Tackling Clutter

Every January, people everywhere resolve to do things differently in the coming year. And every year, the best of intentions are left by the wayside as life catches up with us all. Whether it's resolving to lose some extra weight or promising to be better with your credit cards, sticking with it can be tough. And there's one that seems to be broken before the Christmas decorations are packed away for another year: keeping things neat and tidy.

If clutter is your constant companion when you're home, it might be time to think about ways to get it and keep it under control. If that seems like too big of a task, then this is the article for you. It takes things step by step and even allows you the entire year to accomplish your goal.

The first problem many people encounter is becoming overwhelmed by the task at hand and they give up rather than face what seems like an insurmountable problem. The key here is to start small. You might want to get your home in tip-top shape, but it's probably more realistic to start with something that will allow you to have at least one victory before you tackle more challenging tasks. I suggest starting with a linen closet because they tend to get stuffed with things that don't belong there or aren't used. Besides, it's generally a small space and something that isn't likely to spill into other spaces. Okay, it's time to open the door and begin:

  1. First, it's time to take inventory of what's in here. If you're like most people, there are probably several sets of sheets, towels, blankets and perhaps some additional items like cleaning supplies, vases or tablecloths. It's important to basically empty the closet and set things that are alike together to get an idea of what you have.
  2. Ask yourself if there's anything in there that obviously doesn't belong. If that stockpot that hasn't been used in decades showed up, it might be time to say goodbye to it ... or at least give it a home with other cooking tools. If you're finding a lot of loose things that seem unrelated, find them new homes or, at the very least, put them together in a neat container and list them on a label.
  3. Determine what should be in your linen closet. If you want to limit it to towels, blankets and sets of sheets, find homes for everything else. Then take a look at what's left. Ask yourself if you really need eight sets of sheets or if some of them could be donated to charity or sold at a garage sale in the spring. Generally speaking, you will be much happier if you opt for quality over quantity. Choose at least two sets of good sheets for each bed in your home and place them in shallow baskets to make sliding them in and out of the closet a snap. Make sure you have at least two sets (and no more than four) of fluffy towels for each bathroom in your home and give them a basket of their own as well. If you use your linen closet for storing blankets, give each its own storage container -- I like the plastic zipper bags that most blankets are sold in these days, but you can opt for large plastic bags or stackable plastic bins with lids as well. Whatever you opt to keep in your closet, make sure it has a good home and can easily be reached.
  4. No doubt, when you've reached this point you'll probably still have a few things that you aren't ready to part with or just think you need. Ask yourself if you've used it in the last year. If not, it's time to say goodbye. If you're still unconvinced, find it a spot in the closet ... but mark it with a label that clearly states today's date. If you haven't used it a year from now, it's time to give up the fight. At the very least, this will push you to take advantage of those things that you really don't want to give up.

Now, that wasn't that hard, was it? Now it's time to move onto the bedroom closet. You can use basically the same set of rules and instructions above with clothing needs (and some wants) in mind. The rule about using things regularly will really help you decide if you need two dozen belts or if that large number is really just getting in the way of an organized wardrobe.

When you're done with your closet, you'll probably do well to take a look at your dressers and so on. Just move from room to room and make sure that you take time in between each stop to see if the process of "uncluttering" your areas has brought major deficiencies to light. In the process of clearing out your closet, for example, you may discover that you lack a basic white blouse or a good pair of dress pants. Never fear! The reward for cleaning your space is that you will have room for those useful pieces that were previously missing. Just be careful about filling your space too quickly and keep up with your regular use rule. Before you know it, you'll be tackling life and doing more with less ... and enjoying every minute of it. Here's to a Happy (and uncluttered) New Year!

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