Clutter Control

February (Make your Living room… livable)


  • Empty and clean any bookcases and magazine racks.  Toss or donated anything you don’t want to keep.  Make piles for things that go to other rooms.
  • Walk through home, with ‘new eyes’, and make notes on any items that need repair, such as window sills, light fixtures or furniture.Natural Order - Organize your collections
  • Take a look at your knickknacks.  Are their dried flowers that are now just dust collectors?  How about the collection of frogs?  You know the one that continues to grow because everyone you know sends you one for every holiday or birthday.   Consider culling your collection to those that you really love.  Then donate or sell the rest.


  • Take down curtains to clean or dryer-fluff.  Try to rotate them to different windows if possible.
  • Dust all knickknacks and picture frames.Natural Order - February
  • Polish and oil wood furniture
  • Dry-clean slipcovers and vacuum furniture.
  • Vacuum and clean furniture, floor, baseboards, cushions, walls, fan blades, lampshades and blinds.


  • Arrange bookcases.
  • Schedule any necessary repairs and if appropriate have your fireplace inspected and maintained.
  • Set up a basket or rack for magazines and newspapers

January (Attack your family room)


  • Recycle old magazines & catalogs.
  • Separate photos into the good, bad and ugly.  Toss the bad and ugly. Share duplicates with family or friends.  Put the rest into acid-free boxes for now.  Sorting can be done at a later time.
  • Go through CDs, videos and books.  Separate into keep / loan-return / donate / sell
  • Sort through games and toys; collect missing pieces and put them into their corresponding boxes.  Put them into three piles 1) donate; 2) toss; and 3) keep.  Determine where to keep them and store together.
  • Begin a household inventory.  Start with your electronics.  Write down the manufacturer, model & serial number for your homeowner’s insurance.   Keep a copy of your inventory in a fire-proof safe or off-site in the event of a fire or other disaster.


  • Dry-clean or launder drapes, throws and area rugs.  If possible, rotate drapes to minimize sun damage.
  • Spot-clean sofas; vacuum cushions and sofa base, flip and rotate cushions.  Dig down the sides for lost coins and pens.  Vacuum down the sides after pulling out any large objects.
  • Vacuum and clean floor, walls, bookshelves, entertainment centers, windowsills, mini blinds and ceiling fans.


  • Choose a basket or box to hold on-loan tapes, books and videos.   Write return dates on calendar.
  • Choose a drawer or decorative box to store remotes.  For components that are infrequently used attach the remote to the unit with Velcro.
  • Spend 30 minutes each week (schedule time on your calendar) arranging your photos into meaningful sections (by family member, in chronological order, by event – or a combination thereof).   Put into acid-free photo boxes.
  • Schedule 5 minute cleanup with family members to keep them moving forward toward organizing their designated space in your family room.

Start off the New Year right.  Scheduling time to get a few items in order will set you up for success.

Below are a few ideas to get you started.

1.  It’s never to early to get organized (in 2011).   Set aside any clothes that are too large or 2 sizes too small.  Include anything you’ve not worn in over a year (with only a few exceptions for seasonal and dress clothes).  Choose a reputable charity and donate for a tax deduction (if you itemize).   See our list of local charities or check out Charity Navigator.

1.  Update your birthday calendar.  Copy special dates over from your current calendar to your new one.

2.  Pull together receipts and other tax documents and schedule an appointment with your accountant for tax preparation

3.  Transfer photos from your camera or smart phone to your computer.  Which brings me to my next point…

4.   If you haven’t already set up a system, back up your computer and/or laptop.   If you don’t have a lot of music or photos you can either use a thumb drive try’s free version.   If you do have a lot of family photos or collect audio files try either an external hard drive or a subscription backup service from or  For those that are not diligent in maintaining backups I recommend using an automated service such as Mozy or Carbonite.

7.   Set up new paper and electronic files for the new year.  If you use monthly files for receipts and bills consider creating revolving files.  Create files that simply have ‘January’, ‘February’ etc… without the year.  When you prepare for your taxes, pull out the months receipts and place into a manila envelope.

8.   If you are a planner, check our 2011 Organizing Schedule.  We’ll layout recommendations for each month that will keep you working toward your organizing goal.

Have you begun the mad dash to get all your holiday shopping complete?   Do you have younger children in your life? Can you see the deluge of toys that will invade you home Christmas morning?

This is a fantastic time to bring in the spirit of the holidays and introduce your children to donating.  Although parting with their loved toys can be difficult they can be  involved by choosing toys they played with when they were ‘little’.

There are several places you can look to donated gently used toys.

