The ABCs of Decluttering Your Home

Having trouble being bit by the organizing bug? It’s really as easy as A-B-C. Just follow these simple steps and see a change in your home in a short amount of time.

A: AIM TO REDUCE CLUTTER BY A DEFINITE NUMBER. When getting rid of items, have a specific goal in mind. Instead of saying you want to get rid of SOME of the books on your overstuffed bookshelf, say you want to get rid of 50%. Don’t say you want to get rid of a FEW pairs of shoes, state you want to donate 10 pairs to charity. Focus on reaching your goal.

B: BRIBE YOURSELF. Make something you really love to do dependant on the completion of today’s task. If you promise yourself you won’t call your best friend until you organize your medicine cabinet, you’re sure to finish the small task. No cheating!

C: CHOOSE A SPECIFIC SPOT FOR KEYS. Take the time to return keys to the chosen spot after each use.

D: DUMP JUNK MAIL into the recycling bin or trashcan the moment you receive it. Deal with other mail at least once a week.

E: ESTABLISH MINI-GOALS. If you can’t face organizing an entire room, break the job down into manageable tasks. When cleaning your closet, sort shirts one day, skirts the next, shoes the next, and so on. This way you won’t be put off decluttering because it is too big of a task.

F: FIX IT OR DITCH IT. Have you ever put aside broken items to fix “one day”? Chances are these items are still broken. Immediately schedule a date on your calendar (one week from today is ideal) and repair them by the time the date rolls around or finally toss them. If they’re not important enough to repair, they’re not important enough to keep.

G: GIVE EVERYONE THINGS TO DO. Organizational chores should never rest on a single person’s shoulders. Hold every capable member of the household responsible for their own clutter. Penalize people for noncompliance.

H: HANG A LARGE FAMILY CALENDAR IN THE KITCHEN. Write appointments, lessons, meetings, etc. on the calendar so everyone can see what’s happening this week. Each family member should have his or her own color so you can tell who’s doing what with a single glance.

I: INVEST in some fun and decorative wall hooks for each family member to hang up backpacks, bags, hats, or jackets. Place them at appropriate heights for each person.

J: JUST SAY “NO!” to people or activities not supporting your goals. There’s just not enough time to do everything for everyone. Understand what you’re trying to accomplish, where you are going, and how you plan to get there. Don’t overextend yourself by doing anything else.

K: KEEP A RUNNING GROCERY LIST on the refrigerator or bulletin board. Jot down grocery items as you notice you need them. This way you won’t have to do a list from memory before you go to the store.

L: LABEL any storage containers in detail so you won’t constantly have to open them.

M: MAKE LISTS: Make lists for things you have to, both immediately and in the future. Clearly label each list appropriately, like “To-do,” “to call,” “to email,” “to follow up,” “to buy,” etc. Such lists will help you get things done.

N: NEVER SAY NEVER. If you always feel overwhelmed by clutter and don’t believe you’ll be able to change your buying habits or packrat tendencies, the chances of you becoming clutter free are pretty slim. Always have a positive, take-charge attitude. Never allow your clutter to rule your life. You’re in control.

O: ORGANIZE CUPBOARDS WITH VARIED BINS. Have one bin for your spices, one bin for pastas, one bin for baking goods, one bin for teas, etc. These bins will reduce the chances of having cluttered cupboards where nothing is easily found.

P: PUT EACH ITEM AWAY after each use so you won’t waste time searching for it when you really need it.

Q: QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY. It’s better to have a few items you truly love and enjoy than many items you don’t really like. Always remember “quality over quantity,” and you’ll simplify your life.

R: RECYCLE CONSTANTLY. When the new issue of a newspaper or periodical arrives, immediately pop the last issue on the recycling bin. Don’t hang on to old issues in the event that you’ll finally get around to reading them. You won’t. Likewise, when you buy a new shirt, an old shirt must be discarded, given to a friend, or donated to charity. This “one-in, one-out” rule keeps the level of stuff below the clutter point by limiting total numbers.

S: SET THE TIMER for 5, 10, 15, or however many minutes you can organize uninterrupted and work on the most pressing issue at top speed. It’s amazing how much you can get done in a short amount of time.

T: TAKE A PHOTO. Take pictures of possessions you don’t want to forget and save the pictures in a photo album or scrapbook. Keep the memory instead of allowing the memory to take up space.

U: USE IT OR LOSE IT. Cancel your subscription to any periodical you toss into the recycling bin without reading. Date your pantry items and toss them after a year of nonuse. Give away clothing you haven’t worn in the last year. Pass along books that you know you won’t read again. Assess anything that sits unused for six months.
V: VISUALIZE. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Think about how wonderful your life is going to be when your environment is organized and clutter free. Don’t think about the amount of effort that it will take to achieve your vision. Just focus on the dream.
W: WRITE THINGS DOWN. Don’t try to remember everything. Just jot it down when you think of it and refer to your list or notes when needed.

X: X THINGS OFF YOUR LIST. Cross out the chores you’ve completed off your to-do lists. It fosters a sense of accomplishment.

Y: YIELD NOT TO TEMPTATION. In order to have an organized home and a simpler life, you must stop the clutter influx. Stick to buying the things on your grocery list and avoid stocking up on the “great deals.” What’s the point of buying 100 containers of Palmolive Dish Wipes if you have no place to store it?

Z: ZIPLOC BAGGIES. Don’t underestimate the great organizing power of little Ziploc baggies. Sort your junk drawer, throw all like items (matches, thumbtacks, small nails, etc.) into bags and line them up in the drawer. When you need something, just grab the needed bag and go.

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