Out of sight, out of mind, or so the adage goes. But you can go on dumping the excess of daily life into drawers, piling it in the basement, or tossing it in a box for only 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. Here's how to declutter your home and get systems for organizing the new arrivals in place.
The 19th-century English designer William Morris once said, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."
It is still sound advice, although it may seem hard-hearted: Who really wants to pitch the kids' favorite old toys or toss old outdated but still comfortable clothes?
Although there's no need to throw out everything that fails to fit into Morris's two categories, you should still be selective.
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 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 organizing the whole house.
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 boxes so you won't have to open them later to know what's inside.
For easier stacking, consider boxes of a similar size. Put the ones 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 organize your home, you may realize that you've been doing things the hard way until now.
For those treasures that are meant to be seen, there are ways to display them attractively and compactly. Collections of small, decorative objects require a bit of togetherness to give them a more significant impact in the room - and to free up more precious space.
Group items with similar color, texture, shape, or theme together on tabletops or shelves rather than scattered about the room.
Control tabletop turmoil by corralling the smallest items in interesting containers, baskets, or boxes, where they'll make a stronger statement.
Make the most of your shelves - they're the ultimate weapons for combatting clutter. If you don't have enough shelves, you can easily add a few more above dressers and consoles.
They're terrific for organizing books, baskets, and bric-a-brac - those things you use occasionally or can't bear to part with.
Weigh the benefits of extra-high shelf space against the realization that you'll probably need a stepladder whenever you want to retrieve those items - and when you need to dust.
Are any of your possessions worth keeping but not worth looking at every day? If you're planning to add furnishings to your newly streamlined home, consider pieces that offer storage space.
Next time you go shopping for living room furniture, look for coffee tables with drawers or cabinets underneath.
Make these strategies a part of your life to control clutter in the future: