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Get Organized; Get Rid of Clutter

Updated on June 6, 2015
Silva Hayes profile image

Silva has a background as a technical writer and in addition to how-to articles she writes about cooking, travel, and personal experiences.

Step-by-step guide to de-clutter and organize your home

Rid your home of clutter; get organized.

Follow these steps to get started:

Pick one area:

Pick out one area of clutter that you are constantly aware of. If you worry about the entire house or the entire garage or whatever, it will be too difficult to get started. You will be overwhelmed. It's important to get focused. Just pick out one task and concentrate on that. It may be the dining room table, or the kitchen counter, or the boxes of photographs stacked in the closet, or maybe your shoes are out of control.

Label four large boxes: Keep, Throw away, Donate, and Worry about later.

The fourth box, Worry about later, will make all the difference.

I've tried before to get organized using only the first 3 boxes, and I would waver and balk when I picked up something I couldn't decide what to do about. Place it in the "Worry About Later" box and move on!

Temporarily set up a large folding table to give you room to sort stuff on. You will use this same table to fold clothes for the thrift shop and to add price tags if you decide to have a garage sale.

Have a garage sale:

There's always the option of having a large garage sale and accomplishing two things at once. Get rid of stuff, and make a little money.

The best piece of advice when preparing for a garage sale is to:

Price everything as you go. That way, once you get everything sorted (keep, throw away, garage sale, etc.), you are ready for the sale. Don't leave the pricing until last. It is much more time-consuming than you realize and you will be up late into the wee hours getting ready for early birds on Saturday morning. The best way to price things is to do it in the house BEFORE you take the items to the garage. Enjoy pricing in the comfort of your air conditioned home. Clean each item first, then price, then carry a load at a time to the garage.

Check eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, and Facebook:

Consider the destash option. If you have a collection you have no use for, enter a search for those items. You might be surprised to know what your collectibles are worth.

Here's an example. Remember those metal enamel brooches from the Sixties? Most of them are flowers and some are figural. Some of you may actually remember them and some of you may have inherited a collection from your grandmother or aunt. Ten years ago they would show up in bags of costume jewelry from Goodwill. We could buy the entire huge bag for five bucks (for use in our mosaic work). Now, suddenly, some of them sell for $15 to $30 individually and if they are certain brands, they might go for $60 or $80 each. Look on the back of the brooch for a brand name and do your research. Old silver rings and bracelets may also go for a good sum. Always check the backs of jewelry for 925 (silver) 14K (gold), and designer names.

Gather up broken 14K gold chains, old rings, anything gold that you no longer wear and don't care about, and take it to a jeweler. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much they will offer for your scrap gold. We went through drawers and jewelry boxes and gathered up broken chains and other items of jewelry that we never wear and took it all to a local jeweler. He offered us over $400 for a small pile of gold jewelry. We were happy!

Most of us at one time or another started a hobby and later lost interest in it. Beading, watercolor, scrapbooking, jewelry making -- gather up your supplies -- knitting, silk flower arranging or quilting or whatever they may be, organize them and weed out the junk, and check them out on eBay or Etsy. If you don't want to bother with that, consider your family and friends; would any of them appreciate this stuff? If not, then into the Donate box they go.

At the end of this article, I have added a list of four main options to consider for selling your stuff.

There are many resources out there to help you. You just need a little encouragement to get started. And as I said, my best advice about getting started is to pick out just one area that needs attention and tackle that. Don't veer off course. Stick with that one spot and get it totally under control. You will feel great when you're done and ready to take care of the next small task.

Today is a good day to rid your home of clutter; begin today to organize, declutter and destash. When I wrote this article, it was in the fall of the year -- it was cooler weather -- the first day of the month of October -- we were expecting company that weekend; I had lots of good reasons for starting a much-needed cleanup project.

My cleanup project was probably a little different than most people's, yet the same principles apply. I'm a mosaic artist and I have accumulated a lot of stash (chipped plates, costume jewelry, sheets of stained glass, tools, sponges, rags, etc.)

Much of the work I do in the process of creating mosaic art is not appropriate for indoors. I nip stained glass into pieces and the tiny little sharp corners of the glass can pop for 20 feet. The granddaughters run around the house with bare feet and I don't want them to get a piece of glass in their feet. Grouting is awfully messy too.

