Clutter can turn a happy home into a storage bin filled with things you no longer need, want or use. It can stop you from hosting casual get-togethers or family holidays. Taming the mess gives you control of your space, returns the rooms to their comfortable charm, and helps you regain the ability to relax and socialize. Immersing yourself in an all-out cleaning effort may not be the fastest route to a decluttered home.
Left in place, clutter becomes part of a room, as familiar as the furniture. To motivate yourself to clear it away, you need a sense of how it looks to visitors and friends. Use your digital camera or camcorder to document the condition of each room in your home, including the rooms you consider tidy. View your images or footage on your high-definition TV so you can see a truly big picture of your living conditions. As you watch, create a computerized list of the rooms in order from worst clutter to least messy. To give yourself a running start, select one of the easiest rooms as your first decluttering target.
Clutter can take more time to undo than to create. To speed your progress toward neatness, limit the amount of time you spend on each decluttering session to no more than one hour. Plan your time so the first half of the session focuses on clearing away and the second half leads you back toward a completed task. If your tidy-up efforts end with a half-cleared room and the feeling that order lies outside your grasp, you reduce your willingness to continue and increase, rather than get rid of, the clutter itself. Make each part of the task manageable to build a series of successes that keeps you moving toward your goal. As you finish a session, document your results with your camera or camcorder. To keep yourself motivated, play your favorite up-tempo tunes on your media player or home theater system while you work.
Along with dividing decluttering into time-limited steps, you can schedule the process so you make it a mandatory part of specific days. Add each tidying session to your digital calendar and set a smartphone alarm to remind you when the time arrives. To avoid sabotaging yourself, choose days and hours that don't conflict with events you can't reschedule. If you've already decided on the room sequence in which to tackle the clutter, identify your cleaning events by room and add workable interim goals to the schedule as well, including days to drive donations to the thrift store or to schedule its truck to pick up large items.
Keep, Move, Donate or Discard
As you address the clutter in a room, place each item in one of four boxes. The "Keep" box holds things that belong in the room but need to be put away. Use the "Move" box for items that you've allowed to come in from elsewhere in the house. Place good-condition items you no longer want or need in the "Donate" box. Finally, relegate the worn-out towels or clothes, broken blender or defunct alarm clock to the "Discard" box.
In a room that contains papers you need to shred for protection against identity theft, you can add a fifth box labeled "Shred" or simply move your shredder in for immediate use. Before you dump the "Discard" box's contents in the wastebasket, sort trash into garbage bags and recycling into your bin.
Photo Credits: Alexa Smahl/Demand Media
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