Our 10-step crash course will help you get rid of clutter and create order throughout your entire home.
By Jourdan Fairchild
Keep countertops free of items that don't belong there. Sort and file mail every day and hang up garments after taking them off. Encourage your kids to do the same with their clothes and toys, says Regina Leeds, author of One Year to an Organized Life.
Brooks Palmer, author of Clutter Busting, suggests setting a timer for at least 15 minutes to help you keep disorder in check. "Start small and do it on a regular basis," he says. For example, sift through a stack of papers on your desk for recycling or deep-six that jumble of expired spices. And if you have to stop mid-project, go back to it the next day.
Instead of cramming multiple rolls of paper towels into a kitchen cupboard, add a shelf in your garage or clear out a corner in the hall closet for back stock. Only purchase what you really need and have plenty of space to store.
Tackle mismatched plastic containers and paper menus in the kitchen, wire hangers and worn-out sneakers in bedrooms. Get rid of near-empty shampoo and detergent bottles, and clear out anything in the house that's broken. Recycle what you can and dump the rest.
Julie Morgenstern, author of Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life, suggests packing away anything you haven't used in the last year in a box. After six months, reevaluate whether you still need it. "Ask yourself what's worth more, the belongings or the real estate they're occupying in your life," says Morgenstern.
If you're not sure whether to keep something, your hesitation may be a major red flag that an item is not really needed. "If you can't decide quickly, out it goes," Palmer says.
"Grouping like items into categories—sheets, cosmetics, and kitchen supplies—makes it easier to decide what's current or obsolete," says Morgenstern. Pare down shoes one day; the next time sort through handbags.
Before you bring a new dress home, cast off something that you don't wear anymore. Better yet, jettison two, and you'll free up some closet space.
When receiving something for nothing, Palmer says we should ask ourselves, "Would I spend money on this?" If the answer is no, pass it on to someone who will appreciate it. And if you have multiples—more than two electric can openers or ice cream scoops, say—keep the best one and donate the others.
"They need to be patient and understand your goals," Palmer says. But brutal honesty works too. When purging the closet, you want a pal who'll weigh in on what does and does not flatter your figure. The same thing goes for furniture or decorative items that might be past their prime.
Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.