Do you come home to a haven or mess? "If you take time to make your home the way you want it, you don't have as many things hanging over your head, distracting you, getting in the way," says Jennifer Linnig, a home organization specialist. "Being organized frees the mind. It lets you focus on what really matters." Here are some tips you can use to declutter your home. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Be responsible: Get serious about recycling by setting up a sorting center, perhaps in your garage, that helps you stay on top of things.
Be frugal: Turn some of your unwanted gifts and household items into cash by selling them on eBay and Craigslist.
Be generous: Donate your unused household goods to St. Vincent de Paul, Goodwill or other charitable groups. Don't forget the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which accepts usable building materials that can be sold to finance more building projects. Or post your freebies on www.freecycle.org, a sharing Web site that she says allows you to be frugal and generous by posting items and giving them away to people who have a real need.
Be tidy: Set up a system for mail that comes into your home. Stay on top of bill-paying, too. Have three choices for every piece of mail: one to toss out, one to act on and one to file. For paying bills, make a master list from 1 to 31, listing when each bill is due each month, how it gets paid (online or by mail) and what a typical amount is. That way you know what is due when and you won't be caught by surprise.
Be discerning: Clutter and overcrowding most often result from having too many things. If you resist impulse buying and don't buy something unless you really need it, you can keep your possession count as low as possible.
Be inclusive: Involve your family in the home organization process. Getting kids started by setting a timer or playing a fun song when children are helping. Often when kids start to make progress on straightening up their rooms, they ignore the time limit and keep going until the job is done, taking pride in what they have accomplished.
Be mindful: To help be safe and comfortable at home, have working smoke detectors, a carbon monoxide detector and a radon meter (where radon is a concern).
Be health-conscious: When tackling home-improvement projects, educate yourself about products that have less of an impact on your home environment, such as low-VOC paint and eco-friendly carpet.
Be aware: Energy costs are going up, and environmental awareness is an important topic. Replace incandescent lightbulbs with fluorescents, use a setback thermostat and buy Energy Star appliances when possible. The U.S. Department of Energy offers tips at www.energysavers.gov.