Out of sight, out of mind, or so the adage goes. But you can only go on dumping the excess of daily life into drawers, piling it in the basement, or tossing it in a box for so long.
Sooner or later, the drawers will get stuck, the basement walkway will disappear, the box will overflow. And the already space-crunched surfaces in your home will be teeming with stuff. What's the solution?
Begin by clearing out what you can, finding a place for what's left, and creating a system for organizing the new things that come through your doors. It's the key to a clutter-free home.
To decide what to keep and what to discard, ask yourself these questions:
If you've answered "no" to all of these questions, congratulate yourself. You've identified something you can eliminate in order to declutter your home.
Where should you begin? Wherever the results will have the most visible impact.
If you normally enter your home through the living room, tackle that room first. If you come in through the garage, kitchen, or dining room, begin your job there.
Start by bringing in five boxes or plastic lawn-and-leaf bags into the first room or entrance area.
Don't plan to make your first clutter-busting session a marathon. Instead, break down the job into small, manageable tasks. You're more likely to tackle a smaller job than you are to allot an entire Saturday to declutter your home.
Go around the room or target area, starting from the highest point and working your way to the floor. Give each item you encounter - furniture, pictures on the wall, and items tucked in cabinets and drawers - careful consideration as to its usefulness or sentimental value to you and your family.
If you can bear to live without the item, put it in the proper box or bag. Make a list of any large furnishings to be removed or relocated. When your boxes or bags are brimming or you've given the area a thorough once-over, return displaced items to their proper rooms.
Make an appointment with your favorite charity to cart off the giveaways, or take the initiative and haul them away yourself. (Be sure to get a receipt for tax purposes.)
Recycle or toss broken or unusable items. If you're going the garage-sale route, check your calendar for a good Saturday or Sunday in the weeks ahead and pencil in a specific date.
Transfer the items you'll be storing into sturdy filing boxes or thick cardboard cartons from a moving company. Or, take advantage of trunks or large suitcases that are sitting empty in your garage or attic.
Make sure each container closes tightly to keep out dust, insects, and moisture, and label the containers so you won't have to open them later to know what's inside and keep a computer record of what you've stored where.
For easier stacking, consider boxes of a similar size.Put boxes containing items you probably won't need this year or next in the least accessible spots.
Stash boxes containing items you may need in the months ahead in the most reachable places.
Keep a record of what is going where in your storage area, so that you're able to get to items when you need them.
As your walls and floors begin to reappear, take a good look around the room and consider how to organize the keepers. Items should take up residence where they are most convenient for you instead of where they are traditionally kept.
Obvious, yes, but as you discover more logical ways to declutter your home, you may realize that you've been doing things the hard way until now.
Make these strategies a part of your life to control clutter in the future: