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Control Your Clutter
PUZZLING PLACE: Getting your home organized means putting all the pieces together.

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Control Your Clutter
Is your clutter getting out of control? Try this expert list of 10 things you can do right now to get organized.

Staying on track and keeping life in order can be a true challenge. So we’ve called in a pro, Certified Professional Organizer® Julie Bestry, to help recommend achievable things you can do right now to get yourself and your home organized.

1. Pack Away the Old Year
Before you start thinking about moving ahead, you need to focus on putting away the old year. This means taking down holiday decorations and designating space in your home to store them for the following year. For some people this place may be the basement or garage. Just ensure everything’s in one place—including decorations from other occasions, e.g. Halloween, 4th of July.

2. Identify the Dysfunction
Ask yourself what’s causing the most dysfunction in your life. A large part of organizing isn’t necessarily what you do with your hands; it’s what you do with your brain. You have to think about the things that are putting a big dent in your life: knowing that makes it much easier to move towards the hands-on part of the job.

3. Determine What You Want to Accomplish
Typically, ‘getting organized’ isn’t really a goal, it leads you to other things that you want. For example, being organized gives you more free time to relax on the weekends, or make space in the guest bedroom for guests. Disorganization hinders your ability to live your life. Once you decide what your objective is, the steps you have to concentrate on to get there become clearer.

4. Purge the Unnecessary
If something’s not age-, size- or lifestyle-appropriate anymore, get rid of it. Ask yourself what you and your family absolutely need. The same goes with doubles of any items you have hanging around. Do you really need three brooms for the house?

5. Figure out your finances
After a season of spending, take some time to review your banking and credit card statements. Mounting bills tend to be a big source of clutter, because people are tentative about opening them and acknowledging their financial situation. However, it’s an important step towards organizing your future and obligations. It also gives you a crucial opportunity to make sure no errors were made and correct them before time lapses.

6. Give Everything a Place to Live…it doesn’t have to be with you!
Clutter is created when we delay decision-making. Oftentimes the decisions are put off because you think you and your family will miss relocated items. Realize that good comes from finding new homes for the excess. For example, a vintage gown can be sold on consignment, and your favorite magazines will be recycled into new materials, saving trees. Focus on the positives that will come to you and your family when the task is done.

7. Keep Like Things Together
Paid bills will be happier living in the accordion file with other paid bills, instead of lingering on the kitchen table. Put pending scrap booking photos in one cabinet, instead of several areas around the house. Hanging all of your black skirts side by side in the closet will help you realize you probably don’t need a fifth one.

8. Objects Should Live Where They’re Used
The most appropriate place to store something is where it’s utilized. Case in point, your kids shouldn’t dump their knapsacks at the front door when they come in from school. They should be carried the study area where they’ll be needed. Also in that study nook should be a calculator, pens and art supplies. Easy Find Lids™ containers on the desks will keep those supplies at-hand.

9. Proximity and Utility Rule
The things you use most often, or should be using more often, need to be at your fingertips, be it your kids’ activity schedule, hand moisturizer, or cell phone. These are the items that deserve prime real estate on the bulletin board, your desk or your bedside table. When something is hard to get to, you’ll invent excuses not to use it, read it, study it or fix it. If it’s something you only need occasionally, say the fondue set, get it out of your primary zone and into someplace more appropriate, e.g. the basement.

10. Label Storage Containers
It’s great to get organized, but it doesn’t pay off to put the effort into sorting and storing things if in the end you can’t figure out where items are. So, whether it’s hanging file folders, storage boxes or digital files on the computer, label them as clearly as possible so you don’t wind up spending time down the road re-opening things to discern what’s inside. Also label where the container should be stored so everyone knows where its “home” is. Rubbermaid has a wide assortment of translucent and clear containers to help at-a-glance identification easier.

Julie Bestry is a Certified Personal Organizer® and president of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She’s also an author and public speaker. Check out her blog and her website