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Clean the clutter in 10 steps!

Updated on April 5, 2017
GollyGearHope profile image

Hope Saidel is co-owner of Golly Gear, a bricks-and-mortar and online shop featuring fun, affordable and practical small dog products


You can kill the clutter in as little as 15 minutes!

If your home is a maze - paths to all the places you need to be, but no empty surfaces, nothing in its place and no place for anything, there is an easy solution. You don't have to do it all in a day - or even two.

It's intimidating - you don't know where to start. It's a constant source of stress, every time you look around, your blood pressure increases.

You can declutter with a minimal amount of time, stress and grief. It doesn't have to be hard, it just has to get done.

How do I know? I'm a third-generation pack-rat. Getting rid of stuff was painful. Fortunately, it gets easier the more you do it. Now I celebrate "more floor!"

The worst part was getting started - there's so much junk, and so little time. Start small, focus only on what's immediately in front of you. And try not to worry about it; tomorrow's another day, with another 15 minutes to spend organizing.

Organized people can't help you!

People who are naturally organized don't understand us. They'll say things like "What do you mean you don't know where it goes?"

People like us, the ones with no "tidy gene," can learn organization, but it's not a no-brainer for us. We can be taught. We can do it. But it doesn't come naturally.

Get started!

  1. Get a timer
  2. Get four bags or boxes - mark them for donate, sell, trash and keep.
  3. Tell everyone in the home that you'll start uncluttering at a specific day and time. They can either help, put their stuff away before that time, or never, ever complain about what happens to it.
  4. Choose a place to start. It doesn't matter where. Pick a room, bring your bags and your timer.
  5. Set the timer for 15 minutes. If you don't have 15, make it 10 minutes. Just do it.
  6. You only get to touch an item once. If you touch it, it goes into one of the bags. If you're not sure what to do with an item, don't touch it.
  7. Start the timer. Work steadily for your 15 minutes. Don't agonize, just sort: trash, sell, donate, keep.
  8. The timer rings - you're done for the day! If you can only manage 10 minutes, once a week, it will all be done one day.
  9. Put away the stuff in the "keep" bag. Throw out the trash bag. Put the "sell" and "donate" bags where you'll take care of them next time you're running errands.
  10. Congratulate yourself - you made a great start!

If you can't decide - keep it!

You can always get rid of stuff - you can't always get it back. If there's a question, it's a keeper.

That may defy conventional "organizer" logic - but most organizers don't share our pack-rat nature!

You'll love yourself more in a tidy home!

Tidying becomes addictive. You'll find yourself looking forward to using that timer. You'll celebrate "more floor!" every time.

  • Just starting can give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
  • You'll be able to find the stuff you need.
  • You'll stop buying duplicates of stuff you have, but can't find.
  • You'll be able to enjoy the stuff you keep.
  • You can invite your family and friends over without excuses.
  • You can be "house proud" once again!

It took quite a while to "clean up my act" - but my house is now guest-ready in minutes. And one of my favorite places to shop is now The Container Store. I've become an organization addict - I even try to get rid of something daily - even if it's just the receipts accumulating in my wallet.

I've learned to use either clear containers or folders or make sure my label-maker is close at hand. Out-of-sight really can be out-of-mind. I put a bunch of old cassette tapes I'm transferring to digital in a drawer and "lost" them for months. I haven't tried any of the apps available for keeping track of stuff, but that may be in my future.

The most important thing is to start - even if you put one thing away, throw one thing out, donate one thing. It's something. Which is always better than nothing.

© 2008 Hope

How tidy are you?

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    • VioletteRose LM profile image

      VioletteRose LM 3 years ago

      This is something I struggle with, but I am trying to sort out things now. My challenge is deciding what to throw away, the thought that it may come useful prevents me from throwing away things. When I was in the U S, I used to give away things to thrift stores. But now I don't see much options to give away things that easily. Thanks for writing this, it is so helpful. Also I have two small boys, so managing the toys is the first thing when it comes to organizing home. We will be moving to our new home in few days, I hope to keep a much more tidy home with all the tips :)

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 3 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      @WeeCatCreations1: I know what you mean. Those boxes are deferred decisions. The best thing to do is to handle something once. Focus on the trash box or the give-away box. Thank God for second hand stores! They have saved me from having to throw away so many things I thought were "valuable" but that I knew I had to part with. Throwing "good stuff" into the trash is way too emotionally rending for a hoarder or clutterbug. (I think I was more of a clutterer than a complete hoarder as my house never got as bad as the ones I've seen on TV.)

    • WeeCatCreations1 profile image

      Susan Caplan McCarthy 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      My parents were hoarders, so every so often I go through a bout of cleaning and organizing so I don't end up that way. My parents were always "organizing" stuff into bins and boxes instead of making decisions about getting rid of anything. Eventually, the boxes got stacked higher and higher and then it was too much for them.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 3 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I sorted through a massive amount of belongings before I moved last June. I gave most of my books to the library book sale, many other things to a new second hand store that was opening, and threw out bags of useless items and paper clutter. I don't miss any of what I gave away or tossed. Now I live in a nice home with lots of empty space.

