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3 Steps to Tackle Your Clutter

Guest post from Jennifer of Pure and Simple Organizing

Our garages and attics are often the most neglected areas of our home. How often do you actually get in the garage to sort through your precious stuff? We just pile and stuff, pile and forget.

We think that once the garage door is closed, we will forget about all the boxes we have piled and stuffed. However, our sneaky subconscious mind reminds us day in and day out about our clutter lurking in these neglected places.

Does the clutter in your home (visible or not) bother you?

My guess is that it does. We, as humans, crave order, and clutter is not order. It causes stress and anxiety, not to mention, it packs our homes full of stuff that we don’t really need or use. Thus, your home becomes a storage unit, not a peaceful, relaxing domain.

Tackle that clutter!

1. Start with the room that bothers you the most (garage, attic, kitchen)

Pick a weekend to tackle the project — it will take longer than you think!

Talk to your family and get them on board with sorting, purging, and cleaning — if the clutter is bothering you, then I bet it is bothering them, too.

If you have a friend who loves to organize, call her, too! You could treat her to dinner or babysit her children for a few hours in exchange for her help.

2. Take everything out. Yes, everything must come out! Make sure that the space is clear.

Sort like with like.  (Toys, holiday decorations, pictures, memory lane)

Throw away anything that is broken, moldy, faded, and not in great condition

Donate multiple items and anything you don’t use, love or need.

3. Evaluate your progress and repeat with the next space!

Organizing helps energize and inspire you. You want to live in the moment rather than be succumbed to the past. Treasure your memories as they live in your head and heart, not in your stuff. Display treasured items. If you keep something special, then serve its purpose. Frame your christening gown and hang on the wall! Put your first report card in a photo album.

Keep what you love and use. Toss or donate the rest.

These pictures are of a garage that was badly overstuffed and forgotten. In four days, I managed to create inventory zones for holiday decorations, pool storage, and memory lane. The owners were thrilled! The husband even mentioned putting a pool table in the middle — he had no idea there was so much room up there!

Organize to live simply. Downsize, learn to live in the moment, and you will soon forget about all of the extra stuff.

Jennifer is a home organizer in Charlotte, NC. Her mission is to help families and individuals find calm within their home after clearing out the chaos. Giving someone the opportunity to increase their quality of life by cleaning up and out is her passion! She blogs at Pure and Simple Organizing.

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  • If I have an entire room that is filled with clutter, I find it more helpful to work on one section at a time. When I have attempted to clean an entire room all at once I end up getting tired and throwing everything back in the room, then I am too discouraged to work on it again. Just a thought! 🙂

    • I tend to think more like Jennifer–clean the whole room at once! I actually would have trouble doing a room over a whole weekend. I’d rather spend one whole day doing it and be done! When I reorganize I tend to make a lot of piles (that make sense to me) and if I went one section at a time, I would end up with lots of mini piles and I think I would go nuts. But as long as it’s getting done, either way works 🙂

    • Jan says:

      that’s what I think too- a whole attic like that would take me a few weeks- it would be so mentally and physically exhausting for me

    • There are so many factors to consider when starting a project and you ladies hit on a lot of them!
      1) Energy drains quickly
      2) Our emotions go into overdrive.
      3) Our focus is stretched too thin!

      Scheduling several hours over a consistent timeframe will help. Bringing in family and friends will make it more fun. I like adding music to the mix as well! 🙂 My mind races when I organize — Im trying to think 5 steps ahead so I usually tune out the music but my clients really enjoy it. 🙂

    • Fitwi says:

      Good thought

  • ” You want to live in the moment rather than be succumbed to the past. Treasure your memories as they live in your head and heart, not in your stuff.” Well said Jennifer!

    My mother in law has saved decades worth of cards,etc. We found them in shirt boxes in the closet. I told my husband to let his sisters have them when his mom passes away. Who wants that guilt of not getting rid of them just because she kept them for so many years.

    • Thank you so very much Kim! 🙂 Its hard to let things go because we are worried that we are doing a disservice to the person who gave it and/or might forget all of the love and memories we make in our past.

