Declutter your life: this month’s problem; You’re a pack rat overwhelmed by unfiled papers, books and knickknacks. Here’s how to free your space—and your mind!

Nancy Monson

The Challenge

To divest yourself of what you don’t need, and overcome your urge to keep things “just in case” After all, that stuff is costing you–emotionally and financially. You have to dust it, label it, move it, store it. “Your home should be your sanctuary,” says Phoenix-based organizational pro Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple (Storey, 2004). “When it’s cluttered, it’s overwhelming. Plus, you can’t find anything.”

The Solutions

* Practice prevention. Sort through and throw away unwanted mail and papers the day you receive them, and rent or borrow books, CDs, videos/DVDs and tools rather than buying them. And for every item you’re given or you purchase, discard something else to make space for it. “You need to set limits on what you bring into your home,” Smallin says.

* Schedule regular decluttering sessions. “Spend five to 15 minutes a day on one area, such as a closet, and keep working over several days until the job is done,” Smallin advises. For big jobs–garages, attics and basements–dedicate a weekend to the task and ask a friend for help (be sure to offer to return the favor). Make it more pleasant by listening to music, keeping cool drinks at hand and taking breaks as often as you need them.

* Box it up. Label one box “put somewhere else,” another “give away/sell,” a third “keep” and a fourth “garbage.” “Make decisions about what to do with items the first time you handle them,” instructs New York City-based interior designer Laura Day of the TLC show Trading Spaces–and then don’t look back.

* Learn to let go. “Keep only select items from your past that give you a happy memory,” Day says. Discard or donate stuff that you haven’t used or worn in a year or that’s broken, as well as projects you’ll never finish (remember that afghan you started knitting two years ago?). Smallin says that if you can easily and cheaply replace something you’re currently not using, such as a kitchen gadget or sports equipment, get rid of it.

* Avoid impulse purchases. Wait a week before buying anything–be it an outfit, a CD or a set of bed linens. “This strategy prevents you from buying unnecessary, frivolous stuff,” Day says. And it can save you money to boot.

The Payoff

You’ll feel less stressed and bogged down, more clear-headed and in control. “You simplify your life when you declutter,” Smallin says. “Eighty percent of what you have you probably don’t need, use or like anymore.” And you’ll actually be able to find your keys!

RELATED ARTICLE: shapeover starters

Don’t just declutter, donate! Here, some worthy U.S. organizations looking for your treasures:

The Bridal Garden (212-252-0661, takes “once worn” wedding gowns and accessories. Proceeds of sales go to the Sheltering Arms Childrens Services.

Diamonds for Dreams and Brides Against Breast Cancer (both on sell jewelry and bridal-gown donations to raise funds for terminal breast-cancer patients. For example, one woman was given a camcorder to tape herself for her children.

Dress for Success ( accepts new and used, dry-cleaned professional women’s clothing, particularly in larger sizes, for disadvantaged women seeking jobs.

Freecycle Network ( is a website with regional hubs through which you can post giveaway notices for chairs, fax machines, pianos–you name it.

Share the Technology (share is a national organization that takes computer donations. Just be sure the computer is in good working condition–and remember to clear your hard drive of personal information.

Fairfield, Conn.-based writer Nancy Monson recently divested herself of many her belongings, and feels infinitely lighter.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

You May Also Like

Quick-fix solutions for everything from back breakouts to lackluster locks, using ingredients from the sea

Smoother skin, shinier hair: quick-fix solutions for everything from back breakouts to lackluster locks, using ingredients from the sea Am…

Firm your butt fast

Firm your butt fast Standing ball slide Works butt, legs, core, and shoulders Slide into your skinny jeans with this move f…

Is carbo-loading a crock?

Is carbo-loading a crock? – Sports Nutrition Karen Asp Eating more carbohydrates before and during an athletic event may not boost …


Letters Cellulite Solutions Thank you so much for the article “Lose Cellulite [Guaranteed]” (April). I’ve been doing the strength …