Get rid of the clutter — and keep it away! Organizing expert Donna Smallin shows you how to enjoy the happy, healthy, and inviting home you long for with hundreds of time-saving, clutter-busting tips. Smallin’s simple and manageable approach helps you focus on the things that will make the biggest difference in the least amount of time. Clear away the clutter once and for all, and discover the peace of mind that has been hiding underneath.
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About the Author
Donna Smallin is the author of many Storey titles with a total of more than 928,000 copies in print. She is a frequent contributor to major national women’s and home magazines and has been a guest on the CBS Early Show, Better TV, HGTV, CNN, and Fox & Friends, as well as numerous radio programs. For the past decade, Smallin has been a spokesperson for such companies as Bissell, Kaboom, Staples, 3M, Keurig, and others.
Read an Excerpt
Clear the clutter, clear your mind, be happy!
Often, the biggest obstacle to a goal is ourselves.
Get your brain in gear and ask, "What could I be doing differently to obtain the results I want?"
If you want a cleaner, happier home, stop wishing you had a magic wand; become the magic wand.
Where to start? You don't have to stop everything to get organized; you just have to start. Start somewhere right now.
Start with the most visible. Tackle the stuff on the floor and countertops, for example. Then work your way inside cabinets and drawers. Seeing clear and obvious results will boost your confidence.
Start with something small. Choose a purse or glove compartment or junk drawer. Empty it completely. Sort into four categories: keep, toss, relocate, or donate/sell.
Start with one thing. Do one thing that will make your life easier. For instance, if you are always searching for your keys, put a hook or basket by the door for them.
When you feel overwhelmed by cleaning or organizing chores, pick a specific task and set a timer for 15 minutes. Work uninterrupted until the timer goes off. Take a short break and then begin again or start another task.
Every time you cross a cleaning or organizing chore off your "to do" list, reward yourself by doing something on your "can't wait to do" list!
"If I had 20 minutes to evacuate my home and could take only what fits in my car, what would I take?"
Most things can be easily replaced. Once you realize this, it's easier to lighten your load.
Look at decluttering as an opportunity to share your abundance. There are people who could really use the stuff you aren't using.
Clutter serves no purpose; it just takes up valuable space in your home and creates unnecessary stress and extra work. Clutter is what you end up with when you have more stuff than you need.
Break It Down
Breaking big projects into mini-projects to complete over several sessions makes it much easier to accomplish your larger goal. For example, to declutter your closet:
* Move the clothes you love and wear to one end of your closet. Then, working for just 15 minutes at a time or by the yard on your closet rod, place clothing you have not worn in a year or more in a box or bag.
* In your next decluttering session, pick up where you left off. Spend one session focusing on shoes and accessories and another on the piles of stuff on that top shelf or those boxes that have been buried in the back for so long.
* Finally, if you really want an organized closet that makes it easier to find what you want, arrange items by type of clothing (blouses, skirts, slacks) or by color — or by type and color if you have a lot.
Schedule time to play "dress-up." Try on everything you own. If it fits and makes you feel fabulous, hang it back up. It's a keeper. Donate or sell anything that doesn't make the cut. Invite a friend to help you make decisions, then do the same for her.
Sort clothing into piles — A, B, and C.
* The A pile is for clothes you definitely want to keep.
* The B pile is a "maybe" pile.
* The C pile is the stuff you no longer love or never wear for whatever reason.
Go back through the B pile and put items into either the A or C pile.
Get rid of the C pile.
Change your surroundings and you can change your life. You might find that letting go of clutter is the start of a new you!
It's very nice of you to keep things that rightly belong to your grown children, but if they really wanted that stuff, they would come and get it. Set a time limit and let them know that you will donate everything after the deadline — and mean it!
Don't try to find the perfect recipient for every item.
Donate to a single charity that will accept everything and let them find recipients for you. Goodwill and the Salvation Army are good places to begin.
Post any item you are willing to give away at www.freecycle.org, a community-based recycling resource. If someone wants it, they will contact you via e-mail and you can arrange to put it on the front porch or at the end of the driveway where they can pick it up on a set day.
Tackling all the housework yourself doesn't do your children any favors.
* Have them help with laundry, dishes, cleaning, and other chores. You'll be teaching them valuable life skills.
* Try the job jar method of assigning chores: Write each task on a slip of paper and put them all into a jar. Every week, family members choose a chore from the jar.
* Don't just yell at your kids to "Clean up your room!" Be specific about what you want them to do, such as, "Put your dirty clothes in the hamper, put toys where they belong, and make your bed."
