Skills for a Well-Run Home

Learn the basic methods to stop clutter and retrain the family to a new, uncluttered outlook.

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Photo Labels Help Organize Shoes in BoxesEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Getting organized means different things to different people, but in most disorganized homes, you’ll find clutter.

Clutter gets between you and the things you want to do. Living in a cluttered home, nearly every action is handicapped and impeded. Either you’re wasting time looking for something you need, pushing clutter out of the way to create a workspace, or you’re simply distracted by the scatter of out-of-place items.

Problem is, attacking the clutter itself won’t resolve the issue, because the "stuff" is just a symptom. What causes clutter is a cluster of personality traits, thinking, and behavior. To rein in clutter at home, you have to start with you: your thoughts, your habits and your day-to-day behavior patterns.

Reversing the tide of clutter is a slow and steady job, but the rewards are great. In this section, we’ll focus on basic methods to STOP clutter and retrain the family to a new, uncluttered outlook.

The STOP Clutter Method

Household clutter is made, not born. Its hidden cause? Deferred decision-making. Each item of clutter in your home represents a frozen decision or an incomplete action. Worse, the stale energy of piled clutter attracts more clutter, accreting together into an avalanche of pent-up "must-do, should-do, wanna-do" decisions that are tiring even to contemplate.

For example, bringing in the mail, you notice a catalog you’d like to browse, so you set it aside on the counter. Next day, three more catalogs, a stack of bills and a page of pizza coupons land in the pile, and by the week’s end, the lone catalog has mushroomed into an unwieldy stack of magazines, letters, bills, permission slips, and store receipts that will take an hour to sort, file, and finish—and you still haven’t found time to peruse the new catalog. The STOP clutter method fights clutter at the heart by thawing the decision-making process. It’s short, sweet and powerful, and is designed to help you blast through all those frozen decisions quickly—no more sitting on the fence in the face of chaos! By forcing you to make decisions rapidly, you cut through the mass of clutter and regain your organized home. Using the STOP technique, you’ll attack clutter in four easy steps: sort, toss, organize and put away.

STOP Clutter Tools

The tools you’ll use for each STOP clutter session are simple. They’re designed to set limits, encourage decision-making, and make it easy to wrap up each session of cutting clutter. You will need a kitchen timer, three large boxes and a garbage bag.

A timer Stopping clutter, like acquiring it, is a long-term process of short steps. Too often, the initial excitement of attacking the clutter problem causes people to bite off more than they can chew—or decide, store, or put away in a single session. Result: torn-up drawers, stacks of “I-dunno” items and a sense that the job is never finished.
Using a timer to keep STOP clutter sessions short and complete keeps the declutter momentum going, and prevents burnout. You’ll use your timer to start and stop each session so that you can finish the put-away step and leave the newly decluttered area clean and ready for use.

Three boxes The put away, storage and sell/donate boxes lie at the heart of the STOP clutter method. Labeled “Put Away,” “Storage” and “Sell/Donate,” they’re the decision-making engine that drives the declutter process.
Use sturdy, good-sized boxes, preferably with handles and lids. Look for records boxes (sold in office supply stores), or scour supermarkets for lidded produce boxes. Handles make it easy to circle the house at the end of each STOP clutter session, emptying the Put Away box. Lids help you stack the Storage and Sell/Donate boxes as you gather out-of-season items or set aside boxes for donation or a yard sale. Lids also help to cut the temptation to peep inside and return decluttered items to their old haunting grounds. Out of sight is out of mind!

A garbage bag An opaque garbage bag or garbage can is star player in a STOP clutter session. Here’s where you’ll entrust all the true trash, the quicker, the better. Black garbage bags prevent the declutterer (or family members) from having a change of heart. If it can’t be seen, it won’t be returned to the scene.

TimerEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Take It a Step at a Time

To harness the power of the STOP clutter method, assemble your boxes and garbage bag and set the timer for 15 minutes. The timer’s bell will tell you when it’s time to stop deciding and start putting away. Working in 15-minute increments (plus another 5 minutes to return put-away items and stow the tools), you stay fresh and motivated to do the job.

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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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