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Declutter the Family Room

Keep the center of family life clear of an explosion of clutter.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer
It's never too early to stop clutter. Always return items to their proper place after using.

Divide and Conquer

Clutter is like chickenpox: It spreads from person to person with only casual contact. One person's ongoing craft project becomes authorization for the next guy to spread his stuff out, too. How to control family room clutter? With a family STOP clutter session. The communal nature of the room means that any clutter solution will require everyone's cooperation. By agreeing to divide and conquer, a STOP clutter session can attack problem areas simultaneously.

Tips to Organize Family Rooms

Try these tips to make the most of storage space in shared spaces and family rooms:

  • Contain clutter. Practice containment policies to keep clutter under control. Store the week's newspapers in a low-sided metal tray; a knitting project in a wicker basket.
  • Practice "cart and carry." Establish a policy that, while family members are welcome to do homework, work on crafts or play with toys in the family room, their supplies must be carted and carried. Plastic laundry baskets, shopping bags or flat-bottomed dishpans can be used to bring out the playthings and collect them at the close of the evening, for return to the bedroom.
  • Sweep it clean! Take time during the day for a "sweep." During a pause in a television program, announce that it's time for a sweep, and ask all family members to pick up out-of-place items and put them away. Quick! The show will be back on the air in just minutes!

STOP Clutter in the Family Room

Gather your tools: timer, STOP declutter boxes (marked Put Away, Sell/Donate, and Storage), garbage bags for trash. Set the timer for 20 minutes. To make it easier to do a group declutter, double or triple the number of boxes used for Put Away. Limit the STOP clutter session to 20 minutes to shortcut the potential for argument.

Step 1: Sort

Start sorting. Assign each family member a small area to clear — a shelf, table or corner — and a tight timeline to declutter it to make the job specific and short. Key targets: the choked video storage rack, the stacks of old magazines, the scattering of toys all over the carpet. Give the kids a Put Away box for far-flung toys, the family crafter another box to collect his or her paints for return to the craft corner.

Step 2: Toss

Disagreement is a potential hazard when diving into a group STOP clutter session. Mom may be perfectly happy to send a stack of old motocross magazines to recycling, but a teenage son objects. Limit potential disagreements by assigning the interested parties — the motocross enthusiast himself — to sort and decide. A second tactic: Use black plastic garbage bags to collect trash. If the clutterers across the room can't see the contents, they're less likely to put up a fuss about the discards.

Step 3: Organize and Put Away

When the timer bell rings, toss the trash and return Put Away items to their homes in other rooms. Organize the remaining family-room residents — DVDs, videos and game equipment — into flat-bottomed open containers for easy access.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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