Conquering Clutter in Your Home for the New Year

Getting organized is a top new year’s resolution — accomplish your goals with these helpful tips

Americans are inundated with “stuff.”

Although the average American home has expanded 80 percent since the 1970s, our demand for self-storage space has more than doubled. According to The National Soap and Detergent Association, 80 percent of our clutter is due to disorganization, not lack of space. Getting organized is cited as one of our top New Year’s resolutions — entire retail stores have been created around the concept as well as books and magazine articles, professional associations, even careers.

But getting organized goes beyond purchasing color-coordinated file folders or storing collectibles.

“Organization isn’t just about stuff and space,” says Sue West, a certified professional organizer, coach and owner of Space 4 U in Amherst and author of  “Organize for a Fresh Start,” a how-to book on organization. “It’s incredibly emotional.”

Moving Beyond Stuff

West works with adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as others making major life transitions, whether organizing for a move or downsizing after the death or departure of a loved one. She asks prospective clients how being organized will help them. “People think of organizing as a fresh start,” she says. “If you know why it matters to you, the process is smoother.”

Lorraine Falcone, a certified professional organizer and owner of Naturally Organized in Hudson, agrees: “I ask people to tell me more about their lives. What area of your home bothers you the most? When a client gives me a home tour, I can tell by their body language and the things they say about each room what’s irritating them.”

Tips for Getting Organized

Ready to conquer clutter once and for all? It’s a process, says West and Falcone, but it pays off over time. Here’s their advice for moving from chaos to order:

Resist the urge to purchase cool organization products. While seductively colored and packaged, those canvas bins or sleek magazine holders may just become additional clutter. “If you don’t have a purpose for an item before you purchase it, don’t buy it,” says Falcone. “Wait until you know what you’re doing.”

Devise a strategy. Take time to consider what’s important to you and how being organized will help you get there. West recommends creating a vision board using Pinterest or downloading the Wunderlist app to organize your ideas.

Start small. As with any major goal, break it down into manageable tasks and assign deadlines to each. It could be as simple as writing one task down on a Post-It note or asking your husband to help you clean the garage. Then choose a small project that helps you reach your overall goal: for example, clean out a kitchen drawer or bedroom closet, not the entire room. Allot 1-2 hours to clean instead of an entire day. “Clearing out areas can be overwhelming for people,” says Falcone. “If you finish one small project and you’re happy with the results, you’ll want to do it again.”

Invite (or hire) someone to help, if necessary. Invite a friend to help, preferably someone who’s not judgmental. Turn on music, heat up a pot of coffee and get to work. If you really don’t know where to turn, find a coach or professional organizer to nudge you to move forward. “Long term,” says West, “I want you to be accountable to yourself, not me.”

Don’t be afraid to let go of possessions. Emotion often prevents people from clearing out possessions (“I can’t give away this table because my husband who died made it”). West helps clients clarify their feelings about certain items. “We talk about how these items may need a new home, whether it’s through donations to Goodwill, gifts to family members, even yard sales,” says West.

Reward yourself. Once you’ve accomplished your organizational task, reward yourself. Take a walk, have a cup of tea, read a book — do something to celebrate your accomplishment.

Plan to maintain your newly clean space. Now that you have a system in place, make sure you maintain it. Set a deadline — like April 15 for cleaning out your filing cabinets — so you know when to do it.

There are many benefits to being organized: saving money, saving time, but most importantly, more control over your life. “Being organized pays back every single day,” Falcone says. “You’re comfortable in your home, in your space. It may take effort get there but it will pay you back in so many ways.” After all, you can’t take that stuff with you. 



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