Keep, Toss, Delegate, Save

When I was younger, there was a popular home renovation show called Keep, Toss or Sell. The purpose of the show was to help home owners renovate and update a room or rooms, but before that could happen, they had to make room for what they wanted to bring in. This is where the keep, toss or sell process came into play.

The first step was to bring everything (and I mean everything) out of the room and into a designated spot outside. It wasn’t good enough to just move it into the hallway or add it to the clutter of another room. It needed to all come fully out of the home.

Once it was all grouped together in this designated spot, the sorting and sifting began. There were 3 piles:

  • Keep – the things that would go back into the house (possibly repurposed)
  • Toss – the things that really had no value and no longer served a purpose in the home
  • Sell – the things that had value but were not adding value and no longer served a purpose in this home but might serve a purpose and add value to another home.

When I’ve let my hair catch fire and my mind is overwhelmed with cluttered thoughts, tasks, expectations and looming deadlines… I use this very same process to bring order, peace and focus.

Ready to put out the hair fire? Heres an optional worksheet to use for the process defined below.


Just as the home owners had to remove everything from the room, we need to remove everything that is cluttering our minds and put it on paper. This is when I sit down with pen in hand and just write it all down. No order, no sorting…just writing.

I start with what is in my head. Then I move to what’s on my calendar. From there I pull from any running lists I’ve accumulated (you know…those paper or electronic lists we make ‘to do’ notes on intending to consolidate them…eventually)

Once I have it all down, I can now begin the sorting and sifting process.


As I enter this phase of the process, I have to set my intention and remind myself of the goal – make room for what I want most in my life.

Just as the home owners knew that they needed to sort and sift out what wasn’t serving them anymore so they could make room for what would serve them better, we too must take a moment from time to time and take stock of what our priorities are and evaluate if we are giving room in our lives to make them a reality.

So before you start the sorting and sifting, if you lack clarity and focus on what you want most to accomplish in this season of life, jump over here and do a quick prioritization exercise before you begin sorting and sifting your list. Be clear about what sets your heart on fire before you start putting out the fire in your hair. I promise you…it will only take a little time but it will serve you tremendously well!

The Organizational Piles:

  • Keep – these are the tasks, activities and other things that need your time and attention and are directly connected to the priorities you are focusing on in this season of life.
  • Toss – these are the things on your list that really have no place in your life right now – maybe never again. (more help on this here)
    • They may have served you well and added value to your life in the past, but not now.
    • They may be things you’ve said yes to out of guilt but just thinking about them sets your hair on fire.
    • They may be things you said yes to with wrong motivations and now they are just adding to the fire in your hair.
  • Delegate – these are the things on your list that can be done just as well or even better by other people. As you sort through your list, ask questions like:
    • Am I the only person who can do this?
    • If I delegate this, how much more room will I have to dedicate my time and energy to the things that I really want to focus on (the things that set my heart on fire)?
  • Save – occasionally there are things on your list that you don’t want to toss and can’t be delegated but they really don’t contribute to what is most important to you right now. These things can be put in the save pile…but keep this pile very, very small.


With your list now sorted into defined piles, take action.

Saved items go onto a list that you set aside and then schedule a date on your calendar to come back to it and see if it’s time to bring them back into your life or not. Sometimes when we come back to this last at a later time, we realize they can now be a toss or delegate.

Delegated items get delegated right away. As you look at this list, highlight what needs to be delegated immediately and what you can take time to delegate over the next days or weeks. Don’t let delegation tasks be your next hair fire. Tend to the urgent and let the rest go to the back burner.

Tossed items just need to be taken off of your list altogether. Just like the toss pile from the homeowners sorting and sifting exercise, this items is no longer serving you well. Don’t waste time overthinking this. Just release yourself from the obligation.

Now you can focus solely on the keep list!

At this point your hair may no longer be fully on fire, but you may still have a few embers burning as you look at the keep list. The good news is that you’ve cleared out enough of the clutter to make room for what is MOST important to you. Now you just need to decide what goes where. It’s like the homeowners who finally got to bring things back into their home and set them up in a way that serves them better than they were before.

The ordering process works like this:

Top of the list (do this first – right away)

  • What has an urgent deadline?
  • What has to be done before other things can be done?
  • What has an expiration date (if not done soon the opportunity is gone)?
  • What will bring the greatest value to my life and my priorities right now?
  • What will serve me well to do sooner than later?

Middle of the list (do this next – next day, next week)

  • What won’t suffer if it is put off for now and moved to the top of the list in a day or a week?
  • What can’t be done until something on the top of the list is done first
  • What can be delayed even if it requires a conversation to re-establish expectations of others?

Bottom of the list (do this later – do it, but just not right now)

  • What is something on my keep list that can wait a few days or weeks and move up the list as time allows?


This process will stoke your heart fire when done regularly. The first time will require the full decluttering process, but when maintained weekly, you will find it’s a quick ‘keep-toss-delegate-save’ review and then you are just moving things up your list.

  • As things move off the top, things move up from the middle and the bottom.
  • Each week you evaluate your priorities, see if things have shifted or changed and determine if there are things you need to add to your keep list.
    • NOTE: when adding to your keep list, it’s important to identify what can be moved off that list and onto delegate, toss or save.

Our cluttered minds and overwhelmed schedules are like that room, closet, or garage we toss things into with intentions of organizing later. Eventually it all comes spilling out and we are forced to address it or be run over by it.

Excuses are a limitation we choose to lean on. If time and overwhelm is your excuse, choose to let it be why you have limitations or choose to make room for more of what matters most to you.

RELATED ARTICLES: Focused Participation Series – keep your focus on your priorities and keep the distractions at bay.

Need help? Let’s connect

Living with your heart on fire and keeping the fire out of your hair is not a special skill or ability that some have and some do not, but sometimes we need help stoking the right fire. One of the things that sets my heart on fire is helping others sort and sift through their thoughts, find focus, and develop habits that will serve them well. {stoke a heart fire – not a hair fire!} Wanna chat? 

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