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Start with three boxes to sort clutter

Dear Gail: I hate to admit it, but my house is bursting at the seams with clutter. I’ve always liked having my favorite things around me to see and enjoy every day, but it’s gotten out of control. My house is neat and tidy, but it takes me so much time to keep it up. I know it’s time to let some things go but I just don’t know how. I don’t have the time anymore or want to spend the whole weekend cleaning. Help! — Ann H.

Dear Ann: You’re not alone. Over the years we all collect and gather things in our daily travels. We start off by picking up one cute accessory, and then before you know it, we have a collection. Then we have the daily items we use every day to contend with. We want to have them out for convenience, but that’s where the clutter begins.

Since you’re ready to let some things go, let’s start there. We’ve all read articles and probably watched a program or two about organizing, and, no, I don’t mean “Hoarders” — that goes beyond everyday organizing.

The first thing they have you do is get three boxes. One for items you’re going to keep, one for trash and one for donations. When I’m in a “set it free” mode, I add a couple more boxes.

I like one for items that should be in another room, keep to use later and sentimental items which will just stay boxed. When I get in my mode, it’s amazing how much empty space I can get but, still, have everything I started with. It’s all about proper organization.

Recently I went into a mega “set it free” mode. I replaced my flooring and painted, so everything had to be taken down, and all the furniture was going to have to be moved. I went through every single door, drawer, shelf and closet in my house, it was my opportunity to set things free.

When I picked up something, I asked myself, “Is this something I would take if we were to move?” Is this something that gives me joy? If the answer was no, it went into the donation box.

When a box got filled, it went into the truck. When the truck was filled, I drove to the donation center. When a trash bag was filled, it went to the curb. No looking back or rummaging through. I set free a 127-piece dinnerware set. I didn’t even realize how many pieces I had — some of which were still in their original boxes from when I bought them 30 years ago. I did this throughout the house.

I like to first handle the things I no longer need, then I can start on organizing what I have left. Some people like to do it all at the same time, but this process works for me. During the process, if I find something that belongs in another room, I take it to that room right then.

My next step is to organize what I have left. I consider if it’s something I use daily, every now and then, on a rare occasion or a sentimental keepsake. That helps me decide how to organize it and where I’ll place it, especially if I have limited space in the room.

For things I want at my fingertips, I look to see what accessories I have that can be made functional. I like to keep my coffee cup and sugar on the counter. So instead of storing a Waterford biscuit jar in the cabinet, which we never used, I have my sugar in it. I’ve now freed up cabinet space.

I brought back a fun Gzhel bowl from Russia, and instead of sitting empty, I have it on my desk for my pens and markers. I keep my makeup and hair supplies in a hat box on the counter — right at my fingertips but hidden away from sight.

Take your time when re-organizing. You want to organize your items in the proper container and place so that you never have to do it again, really.

Once I took the time and figured out what worked best for under my bathroom sinks, they’ve never been messy again. I know exactly where everything is and all within easy reach. Clear plastic bins and drawers were my solutions. I like using clear plastic so that I don’t need to open them to know what’s inside.

A couple years ago I found a website, FlyLady.net. She encourages the “21 Fling Boogie.” Grab a trash bag, head to a room, decide if you’re going to fill it with trash or donation items and fling 21 things in the bag. Carry the bag to the curb or your car.

Do this once a week, and before you know it, you won’t be able to find a thing to fling. Plus, it just feels great!

You don’t want your whole house turned upside down so take one room at a time and go through one door, drawer, shelf or closet at a time. I had a deadline, so I was on a mission to get it done.

It’s been six months, and I’m getting another “set it free” itch. My husband always jokes with me that he hopes he’s not in one of the boxes one day.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to GMJinteriors@gmail.com. Or, mail to 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her web address is www.GMJinteriors.com.

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