Conquer the Clutter — And Stay Sane Doing It

Clutter causes stress and prevents you from truly enjoying your home. With a few steps, you can be clutter free. Photos courtesy of MaryJo Monroe, reSPACEd.

Clutter prevents you from truly enjoying your home. With a few steps, you can be clutter free. Photos courtesy of MaryJo Monroe, reSPACEd (

By Patricia Garcia

Ever look around your home and worry that you’ll be featured on a hoarding reality show? Do you have unopened boxes that are refugees from the move into your new home? Have you ever asked yourself: “When will I find the time to organize this?”, “What will people think of me?” or “How did this happen?”

We’ve all had moments like this. Really! In August 2012, a group of archeologist and anthropologists from the University of California, Los Angeles released a book, Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, that detailed the very hectic, very cluttered lives of 32 California families. The gist of their work? Americans have so much stuff that it’s stressing us all out.

Whether you just moved into your new home or are still trying to get your stuff together ready for a move, you likely have clutter in your home. It might be hard to imagine an organized home in your future, but it is possible. Here are some tips from pro organizers from across the country on how to clear the clutter in your home and stay sane doing it:

Getting Started

The first place to tackle is the one room in the home that is the least cluttered and the easiest to handle. By starting small, you’ll feel less overwhelmed, says Providence, R.I., organizer Lauren Silveira. “As the purging process makes its way through the home, the empty space is replaced with more time and energy for the occupants.”

Three Piles to Freedom

Make three piles to help you organize: keep, toss and donate, says Silveira. It’s important to follow through and immediately remove the “toss” and “donate” items from your home. Don’t wait until the next day, when you may lose motivation. If you are moving to a new home, be sure to do this before the move and only take what you will need and use.

Detach, Detach, Detach

Clutter represents unfulfilled goals, says Julie Morgenstern, a New York City professional organizer and author of SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck. So, it’s important to remove your emotional attachment to your stuff.

“People keep a lot of things they don’t need or use simply because they spent money on it and they feel irresponsible getting rid of it,” Morgenstern says. “Having clutter is usually not just about the time that it takes to organize or to get rid of things, it’s about something deeper. Clutter represents disappointment in oneself. Forgive yourself and give your unused stuff to somebody else. This will clear your space and help to clear your mind.”

What to do with items that belonged to children who have grown up or items that once belonged to a loved one who has passed away? If you have more than one thing, choose the best representation of the person and part with the rest, she says.

Be Proactive

By the time you have too much clutter, even the thought of decluttering can be overwhelming. Don’t wait until it’s too late by first considering how an item relates to your life before purchasing it or accepting it from someone else. “I am very cautious about what objects I allow into my home,” says MaryJo Monroe, a professional organizer in Portland, Ore. “When I consider making a purchase, I ask myself, ‘Where exactly will I put this?’ If I don’t have an answer for that, then I don’t bring it into my home.”

Use What You Have

“Organizing doesn’t have to be expensive,” Monroe says. “Shop from your home for unused containers that can be repurposed for storage.” Get creative and recycle plastic leftover containers (you know, the ones that have lost their lids), vases, Mason jars and other items around your home. For example, use small boxes, such as jewelry boxes, berry baskets or stationary boxes, to organize messy drawers.

Throw a Party

That’s right, host two parties a year, suggests Morgenstern. “When you have parties, it motivates you to clean up. There’s a double benefit too: parties are declutter motivators and you cultivate your social life.”

Ten Minutes to Success

You’re not going to conquer all of the clutter in your home in one day, but you can reduce clutter in just a few minutes. The “10-minute tidy” is one strategy organizer Bonnie Joy Dewkett, of Ridgefield, Conn., uses in her own home. “Every day, everyone in the house puts things away for 10 minutes. It doesn’t take much to do just a little at a time. If you have a bit of extra time, empty the dishwasher or pack your lunch for the next day. Make this time fun by playing music.”

Keeping an uncluttered home is a lifelong process. By putting in just a few minutes each day and getting creative with what you already have around your home, you can truly enjoy your new — and clutter-free — home for many years to come.

Patricia Garcia is content manager for You can find her on Google+.

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