawers. If I can't deal with it then and there (like the chest of drawers), I add it to a list of stuff to do the next free weekend I have. I actually book it into my agenda because, for me, that lends a certain pressure to completing the task. It also prevents me from overbooking my Sunday afternoons.
Sometimes, I do my 15 minute check just before bed; other times, while I'm having my morning coffee. Sometimes, but rarely, I'll do it during a few successive commercial breaks during some TV program I'm watching. The important thing is to book the 15 minutes to do this, and treat it like the important task it is. Get it done the day you that you've booked it for. This will help you form the good habit of not putting things off.
You might not notice a big change at first, but if you keep this up - a wee bit at a time - you'll start to notice a real difference in the amount of flotsam and jetsam you've got lying around. And what's more, you'll be teaching yourself a habit that will prevent the junk from ever accumulating again.