Anti-Clutter Tip Sheet: A Busy Person’s Guide to De-cluttering

checkmarkGive clutter an inch and it will take a mile. Whether you’re nineteen or ninety, a student or stay-at-home mom, a 9-to-5 worker or retiree, it sneaks up on the best of us.

But who has the time to conquer clutter? Believe it or not, you do. The secret lies in short bursts of focused effort and better habits that prevent clutter from taking over in the first place. Tape this Anti-Clutter Tip Sheet to the inside of your kitchen cupboard, where you can refer to it often:

1. Easy Does It.
Don’t overwhelm yourself or you will give up in frustration before you make any real progress. Tackle one area at a time: a room, a closet, a drawer, a shelf.

2.  Set a Timer.
Can you spend an hour? A half hour? Ten minutes? Promise yourself you will quit after the timer goes off. Knowing the clock is ticking will keep you focused. Tip: Ten minutes a day spent sorting, organizing and/or disposing of mail, catalogs, papers and bills while the pasta’s boiling or the news is on will result in a clutter-free counter and lower stress levels.

3. Come Armed.
Before you tackle a de-cluttering project, have three boxes or three garbage bags at hand. One container is for items you will KEEP. The second container is for items you will GIVE AWAY OR RECYCLE. The third container is for items you will THROW AWAY.

4. Ask Two Important Questions.
Bottom line for every object you touch: “Do I absolutely love it? Have I used it in the past year?” If you can’t answer “yes” to one of those questions, it doesn’t make the grade. Time to toss it or pass it along.

 5. Handle it Once, Handle it Now.
You’ll save hours of aggravation simply by putting something away immediately after you use it, whether it’s a hammer, a file folder, a sweater or a jar of peanut butter.

6.  You’re Seriously Going to Fix That?
Come on. If the broken chair from your great-aunt’s house is that special, invest the time or money in repairing it, or let it go. Same goes for old appliances, torn clothing, garden tools, and toys.

7.  Resist the Urge to Re-Hoard.
Unless you are really serious about hosting a garage sale or posting items on Craigslist or Freecycle in the next several days, don’t move stuff from one area of your house to another, thinking you will deal with it later. Be realistic. Dispose of every pile you create within a few days, or it will still be around to haunt you the next time you de-clutter.

8.  Use the “Keep it Moving” rule.
For every new item you bring into your home, take one item out. Not only does this prevent your home from being overstuffed, it puts items to good use somewhere else in the world.

9.  To Each His Own.
Make everyone in the house responsible for their own messes. It’s a rule that requires patience, time and firmness to instill, but is well worth the effort and teaches mutual respect for each member of the household. If someone fixes a sandwich, expect them to clean up after themselves. Same goes for projects, articles of clothing, toys and personal items. Whoever gets it out should put it away. Even small children can manage similar, age-appropriate guidelines.

10.  Reward Thyself.
Keeping abreast of the clutter that streams into your home daily is a major accomplishment. Bribe yourself if you have to. If you clean the garage, treat yourself to lunch at your favorite restaurant the next day. While you’re sorting through clothes, call up a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with. If you do manage to pull off that garage sale, put the proceeds in your vacation fund instead of just letting those hard-earned dollars trickle away towards buying more stuff.

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