closet doors packed

Photo: Nigel Cox

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The Behind-Closed-Doors Clutterer
Home looks pristine and well organized—until you start opening closet doors and are suddenly buried by file folders, moth-eaten coats, broken lamps, old kitchen appliances, paper towels, holiday decorations, and shopping bags full of purchases no one ever got around to returning. The BCD clutterer, Walsh explains, "lives in some flawless future universe instead of creating solutions that work today."

Perfectionists, control freaks, harried working moms, anyone who's time-starved and overbooked; perfectionists.

Walsh's Three-Step Plan

1. Get over yourself.

"With clutter, the great is the enemy of the good," says Walsh. In other words, that injury-inducing hall closet is the manifestation of your shame at failing to live up to your own unrealistically high housekeeping expectations.

2. Start with small, manageable chunks.

"This type of clutter is about delayed decisions," says Walsh. If perfecting a chic shoe-organizing system or deciding which wedding gifts to return is too difficult, start with something less emotionally laden, like the tangle of paper clips overrunning your junk drawer. Better yet, confine the task to a time frame: I will clean this closet for exactly 15 minutes. The next day, repeat.

3. Enlist a friend.

If you can't find time to spontaneously tackle your secret messes, schedule it—and invite a trusted relative or friend to help. By ceding some control to an impartial outsider, you'll keep things in perspective and make the process much more fun. Are you really going to repair those cracked candelabras? And what on Earth are you still doing with that neon green '80s-issue ski jacket?

Next: The knowledge clutterer