    • Charlotte Realtor profile image

      Charlotte Realtor 4 years ago

      Wonderful tips - I'll be moving to a new home that I'm currently building in about 4 months; these are great tips to start working on this NOW! THANK YOU!!

    • TerriCarr profile image

      TerriCarr 4 years ago

      I actually like throwing things out. My father was a hoarder and it drove everyone crazy. That is not to say I am super organized. But I can usually find what I need.

    • DawnRae64 profile image

      Dawn 4 years ago from Maryland, USA

      I like this lens. Thank you. I've known many hoarders and i'm not sure this would work for them. However, the extreme clutter-bugs i know, this is perfect for.

    • BowWowBear profile image

      BowWowBear 4 years ago

      great take on getting it all together and a time-saver too! Thanks for sharing.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      This sounds like a great idea - it's the motivation that's lacking here! I guess we all have too much "STUFF" ! It's got to go........

    • profile image

      Terrie_Schultz 4 years ago

      Not tidy at all. I wouldn't call myself a hoarder, but I do tend to hold onto things that aren't necessary. I'm working on it!

    • profile image

      wordpress-guru 4 years ago

      interesting lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Much tidier now after helping myself through the clutter of my (and family members) hoarding habits and successfully coming out alive and thriving! In hopes of helping others, I share my part memoir book "Zen of Hoarding" with others. Thanks for the tips!

    • toweroflifeinc profile image

      toweroflifeinc 4 years ago

      I always hate throwing things out that you could need in the future and would have to buy again. Unfortunately due to limited space that results in things being quite crowded.

      I think my biggest problem with organizing is that I go overboard with sorting and start micromanaging which then cannot properly be sorted and drives me nuts so I leave it in a pile to avoid getting frustrated.

    • profile image

      webmavern 5 years ago

      I am quite tidy and organised, but I do have some things that are of no use but have sentimental value that I won't part with. My daughter is the opposite and keeps everything. She would benefit from reading your lens with it's great ideas and tips as she is constantly "loosing" things and buying replacements. I will pass your tips on to her, thanks!

    • knitstricken profile image

      knitstricken 5 years ago

      I'll be setting up my own lens about my struggle with my hoarding tendencies soon, and I wanted to visit other lenses to get same varying perspectives. It sounds like your system really works well for you and that's encouraging. Not everything you're doing is in line with what I think is the best route for me, but I think recognizing that no two "paths through the hoard" need be exactly the same is somehow encouraging! I've enjoyed this lens with all of its food for though, and I'll visit again. Thanks for a great lens. :o)

    • tophatpro profile image

      tophatpro 5 years ago

      I'm a hoarder. It's a family thing. I think I got it from my gran. My dad doesn't get it since he's a minimalist.

    • GollyGearHope profile image

      Hope 5 years ago from Skokie, Illinois

      @SheilaMilne: I completely understand! The solution is to date the box. If you don't open it within a year - donate it without opening!

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      I definitely have hoarding tendencies. I could go through your routine and put nearly everything in the "keep" box.

    • JenwithMisty profile image

      Jen withFlash 5 years ago

      Well, my desk at work is spotless :)

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 6 years ago

      I know two hoarders and it really disturbs me, so I try not to keep anything if I'm not using it. I wish there was a quick and easy solution to help people with a hoarding problem, but there's not.

    • Mistl profile image

      Mistl 6 years ago

      Great lens, I am such a pack rat myself and the same goes for my mother and grandmother. I guess it runs in the family. I might actually have to share this with them. :)

    • JJNW profile image

      JJNW 6 years ago from USA

      P.S. SquidAngel Blessed! (also bookmarked in my computer in the Inspiring folder : )

    • JJNW profile image

      JJNW 6 years ago from USA

      Uhhhh... I plead the 5th amendment (USA)... Can you come over and save me??? lol. I will TRY, but I am not sure stuff will not come in faster than I can toss it out. Yard sales are my downfall (but save me money too!)

      My dad: "Why do you have a big box of light bulbs?"

      Me: "Because I got the whole thing for one dollar at a yard sale and now I don't have to buy lightbulbs for life."

      My dad: "Oh."

      (hee hee)

    • profile image

      th123 6 years ago

      I'm a terrible hoarder. It's easy to accumalate lots of stuff over the years. One thing that I find helpful is to use a skip hire service and decide to have a clear out. Be ruthless and throw away junk you don't need. Anything quality could be used by someone else which you can sell or giveaway.

    • profile image

      BabyHarley 8 years ago

      I love your system. I can really see how it would work. Shall try it!