Conceptual portrait of happy senior female with piggybank

Has this ever happened to you—while searching for the Valentine’s centerpiece you stumble across the Christmas wrap you bought at the half-off after holiday sale two years ago?

craftroom-super-mess-needs-organized

Or you discover six partially full peanut butter jars in the pantry while putting away the new one you just bought because you were just sure you were all out?

Or how about this: You end up giving a brand new, too-small shirt to the Salvation Army because you lost the sales receipt and just never got around to taking it back to exchange. Has that kind of thing ever happened to you?

Have you ever gone out to dinner for the sole reason that there wasn’t one clean dish in the house?

If you answered yes to any of the above, chances are you know something about disorganization and clutter. And that includes just about all of us at one time or another—most of all, your humble columnist.

So why should you care about cutting clutter and getting organized? Because it will put money in your pocket and a new smile on your face.

Conceptual portrait of happy senior female with piggybank

Getting organized is like dieting. Everyone knows how, has several favorite methods and is pretty crazy about the results. The problem is just getting around to doing it and then maintaining the results!

MORE: Let the Decluttering Begin

Face it. If you don’t have enough closet, drawer and storage space to comfortably handle your possessions, you probably own too many things. Give away, pare down and let your rooms, closets and drawers appear serene and controlled—kept. The key is to go into “eliminate and concentrate” mode.

Where to start? Getting rid of clutter is a good place. And that can be difficult. Getting rid of things you own involves risk. Here’s a promise: you won’t ever get rid of something that’s absolutely essential to your life. As you assess each overstuffed area keep only those things you know to be useful or that bring beauty to your life. Everything else? Get rid of it.

You might like to try what I call the Grocery Bag Method for instant results, taught to me by a very clever friend.

This works best about 8:00 PM when you are at your wit’s end over the endless clutter and chaotic appearance of your home. Take one (more as necessary) large paper grocery bag or box as appropriate, and fill it with all of the stacks of extraneous papers, magazines, mail—your basic clutter. The purpose here is not to throw anything away, but just to get it out of visual range until you have time to go through and separate, sort and file. (This is what you tell yourself.)

If after 48 hours or so (give or take a month) no one in the family mentions missing something of importance, it is probably safe to go ahead and throw out the whole thing.

MORE: The Peaceful Easy Feeling that Comes with Decluttering

A better way, perhaps, to get organized is the “Salami Method.” You wouldn’t think of eating an entire salami in one sitting, would you? Of course not! You would eat it in slices over some period of time. 

Same with getting organized. 

Start with one thing, one room or one closet. Just one slice at a time. Tomorrow is another day, another drawer, another attic.

Soon you’ll be in control.

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