Many homeowners make a new year's resolution to pare down their belongings for a fresh start. But this year, the economy is putting a different spin on that annual ritual. • Many homeowners seem reluctant to part with items they think they might need in lean times ahead, noted professional organizer Lisa Wendt (www.homesthatwork.net). "When I say, 'Let's start donating,' you can tell they're thinking twice," she said. Here are some tips to help you reduce your clutter. Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Think it through. Saving things for a rainy day may seem practical. But it can leave you and your home bogged down with excess baggage. The secret is to kick the habit of compulsive, mindless collecting — and explore better alternatives. "There's a difference between hoarding and saving," said Wendt. She coaches clients to "Save it for a reason. Keep the stuff you really want, and get rid of the things that mean nothing."
Parents, for example, can become overwhelmed with school papers and kid-related keepsakes. Instead of saving that big bulky science project, take a picture of the child with the project and put it in an album. Then dismantle the project and recycle the parts.
Recruit a partner. You can hire a professional organizer to help you sort through your closets and cupboards, but you don't have to. An honest friend, willing to say "Are you serious?" can do the trick, Wendt said. "Don't have a family member help you. They may guilt you into keeping things."
Repurpose mementos. If you've been hanging onto old clothing with sentimental value — babywear, your teen's old sports jerseys — why pack them away in boxes? Willow Creek Studio (www.willowcreek baby.com) will turn your garb into memory blankets. For 16 pieces of baby clothing and $75, you can get a small baby blanket. Adult blankets start at $125.
Swap your duds. Clothing swaps, where a group gathers to trade clothes, shoes and accessories that they don't want or that no longer fit, are a great way to clean out closets while getting "new" clothes. (For more information, go to www.meetup.com.)
Give it up. Some think getting rid of things is wasteful. But finding good uses for them is greener than letting them molder or fall apart in your garage. The items you no longer need could be doing someone else some good.