Living Space: Beat household clutter with a simple storage/discard system
Clutter is a funny thing. Some things never accumulate while others are akin to holding back the ocean. There are nine main categories of household stuff that seem to multiply more than others. Here's how to recognize these "clutter magnets" and clear them away.
Mail and paper. Because it's delivered straight to your door, mail stacks up fast. Buy a blue recycling trash can from an office supply store and place it where you bring in the mail then sort everything right there. The minute bills arrive, place them in a basket or folder. Place magazines on the coffee table.
Electronic devices. If electronics aren't usable or don't work, recycle them. Retailers such as Best Buy and Staples will take electronics, though Staples won't accept TVs. Many Goodwill stores take electronics that work. If you're unsure of where to recycle your electronic waste, go to search.earth911.com to locate a recycler in your area.
Books. Although it seems criminal to throw a book away, both paperback and hardbound books are recyclable. If it's a recent bestseller, a beautiful hardbound book, a textbook or travel guide someone could really use, take it to your local donation center or a used book store.
Clothing. Comb through the closets and discard or give away everything that doesn't fit. Don't save excess clothing for your weight fluctuations. Toss anything that's stained or damaged and pitch clothing you don't like, even if it's brand new.
Bathroom products. From shampoo to hair spray, we often have products lying around that are perfectly usable or brand new that we don't like or use. Donate them to a local homeless shelter or shelter for abused children or women. If the items are used or only half full, throw them out.
Sporting equipment. From golf clubs to tennis rackets, camping gear and baseball gloves, our garages are packed with unused sporting goods. Donate items that still have some life left in them, or if fairly new, try to sell them on websites like Craigslist.org.
Caps and hats. If you have men or boys in the family, chances are there are baseball caps scattered all over the house. Try to limit these to four or five per person so the collection doesn't get out of control.
Craft items. If you're serious about a craft, your supplies can quickly consume gobs of space. Invest in organizers that help you see quickly and easily what you have. Once all the bits and pieces are organized, it's easier to find things, and your work goes quicker. If you don't scrapbook, knit, design jewelry or make wooden toys anymore - and know someone who does - gift them all your materials.
Pantry. Put like items with like items to keep the space neat and organized. Separate cans of broth from cans of beans. Store all baking items together. Stash bottles on a lazy Susan and pour rice, noodles and dry beans into plastic containers. Add a basket to hold bags of chips and snack items.
When decluttering a room, take the floor paint approach: Start in one corner and then declutter your way out the door. When you make big progress in one area, it will motivate you to tackle others.
Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website, redlotusletter.com.