Simple Tips to Crush the Clutter Now

Spending more time indoors around the holidays tends to highlight one fact: most of us have too much stuff and no good place to keep it. The problem with clutter is this: it tends to create stress and anxiety. Unorganized spaces also take up a lot of time and money. We spend more time trying to find what we need and cleaning around the clutter. And we spend more money because we either don’t remember what we already have, or don’t think about the consequences of bringing more objects into an already full house.

Crush the clutter  – First, establish a one in, one out rule. If you bring home a new dress, get rid of an item of clothing you no longer wear. If you buy something knowing you’re going to have to get rid of something you already own, buying the new thing becomes less attractive. If you’re really downsizing, establish a one in, two out rule. Remember, the goal here is to get rid of what’s weighing you down.

So now that you’re committed to not adding to the problem, you can progress into organizing and slimming down what you already own.

15 Minutes – Give yourself 15 minutes of focused organization time. And don’t stress about taking more time to complete the task. Don’t get overburdened by feeling like you have to keep going or complete many tasks in one day. Pick one drawer, shelf, or basket to go through. Quickly categorize each item into one of three categories: Keep, Recycle/Discard, and Donate or Give Away. Organize items that you are keeping as you put them back into place. Make a list of each room in the house and once all drawers and shelves in the room have been organized, cross it off the list. Don’t try to complete the list all at once, just remember that incremental progress adds up!

Donate or Give Away – When you decide to place something in the “Donate or Give Away” category, start a box or grab a trash bag for those items. Make it a goal to identify one item every day that you can donate to a local shelter, school or charity. Get the kids involved once a week or so, too. Have them sort out clothes that no longer fit or toys that they no longer want. Remember to keep an itemized list of donated items on your phone that you can use that for tax deduction purposes in the spring. Think creatively about what you decide to donate. Craft and art supplies, magazines, and scrap fabric can often be used by schools or day care centers for fun art projects. Unused travel size soaps, detergents and personal care products are often welcome at shelters. Old towels are always needed at pet shelters and rescues. Don’t be afraid to call a charity about what they need. 

Recycle/Discard – Start with a trash bag and look for items to recycle. Fill it and take it straight to the bin. Then look for other items that need to go. If it’s not useable by someone else and you don’t need it, then into the bag it goes. See how quickly you can fill it. Look for food and medicines that are expired and get rid of them. Remember that a lot of municipalities collect unused medicines and set aside a box for proper disposal. Old or unused cosmetics can go at this point, too. 

Do it Now – Once the bag or box marked for donation is full, put it in your trunk and make an effort to drop it off. You’ve worked this hard to get this far. Just finish the job and cross it off your list.

Drawers – Look for places in all of your drawers for ways to organize them. Take the clutter off your nightstand by using dividers to organize remote controls, phone chargers, glasses, books, and beauty products. Use them same method to organize bath vanities with your cosmetics, and in credenzas to store candles. Use utility trays in office drawers to corral batteries, pens, and odds and ends. For best results, bring along measurements of contents and drawer dimensions when you shop. With clothing, fold and roll items like socks, undergarments, and t-shirts and use dividers to keep rows tidy.

Linen closets and reach-in pantries – Custom fit an existing closet with gliding shelves or drawers to keep linens and dry goods accessible and neatly organized. Label the shelves or drawers so items go back where they belong. Choose over-the door hooks that have multiple tiers to take advantage of all of the space you have.

Tame the Pet Mess – Pet toys, leashes, brushes, waste bags and small accessories can be stored neatly in a decorative divided lidded basket. If you have a dog, keep the basket in or near an entry closet so it’s handy when you’re ready to go for a walk. 

Get the kids involved – Small kids and their older siblings can help keep their toys neat and organized with a system of baskets or bins on shelves or bookcases. Label them with photos or simple drawings so kids can put away like toys when it’s time to clean up. For example, use one bucket for trains, and another bucket for play kitchen pans and food. Use an art storage cart on wheels so kids can keep crayons, paper, play dough and other messy things together. By keeping it portable, you can make sure that they’re used where it’s ok to make messes (like the kitchen) and then stored out of sight when the kids are done.

Control Papers, Mail and Receipts – Use a small rolling file to keep a handle on mail and receipts that you want to keep. Bring the file along when you want to watch TV or if you’re hanging out with the kids while they do homework. The small space available will encourage you to only keep what you need, address the matters that need addressing and get rid of the rest. Recycle newspapers and magazines with you weekly trash collection. Remember that most subscriptions come with online access to articles, so you don’t really need to keep back issues. Take pictures or scan kids drawings or school papers and save them in cloud storage rather than keeping all of the macaroni art and finger paintings from the 18+ years your children are home.

For a referral to a reliable home organizer, call your MetroTex Realtor for a referral. And be sure to visit the most trusted source for information on buying or selling a home, at