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How to Deal With Clutter

Updated on April 21, 2008

Clutter Can Be Anywhere

Closets Can Become Cluttered, Too
Closets Can Become Cluttered, Too

Simple Steps to Prevent and Eliminate Clutter

Clutter, we all have it. It is more of a problem for some of us than others. For some people, clutter is limited to a junk drawer in the kitchen. For others, the" junk drawer" may have expanded all through the house. Sometimes it is so bad a person has to sleep in a bed laden with clutter. Most of us are somewhere in between.

Mental health experts say that "hoarding", (people with extreme clutter problems are called "hoarders"), is indeed a psychological problem. A person that hoards forms an emotional attachment to every item that they own. Even simple things like grocery receipts or worn-out, dirty athletic shoes are difficult for a hoarder to throw away. The home may become piled up so much that only a path around the house is all that is visible of the floors and walls. The home becomes a fire hazard and sometimes a health hazard. If this scenario seems familiar to your situation, contact a mental health therapist. You probably cannot handle this problem on your own.

But if you simply have a run-of-the-mill clutter problem, like overstuffed closets and garages, there are some easy steps you can take to help eliminate your clutter problem.

Start with one problem area at a time. Set aside enough time to do the task at hand. Do it when you aren't tired and don't have any pressing appointments later. You don't want to end up with half of the contents of your cluttered closet spread out on your bed half an hour before you plan to go to sleep or some similar scenario.

If you don't have enough time to declutter an entire closet, do just the top shelf, or floor, or the left side of the closet rod. Just make sure that you don't bite off more than you can chew at one time. That is the quickest way to get discouraged when trying to declutter.

Once you have decided what area you want to declutter and when, get everything prepared ahead of time. You will need lots and lots of garbage bags and cardboard boxes or some sort of storage containers. You can use a box labeled "charity", but only if you won't be tempted to dig half of the stuff out of the box before you haul it off or you won't let the box sit by the front door or in your car until Christmas before you deliver it to the charity. If you think that you would be guilty of either decluttering sin, just use garbage bags for anything you don't want to keep. And throw everything in the trash can immediately after you are done.

What you are going to do is simple. Go through each item separately and ask yourself these few basic questions:

Do I absolutely need this? If yes, put in keep pile.

If no, then ask 'Have I used this in the past year?' If the answer is no, it goes in the throw away or charity pile. No second guessing.

If the answer is yes, ask 'Do I have more than two other things like this?' (This question will have to be customized according to the item. For example, if it's a t-shirt, the number may be five. But if it's a kitchen appliance, you probably don't need any more at all.) Whatever number you decide, if the answer is yes, put it in the giveaways or trash pile. If the answer is no, move on to the next decluttering question.

Does it need to be repaired, mended, or completed? If you have a dress that needs a zipper fixed, decide if you are ever going to repair it or take it to be mended. If the zipper has been broken more that six months, chances are you will never fix it. Put in the trash pile. The same principles go for items like broken appliances or electronics, stained clothing, and other similar items.

Next question: Is the item something that you use less than once a year and taking up valuable space? Could you easily borrow it or use something else the few times that you do need it? A perfect example of this is the sewing machine you bought five years ago when Martha Stewart inspired you to make a quilt. Whether you actually made the quilt or not, do you use the sewing machine less than once a year now? If it's only about once a year, do you know someone with a sewing machine that you could borrow? If the answer to both questions is yes, toss the sewing machine. It is obviously clutter.

After you've tackled small areas of your home at a time armed only with garbage bags, boxes, and the previous decluttering questions, you should have made a significant dent in your clutter and created much more space in your home.

How to Deal With Clutter Comments

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    • profile image

      Chris 9 years ago

      Great Hub! Accumulating clutter is a serious detriment to mental health. Without even knowing it, people who pile up "stuff" lose peace of mind. I read the book clear your clutter with feng shui and was inspired to toss out so much junk - my head actually hurt! The result was a big load off my mind - literally. If you want major changes to begin happening in your life, listen to advice of this article and pitch out your clutter. Your life will be nothing short of transformed. www.obsessive-compulsive-disorder-help

    • Angela Harris profile image

      Angela Harris 9 years ago from Around the USA

      Thanks, Seamus, me too. These tips really helped me.

    • seamus profile image

      seamus 9 years ago

      I am clutter-a-holic. Thanks so much for this. A thumbs up from me!