Declutter with the Jasmine for Miles "Yes, No, Maybe So" Method

There is almost no way to declutter incorrectly, and most of us seasoned minimalists have our own unique way of approaching clutter. Yes, clutter can still happen to experienced minimalists (especially if you live with other people who aren't minimalists in the same way). I like to call my own method "Yes, No, Maybe So" because it not only makes distinct "Yes" and "No" piles, but it allows for some deliberation on more difficult "Maybe" items.

How to Make it Work

"Yes, No, Maybe So" works best when items are all gathered up as a large category similar to the KonMari method. Think emptying all of the closets out into one big pile of clothing, then sorting from there. There are only a few things you'll need to facilitate the sorting process, and it's likely that you have them all in your home already:

  • The Yes Pile simply needs the existing organizational supplies that keep the category organized. For example, if your category is clothes, you'll just need to keep your existing hangers handy.
  • The No Pile just requires large boxes or some trash bags. If you have automatic deliveries of pet food or groceries, the delivery boxes are ideal for gathering up the No pile items. (Personally, I use boxes for items that can be donated, and trash bags for items that cannot be donated.)
  • The Maybe So Pile just needs a clean space or container to hang out in so you can easily sort and deliberate. For example, if you're going through clothing, set the Maybe pile aside on a bed, chair, or in a laundry basket.

No new storage or organization materials should need to be brought into your home while decluttering. Use what you have available to save yourself time, money, and the distraction brought on by shopping for new organization tools.

The Yes Pile

The Yes pile is the place to put all of the things you know you need or want to keep. Your favorite blouse, dress, or shirt go into the Yes pile. When sorting paper, any kind of important tax or insurance documents go into the Yes pile. You'll know an item belongs in the Yes pile based on the way it makes you feel--you will have a strong drive to keep the item for sentimental, practical, or legal reasons. When your Yes piles are complete, organize them and put them back where they belong.

The No Pile

The No pile is where the easiest decisions are made (probably). No pile items evoke a very specific and sharp "Why do I still have this?" reaction. Unflattering clothes you've been meaning to discard, junk mail piling up on the counter, the collection of hotel pens that have been inexplicably passed down for three generations... these are all No pile items. When you fill a box or bag with No pile items, discard them appropriately and immediately for an instant payoff when decluttering.

The Maybe Pile

The Maybe pile is a temporary safe place for any item that's giving you a conflicted Yes-or-No feeling. There is never any shame to being on the fence about whether you should keep or discard something sentimental or semi-useful. Any item in the Maybe pile has the potential to turn into a Yes item or a No item. The point is to prioritize the Yeses and the Nos--the easy decisions--and then see how you feel about the Maybes once all of the Yeses are safely stored away and the Nos have been donated or thrown away.

Discard, Organize, and then Maybe...

For my "Yes, No, Maybe So" method, it's important to handle each aspect in a particular order. Once you have sorted your chosen category into the three piles, proceed like this:

  • Dispose of the No pile first. This step will give back some physical and mental space for working with the other piles. Decluttering successfully and keeping up momentum relies on some sense of instant gratification, which can easily be obtained by throwing away bags of garbage or donating boxes of unwanted clothing and other items.
  • Organize the Yes pile second. Handling each item in the Yes pile and putting it back into the place it belongs will help you gain a better understanding of what makes the cut for you. When all of the Yes items are put away, take a step back and make a mental note of how they all look together.
  • Sort through the Maybe pile third. Now that you have dealt with all of the clutter of the Yes pile by organizing it, and the clutter of the No pile by removing it from your home, you should be able to easily turn the Maybe pile into smaller Yes and No piles.
  • Finally, discard the Maybe-to-No pile and organize the Maybe-to-Yes piles just like you did with the original Yeses and Nos.

After all of the sorting, discarding, and organizing, you should have a good understanding for the future of what you want to/know you'll have to keep, and what you won't want or won't need to keep. If you ended up with a Maybe-to-Maybe pile as you tried to break down the Maybes into Yeses and Nos, it's probably safe to treat them as Yeses and organize them accordingly. 

Once all of the sorting and organizing and discarding is done, take a moment to revel in your decluttered space. It may have been tough, and the results may feel imperfect at first, but not to worry--there will always be time in the future to change your mind and edit!