5 Ridiculously Simple Areas You Can Declutter Right Now

You had the best of intentions (again)…

Today was THE day – you were finally going to tackle all the crap in the kitchen…

…and the living room…

…and the family room, and the bathroom and the kids’ rooms…

You even got started (sort of). You dressed in your “cleaning clothes” (sweat pants, oversized t-shirt); got 4 empty boxes from the stash in the garage so you could sort everything out and were determined to make headway with the clutter. You’d show everybody!

And thirty minutes later you’re in tears (again).

It just seems so hopeless

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you start to declutter your home. When everything’s a mess, it’s hard to know exactly where to start and you never do seem to make much progress.

In order to build momentum, you want to go for easy “wins.” Once you start the process of tossing things, it becomes not only easier, but more fun to get rid of things. To help you get started, here are 5 ridiculously simple areas you can declutter right now:

Kitchen clutter before

1. Expired food. In my slob days, the only money I felt justified spending was to buy groceries. I’d stock up on canned goods that were on sale (because it was such a bargain) and would end up with a pantry full of food that we didn’t use. Many times I would find that the stuff was out-of-date and even if it MIGHT still be safe to eat, I wasn’t going to take the chance!

Forgive yourself for the waste, toss the expired stuff and donate the food items that have not expired that you don’t intend to eat to your local food bank. You will be amazed and delighted with the results in your kitchen.

Tip: From now on, don’t go grocery shopping without a list and avoid impulse buys. Don’t buy “just because” you “might” use this or that; have a specific plan for using everything you toss in your cart.

2. Unfinished projects. I’m a craft junkie. I just love learning new skills like knitting, cross stitch, painting, quilting, wood-burning. I like being creative. The problem is that I also get bored easily and then go after the next bright shiny object on the horizon.

I had bags and bags of yarn stashed in the attic but, like the grocery buying, had no plan how to use it. If I did find a pattern that looked promising, the chances were pretty good that I didn’t have enough of the yarn to complete that project.

The “ah-ha” moment came for me when I came across a partially finished baby sweater – and my “baby” had graduated high school just a few weeks prior. It was time to acknowledge that this had to go. I took my entire stash of yarn to the ladies group at our church who knit baby garments for the preemies born at our local hospital. What a relief to be rid of all that yarn!

I finally felt fee. You can too. Unfinished projects are anchoring you to the past. The longer you hang on to them, the less likely you are to pursue activities that interest you NOW.

Tip: Donate art supplies to your local Boys and Girls club or offer them to the teachers at your kids’ school.

3. Magazines. Do you have a stack of magazines that you plan on going through, but never find the time? Donate all but this month’s issues to a local senior center. If you can’t find the time to read through the current issues, it’s probably time to cancel your subscriptions.

Tip: Most publications have an online edition so you can find the article or recipe that caught your eye at the checkout stand by going to that magazines website.

4. Clothes that don’t fit any more. Get rid of any clothing items that you don’t like, that don’t fit or that simply aren’t flattering. Chances are you don’t wear these things anyway, so why should they continue to take up closet space?

You say you are planning to lose weight? Great! But why not choose a new wardrobe when you’ve reached your goal?

Tip: Set a timer for ten minutes and try on slacks one day, tops the next and dresses another day. Put the rejects in a bag or box, put it in the car and take it to your favorite charity as soon as you can.

5. Gifts you’ve never used. We all receive gifts that we don’t like or can’t possible use. If a particular gift can’t be exchanged for something you really want, just accept with thanks and then just re-gift it to someone you know will love and appreciate it.

Tip: Don’t allow things you don’t like or need rob you of space and enjoyment of your home.

Kitchen clutter after

Once you’ve started the process of decluttering, you will soon find that you actually enjoy the act of parting with things you no longer want or need.

Oh, and while you are in declutter mode, avoid bringing home anything new.

Need some encouragement as you are decluttering? Use the comments section below to let us know your progress!

Get a real-life organizing lesson with The Declutter Lady

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Are you curious about how it works to have “virtual” organizing sessions?

Ever wonder what it’s like to have an organizing lesson with a professional organizer? Are you curious about how it works to have “virtual” organizing sessions? The following is a real-life example of an email exchange with one of my current clients. I’ve edited the email to remove any personal identifiers or for clarity.


Thanks for your always inspiring columns.  It is good for me (and others, am sure) to be reminded and makes for pleasant reading with my morning coffee! Thank you for your kind words – I’m glad they are helpful to you.

I do have problems, –it seems that my problems are, at least mostly, what we’ve already discussed. Please stop thinking in terms of problems. The real issue is to identify your habits and personality traits so that you can work WITH them instead of trying to fight them!

I manage to have a lovely desk at the beginning of each week: three small piles (one desk work, one accounts, one [group I'm involved with]) that i plan to take care of in the next few days.  I schedule about 45 minutes for morning “office work” including checking my e-mails almost daily. This is a good start.

