Declutter 101: Strategies To Cut Clutter

Ellen's Penicillin Method

Often, decluttering efforts chase their tails in an endless loop. The home manager declutters the small table in the hallway and moves on. By the following week, a whole new species of clutter has returned to the cleared area.

The Penicillin method, devised by online declutterer Ellen in MN, uses a Petri dish metaphor to get a grip on clutter. Imagine a Petri dish full of fuzzy brown mold spores. A researcher begins to apply small drops of penicillin to the dish. Each little drop clears a small circular area; soon, drop upon drop, the entire dish is cleared of the distasteful intruder.

So, too, with the Penicillin method of decluttering. Today, the declutterer clears the kitchen table. From this point, no matter how bad the clutter becomes elsewhere, the kitchen table is inoculated with Penicillin. Daily clutter checks make sure no clutter is permitted to return.

Next declutter session, the declutterer attacks the top of the buffet. Thinking "Penicillin!", that clear space joins the kitchen table. Soon, the cleared areas link up, banishing clutter from the entire house.

By devoting declutter energies to retaining the Penicillin effect of each declutter session, the Penicillin method focuses the declutterer on prevention. The method is useful, creative, and works well to bring an entire house under control.

Closet-Go-Round: Whole House Declutter

Sometimes, you simply have to re-invent the wheel. Perhaps you realize, three years into a new house, that household storage needs a complete overhaul. Remodeling, a child's departure for college, or birth of a new baby can all signal a need for a whole-house declutter.

Call it the Closet-Go-Round. It's a two-part process of identifying and assigning storage, while at the same time decluttering and revamping existing areas in the home.

Like a merry-go-round, the Closet-Go-Round turns out, sorts out and relocates all the storage functions of the home. In the initial stage, you'll identify storage needs and match them to available storage areas, regardless of what's being stored where at the moment.

Once you know what should go where, the active phase begins. You will need boxes, lots of them, and time--quite a bit of time. Starting at the front door, move from room to room placing boxes in front of each storage area: cabinets, drawers, closets, and shelves.

Then begin at the beginning once more. Start, for example, at the table in the hall. Remove any and all items from the table that are not assigned there: gloves, mail, keys, change, handbags. Place them in your box.

When the table is empty, except for the vase of flowers that belongs there, circle the house with your catch. Gloves are placed in the box before the coat closet where they are supposed to live. Mail is dumped into the box in front of the desk area. Handbags and change are delivered to the owner's launch pad area. Items to be thrown away are delivered to the garbage can.

When the box is empty, move on to the next storage area in the hall: the coat closet. Empty the coat closet of all unassigned items, while adding the gloves to their assigned area. Again, circle the house with your coat closet box, delivering items to the new storage area where each belongs.

As you work, you're sorting and decluttering in two directions. You're removing clutter and improperly-stored items, while collecting and replacing the things which belong in any given area.

A Closet-Go-Round is a big undertaking, and it doesn't work well if performed in fits and starts. Choose this method if you have a block of two or three days to devote to a major declutter. While you'll work hard during that time, a Closet-Go-Round can take giant strides toward a more efficient, easy-to-manage home.