How many times have you put things away only to find piles a few weeks later? Where does it come from, and how can you control it?

Let’s begin with the first question. How does clutter get into your home or office? Through the front door. You (and the people around you) bring it in each day (although some swear it sneaks in at night!).

If things are constantly coming in, how do you control the piles? First, realize that you are in control of your surroundings. Items that pile up can’t come in by themselves. You may not have control over your spouse’s stuff, but you do have control of your own (and your children’s) stuff. You are in charge.

You need to begin thinking of yourself as the gatekeeper. Picture your home or office as a walled city. It is your job to decide what is allowed in the gate and where it goes. People under your care are counting on you to make good decisions.

Once you have recognized your authority as the gatekeeper, you can apply the following strategies:

• Declare a landing spot. Whether it’s the front door, laundry or mud room, or the kitchen counter, there is usually one place where the piles start.

• Inspect each item as it comes in. Do you like, need, and use what you bring in? Try on new clothes as soon as possible. Check to see if those towels match the rug. If not, put them back in the bag with the receipt.

• Divide and conquer. Take the gift baskets apart. Empty the suitcases and bags you brought home from your vacation or convention. It’s too tempting to put the entire bag or basket somewhere and deal with it later. Do it now!

• Toss the trash. There is always a certain amount of trash (flyers, envelopes, extra packaging). Eliminating the trash instantly makes the pile smaller.

• Be realistic. If you know you’re never going to eat the pickled tomatoes from that gift basket, toss or donate them. The same thing applies to magazines and catalogs. Are you really going to read/order this month?

• Sort according to the destination. Where does each item belong (kitchen, office, “to pay” file)? If it doesn’t have a place, you may need to reevaluate your decision to keep it.

• Don’t feel guilty. If you honestly like, need, or will use an item that has been given to you, allow it in. If not, toss it or donate it to someone who can use it. You don’t owe anyone an explanation once it enters your home. Remember, you are the gatekeeper.

• Get reinforcements for weak spots. If you can’t say no to Aunt Gladys when she gives you more toys for Junior, have a family member or friend help you evaluate.

• Move items to proper homes as soon as possible. This step is crucial. Don’t leave the piles at the door. Piles breed piles. Put things where they belong.

This month take control of what comes in your home or office. Recognize your authority as the gatekeeper. Divide and conquer. Put things in their proper homes. Taking control of your stuff will give you more control of your life. Take control of what comes through the door. You’ll be glad you did.

©Renee Ursem, 2011

Author's Bio: 

Renee Ursem, Professional Organizer and owner of Get It Together, LLC in Las Vegas, helps people learn how to organize and maintain their spaces using simple, practical strategies.
Renee can be reached at Find her on Facebook ( and Linkedin.