Although no two piles of clutter are identical, Peter Walsh says there are some universal strategies that anyone can apply toward conquering their clutter.
First, ask yourself what you want from your life. Peter says the starting point in getting rid of your stuff or dealing with your stuff is in answering this question, honestly and from your heart. Then narrow it down and assess your expectations for your home, or even a specific room, he says.
One of the biggest tricks to keeping yourself organized is to stop buying things! Peter says you'll never make a dent in your clutter unless you stop the influx of new items coming into your home. This includes junk mail, magazines, newspapers and anything that is not a bare necessity for living.
Feeling overwhelmed? Peter says to start with small steps. Have each family member fill two trash bags a day, one for garbage and the other with items for charity. "That can really make a huge difference," Peter says. Start by tackling just one room at a time, he says.
If you are a collector, Peter says you need to keep it under control. Whether it's Elvis memorabilia or Pez dispensers, collecting things can become more than just a hobby—it can be an obsession!
"The line between collectable and clutter is razor thin," Peter says. "Just because you have a lot of things that are the same doesn't make it a collection." If your collection is worth pursuing, Peter says it should be something you love, honor, respect, display and enjoy. You should always keep your collection grouped together in one area of your home, and have specific parameters. Know what you are collecting and why you are collecting it.
To keep your closet from overflowing, Peter suggests turning every hanger in the closet so it faces toward the back. When you wear something, turn the clothing hanger around. After six months, any clothes on hangers that have not been turned back around should be given to charity.
If you are having trouble letting go of things for sentimental reasons it may be time to move on. "By keeping yourself in the past you will never let go," Peter says. "The stuff is like an anchor—you have to hold on to those memories because they are what has made you who you are—but you have to start putting those things in perspective so you can move into life as an adult."
Peter says to look at the stuff from the past and learn to separate the memory from the object. Instead of holding on to things, take a photograph of items and make a memory album. And, you don't have to get rid of everything. Choose one or two items from your childhood collections to keep then sell the rest. You can take a trip with the proceeds!
One of the biggest tools to keeping an organized house is to get the kids involved. Peter says the secret to having clutter-free kids starts with teaching them how to sort. You can also make cleaning into a game. Peter suggests giving each of your children a type of thing—clothes, toys or books—to be responsible for. At the count of three, have each child scramble to pick up their assigned items!
If you are still having trouble deciding whether to keep something Peter says to ask yourself if you really need it. If you hesitate while deciding, you don't.