Home Design and Trends: Clutter-Busting

I know that it’s snowing…and I know that we have to wait for spring to do some spring cleaning. But I can’t help but start to think of getting organized. Who’s to stop me from doing it now? Perfect idea for a snow day – free help from the kids. At least for 5 minutes!

Here are a few strategies from Amanda Hinnant to get rid of all the things you don’t want, need, or even like.

1. Act Like You’re Moving

Say you had to uproot and relocate. What would you take with you? You don’t actually have to pack up anything―just set aside the few things that you love and use and see what’s left over. “Chances are, you use only 20 percent of your stuff regularly,” says Sally Allen, owner of A Place for Everything, an organizing service in Golden, Colorado.
(photo by: Tara Striano)

Toss-It Tips

  • Envision your home as a prospective buyer might: Uncluttered spaces make the best first impression. They’re also a lot easier to keep clean and dust-free.
  • Imagine the potential buyer (or, worse, a relative) going through your closets or drawers. What would you not want him or her to see?
  • Buy containers and baskets only after you’ve decided what to keep. This way you’ll have a much better sense of the kind of storage you need.

Why It Works

  • You don’t have to get rid of things you love or need―you just have to determine what those things are.
  • If you’ve ever packed and paid for a move, the motivation for paring down your possessions will be all too clear.

2. Assess Your Rooms

Walk through your house with a pen and a notebook, writing down the activities that take place in each room and the items associated with those activities. “Then ‘purpose’ your space,” says Vicki Norris, president of Restoring Order, an organizing company in Portland, Oregon. “Note your desired use for each room, even if you are not using it that way currently.” Remove anything that doesn’t relate to your proposed activity for that space.

Toss-It Tips

  • Start with one room, but keep the whole house in mind.
  • Think of rooms that have multiple purposes as several smaller areas, so it’s clear where items should be returned if they stray. If gift-wrapping is the designated activity for a certain part of the study and you find a spool of ribbon in the kitchen, you’ll know exactly where it belongs, and so will other family members.

Why It Works

  • This strategy lays the foundation for long-term change. “By taking an `aerial view’ of your entire home, you’ll see how certain activities and their supplies are strewn throughout the home―like paperwork, memorabilia, or toys,” Norris explains.
  • Tackling clutter without knowing your priorities can be counterproductive. “People who take a `tidy up’ approach are actually rearranging rather than organizing,” Norris says. “Sooner or later, the space relapses to its original condition.”

3. Clean Out for a Worthy Cause

Getting rid of things will be easier if you can picture someone else benefiting from them (instead of how they just signify wasted money for you). Pick an organization to donate to, and learn as much as you can about it. Read the literature, check out the website, and visit the facility, if possible. (photo by: Mark Lund)

Toss-It Tips

  • Don’t just leave your stuff outside the charity’s storefront or in a donation bin, to be ruined by the elements. Deliver it in person, or find out if the organization will arrange a pickup from your home.
  • See if there are specific items the charity needs; this will make those things easier to give up. If it doesn’t accept certain items ask if it knows of a group that does.
  • If an item is truly worthless or beyond repair, don’t make the organization deal with it. Find out the proper way to junk it instead.
  • Get your kids involved, too, so they can see what it’s like to give.

Why It Works

  • Discarded items will most likely be used, worn, or appreciated a lot sooner in someone else’s hands than they would in yours.
  • You can earn a tax deduction for donated goods. But you are responsible for keeping track of donations, determining their worth, and itemizing them on your tax return.
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