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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Declutter your life

Tips to help restore order to the chaos

Mary Beth Breckenridge Akron Beacon Journal

Chances are good that getting organized was on your list of New Year’s resolutions.

Congratulations. At least you were organized enough to make a list.

Now, let’s make sure you keep that promise to yourself.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to interview and learn from some of the best organizers in the business, and I’ve picked up some useful tips and tricks along the way.

• Organizing is about changing behavior, not buying stuff.

Stores seduce us this time of year with displays of bins and drawer dividers and file boxes, but resist the urge to buy them in the misguided belief that they’ll make you organized. They won’t, at least not by themselves.

Spend some time getting rid of what you don’t need and figuring out how you’re going to use and store the rest.

• Mom was right: A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Clutter results from indecision, and indecision results from not having thought through how to handle the stuff that’s an inevitable part of our lives.

• Organized does not mean neat and tidy.

I got this little gem from Chris Perrow of Perrow Systems in Stow, Ohio, and I found it freeing. Organization, she says, is simply being able to find what you want when you want it.

It’s OK if your receipts are jumbled in a shoebox or your rolls of gift-wrapping ribbon are kept in a plastic bin.

• Keep a family binder. This suggestion came from organizing guru Deniece Schofield, who recommends getting a three-ring binder to keep all the papers your family needs – things like sports schedules, school calendars and committee rosters. Use dividers to sort the papers into categories.

• If you use a desktop file system to organize the papers you use often, choose one that holds the file folders vertically rather than horizontally. You’d be surprised how much more likely you are to put papers into their proper place if you can just drop them into the top of a folder.

• Over-the-door shoe organizers aren’t just for shoes. I have one in my coat closet, and I store all our hats, gloves and scarves in its pockets.

• Know the difference between needs and wants. That advice, from author and organizer Jennifer Lovins, might just be the most important tip I’ve learned.

Whenever you see something you’re tempted to buy, ask yourself whether you really need it. If the answer is no, that thing is probably going to become clutter, and clutter just makes our lives more stressful.

Who needs that?