If you've ever sat down to pay bills at a cluttered desk or frantically searched for a suit in a bulging closet, you know how frustrating it can be to have too little space for the things you use.
It probably comes as no surprise that the secret to getting organized is taking an orderly approach to everything from your home office and living room to your walk-in closet.
What may be surprising, however, is how much decluttering, cleaning, and organizing can be accomplished in a single well-focused weekend. Better yet: You can do it fast - and efficiently.
These tips to declutter your home can help you make it happen.
Begin your clutter-cutting routine in the room where you and your family spend the most time - such as the living room or dining room - or the one most overrun by the detritus of daily life.
Using these tips to declutter, you'll need five boxes or plastic lawn-and-leaf bags to get started.
One bag for items belonging in other rooms, a second with items to give away, a third with items to store, the fourth for items to toss or recycle and the fifth for all those things to include in your next garage sale.
To decide what to keep and what to discard, ask yourself:
If you answer "no" to all these questions, congratulate yourself - you've identified something you can eliminate to help clear clutter fast. Place this item in the appropriate box or bag.
Go around the room or target area, starting from the highest point and working to the floor.
Carefully consider the usefulness or sentimental value of each item you encounter - furniture, pictures on the wall, and things tucked in cabinets and drawers - applying the questions above to determine their future.
Then put the items into the proper box or bag. Make a list of any large living room furnishings to be removed or relocated.
When you've given your home a thorough once-over, return displaced items in the various bags to their proper rooms.
Make an appointment with your favorite charity to cart off the giveaways, or haul them away yourself. Don't forget to get a receipt for tax-deduction 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 fall, and pencil in a date.Transfer the items you'll be storing into sturdy see-through storage bins with lids.
Where to put all those items that survived the clutter cutting? Where they are most convenient for you when using them, naturally.
Store batteries in the living room or the bedrooms, where the kids' toys are, instead of in a kitchen drawer, where they are traditionally kept.
The trick to organization is stashing items usually used together, such as holiday decorations, in the same place rather than scattering them in closets throughout your home.
Place things you often use in the most convenient spot. Put your frequently used pasta pots and saucepans in the front of the kitchen cupboard, so you don't have to rifle through the pie plates or pans to get to them.
Now that you're proud to invite friends and family to your newly organized home, how do you keep it that way?
First, for each new item you bring to your home, resolve to toss, recycle, or give away a similar piece.
Second, create a place for everything, and make sure you and your family do their best to put everything in its place.
Since you won't always have time to organize, place catch-all baskets in your home's busiest rooms to hold keys, receipts, mail, and other items until you can find the time to organize them.
This will keep your kitchen counters and table from looking cluttered and provide a bordered space to keep those odds and ends in check.
Finally, make organizing a part of your daily routine. Place baskets at the bottom and top of the stairs to hold things that belong on another floor; take one or more items with you when going up or down.
Make putting away playthings a part of your child's nightly bedtime ritual. And do your part at night, too.