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Declutter Strategies

Where do you start when you have a whole house full of clutter? Tackle your clutter problems one step at a time.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Just as clutter builds up gradually, reversing the flow takes sustained effort and there are limits to what you can achieve in a single STOP clutter session. You may make short work of the mess on a shelf, in a drawer, or on a countertop. But where do you start to tackle a whole house full of clutter? Answer: one step at a time. Use the following strategies to take your battle against disorder to a global level.

Where the Shoe Pinches
The process of cutting clutter can be psychologically uncomfortable, so bolster motivation by putting your first STOP clutter efforts where they'll bear the most fruit. Look for the places where the shoe pinches, and focus clutter-busting efforts where they'll count the most. If it's a challenge to get out of the house to work each day, for example, tackle the jumbled cosmetics on the bathroom counter, attack the clothes closet and clear clutter away from the key rack.

Front Door Forward
The most straightforward path through whole-house clutter? Use the Front Door Forward method. Start at the front door and move to the right around the house, decluttering as you go. Start each session next to the last area you cleared.

The advantages of Front Door Forward are that you always know which location is next in line for a clear-out. Better still, the house's public areas are decluttered first-no more wincing at the sound of a neighbor's knock at the door!

A Clean Sweep
Overwhelmed by a house full of clutter? Try doing a Clean Sweep. Once a day, grab a garbage can liner and circle the house, looking for trash which can be tossed without the need for decision-making. Grocery bags, unmated socks, broken kitchen tools, foods past their "use-by" dates, and makeup more than a year old are among the suitable candidates. When the garbage bag is full, toss it!

The Penicillin Method
One day, you declutter the small table in the hallway. By the following week, a whole new species of clutter has infected the same area. One online declutterer, Ellen, likens it to a dish of mold, to which a lab researcher daily adds a single drop of penicillin. Next day, only the area around the drop is mold-free but, as the steady drop-drop-drop of the penicillin continues, the clean areas begin to grow together until the entire dish is cleared of mold.

To apply the Penicillin strategy, use the STOP clutter method to clear clutter from a small area each day. The following day, check to see that the first area is still clear, then move on to liberate another cache of clutter.

A Drawer-a-Day
Practitioners of Feng Shui believe that clutter and accumulated trash are traps for stale "chi," the energy that flows throughout home and life. Liberate the trapped chi step-by-step with the Drawer-a-Day method: fighting clutter by attacking it in small, daily nibbles.

Simply put, take 15 minutes to use the STOP clutter method on a single drawer, shelf, countertop, or corner each day. Visualize restoring a free flow of life-giving energy as you declutter and clear each choked storage area or counter.

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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