Episode #54: My Secret Weapon – The Big Black Bag


On today’s show I give you an inside look at one major predicament I’ve come across many times in my adventures of being a home organizer. I also share with you my simple strategy for solving the problem once and for all.  And many of you just might relate!

Let me tell you all about it. Now, I’m sure you can imagine, while working with my clients I get so excited when I watch them purge all of their useless, unwanted junk. But, while I usually have a big smile on my face, they are not so enthusiastic about the process.

Here’s how it usually goes: I stand there holding the donation bag wide open. My helpless victim slowly places the unwanted item into it, teeth clinched, with a  furrowed brow, and a low pitch moan coming from the depths of their despair. I, of course, am very confident that they will soon forget about their precious rusty cheese grater simply because they have two more just like it. Besides that, its home for the past eight years has been under a pile of plastic bags stuffed in the back corner of the pantry. I try to reassure them by saying, “I promise you, even though it feels like torture to let go of it now, you won’t miss it!”

Years ago, when I first started my business I used any type of bag that my client had available for donations. Sometimes the bag was small, sometimes see-through, sometimes a wide open box and  many times we didn’t use a bag at all and just made a pile of items to donate. I figured it didn’t matter, as long as the stuff was on its way out of the house, right?

Well, eventually, I started to notice a trend… an hour after making the bold decision to let something go my client would see the item in the see-through bag or in the pile, staring at them and then they would change their mind. I would then have to take a few minutes to convince them all over again as to why they really didn’t need a third blender, which didn’t even work.

The donation bag problem then got worse. Usually, after our session, my client would agree that they would take the time in the coming week to drop off the donations at the Goodwill. And they did drop it off, but then in the middle of cleaning out the bedroom during our next session, I would come across the same vintage 1986 brown hairdryer that was banished from the bathroom the previous week!

My client would then confess to digging through the donation bag right after I left their house. I somehow would maintain composure and gently ask if there was anything else that was salvaged from the donation bag. Surprisingly, most of my clients would usually fess up like, kinda like a six year old that was just caught with their hand in the cookie jar. I always appreciated their honesty, but I felt bad that they would put themselves through the same emotional roller coaster of letting the item go all over again.

Finally I came up with a solution for all my clients who had a really hard time purging… the BIG BLACK BAG. Gone were the days of thin, small see-through plastic bags. I started to arrive at our organizing sessions equipped with a box of heavy duty black bags with draw strings. Magically, once something was put into the black abyss, it was never to be seen again! An item couldn’t peek out of the sides of the bag to longingly seduce my client into keeping it. Better yet, when the bag was full, I would tie it shut! I started to refer to it as the “tie of no return” (although my clients weren’t always so amused).

Now, for the much heavy items, I still used boxes, but I would strategically place them on the other side of the room, I would be the only one to put things in it, and then I would tape it up when it was full.

A couple years later I got really smart and started to offer a new “perk”: if it could fit in my car, I would haul it away FOR FREE! My clients totally loved my new service. I loved it because it made our organizing sessions a lot more productive… we weren’t wasting time purging things twice.

So, moral of the story: if you have a hard time letting things go, try using a big black bag. Once you place an item in it, commit to not digging through it. Don’t torture yourself by making the decision twice. You’ll probably forget that you even owned that cracked picture frame by next week. Do yourself a favor… toss it into the big black void and bid it good riddance once and for all!

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