The benchmark principle is an organising technique that will help you take decluttering to a deeper level. It involves finding the best example of an item to use for comparison.
Traditional organising recommends we pull together everything related to a particular category so we can see exactly how much we have, such as all our books, suit jackets, or water bottles. This is a good start, but without a guide for making decisions, we can quickly become numbed by the volume of stuff lying before us, or struggle with the tougher choices once the obvious has been eliminated.
The benchmark principle is like a trusted friend who can tell us, “Yes, those jeans are amongst the nicest items in your wardrobe”, or “No way, look how shabby those tracksuit pants are compared to your favourite trousers. You can do better!”
Benchmarking offers perspective that can easily be lost when we evaluate an item in isolation. It can also provide the distance we need to make decisions on sentimental items. Any possession we keep because it evokes special memories will be even more precious when it's not lost in a pile (or box) of ambivalence.
Here’s how the principle works:
- When you are ready to sort a group of possessions, find your favourite, best-quality, most-loved piece from that grouping.
- Compare each item to your benchmark piece.
- Let go of anything that falls far short of the standard.
You can apply the principle to any area you like (see below) such as evening wear, vases, or filed articles.
It's also a great tool to use when shopping. Do the clothes you're trying on make you look better than when you walked into the shop? Is the complementary magazine at the supermarket as interesting as your current subscription?
Better to have only a few much-loved pieces than lots of things you are unsure about. Benchmarking will help you clearly see the difference.
What could you apply the benchmark principle to?