Declutter 101: Where Do I Start?

Ready to cut clutter on the homefront--but not sure where to start?

Standing amid the stacks and piles, it can be hard to find a good spot to dive in and begin. Too often, de-clutter efforts fizzle along with the light of day.

This time, resolve to succeed! To get your organized journey off to a good start, try these clutter-cutting start points. They will help free a strangled household from the clutter monster.

First Step: A Single Small Success

At the outset, adjust your vision downward from the big (cluttered) picture, to zero in on one small, solvable clutter problem. Clear one counter, de-clutter one shelf, or bring order to a single drawer--and do choose an item that nags at you daily.

Beginning your war against clutter with a small success provides welcome motivation for the long haul. When you feel yourself starting to flag, returning to that one clear space, shelf or drawer will remind you of the goal--and give a new burst of energy for the next step. You can do it!

Slow and Steady Progress

Clutter tolerance seems to run a fever cycle, much like the flu. Every so often, the cluttered household will become intolerable, sparking short-lived but fiery anti-clutter efforts. Piles will be shifted, boxes will be filled, stuff will be stashed--until the fever breaks. Then the clutter tide flows back in, confusion redoubled because of the flushed and furious attempts to get a grip in a hurry.

Just as clutter arises gradually, over time, so it must be fought gradually and over time. Beating clutter requires building new habits, applying new organizational methods, and creating new household routines. The clutter cure takes time, and can't be short-cut.

Resist the temptation to go all-out in fevered, short-term sorties against clutter. Like the fable of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the declutter race.

Schedule Declutter Sessions

A successful attack on clutter requires time, energy and motivation. There is no such thing as a declutter fairy, who works while you sleep!

First things first: schedule time to declutter. Even 15 minutes a day will make a good start. Better, schedule larger blocks of time, from two to four hours once or twice a week, for maximum declutter efficiency.

Scheduling declutter sessions brings the goal out of the stratosphere and into real life. By committing time to decluttering, you strengthen motivation and embrace the goal of a clutter-free home. By keeping the declutter appointments, you begin to create islands, peninsulas, then continents of decluttered space.

Trust me. It won't happen magically behind your back, so schedule your declutter appointments today!

Change Begins With Me

In family settings, clutter accumulates for myriad reasons. Adults shed newspapers and personal items with abandon. Children clutter with playthings, art materials, and school papers. Poor housekeeping routines land clean clothing in piles on the couch, paperwork in stacks on the counter and mail in jumbled heaps everywhere.

Tempting as it is to call a family meeting and lay down the clutter law, think again.

Draconian measures can only be enforced so long as the enforcer stays on the job--and if you're not there first, coercive efforts are doomed to fail.

Instead, build credibility, knowledge and motivation by mastering your own clutter challenges first, then involving the remainder of the family.

By walking the walk before you ask others to join you, you'll become familiar with the process of change you're asking them to undertake--and be better able to help the whole family move forward toward better organization. Knowing the road ahead, understanding the difficulties, and being able to demonstrate successful self-change will help you help them make a good--and lasting--start.