There are a number of strategies that
can be "mixed and matched" to tackle the clutter-front.
1. The "last-used"
Out it goes - trash, donate or sell. It doesn't matter who gave
you that never-used complete set of whatever. If you don't use
it, it has no place in your home. Donate it to your favorite
charity or thrift shop and allow someone else the thrill of possessing
a genuine advertised-on-TV gizmo.
"Within the last year."
Out it goes, with one exception. Holiday tools and items used
only once a year may be give house room if, and only if, they are
removed from taking up space in the living area of your home.
You don't have space in a busy home for holiday one-timers. So,
store them away - in a labeled box, at the back of closets or hide in
a high used cupboard with other seasonal items. The rest?
If you've only used it once a year, why do you have it at all?
"Within the last
month." Candidate for a keeper. Deciding where
the item should live will come during the storage phase of the
Watch for these items; they're the backbone of a organized home.
Keep. Clean them if necessary and put away where you found them.
They will be the star performers of your new improved home
environment. Box and banish everything else.
2. The 4-box system
Get four large boxes or bins and label
them: Put Away, Store, Sell/Donate, and Trash (you may find it
helpful to use a trash can for this one). Things that are
definitely to be used on a regular basis go into the Put Away
box. Seasonal items cherished mementos, etc. go into the Store
box. Useable unneeded items go into the Sell/Donate box, and the rest
goes into the trash.
3. The Penicillin Method
Think of those science experiments in
school - how a drop of penicillin from orange mold put into a moldy
petri dish gradually cleared all the mold from the dish. This
works in much the same way if you experience a "creeping
mold" syndrome at your house, where a decluttered area soon picks
up a new lot of junk. Pick a place to start today - it can be a
table top, a bookcase, a counter, or a whole room. Declutter
it. Now do NOT put any new items back into or onto the
decluttered space. You can put it anywhere else, but not on
cleaned spaces. Eventually, the decluttered spaces get larger
and "join" together leading to an organized home.
4. The Whole House Declutter
Sometimes, you simply have to re-invent
the wheel and do a complete overhaul. Remodeling, a child's departure
for college, or birth of a new baby can all signal a need for a
whole-house declutter. It's a two-part process of identifying and
assigning storage, while at the same time decluttering and revamping
existing areas in the home.
Once you know what should go where, the active phase begins. You will
need boxes, lots of them, and time - a lot of time. Starting at the
front door, move from room to room placing boxes in front of each
storage area like cabinets, drawers, closets, and shelves. Then begin
at the beginning again. Pick a place to start in any room - a table
for example, and remove any and all items that are not assigned there:
gloves, mail, keys, change, purses, etc. and put them in your
When the table is empty, except for the centerpiece that belongs
there, circle the house with your catch. Put the items in your box
where they are supposed to live. Throw away Items go to the garbage
When the box is empty, move on to the next storage area in the chosen
rooms and repeat the process of putting all clutter into the box.
Again, circle the house with your box, putting items in to the new
storage area where each belongs.
As you work, you're sorting and decluttering in two directions. You're
removing clutter and improperly-stored items, while collecting and
replacing the things which belong in any given area. This is a big
undertaking, and it doesn't work well if performed in fits and starts.
Choose this method if you have a few days in a row to devote to a
5. If All Else Fails
If you can't work through the methods
above, there is a never-fail, if drastic, solution to decluttering.
Some go through this after a remodel job or a move. Others can
use it as a one-fell-swoop method to get the job done. It's also an
excellent method to use with children.
And, it's simple. Pick a
cluttered site in your home. Remove every blessed article of
clutter from every nook and cranny in the room, closet, cupboard, or
in the pile, etc. Place these items in lidded boxes, and move
them to a nearby storage area.
Each time you need something from the
box, go get just the necessary items. It's a good way to sift out
surpluses of multiple items. Return these items to a place of honor in
the appropriate living area of your home.
After several weeks, this method
absolutely separates the wheat from the chaff. Items in active
use are in the rooms where they belong, and the "chaff" is
already boxed and ready to be moved out.