In many of my clients’ homes, papers are a major source of clutter. But the new year is a great time to start with a clean slate. Start by spending a few minutes collecting into one large shopping bag all papers cluttering counters and surfaces of furniture. Recycle coupons and ads that are expired and anything else that is dated, such as invitations, catalogs and school notices. This task is meant to be completed in 10 to 15 minutes, so stay focused on clutter that can be removed quickly. You can do a more intensive paper purge — such as sorting through children’s art to decide what to save, and shredding and filing last year’s bills and statements — when you have more time.
Many of us have subscriptions to several magazines. These publications can linger for months on coffee tables, nightstands or desktops, or find their way into already overstuffed racks and baskets. Consider starting fresh by clearing out all periodicals from the previous year, as well as any older ones you may have. If a publication contains an article you want to reread or a recipe you want to try, I suggest clipping it out and scanning it onto your computer for future reference. Then donate, give away or recycle the rest.
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How does your kitchen look? Perhaps the mixer is left out from your holiday baking or the blender is sitting out awaiting your weekend smoothie-making. No matter how good-looking your small kitchen appliances are, having too many on a countertop takes up too much visual (and valuable) space. So consider leaving out only the appliances you use on a daily basis, like a coffee maker. Stow the rest away.
While you’re at it, take a critical look at fruit bowls, decorative candles, baking canisters, spice racks, tissue boxes, cookbooks and paper towel holders. If you have room available, consider finding a permanent home for these items in a drawer, cabinet or shelf. Think about donating unused items to a local nonprofit.
If you are an avid reader like I am, you may have books cluttering up your coffee or end tables and nightstands. It may be hard for you, like it is for me, to part with books, especially those that are particularly enjoyable or meaningful. But let’s be honest: Not all books carry the same weight.
Take a few minutes to look at the books you read last year. Save only the ones that really meant something to you, and put them away on a bookcase. The others you can pass on to friends, sell at a second-hand bookstore or donate to a library fundraiser.
To tackle cluttered end, coffee and dining tables in your home, I recommend you get three large shopping bags and label them “toss,” “donate” and “relocate.” Then walk quickly from room to room and scan your table surfaces. Remove anything that is not decorative or used daily, and put it in the appropriate bag. Once you’ve cleared all tables, take a look at the items in your “relocate” bag and find them a permanent home. Toss or donate the rest.
Resist the urge to collect all items in a single box or bag and then place that in the garage or a closet, as many of my clients have done over the years. Then they hire me to clear out boxes and bags of stuff they likely should have gotten rid of years before.
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Keep in mind that this is not a full closet overhaul — you’re simply going to be getting rid of a few things. Here’s how: With a donation bag in hand, take a quick look at your closet and spend no more than 10 minutes removing garments that are ill-fitting or unflattering. If you haven’t worn an item in two years, consider donating it. Even if something was expensive or a gift, it is not doing anyone any good sitting unworn in the back of your closet. Also, take a quick look at shoes. Donate pairs that are in decent shape but have never fit well. Toss shoes that you have worn beyond their functional life.