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Simplify your life and deal with clutter

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is planning to simplify your life and deal with clutter, then here are some tips to get you started. Many people keep every bill, receipt and financial statement because they are afraid to throw anything away. But many times they can’t find what they are looking for because their homes are overwhelmed with clutter.

The University of Illinois Extension Service has a helpful website that will give you step-by-step instructions to begin the de-cluttering process.  The website has sections dealing with different types of clutter. It can give homeowners a strategy to deal with financial and tax records, how to organize kitchens, clothing, kid’s rooms, keepsakes, etc… The website address is http://extension.illinois.edu/clutter/clearing.html

Getting rid of clutter means throwing it away, recycling it, donating it, or selling it. But that means attacking the problem first. The first step is to arm yourself with four large containers–boxes or large garbage bags–and one laundry basket. Have one bag or box each for the following items: garbage, recycling, giveaways or donations, yard sales or consignments.


Items that you intend to keep but need to return to their correct places in other rooms should go into the laundry basket. As quickly as possible, pick up items one by one and decide which container they go in.

Give yourself a time limit before you start. When the time is up, toss out the garbage, and make one tour around the house with the laundry basket to return misplaced items to their proper place. Plan which area you will work on next.

  • If you are having trouble deciding what to get rid of, ask yourself these six questions:
  • How long has it been since I used this?
  • Do I like it?
  • Does it work properly? Is it broken?
  • Do I have more than one kind of this thing? How many do I need?
  • If I keep this, what will I get rid of to make room for it?
  • Can I locate this information somewhere else if I need it?

Be realistic about repairing broken items. Some items cost more to repair than to replace. If you’ve already replaced the item, it’s unlikely you’ll ever repair the old one.

Have a buddy. This is especially helpful if you’re planning to work for a lengthy period of time at one stretch. You will probably run into items that are difficult for you to decide what to do with. And you may reach a point where you feel you can’t make decisions any more. Have a good friend, sibling, or your spouse with you. It will make the task less burdensome, and they may help you decide what to do with the tougher items. Shred or tear up documents you intend to toss that contain personal information.

Turn some of that former clutter into cash. This can be a great way to motivate yourself and your children to sort through belongings. Whether you have a yard sale, or rent a space at a swap meet or flea market, you will not sell everything. Plan ahead how you will handle the items that are left. Don’t bring unsold items back into your house. Identify a place to donate those items that are usable. If you need a receipt for tax purposes, end your yard sale in time to load and deliver your leftovers before they close.

Questions? Contact Sharon Treen, UF/IFAS Extension, Flagler County Director streen@ufl.edu

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