Step 1: Box It Up
Don't let fate (or a leaky basement) determine what you save and what you don't. Even if you're not ready to purge, "put things in 'question boxes,' label them, and stash them somewhere safe and dry," says Madere. If you happen upon obvious junk, toss it and pat yourself on the back. For some, the next step is to let a bit of time pass. "If you're in a tender emotional state," says Madere, "grieving because of a death, downsizing into a smaller home, or in an empty-nest situation, it's best to wait about six months before sorting through anything difficult."