How is clutter affecting the quality of my life? Is it taking a toll on my self-esteem or relationships?
Progress is the path to your goal. Sometimes that path is like a highway that you travel at top speed. Other times, it's more like a scenic byway. Go where it leads you. Rest when you need to.
Get a little help from your friends. Pair up with a friend who also wants a cleaner home. Set weekly goals and hold each other accountable for accomplishing various tasks throughout the week.
Or commit to helping each other with big projects like cleaning the garage and basement. It's more fun than going it alone.
Think your home cleaner.
* Imagine how good you are going to feel in a cleaner, less cluttered home.
* Remember that feeling whenever you are tempted to dump a pile of mail on the kitchen counter or buy one more thing you don't need.
* Picture yourself smiling as you relax in your happier home.
That which we resist persists.
If you feel overwhelmed by clutter and an endless list of household chores that never seem to be finished, consider that your feelings may arise from resistance.
Think about why you are resisting. Be willing to "open into" the process of cleaning. Continuing not to do anything about the clutter will only increase your sense of being overwhelmed.
Clean Out That Closet
* If you can't bring yourself to let go of clothes you hope to fit into again someday, put them away with your out-of-season clothes. Maybe you'll be ready to part with them next time you see them.
* Separate shoes into regular wear and occasional wear. Keep those you wear regularly visible and accessible. Store the rest in shoeboxes (to keep them from getting dusty) at the top or back of your closet or under your bed.
* Move special-occasion clothes to one side of your closet or to another closet to make it easier to get to everyday clothes.
* Buy clothes in coordinating shades. You'll need fewer shoes and accessories to go with your outfits, and you'll enjoy having more space in your closet.
* Set a timer for one minute. Quick! Remove five items from your closet to give away or sell.
"What is the one thing I really need to do that I am avoiding?"
Take a big breath and start working.
What are you doing that contributes to the clutter and mess in your life? Pick your single worst disorganizing habit and work on changing that behavior over the next month. For example, if you often come home with new purchases but can't figure out where to put them, don't buy anything else until you find a home for those items.
Or if your shoes, keys, purse, coat, and other items wind up in a pile by the door when you come home, make it easier to hang or stash all that stuff neatly but still nearby.
Make today the day you declare your freedom from clutter.
What's on Your Organizing To-Do List?
* Remove one thing that is not really a priority right now.
* There. Now you have time to do something else to create a cleaner, happier home.
* Now jump in and finish one small organizing project that's been on that list forever.
What Are You Waiting For?
Use the time you spend waiting to do one quick chore.
WHILE THE SHOWER HEATS UP(1 MINUTE)
* Give the sink and faucet a quick wipe.
* Replace dirty towels with clean ones.
Have a headset? Catch up with family and friends on the phone while you clean. Do your least favorite job (like cleaning the bathroom) or spend some time dusting or sweeping while you chat.
Do the hardest job or the one you dislike most first. Then do whole-house chores like dusting and vacuuming, going from one end of the house to the other. Finish with mopping the kitchen floor.
RAINY DAY PROJECT #1
What better way to spend a rainy day than catching up on some old television programs — and doing some organizing! Just pull a drawer out of its cabinet and bring it into the family room. Empty the drawer and sort the contents while you watch. Toss the junk. Set aside items to donate or sell. Put back the rest. Repeat until the sun comes out!
A clean home doesn't happen by itself. Regular upkeep is the key.
Start each day with a "clean home" habit like making the bed or doing a quick pick-up before leaving for work so you can return to a fresh-feeling home.
Clutter is physical proof of abundance. Take a look around. If you have clutter, you're richer than you think.
Organize a swap party. Bring things you no longer want or need and exchange them for things you do want or need. It's a fun, free, and eco-friendly way to get "new" clothing, furnishings, books, and more without spending a dime. Donate anything that is left over.
"What do I stand to gain by having a cleaner, happier home?"
The way to get what you want is to take action. Now.
One Thing at a Time
Don't overwhelm yourself by thinking about all the work you have to do. Focus more on what you have accomplished rather than what remains undone.
Just do what you can do today. Take it one room at a time! And if that's too much, take it one shelf or one drawer at a time.
Once an item enters your possession, you are not obligated to hang on to it forever. Give yourself permission to let go and enjoy the sense of liberation that results.
Minimize future mess. Make a conscious decision to stop adding to existing piles. Then start going through those piles one by one until they are gone.
Make Cleaning More Fun!
* Buy sponges and cleaning cloths in bright colors and patterns.
* Choose cleaning products in scents you love (three of my favorites are citrus, lavender, and clean linen).