But all too often I get sidetracked doing something more urgent, realizing that it needs to be done and I won’t have enough time later in the day–or that has carried over from a prior evening (as in this morning). We need to identify how these items end up becoming so urgent. Are you not processing them early enough? Do they crop up from nowhere or are they a result of procrastination?  Or that comes up and I feel it is easy (just a few minutes) to take care of it now, while it is fresh in my, and those involved, mind. We already know that these things take much longer than we anticipate. The key here is to not open the message until you are in a position to deal with it. One reason we get so sidetracked – and that things slip through the cracks – is that we open an email to check what it is and decide we can deal with it later or try to deal with it now when we don’t really have the time. This can be a problem for me, too, so I move the message (opened or not) to Calendar in Outlook and schedule looking at it at a more appropriate time. I can show you how to do that when we meet.

And, the folders may have a bit too much to accomplish in the allotted time–what I think will take 3-5 minutes takes 15-20. As mentioned above, things take much longer than we anticipate. We know that, so I recommend adding at least twice as much time as you think it will take. Nothing is going to take us (who tend to be disorganized) only 5 minutes. Everything takes at least a minimum of 15 minutes, so just realize that at the get go and forget about 5 minutes.

And, I often add things that come in to the bottom (or top) of the pile. I think we have talked about figuring out next actions in the past. When new stuff comes in, things you haven’t processed should have their own inbox. Once you look at an item, determine the next action and then put it in the appropriate place (we can talk about what that means at our next session).

So, by the end of the week the piles are a mess.  I just finished going thru each and pulling up the most urgent things.  That way– time permitting–, when i sit at my desk during the day I can take care of one or two before getting to the task at hand.  I find if i put them away in folders, i often forget about the entire folder.    This is where the planner comes in. You don’t have to remember the folder in your head – the action item is written in the planner, along with WHERE that item is (i.e. which folder or pile or file cabinet).

Some of these are a back log, and so I do schedule “catch up” time on the weekend but it is never enough. Also, i find i waste more time “getting re-acquainted” if i let something go for several weeks…. I recommend either keeping a “log” (which is essentially a piece of paper) attached to the item with progress report notes jotted on it, including what you have to do next. That way you don’t have to remember what it’s all about.

btw, I don’t have a time scheduled for our meeting, did we ever schedule? No, we haven’t yet scheduled our meeting. I have [available dates] open, both beginning after [available times]. Let me know what works for you.

thanks, LG

So, there you have it — real answers to real questions about organizing yourself. (By the way, emails like this are included in my session fee.)

Have you ever worked with an organizer? Why or why not? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.


5 terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things that will happen if you throw away photos

5 horrible things that might happen if you throw away photos.

There are five terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things that might happen if you throw away photos…

How many boxes of photographs do you have stashed around the house? I know, I know, you have visions of your family sitting around with a big bowl of popcorn, laughing together as you create adorable keepsake scrapbooks. You and your husband tell captivating tales of each picture, relating to your children the hardships and triumph of your pioneering family…
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The consequences of making decisions

There can be some serious consequences when we DON’T make a decision…

I often explain that decision making is the key to clutter control. But the fact is that decisions are essential to making progress on any important task or project. However, it is not always easy to make those decisions. There can be some serious, sometimes unpleasant, outcomes when we make a decision. Yet, NOT making a decision comes with consequences of its own. Three troubling consequences of not making decisions include:
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Paper is a clutter issue for just about everyone. Statistics show that 80% of what we keep, we never use or reference again. So we need to learn to be very selective about what we choose to keep in our files.
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Most of my clients want to get their homes or offices completely clutter-free before they move on to the next part of their lives. Some want to pursue writing careers, others want to start their own businesses and still others just want to be able to have friends stop by without feeling guilty and ashamed by the condition of their homes.
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The simple way to start each day with less stress

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One technique to keep from feeling frazzled each morning is to start your day’s routine the night before.

One technique to keep from feeling frazzled each morning is to start your daily routine the night before. Sometime in the late afternoon or early evening schedule 30 minutes to an hour and look at your calendar to figure out what tomorrow’s requirements are. The simple way to start each day with less stress begins by answering these questions:
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Monthly calendarWhat you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. Gretchen Rubin

This quote was part of Chris Guillebeau’s newsletter about Life’s Priorities (a “must read!”) and is very relevant to anyone who is struggling with clutter and disorganization.

If you want to finally get your home or office decluttered, you have to be willing to do two things nearly every day:
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Time management: See where your time is going


A calendar/planner is a tool to use to help us accomplish the things we really want to do, not a master to enslave us with guilt and regret!

Many people object to using a planner because they believe that it prohibits spontaneity and creativity. In reality, the very opposite is true. Not using a planner to see where our time goes may be keeping us from accomplishing the things we would really like to be doing.

However, first we must see what is actually capturing our time. We do this by penciling in the things that we do instead of our scheduled activities. As we learn where we really ARE spending our time we can either choose to add those things to our routines or learn to keep them from sabotaging our efforts.

Just like any other new skill, learning to use a planner effectively takes time. It starts by “just showing up” — in other words, we begin using the calendar to schedule the things we want to get done. We then learn to follow that schedule by taking baby steps.

A calendar/planner ought to be a tool to use to help us accomplish the things we really want to do, not a master to enslave us with guilt and regret!

What are your biggest challenges in using a calendar? Share them in the comments!

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In one of our less rational moments, we thought it would be a brilliant idea to plant a vineyard in part of the open field.

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