Organizing Tips: 3 Steps to Clutter-Free Living

Eliminate the clutter in your living space with these easy green tips and tools.

| January/February 2007

  • Lantern Moon offers many Vietnamese handmade storage baskets in sustainable materials such as bamboo, seagrass and saltwater reed.
  • Natural canvas boxes from The Container Store are a great alternative to plastic.
  • Made of maple and solid bamboo planks, the Kumiko cabinet by Iola Design is a flexible display environment for your natural decor. Available from Vivavi.
  • Lantern Moon offers many Vietnamese handmade storage baskets in sustainable materials such as bamboo, seagrass and saltwater reed.
  • Uncommon Goods’ Basket Locker is a unique storage container made of refurbished school and gym lockers.

We don’t need to tell you that Americans have a lot of clutter. It fills our closets, our basements, our desks. In addition to the stress that can cause, our overstuffed lives present environmental dilemmas. We need bigger homes than our parents and grandparents did, even though our families are smaller. And when we can’t find that seldom-used punch bowl amid the mess, we run out and buy another one—not exactly the most prudent use of our world’s resources.

For a clutter-free house, we need to let go of our “stuff,” organize what remains and avoid acquiring more stuff to take the place of the old. Seems so simple. Why is it so difficult?

Step 1: Lighten up (purge)

Get rid of things you no longer need or want. Sort these items into boxes labeled Recycling, Thrift Store, Friends, Garage Sale. Finding new homes for your items means putting resources in the hands of those who truly need or want them.

Ariane Benefit, a professional organizer from New Jersey, says many people don’t realize how much they really own. “I’ve seen people who have seven coffee makers, 43 pairs of jeans or 12 opened bottles of cinnamon,” she says. In such cases, it’s easy to get rid of the excess. Benefit also says to eliminate:

1. Things that don’t work
2. Things that annoy you (e.g., a rickety old file cabinet with a stubborn drawer)
3. Things you’re keeping because someone gave them to you
4. Things that bring up negative thoughts such as I was so stupid to buy it, but I paid a lot for it, so I’m keeping it. “This is a terrible thing to do to yourself because it brings you down every time you look at it!” Benefit says.
5. Excessive amounts of freebies, such as all those pens you’ve collected.

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