Southerners have a funny way of holding on to things; it could be our natural reverence for the past, or a clever use of the word “heirloom” that gives us free license to hoard. Even with the best of intentions, though, clutter can quickly take over a household if not addressed on a regular basis. Use these six tips to get your belongings under control—once and for all.
Secret #1: Purge on a Schedule
Newspapers, open mail, sales catalogues, and magazines can pile up fast. Some of this you may want to save, while some should be purged on a regular basis. If you make a household rule and stick with it (like keeping old magazines for three months before recycling, or always tossing holiday cards but never birthday cards), you won’t feel bad about throwing things out when it’s time to let them go.
Secret #2: Use Resale Value as Incentive
The old saying is true: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and what you consider clutter may actually make you some cash. Traditional methods for selling used items (like garage sales and local tag sales) are always an option, but also consider online methods, like Craigslist, eBay, or online consignment shops like thredUp. These methods require very little effort—like snapping a photo on your phone and uploading it online, or tossing unwanted clothes into a free pre-labeled bag—and items can sell surprisingly quickly, helping you save a little bundle of cash to buy something you actually love.
Secret #3: Be Realistic: Do you Really Like It?
Sure, it’s easy to stand in front of your closet and decide that you don’t really like your old slippers with the holes in them, but it’s another situation entirely when you force yourself to face something—a piece of furniture, a work of art—that you either paid a lot of money for at one time, or that you’ve inherited from a favorite relative. Think of it this way: If you don’t like it enough to display it in your home with pride, don’t keep it. See if another relative wants it (it may be just their taste!), donate it, or sell it.
Secret #4: Reimagine Your Storage Space
Sometimes a sense of clutter results from items living where they shouldn’t, like keeping extra toilet paper stowed under the bed, or rolls of gift-wrap stuffed into a laundry room cabinet. Just because you have a space carved for storage doesn’t mean that just any kind of item should live there. Make a list of all the storage spots in your home—thinking big, like attics, closets, and garage space, as well as small, like under-sink and under-bed areas—and thoughtfully consider how they should be used, rather than how they’re used now. If you decide to make some swaps, pull things out and rearrange; in the process, you may actually find that you don’t need half of the stuff you have stored away.
Secret #5: Stop Stockpiling
It’s time to face a hard truth: You do not need to keep 21 cans of diced tomatoes on hand in your pantry, just like you do not need to store 15 sets of clean sheets in your linen closet. You also don’t need to keep multiple housewarming and/or hostess gifts wrapped and at the ready in the event of an emergency get-together. Many of our southern mothers raised us to believe that stockpiling is the key to proper preparation—helping you become the perfect hostess, the perfect party guest, or the perfect friend—but often the things we stockpile with good intentions go unused, gathering dust in precious storage real estate. It’s a different kind of clutter, but clutter nonetheless. If you’ve stockpiled extra food, plan meals that will use up your stash; if you hoard tons of extra gifts, make someone feel special by giving them a “just-because” present. Just get it out of your house.
Secret #6: Organize for Your Life—Not Someone Else’s
Take a stroll down the storage aisle at your local big-box store, and you’ll find a plethora of super-specific organizational items—from fancy shoe forms and cardigan boxes to tiny nail polish racks and tie holders. Here’s the thing: The beauty of a well-ordered life is not that all of your belongings fit into a series of right-sized boxes, but that you conquer clutter that you want to stay on top of in the long run. If you can’t imagine stuffing each of your socks into the tiny pockets of a sock divider every time you do laundry, then the sock divider will simply become another piece of clutter in your life. Assess your needs, figure out what you actually care about organizing, and only spend time and money on projects that help you achieve those goals.