Possessing stuff has become a hobby for many people — a pastime that is very serious “business” by some. In fact, an on-going need for additional closet space, exterior buildings, and pay-per-month storage facilities has risen over the last couple of years. In response, storage businesses are popping up everywhere … city and country alike.

Making matters worse, there are new television shows that teach us how to organize our possessions with crafty under-furniture storage hideaways, corner baskets, and closed-face furniture that cover up the countless cubbies and drawers built into the piece. What happens when we can no longer store it or effectively organize it? Or possibly, the main question we should be asking ourselves is, “Do we need it?”

Let’s look at the effects of clutter before we examine tips for eliminating it. Having a full comprehension of exactly what clutter is doing to each of us should arm us with cause to take action by fixing it.

Productivity levels are measurable based on output. A person’s productivity can be determined by the amount of products or services produced within a certain period. A stay-at-home dad, for example, doesn’t work the day around productivity levels, but there are tasks that must be done within a certain segment of time. Clutter can hinder productivity and efficiency because each pile of paper or each unorganized cupboard provides resistance to the flow of movement. What you might need is there; and instead of easily reaching and grabbing it, you search to the back of the shelf or dive into an overgrown stack of magazines, bills, junk mail, and miscellaneous paperwork to find it.

Cluttered surroundings mean a cluttered mind. Reading the preceding sentence is probably an arguable statement; however, if your mind isn’t a mess, then why is your house or office? Are your surroundings an extension of your mind and heart? You could probably detail the contents of every pile and possess a mental catalog of the items contained in every closet. Brain space can be used for something far more useful, don’t you agree?

Now that a thorough look has been given to the effects of clutter, let’s examine resolutions:

Find storage boxes and grab several garbage bags
Right now, go to your closets and scan for items that you no longer want or need. You know the items I speak of because you’ve seen them many times over the last several months, and you always comment to yourself that the item needs to be tossed or sent to charity. As you begin filling boxes, pay close attention to items that can be discarded: stained t-shirts, broken knick-knacks, a left shoe (because you haven’t found the right one since early 2003), and items that are ripped or were shrunk during the last wash cycle. When finished collecting and boxing your items, immediately put the boxes into your car and take them to a goodwill store, plus deposit filled trash bags into a garbage can.

Over the last couple of hours, you eliminated some of clutter plaguing your surroundings. You feel like you’ve accomplished something, right? Taking a large project and chipping away at it can be very rewarding, so don’t feel the need to get it all done in one day.

Place one room or area within your cross hairs
Make a mental list of the areas in your home that need attention. Notice that “mental list” was mentioned, instead of an actual list. There’s no sense creating a printed list when all you need to do is gaze around the area to “see your to-do list.”

Go by room, or make a mental note of descending projects from worse to least. If you don’t wish to tackle large projects in the beginning, focus your efforts on small areas so you continuously end the day with the feeling you accomplished something, no matter how small. Actually, finishing smaller projects can also give the impression that things are progressing quickly without burdening yourself with big to-dos that can chip away at your stamina level.

Solicit the help of beggars
Family members and friends are oftentimes very willing to help with spring-cleaning and reorganization, especially when you offer free stuff. Extra blankets, Christmas ornaments, dishes, and clothing you’ve outgrown can all be up for grabs to anyone willing to help you sort and discard your “excess.” In addition, the extra pairs of hands and the companionship can be refreshing and lift your energy level during your organization binge.

Do you know friends who are gearing up for a yard or garage sale? Offer your boxed items to them free of charge, but with one stipulation: they must pick up and haul the stuff to their house. By offering your clutter to someone else, you’re ridding it from your home and offering someone else the ability to make a few extra dollars from the items. This scenario is beneficial for both of you.

Giving an old item new life
If you’re adamant about keeping some items, try to find a new use or by situating in a new room. Furniture, for example, can be moved to a different room or location in the same room. Draping a scarf or tablecloth over a stand or dresser can breathe new life into an old piece. For those items you no longer need, but don’t wish to part with, consider giving them to a sibling or child. Just because you love the look of something, or “never quite found a use for it,” doesn’t mean it needs to stay under your roof. Give it away, so others can enjoy it as well, but adamantly stipulate that you can reclaim it at any time — and for any decorating reason.

Deterrence will help you win the battle
For magazines you receive weekly, but never seem to find the time to read, throw them into a recycling bin once retrieved from the mailbox. If you find a chunk of free time, you can always dig one out to read. By immediately placing your magazines and other publications into a recycling bin, you’re avoiding those paper piles that seem to “have babies” overnight.

Visit the trashcan after opening your mail. Have you ever noticed that approximately 2/3 of everything that arrives in your mailbox is junk. From opened envelopes to flyers that were strategically placed with every incoming bill, it’s important to throw these items away before the stuff finds a home on a counter or table.

The best way to deter on-going clutter is to avoid it altogether. Keep away from yard sales where you buy things you don’t really need. When making any purchase, ask yourself if the buy is a want or a need. Past “wants” are cluttering your closets right now; therefore, steering away from the pattern that got you into the mess in the first place will help you avoid it in the future.

When you’ve eliminated the gobs of unused shoes, books, hole-ridden sweaters, out-of-date medicines, knick-knacks, and so on, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Imagine how efficient you’ll be when you reach into a cupboard for a specific bowl, and find it front and center. No searching; no digging. Imagine the clothes you’ll rediscover in your closet. Tipping the scale towards efficiency will offer more benefits than you can imagine.

Author's Bio: 

Written by Teena Rose, author of Starting a Home- or Office-based Résumé Business (second edition), available at http://www.resumebiz.com. The book covers key topics: an analysis of the résumé industry; how to create a business plan, effective customer service, and marketing/advertising techniques. A highly informative book, so get your copy today!