Clear the clutter: how to organize all of your excess stuff

Organizational system can keep clutter at bay
Effective systems like labelling can help avoid clutter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Maggie Megenbir

VICTORIA – Disorganized and cluttered homes are often the result of busy lives, but tackling the stuff in a home is an important step in freeing a space of disorder while relieving stress for its owner.

Maggie Megenbir, Victoria professional organizer, says clutter is unnecessary weight in a space.

“They are things that weigh people down,” says Megenbir. “Clutter is stuff that doesn’t contribute to the life that we want for ourselves.”

The stuff that accumulates in a home can contribute to both physical and mental clutter, says Megenbir.

“I hear from my clients over and over, when they clear physical clutter they feel much more clear in their mind,” she says. “It clears up the mental clutter and has an internal impact for them.”

According to Megenbir, homeowners lead such busy lives that they often become overwhelmed and just don’t have the time to stay on top of the contents of their homes.

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Developing effective organization systems for a home is key to keeping a handle on clutter.

“They need to work well for the person who is using them,” says Megenbir. “The systems also need to be easy to use, and just make sense in general.”

Storing items near where they are most often used is an important way to battle clutter. Megenbir says if a homeowner is using a blender, but has to go down the hall to put it away in a closet or pantry, it is more likely to stay on the counter.

“If the blender is stored in a cupboard right near where it is most often used, then it is easy to just put it away,” she says.

A Calgary professional organizer says homeowners come up with many reasons to avoid the task of organizing and purging excess items.

“People get stuck,” says Paula Blundell. “People get overwhelmed and can’t make a decision about getting rid of something. They come up with all sorts of reasons for keeping items.”

Blundell says homeowners should keep an item if it is something they absolutely love, and if it fits the vision they have for their life and home.

“If you walk into your master bedroom the first question to ask yourself is what vision do you have for the space? How do I want it to feel?” she says. “If the answer is I want this space to be sacred and calm, then your kids’ toys and your laptop probably shouldn’t be in that space.”

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While Blundell has heard many good reasons for keeping items, she has also heard several bad ones, the most common being “I paid so much for that.”

“That is not a good reason because it is just a cost. You’ve already spent the money and you’re not getting it back,” she says.

Many people also keep unwanted items out of obligation or guilt, and Blundell says the person who gave the gift would be happier knowing it’s not a burden in their life.

Once the decision has been made to start organizing and purging clutter, the most important step is to be prepared.

Blundell says a homeowner should schedule it in their week, and start small. Dealing with a cupboard, drawer or half a closet will give a homeowner a sense of accomplishment rather than feeling discouraged.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“Everything you own has some sort of story or meaning in your life,” says Blundell. “When you bring in an outside third party like a friend to help you clean up, they are able to see stuff as just stuff and can make decisions of what to get rid of much easier.”

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