That's why, gradually, over a period of several years, I developed a habit of working out on the front porch, weather permitting. The porch is over 60 feet long, and we live way out in the country, so clutter is not visible from the road. Stored in unsightly cardboard boxes is an accumulation of plates, stained glass, tools, and miscellaneous. There's a folding table with tools and broken bits of plates. Tiny shards of glass and pottery litter the porch floor.

I've been watching HoardersTM on A&E. Each episode features hoarders who are so out of control that they are on the verge of personal disaster. They are faced with life-changing consequences including eviction, divorce, demolition of their homes, jail time, loss of their children, and even death. It's a cautionary tale. A tiny little voice in the back of my mind says,

"Get things under control now while you still can."

My family is tolerant; they never mention the clutter on the porch. But when they come home later this afternoon and see that it's gone, they will be so happy and their reactions will tell the true story; I'll bet they have been just a tad embarrassed about the clutter. When they come home today, the front porch will be totally empty .

I just came in for lunch and now I'm on my way back out there to finish the job.

I feel so proud of myself - I made a really good start on getting organized!

Adding a note -- Christmas Eve:

Well, I have managed to keep it going; I am staying organized!

I just found a great use for a roll of tough clear stiff plastic that I bought from a neighbor's garage sale. He is a retired architect and used this somehow in his design work, probably as an overlay. This stuff is 36" wide, a huge roll, and seems indestructible.

We have accumulated lots of oversized paintings and drawings that the granddaughters created at elementary school. I have framed a few; I watch for large framed prints at thrift shops that have nice frames and mats; I discard the print and insert one of their drawings. However, many were stacked in the corner of the office gathering dust.

I laid the plastic out on the floor and cut a piece twice as large as the largest drawing, plus a couple of inches. I folded it in half. I stacked all the drawings onto one side with a drawing faceup on both sides so you can see at a glance what's inside, folded the plastic over, taped all the edges with wide packing tape, and slid it under the bed. Yay! Out of sight, protected from dust, and my survivors can deal with them after I'm gone.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Adding on here, March 17, 2011:

I cleaned out the hall closet (crammed with Christmas decorations, coats, shoes, and miscellaneous kid stuff). I first laid out a large bed sheet on the floor and unpacked all the Christmas decorations that were packed away willy-nilly back in January. I sorted them down to the last detail. All silver balls together. All red balls together. All ornament hooks together. And so on. I tested all the lights. I packed each strand of lights in its own baggie and even labeled each one indoor or outdoor. Amazingly when I was done, I had compacted it down to the point where I had one large empty Rubbermaid bin and five empty cardboard boxes left over.

I then turned my attention to the Tupperware, Gladware, and Rubbermaid containers in the kitchen cabinets. I removed all of it and sorted it into shapes. I forced myself to match up each and every lid with its container. I then removed all the lids and stacked them together and stacked the containers together. Of course I had a few tag ends left over, lids with no container and containers with no lid. Those I stuck in a plastic bag and hid away in a dark corner of the pantry. I will hold onto them for awhile and eventually throw them away. Now that the Tupperware containers are sorted, it's important to keep it organized.

In between these activities, I completed two mosaic pieces and read the third book in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

Additional note, November 22, 2011:

As I discussed above, I cleared the front porch last year. The back porch is another story. I have worked on sorting, organizing, and clearing the back porch for several days now, and the end is in sight.

I have learned the hard way what you should do when you are creating a mosaic piece, especially a mixed media piece! Each time you sit down to work, place several little bins about your work area, for example, one for tile, one for jewelry, one for stained glass, one for tools, and one for miscellaneous. This tip applies to other endeavors as well, such as sewing, beading, jewelry making, scrapbooking, etc.

At the end of the project you will have many pieces left over that you did not use. Go right away and put those pieces back where they belong. I just sorted through ten years worth of little bins that held a mix of leftovers from each piece of art that I made. I just finished a fabulous huge space mosaic, and here and there in my organizing, I came across a piece that would have fitted in so well, had I known where it was! So, lesson learned! From now on, I will keep the pieces sorted, not toss them all into a common bin.

Want another good reason to declutter, in addition to the time you will save and the enjoyment you will take in your home? Read about the Brown Recluse Spider here ... it loves to hide in piles of clothes that have been left to lie about on the floor too long ...

