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7 Steps to Clutter Control

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1. Enlist the help of a family member or friend who can be supportive, physically and emotionally, and help keep you on task.

2. Analyze each room, and list all the activities that need to be conducted in that space, recommends professional organizer MaryJo Monroe. Then sort items and toss, relocate, or donate items that do not serve the main function of the space.

3. Deal with the biggest items that are cluttering your room first so you can see an immediate impact. “Clearing a large amount of space will boost your morale,” adds Monroe.

4. Install organization systems that are intuitive. Every item needs a home, and the home must suit the need. For instance, if the entry hallway is always cluttered with shoes, put a basket there to contain them.

5. Take decluttering in small steps. Working one room at a time or even a portion of a room at a time, such as the kitchen countertop, will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and tempted to call it quits. “Doing something feels better than doing nothing,” Monroe says.

6. When evaluating items that hold sentimental value, segregate the object from the memory. If you have Grandma’s china but don’t use it, consider keeping a teacup and saucer to display for that memory boost. Donating the rest to an appreciative family member who will use it is often a better way to honor a loved one’s memory.

7. It’s not only important to think in terms of getting organized but also staying organized. Employ a program of ongoing maintenance, even if it’s only a few minutes a day, so that cleanup occurs while clutter is still in the minimal—not mountainous—stage.

If the task still seems daunting, or the situation has gotten a bit too out of hand, consider hiring a professional organizer who’ll come to your home to help you prioritize and systematize. The nonprofit group National Association of Professional Organizers can help you find an expert in your area. For details, visit the group’s website at napo.net.


Sometimes the mess that seemingly won’t go away is a symptom of a deeper problem. Read more in “End Clutter Now!” March/April 2013.

Illustration by Gwenda Kaczor.

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