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Clear Out the Clutter

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Ten quick and easy ways to get rid of what you’ve got and organizeAs you flip through your favorite interior design magazines and wish that the neat and tidy rooms were your own, comfort yourself in knowing that this sleek, stylish look can be attained. By following 10 quick and easy tips to clear out the clutter in your house, you too can have a showcase home.

Identify clutter hot spots. Find where most of your clutter is accumulating and sort through it. Recognize what you will need in the near future and make sure those items are more accessible. Remember that New Orleanians are known for being the life of the party and we often need to be able to get ready on a moment’s notice. This means organization is key. “You need to make sure your tulle skirt is tidy, your mask is magnificent and all costumes are categorized,” said Kay Morrison of the Occasional Wife. You can even go so far as to organize your clothes by theme, color and style.

Purge. It’s natural to collect knickknacks even though you may not even realize you’re doing so. Sometimes it takes moving to realize how many things you have that you don’t need. Just because you want something when you buy it doesn’t mean you’ll need it forever. “I have had my stuff in storage for a year and we hardly missed any of it,” said Kelly Porter, owner of Probst Decorating. The moral of the story is simple. “Only buy what you love,” said Porter.

Deal with a little every day. Start by making a list of all of your trouble spots. Then, choose to do one thing at a time and chip away at it until you have solved the problem, whether it is updating your calendar or creating files to make way for the New Year’s documents. Once you have succeeded, revisit the list and choose something else.

Stay focused. If you do not think you need to clear the clutter because you are the only one who sees your home, play make-believe. “My mother-in-law used to visit me every day at 12 o’clock, and it was a nightmare getting everything straight,” said Anne Teachworth, a couples therapist at the Relationship Center in Metairie. Even after her mother-in-law stopped coming by, she continued to pretend, which kept her motivation high.

Look at the big picture. This means assessing clutter in all aspects of your life, not just your home, and discarding appropriately. “I do New Year’s deletion where it is not necessarily things or papers; sometimes it is behaviors, habits or even people,” said Teachworth. Stopping emotional clutter in your life can make you feel better. Once you are organized, you tend to become a happier and healthier person because you are no longer overburdened.

Make use of unused space. “Save time, money and effort by getting your pantry organized with stacking bins and turntables,” said Ginger Ellis of the Occasional Wife. Focus on adding things that help with time management. “Make your stainless steel refrigerator control central again with magnetic clippers and dry erase planners,” said Ellis.

Identify a place for things. “Having tables next to your sofa that have drawers in them so you can put your remotes can help to keep things all in one place,” said Porter. Try to purchase multifunction pieces. “You may want drawers, baskets in the drawers or things that keep things separated inside of your drawers,” said Porter. And try to identify a place for things before you buy them. If you don’t have a place for it, don’t make the purchase. Try labeling so if you are storing items in a tub or box, you may want to make a list of everything in it and stick it on the outside so it will be visible.

File things now. “I used to have a slogan for my clients that was ‘Straighten up and file right,’” said Teachworth. This means taking advantage of filing in a smart way. “If you have one drawer for bills, one for letters and one for coupons, you can learn to organize and keep things so they do not clutter your life,” said Teachworth. You can do this with style. And Morrison suggests boxing up 2010 documents to make way for 2011 and using colored folders.

Get your kids to help. What better way to teach your kids to organize and declutter than by having them help you out? If asking them to go through their rooms first will only elicit groans, have them redecorate the Christmas tree for Mardi Gras instead. That should get things off to a good start.

Give it away. “Who needs 19 chopping knives? You really need five good ones and that is it,” said Porter. It may be fun to plan a garage sale. Make it easy on yourself by clearly pricing your items and having an extension cord handy so people can plug things in to see if they work. Be sure to cover sprinkler heads or anything that might pose a safety risk so people don’t trip. Another option would be to select your favorite charity and give your stuff to it.

Be sure to put decluttering on your schedule for the New Year, as there is no better time to address it.