Home & Garden

Living Space: How to beat household clutter

Clutter is a funny thing. Some things never accumulate, while others are akin to holding back the ocean. There are nine kinds of household “stuff” that seem to multiply more than others. Here’s how to recognize these “clutter magnets” and clear them away.

1 Mail and paper: Mail stacks up fast. Buy a blue recycling trash can from an office supply store and place it where you bring in the mail, then sort everything right there. The minute bills arrive, place them in a basket or folder. Place magazines on the coffee table.

2 Electronic devices: If electronics aren’t usable, recycle them. Retailers Best Buy and Staples will take electronics, though Staples won’t accept TVs. Many Goodwill stores take electronics that work. If you’re unsure where to recycle your e-waste, go to search.earth911.com to locate a recycler in your area.

3 Books: Though it seems criminal to throw a book away, both paperback and hard-bound books are recyclable. If it’s a recent best-seller, a beautiful hardbound book, or a textbook or travel guide someone could really use, take it to your local donation center or a used book store.

4 Clothing: Comb through the closets and discard or give away everything that doesn’t fit. (Don’t save excess clothing for your weight fluctuations.) Toss anything that’s stained or damaged and pitch clothing you don’t like, even if it’s new.

5 Bathroom products: From shampoo to hairspray, we often have products lying around that are new or perfectly usable that we don’t like or use. Donate them to a local homeless shelter or shelter for abused children or women. If the items are used, discard.

6 Sporting equipment: From golf clubs to tennis rackets, camping gear to baseball gloves, our garages are packed with unused sporting goods. Donate items that still have some life left in them; or if fairly new, try to sell them.

7 Caps and hats: If you have men or boys in the family, chances are baseball caps are scattered all over the house. Try to limit these to four or five per person so the collection doesn’t get out of control.

8 Craft items: If you’re serious about a craft, your supplies can quickly consume gobs of space. Invest in organizers that help you see easily what you have. Once all the bits and pieces are organized, it’s easier to find things and your work goes quicker. If you don’t scrapbook, knit, design jewelry or make wooden toys anymore and know someone who does, give them all your materials.

9 Pantry: Put like with like to keep the space neat and organized. Separate cans of broth from cans of beans. Store all baking items together. Stash bottles on a lazy Susan and pour rice, noodles and dry beans into plastic containers. Add a basket to hold bags of chips and snack items.

When de-cluttering a room, take the floor paint approach. Start in one corner and then de-clutter your way out the door. When you make big progress in one area, it will motivate you to tackle others.