Clearing the Clutter

The real cost of clutter

These days, “clutter” is almost a dirty word. Thanks to domestic divas like Martha Stewart and television shows like Hoarders: Buried Alive, we’re more aware of clutter’s impact – physical, financial and psychological – than ever before. Now, everyone from WebMD to Post is weighing in, offering tips on clearing clutter and getting organized.

What is clutter? It’s not simply an accumulation of too much stuff, as organizational Peter Walsh points out in his New York Times bestseller It’s All Too Much. Clutter prevents us from using our homes properly. It eats up our time (how many minutes do you waste each week on looking for stuff?). Clutter stresses us out and hurts our relationships. And, according to experts, it’s also making us fat. But how do we shed all this unwanted stuff?

Buy only what you need

The first step to reducing clutter? Prevent it from piling up in the first place. Too often, we buy things we don’t need – even though we know we’ve already got too much stuff. Not only that, but we don’t remove older things, so the mountain of stuff keeps growing. As Peter Walsh points out, “This accumulated stuff wields amazing power – the power to paralyze and control.”

We keep things for a variety of reasons, including sentimental attachment, guilt about getting rid of them, the belief that we might need them someday, and the reluctance to let go of items we paid good money for. Or maybe we know clutter is a problem, but it’s too overwhelming to deal with – so we ignore it or spend more money on “storage solutions” to contain it.

A step-by-step approach can ease the anxiety around de-cluttering and break it down into doable chunks.

Conquer clutter one room at a time

Undoing years of clutter won’t happen overnight! Concentrate on one room or area at a time, including your closets, basement and garage. Go through everything and assign categories: keep, toss, fix, sell or give away – then make sure you follow up and move things out of your home.

The Professional Organizers in Canada offer tips for “spring clearing” that are helpful any time: get rid of seasonal gear if you didn’t use it (for example, sort through winter clothing in spring); toss expired food and medication; purge old personal-care products including cosmetics; and check storage bins for things to donate. Another tip: every day for a month, put two items into a “donate” box. At month’s end, your home will be 60 items lighter – and you’ll contribute to a charity or thrift store that helps your community. Donating monthly or quarterly helps keep your home organized.

Creating an organized home

Once unneeded items are gone, you’ll need to organize what’s left. Everything you own should have a designated spot, which makes it easier to tidy up and find things (no more frantic searching for your keys and sunglasses in the morning!).

Get the whole family involved in assigning homes for all of their stuff, and spend a few minutes at the end of each day putting things where they belong. It takes a bit of discipline, but the payoff is a more organized, efficient and relaxing space. You might see other benefits too – for example, with less clutter, your home will harbour fewer allergens like dust and animal dander.

To organize areas that often become problem spots for clutter, check out Reader’s Digest’s simple ideas for kitchens, closets, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Inexpensive storage bins, baskets and closet accessories from big-box and home organizing stores can help you stretch your space while containing clutter – and let you enjoy your home the way it was meant to be lived in!

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