Recently I read about a couple who live in Oklahoma City. They don’t have a lot of clutter in their house but they do find it impossible to part with their children’s things. The guest cottage behind their house is nearly filled with old toys, outgrown clothes, years of kids’ artwork, school papers, trophies, sports paraphernalia, baby beds, bassinets and a rocking horse. Seems they can’t bring themselves to clean it out or part with all of these things for fear their now-grown children will think they don’t love them.

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I know the feeling, and honestly I don’t think it’s that unusual. It’s just that most of us don’t have a guest house where we can stash and hide all the clutter. Thankfully, it is possible to deal with clutter in realistic and reasoned ways so that it doesn’t turn into chaos.

Marla Cilley, known to many as the Fly Lady and author of the fabulous book, Sink Reflections, says CHAOS is an acronym for “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.”

The good news is that clutter does not have to control our homes and our lives. It requires only a modicum of determination to take that very first baby step toward conquering stuff. Then another and another all the way to peace and serenity.

READ THIS BOOK. Honestly, I cannot give you a better piece of advice than to read Fly Lady’s book, Sink Reflections. You’ll laugh, you might cry—but for sure you will know what to do. Right now. Marla is a reformed clutter bug and knows what she’s talking about. She could motivate our friends in Oklahoma City to not only get that guest cottage cleaned out—she’d do that in a loving, compelling way that would allow them to retain all of the memories, assure their children of their love and end up with a place for guests to rest, relax and enjoy themselves.

THE GIFT OF PHOTOGRAPHY. All of those things that you can’t part with because they hold such meaning and memory? Take a picture of each one. Take several. Zoom in, pan out. Do a panorama view if you want. Now the memories are preserved in a way you can really enjoy them. And you can part with the actual items, guilt-free.

STASH THE CASH. I have a feeling our Oklahoma friends are sitting on a pile of money. That rocking horse alone could bring a few bucks at a garage sale or advertised on CraigsList.org. Who knows what other treasures are rotting away out there—things that could be turned into money that would fit nicely in a savings account.

TAKE THE DEDUCTIONS. I’m thinking about clothing and household items. And I’m also thinking about all of the new stuff you, your family, your kids got for Christmas. Wow. Where did you put all of it? Now would be an awesome time to go through closets, drawers and cupboards to identify old and unused so you can make room. For each new thing that came to live in your house, remove one or more items you don’t really use or enjoy anymore. But don’t throw these things away! If they are in good condition, donate them to a charity like The Salvation Army or other similar organization in your community The highly useful workbook, “Money For Your Used Clothing“, is the only resource I recommend to help you identify the true market value that you can deduct (when you itemize your federal tax return) for each of your items. Make sure you are using the correct edition of that valuation workbook which should match the tax year for which you are filing. “Money For Your Used Clothing Tax Year 2015” (for taxes you will file on or before April 18, 2016) is still available at the discounted price of $20 by clicking HERE or by calling 800-550-3502 during business hours MT. We have a limited supply and it’s going fast.

Just because you can’t imagine changing your life from chaos to calm in a single day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get started. According to Marla Cilley, “Things done imperfectly still bless our lives.” And isn’t that great news.

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