Admit it. You’ve seen the TV shows about hoarding, and they are not pretty. Thankfully, with spring in the air, so is the concept of spring cleaning and de-cluttering. But where do you start figuring out how to declutter your home?
Here are tips from some of the 4,200 members of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO):
1. Start small. If you stand back and survey the room, it can be overwhelming. Instead, pick one drawer. Or pick one room, and then one corner of the room. Just completing one cabinet or one pile of papers in the home office is an accomplishment, and might serve as motivation to continue.
2. Find your individual system: Just as each person and family is unique, so is each organizational system. Think about your personality and what works for you. Do you stack piles of paper and unread magazines? Perhaps you should invest in a horizontal file folder for storage so you don't bury important documents. Are you a list-maker? Following a list and checking items off are good examples of organization, therefore you already have a partial system.
3. Keep it up. Set a timer for, say, 15 minutes each day to purge your stuff: throw out old receipts, file paid bills, fill the dishwasher, etc. Decluttering every day is easier than tackling huge piles once a year ... or less.
4. Go as paperless as possible. Shred important documents when you are through with them. Cancel subscriptions to magazines you don’t read. Receive an event invitation? Put the date in your digital calendar and toss the invite in recycling. Type notes and phone numbers directly into your computer or cellphone. This prevents those tiny scrap papers from cluttering your desk, and less paper is also good for the environment.
5. Use wall space. It's easy to dump things on surfaces, which then become messy. Instead, put up shelves, bulletin boards, hanging baskets and hooks, and use some of that "wasted space" to your advantage.
6. Sort and purge. There is little order to the process of going through your stuff, deciding what goes where and then simply moving something to another pile. Instead, if you are de-cluttering a closet, for example, sort the contents into items to throw away, items to donate and items to keep. Put the items back that you determine belong in the closet and the other items in the areas where they belong.
7. Invest in stuff to organize stuff. Home organization is a burgeoning market, with aisles and webpages full of inexpensive products to both help you declutter (paper shredder, anyone?) and help you get — and stay — organized (under-the-bed storage containers, label makers, etc.). Some household items can have multiple uses, such as using small bowls or jars to serve as catch-alls for keys, coins and other tiny paraphernalia that clutters counters and desks.
8. Ask for help. NAPO exists to assist people with their de-cluttering and organizing projects, helping you create a system, invest in it and maintain some semblance of order and space in your home. You can find certified professional organizers on the NAPO website, or ask friends whose homes always seem clean and clutter-free how they do it.
Unlike many of the poor souls on hoarding shows, you want to declutter. It is doable for spring cleaning, or anytime.