1) The usual suspects: Goodwill and The Salvation Army

2) Preschools, elementary schools, early childhood programs and daycare centers may accept toys

3) Homeless shelters or domestic violence shelters

4)  There are several ways to donate at your church; the church nursery, give them to missionaries traveling to poor countries or speak to someone there about donating to a family in need that is known to them

5) Ask around your neighborhood

Children often have so many toys because they are more affordable than ever and with the prevalence of advertising it seems that what is hot today is old news tomorrow.   This often leads to nearly new toys being relegated to the back of the closet or under the bed.

The most important part of this process is involving your child/children.   The experience of giving will give them the opportunity to see that they are blessed and the joy that comes from helping others.   And although that is more than enough reason to clear out toys and added benefit is that you’ll have the opportunity to get the remainder of their toys organized and make room for the new ones that are sure to be under the tree.

Best wishes and Merry Christmas!


The following is an excerpt from a blog entitled “Clearing Clutter – Part 1 – Understanding How Clutter Affects You – Whether you Realize it or Not”.   In 11 years of organizing I’ve encountered almost all of these issues and the author of this entry has organized this information in such a great way.

Read through the following and see how many could be applied to your life.

Here are 10 ways excessive clutter can affect you and your life:

1. Family

  • Clutter causes irritability, resentment and stress that leads to temper tantrums, outbursts, and overall disharmony (especially, if people are having to deal with “other people’s clutter”. You may start to feel like you aren’t a good parent or aren’t a good example for your kids
  • Excessive clutter can cause depression, acting out, bad behavior in children due to their inability to focus caused by the clutter

2. Relationships

  • Causes conflicts often due to chronic lateness
  • Can keep you from socializing because you don’t have the energy or can’t find clothes to go out. Keeps you from getting close to people because you don’t entertain or want to have people visit you in your home

3. Loss of Self-Esteem

  • Causes you to feel like you aren’t capable or are missing some basic skill that everyone else “seems” to have so you feel bad about yourself – the truth is you are not alone, many people have issues dealing with clutter

4. Emotionally

  • Excessive clutter often cause feelings of shame, guilt, anger and embarrassment that holds you back.
  • Clutter drains your energy – and you don’t realize it till it’s gone.  Every item in your home has an energy to it.  When items go a long time unused, unloved and uncared for, they become stuck, stagnant energy that actually physically drains you of your energy.

5. Physical Health & Stress

  • The stress caused by clutter is enormous.  Every time you can’t find something, or an argument flares up with a loved one, or you can’t relax because you worry about all the things you need to do, but can’t till you get the clutter cleared, your stress levels increase. Stress in turn, lowers your immunity and resistance and so you may have frequent, persistent colds.
  • Clutter can make it more difficult to eat healthy, cause headaches, fatigue, sinus problems and allergies and more.

6. Mental Health

  • Clutter decreases your ability to enjoy life. It causes stress, confusion, inability to focus, and often leads to depression. Sometimes clutter is initially caused by depression, but clutter also makes it nearly impossible to recover from depression. In my experience, once people start releasing their clutter, their energy comes back and the depression gets better, sometimes it goes away for good.  Some people are extremely sensitive to their environments and just never realized what a difference it could make.
  • Even in people who don’t have ADD, clutter causes ADD like symptoms.

7. Safety & Hygiene

  • In extreme clutter, people have a hard time walking without tripping or bumping into things. Often there are things hidden in the clutter that are very unsafe for children.  I’ve seen some cases where a young child is pretty much confined to a playpen all the time because it just isn’t safe to be out of the playpen.
  • Inability to clean cluttered areas can lead to extreme dust and even mold and mildew that exacerbates and even causes health problems in yourself and your children

8. Time

  • Simply having too much stuff eats up your time like crazy. Every thing you own requires some amount of care and organization.  If you have too much stuff, it’s much more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to get organized.
  • Having too much stuff often leads to procrastination and lateness which wastes your and other people’s time and causes a whole host of other problems.
  • Not being able to find things is a huge time cost of clutter.  For some people it wastes several hours every day.

9. Your Future

  • Holding on to clutter often grounds you in the past at the cost of your present life and your future.
  • Clutter distracts you from being able to think about your goals, projects, hobbies and get things done

10. Financial

  • Things have to have homes. Whether the home you provide for things is an extra room, a piece of furniture, or a container, you continue to pay for things long after you initially acquire them. Clutter directly costs money in the following ways:
    • Late fees for bills paid late
    • Credit card debt – often for unused stuff
    • Duplicates purchased because you can’t find things
    • Some people move to larger home to accomodate the stuff
    • Renting storage facilities
  • Clutter affects people’s careers.  Studies have shown that people with cluttered desks and offices are less likely to be promoted.  This of course affects how much money you can make.

I hope you aren’t experiencing ALL of these things.  If you are, it may be too difficult to dig out alone.  Please consider getting help.  If you don’t have friends and family you feel comfortable getting to help you, consider hiring a professional organizer.  You can find one near you by searching on NAPO’s website at or at NSGCD’s site