Clutter means different things to different people, but can generally be categorized into the following groups:
• Unused things or things with no sentimental value
• Unfinished things
• Disorganized things
• Too many things in too small a place
The main clutter styles are listed below. Recognizing your clutter behavior is the first step towards changing the habits that create it.
• The Accumulator – Aka, the classic pack rat, acquires more and more things and lets nothing go, thinking that items may be valuable someday or indecisive about what to do with them.
• The Collector – Seems to collect specific items (like commemorative plates), but collections are rarely complete, and lead to starting other collections.
• The Concealer – Neatly labels and packs away clutter in storage containers. While organized, the Concealer keeps everything instead of making decisions about what to keep and what to discard.
• The Tosser – Has no clutter problem. But, throws away not only their own things, but everyone else’s too. The Tosser has little sentimental attachment to things and has difficulty understanding others’ attachments to things.
Clutter adds about 40% more housework in the average American home, and can challenge even the most organized person. Sometimes you just don’t know what to do with something, have no place to put it, or don’t have time to deal with it.
Key Principles for Creating Order – If you want to clear out clutter, focus your mind on creating order. Getting organized means changing habits. You make organization happen by taking control. ACT to reduce clutter:
• Assess the situation
• Commit to a plan
• Take action
Get rid of things you don’t use and that have no personal value. Start small and set realistic goals. For example, begin with the kitchen catchall drawer. Attack clutter drawer by drawer, cupboard by cupboard, shelf by shelf.
The QUICK method, detailed in Cut the Clutter and Stow the Stuff, edited by Lori Baird, is a compilation of techniques and advice that many expert organizers use to create order.
Quantify – Think about your clutter and the space you have to store it. What are your needs? Why are they important? Maybe you love books, but your bookshelves are a mess. Write down how you want to organize them (author, subject, fiction, nonfiction, etc.). Set aside time like a regularly scheduled appointment. By assessing and sorting your books, you have begun to quantify your clutter.
Unload – Getting rid of clutter means letting it go. Things can be given away, donated to charity, sold at a garage sale, or thrown away. One way or another, items must leave the premises.
Isolate – After unloading, isolate the items that are left. These are the things you have decided to keep, so organize them in a way that makes sense to you. For example, you’ve gone through the Christmas decorations, thrown out the threadbare garlands, and separated the tangled lights. Now, sort the items. Fragile ornaments in one group, wreaths in another, wrapping paper and bows in another. You get the idea.
Contain – Decide what storage containers to use for your things and where to put them (bookshelf, closet, garage, etc.). Don’t buy new containers if you don’t need them. Just make sure that containers are adequate for the content. Now you can see the results of your efforts: Items neatly labeled and stored in a practical location.
Keep it up – Maintaining organization is an ongoing process. No worries. The hard part is over! Just quantify, unload, isolate, and contain as needed. With a system for creating order already in place, eliminating clutter is easy.
With a little determination, you can conquer clutter.
Written by: Kathryn K Dodrill, MA, CFCS Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Washington County.
Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ross County.
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- Garson, Christine “Closet Cases.” Real Simple, Oct. 2003: 158-167.
- Baird, Lori, ed.Cut the Clutter and Stow the Stuff: The QUICK Way to Bring Lasting Order to Household Chaos. USA: Yankee Publishing, Inc., 2002.
- Bykofsky , Sheree500 Terrific Ideas for Organizing Everything: The Best Techniques and Tools for Organizing Anything and Everything in your Life. New York: Round Stone Press, Inc., 1992.
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- Smallin, Donna Organizing Plain & Simple: A Ready Reference Guide With Hundreds of Solutions to Your Everyday Clutter Challenges. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2002.