How To: Fight Clutter


Studies show that clutter induces stress, impact our ability to make decisions and focus, and even makes us more irritable.  Yet, many (if not most) of us struggle with it.  As this article from the New York Times notes, "This is the cultural dilemma that supports a multibillion-dollar storage industry: we love our stuff, and we also dream of being free of it."  The solution: mitigate and manage it.  Here's how.



Make the old adage, "a place for everything and everything in it's place" your new mantra.  Start by creating zones for the types of items that seem to plague your space the most.  Paper is often a clutter culprit; creating a "drop zone" is an easy solution.  Coral all bills, mail and papers in one location, either by the door where it came in or in a home office.  Review the pile on a weekly basis and address pressing items.  

Clear surfaces

On a daily basis, clear your counters and floors of everything that does not belong.  Every item should have a "home" (see the first tip above) and should therefore be put away.  Often times, the argument for leaving items out is that they'll be readily available when you'll need them.  However, it's far easier to retrieve an item that is exactly where it belongs and where you know it'll be than in a sea of clutter.  When you need it, retrieve it.


If you have the space, chances are you'll fill it.  Rather than downsizing to a micro-apartment to limit your clutter, create rules for the space you have.  For example, if your garage has become a no-man's-land of unpacked boxes, seasonal decor and toys, reclaim that space for your vehicles and make it off-limits for any excess of other items.  If your things don't fit where they belong...


... it's time to par back.  Whether it's a pile of catalogues you thought you'd look at eventually, pants that don't fit, or a tupperware bottom without a lid: if it doesn't serve a purpose, it's time to let it go.  It's not to say that mementos and keepsakes aren't worth having, but be judicious in deciding which items are worth making space for.  When trying to decide whether to keep or toss, ask yourself, "do I really want, need, or love it?"  If the answer isn't a resounding "yes," then it's time to say goodbye.  Make a donation to your local thrift store; your clutter will be someone else's treasure!