The Magnificent 7: Tips for Cleaning Up Clutter

Clutter is postponed decisions®. Here are some suggestions to simplify the task of controlling clutter:

1. Put all like items together. Put items in their largest category first, and then break them down by steps as necessary. For example: (1)Put all clothing together. (2) Then break into women's clothing and children's clothing. (3) Then break women's clothing into seasons.

2. Create your own "organizing store." Determine a specific place to store any organizing items you find as you sort that might be useful in the future. This could include boxes, hangers, hooks, shelves, bags, organizing equipment, etc.

3. Determine the best location for each category. Where will they be used? What location would be the most practical place to have these items. For example, if items need to be secure, choose a location that can be locked or a lock could easily be added.

4. Choose an appropriate container. Select one that will hold the largest amount of each particular item you expect to have at one time ? or, put some of the item in a convenient place, with additional supplies in some less accessible space. For example, some paper could be under the copier with extra paper in a nearby closet.

5. Make containers easy to use. If you want to encourage people to put things away, remove lids whenever possible. For example, a container for videos which requires taking the container off the shelf to remove the lid will probably result in people putting the videos on top of the container!

6. Labels contents. Label the outside of all containers/shelves/cupboards clearly. This will vastly improve the chances of items being returned to their correct location!

7. Identify a specific purpose for every container/location. Unidentified containers/shelves/boxes quickly become catch-alls for postponed decisions.

© Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at

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