Update, after Christmas 2012: This Christmas season was the smoothest, easiest decorating EVER! Remember, last year I meticulously put everything away (for the first time in my life). It's tempting and ever so easy to just throw it all in a box, lights tangled, etc., and say, Oh Well, won't have to deal with this stuff FOR A WHOLE YEAR.

So this year all the lights were de-tangled, they all worked, they were labeled indoor, outdoor, etc., the garland was wound up in nice little bundles, and I decorated the outside of the house, front and back, better than ever before. It really makes a difference, and you will be so proud of yourself, if you get organized and put it all away neatly.

Have a wonderful and PEACEFUL new year. Praying for world peace, order, and harmony.

eBay, Craigslist, Facebook, or Garage Sale?

eBay: Use eBay to sell popular brand name items that are in excellent condition, or high value, hard to find items. It is free to list items on eBay but you pay a commission if your item sells. You will need to open an eBay account and a PayPal account (both free and easy to do). I only sell items that can fit into a USPS flat rate box. The boxes are free at the post office. If you haven’t already established a reputation on eBay, this probably isn’t your best option for now. Go ahead and open your accounts and buy a few things on eBay to get some feedback before you start listing items for sale.

- Take good pictures

- Choose the right category

- Write good descriptions

- Make sure your item fits in the box before listing.

- Keep a few various size USPS flat rate boxes on hand

- Charge the USPS flat rate fee for shipping

- Answer buyer questions quickly

- Wait for payment before shipping

- Ship your item as soon as possible

- Give feedback

Craigslist: Use Craigslist for selling furniture, toys, & household items that you wouldn’t want to ship. It’s more popular in some areas then others–but since it is free to list your items, it’s worth a try. Again, take good pictures and write good descriptions. Don’t set your price too high. Leave room for bargaining. Consider bundling like items (like toys or craft supplies). Be safe. Meet in a neutral public location or make sure you will not be home alone if someone is coming to see an item.

Facebook is free and super easy so try Facebook first. Join a local selling group–they have them in almost every city these days–then snap a picture and list a price (follow the same tips as above.)

Garage Sale: If you have a LOT of stuff to sell and you live in a great neighborhood for garage sales (close to a main street, lots of drive-by traffic, etc.), then a garage sale might be a good option. For most people, however, I think spending your time and effort getting the best prices for your higher-value items on Craigslist or Ebay, then simply donating the rest is probably a better use of your energy.

- Join forces with friends or neighbors

- Promote your sale

Advertise on Craigslist, take out a classified ad, & post a notice on Facebook.

Put up LOTS of signs all over your neighborhood with CLEAR directions on how to find your house. Here's a great tip for signs. Start with a medium-size cardboard box. Buy hot pink or bright yellow poster board the same size as the sides of the box. Print "Garage Sale," the time and date, and the address in large easy-to-read script with a broad tip permanent marker. Staple these signs to the four sides of the box. Take the box (boxes) to nearby major intersections and set them on the grass near the curb with a large stone inside. After the garage sale is over, just drive around, remove the stone, stack the boxes in your trunk, and you are done. This eliminates stakes or trying to staple the signs onto telephone poles, etc.

- Be prepared

Borrow tables to hold your stuff and price everything the day before. Label your items well. Have plenty of change available, so put that on your list of things to do. Go to the bank. Be sure to have an electrical outlet available for testing electronic items.

- Be willing to bargain.

- Have a plan for the leftover items

Don’t just let them sit in your garage! After the sale, deliver the leftovers to your local thrift shop.

For tips on organizing your closet, check out Lisa Vanderpump's closet. Her closet even has a fireplace in it.



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    • Silva Hayes profile imageAUTHOR

      Silva Hayes 

      3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Thank you! I am glad you found it helpful.

    • Lynn Savitsky profile image

      Lynn Savitzky 

      3 years ago from New Jersey

      As someone working on cleaning out some rooms in her apartment, I found this very helpful.

    • Silva Hayes profile imageAUTHOR

      Silva Hayes 

      6 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      I'm going through hubs and checking them and I see that I never replied to your comment! I am sorry. I must have gotten sidetracked. Thank you so much for your encouraging words.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      You are doing well on your cleaning project. I agree with focusing on one space at a time, so you can really see the progress, and not feel like the project will go on forever. Great tip to price the items as you go instead of waiting for the garage sale as well. Keeping pieces sorted is another great tip, and one that I am diligently trying to do.


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