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When it’s time for clutter to hit the road

Having a personalized system can keep unnecessary stuff from piling up

February 27, 2008

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ShopSmart, the shopping magazine published by Consumer Reports, recommends that building in 10 to 15 minutes a day to clean up your home can help reduce clutter.

ShopSmart, the shopping magazine published by Consumer Reports, recommends that building in 10 to 15 minutes a day to clean up your home can help reduce clutter.

Odds are that most people's drawers are a mess. So where to begin? Experts from Shop-Smart (the shopping magazine published by Consumer Reports) advise that people create an exit plan for all the clutter.

That means going through every closet and drawer and getting rid of the stuff that is really not needed. But pruning piles requires more than a few trash bags. For long-lasting mess management, people need a system that will mesh with their personality and the way they like to operate.

"The first thing so many of us do in our attempts to get organized is run out and purchase all of those pretty organizers but, the truth is, shopping for cute containers should be the last step in the organizing process," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "Following our guide will not only give you a clutter-free environment but will also save you big on time and money."

ShopSmart consulted anti-mess specialists for their favorite tricks and tools. Read all the tips and create a personal plan of attack that will help create order once and for all. If all else fails, hire someone else to do it.

Professional help

Organizing is one of those sketchy professions where anybody can say he or she's a pro and charge a fee without any accreditation. So it's important to find someone reputable. A pro should have several years of experience and have handled similar projects. Certified organizers have to take exams and training classes. Consumers can find one in their area by visiting the National Association of Professional Organizers Web site at www.napo.net.

ShopSmart's experts recommend getting at least three references from potential organizers, and to call those people to find out how satisfied they were with the job. Fees can range from $25 an hour to thousands of dollars for a major project, so it's essential to find out how much organizers charge before getting started. People may want to consider working out a flat fee, because paying an hourly rate can get pricey, especially for those who are going to have a tough time parting with their stuff.

Avoiding clutter traps

¢ Problem: Too many keepsakes.

Solution: Save just the best part, such as one teacup from Grandma's chipped set.

¢ Problem: Not enough time to stay organized.

Solution: Build in 10 to 15 minutes between activities to clean up.

¢ Problem: Heirlooms there's no use or room for.

Solution: Pass them on to someone else in the family who would really appreciate them.

¢ Problem: Unwanted gifts.

Solution: Give yourself permission to let them go.

¢ Problem: Kids' art projects.

Solution: Keep only the best, letting the artist pick the keepers, and take photos of the others.

¢ Problem: "I'll need it someday" thinking.

Solution: Think about why you're keeping them, and if there's no purpose now or in the very near future, chuck them.

¢ Problem: Piles everywhere.

Solution: Think of clutter as postponed decisions. Decide what to do with things as they come up and less clutter will pile up.

- Visit the Consumer Reports Web site at <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org">www.consumerreports.org</a>.

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