It’s Clutterbusting Time

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Look around you. Clutter, clutter everywhere. We are a nation consumed with the joy of acquiring stuff — and the agony of getting rid of it.
Tossing out junk is now the focus of at least five home improvement TV shows — including Clean Sweep (TLC), Clean House (Style Network) and Mission: Organization (HGTV) — and dozens of self-help books. There are online message boards, magazines, blogs, 12-step programs, support groups, professional organizers and container stores to help us get our lives in order.
‘It’s all about postponed decisions,” says Marsha Sims, owner of Sort-It-Out professional organizing service, which is based in Miami Lakes, but organizes homes from the Keys to Vero Beach. “Everybody is swamped all the time and they have to make a decision: Do I spend time with the kids or make dinner or sort mail? If your priority is not sorting mail, it’s on the back burner, which can turn into weeks or months.
‘We’re all so overwhelmed. Barbara Hemphill [a nationally known organizing expert] was the one who first pinned it down to delayed decision making. We put something down and think, `I’ll put it here for now.’ ” Then the time to put it away never comes.
Sims says the majority of her clients are professional women, small business owners, entrepreneurs and successful career types — in other words, people who seemingly have it all together. ”You get to a point where you can’t do it all and there are some things you don’t want to do,” Sims says. “That’s my real clientele — people who could do it, but really don’t want to.”
Some purging tips from people who are tops in the clear-out business:
  • Have a strategy. Be efficient and grab things in categories. Snatch up everything that goes in the bathroom, for instance — brush, lotion, hair spray, bobby pins — and make one trip to put them in their place. ”One of the things people do wrong is that they’ll pick up eight items and then walk around the house to drop them off,” Sims says. “They’re in perpetual motion and they never finish the job.”
  • Start small. Don’t try to organize your home in a day. Focus at first on a closet or room that frustrates (or embarrasses) you most.
  • Work on surfaces first. A place naturally looks more organized when things aren’t piled on counters, desks, dressers and floors. Mentally divide the surface in half or quarters and clean it off little by little. Once it’s cleaned off, nothing can go back on it. Dust it.
  • Sort it out. Put things in categories, such as things you love or use, things you could give away or sell and things that can be trashed.
  • Look for hidden spaces. Try to find new storage spaces. It could be your grandmother’s chest or under a bed. Williams, from the Container Store says over-the-door hanging organizers are popular for storing everything from shoes to pantry items. Divide large shelves into smaller spaces so things can easily be seen.
  • Pare down. If you have more than one of an item, be honest. How many do you really need? If you have an exorbitant number of pens or rubber bands, ask yourself how many are enough. Keep what you can use.
  • Make it a daily task. Spend 15 minutes a day on decluttering (15 minutes a day adds up to seven hours a month). Write it in your daily planner and honor the appointment as you would any other, advises Donna Smallin, author of Organizing Plain & Simple.
  • Multitask. Use TV time to sort out a drawer. During commercials, dump the drawer and sort the contents into four categories: throw away, give away or sell, put somewhere else and put back in the drawer. When you’re finished, put back what goes in that drawer and get another drawer. At the end of the evening, throw away the trash, put give-away items and things to sell in a box for distribution and put away what belongs elsewhere.
  • Turn kids into organizers. Arrange toys at kid level so children can put their own things away easily.
Article reprinted from:
The Miami Herald / January 1, 2006