* Do some cleaning for 15 minutes. Then read an article in your favorite magazine or a chapter of a book (just one!). Repeat until the job is done.
Simplify your life with organized systems for handling routine tasks like filing bills to be paid and reminding yourself to pay them on time.
If you keep putting off a particular chore because you hate it, try timing it. It may not take as long as you think, and once you realize that, it will be easier to make yourself to do it next time. Or trade a chore you dislike with another household member's least favorite chore.
To repel fingerprints, smudges, and water marks, clean your stainless steel appliances with a furniture polish containing orange oil.
Words are powerful things, especially the words we use when we talk to ourselves. If you catch yourself thinking, "I'm such a slob," immediately negate that thought with "I'm getting better at keeping a clean house."
Establish minimum, non-negotiable standards for your home and family, such as a clean kitchen, organized laundry room, and tidy bedrooms. Whip those areas into shape and then tackle other areas like the bathroom and living room.
What Are You Waiting For?
Use the time you spend waiting to do one quick chore.
WHILE POPCORN POPS (3 MINUTES)
* Sweep the floor.
* Organize food-storage containers and lids.
* Remove old leftovers and other expired items from your refrigerator.
* Empty or load the dishwasher.
How often do I buy something on impulse only to discover that I really don't like or need it?
If you "shop 'til you drop," clutter is the price you pay. On the other hand, if you think twice before buying things, you may find yourself in a better financial position with less debt and more savings.
Loads of Laundry
If clean laundry tends to pile up before you manage to fold or hang it, here are a few suggestions:
* When you start a load of wash, take the time to fold and put away any clothes that are in the dryer.
* Do a load of towels first because they are easy to fold right out of the dryer.
* When you start the dryer cycle, set a timer on your phone or watch and go fold that load right away — before it starts to wrinkle.
* Assign a laundry basket to each family member. Have each individual use his or her basket to bring dirty laundry to the laundry room and also to return clean clothes to his or her room.
If you're overwhelmed by a huge pile of dirty laundry, treat yourself to a "wash and fold" Laundromat service to catch up. Then start building a new habit of doing more frequent loads at home — daily if needed.
Place a decorative bowl or basket on dresser tops or nightstands to collect loose change, pocket items, and everyday jewelry.
Dealing with Paperwork
* Sort day-to-day papers into action files: bills to pay, receipts to file, data to enter, papers to photocopy, and papers that require a response.
* Create labeled folders for your main categories and store them upright in a stepped desktop organizer or in a filing cabinet drawer in your work area.
* Free up space in your filing cabinets. Start in one drawer and work from front to back, eliminating papers and files you no longer need.
* Use a sticky note to mark where you left off, so you know where to begin again. Every time you open the drawer, spend a minute doing this.
* Shred outdated financial documents and other papers with account numbers to protect against identity theft.
* Keep only current insurance policies. When the new documentation arrives, shred the old.
According to a study by the American Cleaning Institute, eliminating excess clutter would reduce the amount of housework in the average home by 40 percent.
Tackling the Attic, Basement, or Garage
The hardest part of cleaning and organizing a basement, an attic, or a garage is getting started. Schedule a family cleanup day. Or set aside 30 to 60 minutes each week — more if you can — for this project until it's done.
Set up some boxes and sort things into categories such as these:
Keepers: Anything you or a family member have used within the past year or that you truly love
Donations: Unspoiled things that someone else might use
Sale Items: Things you can sell at a yard sale or consignment shop or online
Trash: Anything worn-out or broken and not worth fixing
Every Sunday night, pick one project or area to be the focus of your cleaning efforts in the coming week.
RAINY DAY PROJECT #2
What you need: A big pile of unsorted photos, some shoe boxes or brown-paper grocery bags cut down to about 6 to 8 inches, and a wide felt-tip marker
* Label the boxes or bags to identify 5 to 7 broad categories such as vacations, grandkids, and college years.
* Sort the photos into those categories.
* When you're done, sort each group into sub-categories. For example, take the vacation photos and sort into new bags labeled Vacation — (Name of Destination).
"Is it more important to me to keep this item or to have the space it occupies? What if I were moving? Would it be worth packing and unpacking it?"
That's the stuff that's really important to you. Everything else you could live without if you had to.
Excerpted from "Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness"
Copyright © 2014 Donna Smallin.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the first time that I have given one star. This is not a book. It is 49 pages long in the Nook edition. There is a lot of white space on each page with great repetition of the most basic information. This is more of a Middle School Home Economics project. Nothing new, nothing that is not easily found in a basic weekly magazine. Do not spend your money on this very limited publication.