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Clear Clutter for a Happy New Year

1/3/2011 12:00:00 AM

Tags: clutter, clean, tips

Could there be a better way to start the new year than by creating a clean, uncluttered space for yourself? Whether you plan to attack your entire house—really clearing space for the new year—or just a room, it helps to have a plan. This week, in celebration of a fresh new year, we’re giving you all the advice you need to clear the detritus from your life and start anew.

The following tips are from my book, Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, which will be released in paperback by New Society in April.

• Don’t try to unclutter your entire house at once. Start with a drawer or a shelf and move on to problem areas (such as the garage or the basement) once you’ve had some smaller success.

• Maintenance is key. Spend fifteen minutes per day cleaning up daily detritus before it becomes overwhelming.

• Take everything out of a drawer or closet and spread it out in front of you. You’ll eliminate more and organize what’s left more efficiently if you can see it all at once. (This also gives you a chance to clear out the dust and run a damp rag over the surface.)

• Mark four boxes or bags “Keep,” “Give Away,” “Throw Away,” and “Hold for One Year.” (The last one’s for items you don’t need or use but just can’t bear to part with yet. If you haven’t touched these things in a year, their time has come.)

• If in doubt, throw it out. Give it to Goodwill or any of the charitable organizations who send trucks around to collect it. Or give it away on Craig’s List. Nothing moves faster than the stuff in the “Free” listings.

clutter free dining room 
Ample storage helps contain clutter. Photo By ooh_food/Courtesy Flickr. 

• If you can’t find a good home for something, it’s time to say farewell.

• Get rid of two items every time you buy a new one.

• Keep like items with like: cups, baking goods, candles, etc.

• Allow only three items on each surface.

• Cover only about one-tenth of a table; use objects of differing sizes.

• Just say no to refrigerator magnets. They encourage clutter.

• Keep windowsills clear of knickknacks and potted plants.

• Keep clutter contained. Use baskets and bowls to collect mail, pens and pencils, loose change and all the other odds and ends that collect on counters and tabletops.

• Storage is key to containing clutter. Storage areas should make up at least ten percent of your home’s total square footage and be placed so that you can store items where they’re used. (If you can’t get rid of the stuff, hide it well.)

• Furnishings that do double duty as storage help minimize clutter. A wicker chest holding blankets can serve as a coffee table in the TV room; a small chest of drawers makes a great end table.

Happy cleaning! We’d love to hear how clearing clutter makes a difference for you.


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