13 tips for banishing clutter

Organization pros share their top strategies for banishing clutter from every corner of your home

13 tips for banishing clutter

Source: Adapted from Reader’s Digest

Files and papers

Eighty percent of what you file is never looked at again, according to Unclutter Your Home author Donna Smallin. But how do you know which papers to keep and which to recycle? Eileen Roth, author of Organizing for Dummies, has a pretty good rule of thumb for papers without obvious significance: “If it doesn’t affect your taxes, you probably don’t need it.” Some specific tips from Smallin and Roth:

  • Keep only the most recent paycheck stub, utility bill, mortgage payment, mutual-fund prospectus, insurance policy. As you file the latest, throw out the last.
  • Hold for seven years: bank statements, cancelled cheques and credit-card statements.
  • Keep long-term: one copy of each successive version of your résumé; diplomas and certificates; school transcripts; receipts for car repairs and large purchases; mortgage and real estate documents; home-improvement records; annual statements (keep the quarterly until you receive the year-end summary) of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, RRSPs; and legal documents (leases, trust papers, etc.). Keep tax returns at least seven years.

No filing system? Here are ideas from clutter expert Michelle Passoff (for use after you decide what to keep, not before):

  • Buy straight-cut manila folders without tabs. If you put two identical labels on each folder—on both the front top-right corner and back top-left—you’ll find what you need right away.
  • Use white 1” by 3” removable labels on your folders rather than typical labels, which are too small to write on and lose their adhesive with age. Fill out all your labels with a black, fine-tipped marker.
  • Avoid colour-coding—such systems are hard to remember and difficult to keep supplied—or using a variety of pens, which gives files a jumbled, messy look.

Closets and cabinets

  • To maximize space, buy six-tiered hangers for skirts, Smallin says, and hang pants upside down from the cuff, so bulkier waistbands fall below shirt level.
  • “Use a hanging shoe bag with clear plastic pockets to store pantyhose and socks,” Smallin suggests. Also great “for storing mittens in a coat closet or for organizing small toys in kids’ rooms.”
  • Roth recommends placing rubber-coated wire racks on cabinet shelves to make best use of the vertical space.

Kids’ stuff

  • If toys are taking over your home, hold a “toy garage sale” and let your kids keep the proceeds from everything they choose to sell, suggests Roth. You might have a budding entrepreneur in your midst.
  • One surefire way to cut down on kids’ clutter is to work on building “memories, not possessions,” says Michelle Passoff. Consider taking children to the zoo, a museum, or the theatre instead of buying them the latest video game.

Garage, basement and attic

  • Most garages and attics are dimly lit, shadowy or downright dark, making the impulse to just add to the clutter pile and run almost irresistible. Eileen Roth suggests installing extra fixtures or keeping battery-powered lights on hand.
  • “If you bought a new one, you’re not going to fix the old one,” says Roth of the broken electronic devices, toasters, and other appliances you’ve got stashed in various places. Donate them or throw them out.

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