Bedroom Closet: Reverse Clothes-Hanger Trick
Turn all the clothes hanging in your closet so that the hangers face back-to-front. For the next six months, if you wear an item of clothing, return it to the closet with the hanger facing the correct way. If you try it on but decide not to wear it, make sure you put it back with the hanger turned backward—no cheating. Be prepared for a shock; you are going to find you own lots of clothes you have no use for. You should seriously consider getting rid of anything you don't wear regularly.
Bathroom: Read the Numbers
All makeup has an expiration date. Sometimes it is stamped on the product itself, sometimes on the packaging. Regardless, most makeup goes bad in six months. A good rule of thumb is that the closer the product is used to the eyes, the shorter its lifespan. Mascaras go bad after about four months, while lotions generally last about 12 months, and perfume has a shelf life of three years. Some perfume bottles have a manufacturer's code listed on the bottom. This code might look something like AJ6549. The last number indicates the year in which the perfume was made. In this case, the perfume was likely manufactured in 2009—hopefully not 1999—so it would be good until 2012. It is always best to check with the manufacturer of the cosmetic if you are unsure of its use-by date.
Home Office: Go Low-Tech
Many people are uncomfortable with shredding or discarding paid bills, but if you want to keep these records, you need to keep the paperwork under control. Start by purchasing a 12-month expanding file. When you pay bills for, say, June, place them in the June section. A year later, if you haven't needed to look at the bills, it's highly unlikely that you'll ever need them again. Shred them. To organize receipts, a simple, low-tech solution is to use two bankers' spikes. Get in the habit of cleaning receipts out of your wallet or purse daily. Place receipts on one of the spikes as they come in. When one spike is full, start the other. If you haven't needed any of the receipts by the time you fill up the second spike, throw out everything on the first.
Kitchen: One-Month Cardboard Box Test
Not sure what you use and what you don't in your kitchen? Here is a tried and true way to find out. Empty the contents of your kitchen utensils drawer into a cardboard box. For one month, put a utensil back into the drawer only if you take it out of the box to use it. If it's still in the box after four weeks—you don't need it. Pass it on to charity.
Family Room: The Ratio-Reduction Rule
A simple, unsentimental way to start decluttering is to use the ratio rule to clear excess movies. For every four or five videos or DVDs you keep, remove one from your collection. Give them away to charity, or if you know someone who would enjoy a particular movie, pass it on to them. At the end of this sort-and-purge, if your movies still do not fit on your shelves, do the same thing again. Try to lower the ratio to three to one or, if you are really brave, two to one. Repeat the process until you have spare room for new acquisitions.
Under the Stairs: Stop Floor Creep
Once items start spreading across the floor, it's almost impossible to keep them under control. Use vertical space for storage to avoid "floor creep." Install a good, sturdy shelving system to stow the items you decide to keep. Remember, though, you shouldn't overload any of your storage areas just because you have the space!
Children's Room: Create Clear Zones
Involve your kids by having them help designate zones. Start by asking them to pick out items that represent each of the different activities they do. "You make art? What can you find that you use to make art?" Continue sorting items like this until you have piles containing things like a paintbrush for art, a pillow for sleep and a book for reading. Then they can make signs (or take pictures) showing each of the activities and label each sign with the word for that activity. Use these signs to identify the different zones so that your children can quickly and easily see where things belong and also as an aid in their reading skills.
Garage: Label, Label, Label
Garages and basements are good for medium- to longer-term storage—think seasonal items, sporting equipment and holiday decorations. But that doesn't mean you can dump things and forget about them. Be sure to clearly label any box, bin or container that goes into the garage so that items can be easily and quickly located. Consider different colored labels for like things—orange for Halloween decorations, white for holiday lights, green for unread books. Stop right there! That was a trick! There should be no unread books in the garage!
Keep Reading: Peter Walsh's 6 pointers for cleaning out your garage