California Closet Co., one of several firms that sell custom-made closet organizers, space-saving cabinets and shelving configurations, also offers tips to anyone attempting to declutter. Here are a few:
If you haven't used or worn something in two years, throw it out or give it to charity. This includes the broom with no bristles, outdated clothing, broken appliances, paintbrushes, bottles, toys and books and old tires.
If you can't bear to part with an item, store it in the attic or some other out-of-the-way spot, instead of a closet.
When you buy something new, get rid of something old.
If you put something into a closet, take something out.
Do-it-yourselfers also may want to follow suggestions by Dr. Linda Shoop of Penn State University. She recommends:
Start by identifying an area. Spend 15 minutes putting the junk in a brown paper bag, then take it out of the house. If you do a small amount every day, the task doesn't seem so overwhelming, and you are "freeing yourself of negative energy."
Put items in a box "in limbo" if you have trouble getting rid of them. After six months, they'll be easier to throw out.
Be careful about accumulating new clutter, Shoop warns. "We call it by so many other cute names: trinkets, curios, odds and ends, knickknacks. Remember, clutter is alarming, not charming."
Another method of decluttering comes from Sandra Felton, founder of the group Messies Anonymous. Her advice, adapted from Stephanie Winston's book Getting Organized (W.W. Norton & Co.), is:
Set up three boxes _ "throw away," "give away" and "store elsewhere."
Then take the boxes around the home or office to be "decluttered," putting items into one of the three categories or back in its original spot. If the organizer is honest about trashing the trash, the house should be greatly changed after just one go-around.
Use devices that help organize the office. Color-coded in-boxes or stackable trays keep papers in the right place. File labels and drawer dividers keep your desk neat. Personal planners and datebooks help keep appointments straight. And, don't overlook the most significant decluttering instrument of all: the wastebasket.
Above all, force yourself to maintain a certain level of tidiness, no matter which systems you use. The most important thing is that it works for you.
Above all, force yourself to maintain a certain level of tidiness, no matter which systems you use.