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Column — Diane Miller

Learn to live a clutter-free life

    Everyone has at least one drawer, closet, room, attic, basement or storage shed that is just out of control. You may have several of these places piled high and deep with various and sundry stuff. In your heart you know you need to get rid of most of it, but your head knows how much work going through all that stuff is going to be. So it sits. And when that space gets filled up, a new one is set aside to collect still more stuff.
    Some folks will wait until they move to deal with all this stuff. That may work for you if you move every two or three years. If not, you probably need a plan to make sure useless clutter gets dealt with. If you have lived in the same place for decades, you may need to hire reinforcements to help you.
    Select the most realistic approach. Are you more likely to deal with your stuff a little bit at a time? Or is it more likely to get done with a team of friends and family members recruited for the weekend? It may be worth paying someone by the hour. Depending on your stuff, you might also agree to share in the proceeds from a yard, garage or online sale. Most of the time, unless you are really rich and/or popular, the nature of accumulated stuff is such that you really need to do it yourself.
    • Break big tasks into small ones. Instead of tackling your entire house, pick one room or one closet to focus on at a time. This is the kind of work that has a way of expanding, so make sure to set clear goals for what you want to accomplish in the time available. If your goal is getting the bathroom closet organized, do not spend your time scrubbing the shower stall.
    • Sort to kill. Be brutal about it. If you have not unpacked the box the last three times you moved, there is a good chance you really do not need whatever it contains. Toss or recycle, sell or donate, and keep. Those are your choices. Notice there is no I-would-use-this-if-I-got-it-fixed stack, or keep-in-case-leisure-suits-ever-come-back-in-style pile.
    • Selling used to mean having a yard or garage sale. Today you have more options. Flea markets can be an effective way to sell household items and collectibles. Second-hand and vintage stores might offer the best outlet for quality older clothing and personal items. Online options range from auction houses to collectors and everything in between. Online options are especially useful for items that may not sell well at a yard sale, like music CDs, albums and tapes or books.
    Getting on top of the clutter is one of those jobs that often seems worse than it actually is. Even if it is a lot of work, knowing you have dealt with all your stuff and now have things organized the way you want makes it well worth the effort.

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