Cleaning Out All That Clutter

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - December 03, 2008
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A cluttered cubicle isn’t an efficient work station

This holiday season, I’ve decided to fast. Not from food, but from my clutter.

I confess, I have a hoarding problem. It’s something I have to deal with not only at home, but at work, in my car and even on my computer.

I just like to save everything, thinking I might want or need it one day. Although, over time, I forget where I put these things or that I even have them.

The worse part of it all is that I have a 13-month-old and, for obvious reasons, a baby and clutter just is not a good combination. It’s dangerous.

So, I’ve decided to go through my possessions and get organized. OK, the truth is I’ve tried to declutter numerous times before. I even had a few yard sales as motivation to let go of things. But no matter how many boxes of junk I dump or bags of unwanted goods I donate, there still seems to be piles of stuff all over the place.

This time, however, it’s different. Why? Because my reason for doing it is different, and I have a very specific, fast-approaching deadline - I want to bring home a Christmas tree so that my baby can wake up to find presents wrapped nicely under a tree instead of seeing them stacked up in the corner of a room, on a table, in the hallway or on the bed.


And, for myself, it’s the only cure to that painful headache I get every day when I’m greeted by my mess at work and home.

“When people are disorganized, they can feel out of control. Their productivity is down and their efficiency is down, so they’re wasting a lot of time and energy,” says Kelly Galvin, owner of Organized in Paradise. “And the big one nowadays is they’re wasting money because they’re buying things they already have or things get damaged easily because they’re not stored and kept properly.

“Also, it just looks bad if things are cluttered and disorganized.”

Galvin has been a professional organizer for the last 12 years and says one of the biggest challenges for people is paper - they like to keep it, but not in any organized fashion.

“It starts with a little pile here and they’ll say, ‘I’ll look at it later,’” explains Galvin. “And then they start another pile or they’ll have to clean that one up because somebody’s coming, so they’ll put it in a bag or a box and put it to the side and it never gets dealt with. And that kind of thing can happen over and over again, so paper is probably the No. 1 culprit to clutter.”

Galvin, who has a natural talent for organization, says being organized is a skill you can learn. The more you practice it, the better you get at it, and the easier it becomes.

“When you’re doing this project on your own, one of the things that’s important is to do a small, manageable amount at any one given time period because it’s very easy to get distracted, and if it’s not your thing to do organizing you’re probably going to give up,” advises Galvin. “So, if you pull everything out of a room, for example, and you say ‘I’m going to do this room today’and you quit after a certain time, you’ve almost made the situation worse.”

Here are some other organizational tips from Galvin:

* For clothes, a general rule is that if you haven’t worn it in a year, it should probably go. Still can’t decide? Here’s a little trick to help you: Take all the clothes hanging in your closet and turn the hangers backwards. Every time you wear something, hang it back up the proper way. Then, after three months or six months, or whatever time frame you choose, all the hangers that are still hanging the wrong way are garments that you’re unlikely to wear.

* If you’re upgrading or buying a replacement for something, such as a TV or pots and pans, the original needs to go.

* Be careful when donating your unwanted items. Do not give rubbish or things that are unusable to charities.

* Labeling things is important. You can use a label maker or simple masking tape and a Sharpie pen.

* Invest in at least one two-drawer filing cabinet. It’s a great place store your important documents and bills so that when you need it, you’ll know where to find it.

* Ask for help, whether from a professional or from a friend. It’ll be completed much faster and your experience will be more enjoyable.

For more helpful ideas, visit

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