      Truly though – memories live with us forever. No card or note will remind us of all the wonderful things that have crossed our paths. Our memories remind us. 🙂

      • Andrea says:

        I disagree! A card with only a signature isn’t worth keeping, but many times, a personal note brings back a flood of memories.

  • chelsea says:

    That is quite a cleaning spree on the attic! I was amazed how many asked us when we bought our house if we would use our garage for storage or for parking cars. Um…does one set out to use the garage as storage, or does it just become that way? We use it for our cars, and you can’t fit much more in there.

    • Lisa says:

      This makes me chuckle, because I always saw the garage as the place for cars and maybe a little storage. My husband, on the other hand, grew up with a handyman father who uses the garage as a shop/storage area. My mother-in-law has never been able to park her car in the garage, and my husband was surprised when I said, “No, I’m parking in the garage!” Keeping it as a place for the car first and foremost helps us keep the storage area at least mostly organized.

  • jill says:

    NICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We’re working on some of our spaces bit by bit and it’s coming together 🙂 basement, garage and our storage areas upstairs 🙂

    • Congratulations Jill! It takes a lot of courage and motivation to start the organizing process (big or small). I find that once it is started the progress comes pretty quickly! And so does the energy! 🙂

  • Diane says:

    Great job!

  • Leighann says:

    That attic is bigger than our entire house. *sigh* And there are 5 people living in our house.

    • shelly says:

      I had the same thought! I’ve never seen an attic like that before. Sometimes I’m grateful for my dinky little attic, because it truly helps me not to hoard 🙂

  • Davonne says:

    I love this post! I just want to add that instead of making a helpful friend a nice dinner or babysitting (both of which are wonderful things), someone could also trade cleaning days. A friend and I are doing this – one or two Saturdays per month our husbands are keeping the kids while we declutter. One Saturday at my house, the next time at hers. We are planning on doing this until our homes are completely organized, and our husbands are happy to help with the children because they love the benefits of a nicer home =)

    • That is a great idea Davonne! Men shy away from organizing for a number of reasons but they are sometimes more excited about a “nicer home” than the women. 🙂 Great idea! Thank you for sharing!!

  • Tara H says:

    Great ideas!! We really need to do this with our garage! Your after picture is amazing!

  • I LOVE the before and after pictures of this. They get me so pumped up to clean (yes, I am strange…LOL). I have recently decided that YES, the clutter bothers me more than I realize. I am selling so much stuff at a childrens’ consignment sale next week and I feel so much freedom already every time I walk through our play room. There is something about getting rid of stuff and simplifying your life that feels awesome and gives you more time and energy to devote to things that are actually important in life! 🙂

    • Thank you Leah! 🙂 You are so right — cleaning up and out allows for opportunities to come into your life. Get rid of the “old” and make room for the new.

      “When all your available space is filled with clutter, there is no room for anything new to come into your life. Your thoughts tend to dwell in the past, and you feel bogged down with problems that have dogged you for some time….You have to release the past to create a better tomorrow.” ~Karen Kingston, Author of Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui

      I couldnt have said it better! 🙂

  • For us it’s the attic. Objectively speaking, we don’t even have that much stuff (we moved here, overseas, six months ago, and kept to a pretty strict shipping budget)–mostly out of season clothes, hand-me-downs that don’t yet fit the kids, and my soapmaking supplies–but I can’t find anything!

    Part of the problem is seasonal. The garage (well, we don’t have one, but you know what I mean) and the attic tend to get real hot in the summer and real cold in the winter. My husband just told me that there is now SNOW in the attic. So even though I am constantly wondering where things are, there is no way organizing is going to happen until the spring. I guess that’s why they call it spring cleaning?

    • Jessica says:

      If there is snow in your attic, then you need to call a roofing company. If there’s room for snow, there’s room for pests. When that snow melts, you are going to have a serious mess on your hands not to mention damage to your wood, ceilings and walls.

      We’ve owned our home for 8 years and had a lot of problems with it, so I speak from experience.

    • If you decide to tackle any projects in the summer I highly suggest starting early AM, take a break during the day, and come back at night. This project was completed during July — and Charlotte in July is a h.o.t. month. We left a thermometer out to see how hot it got during the day. 109 degrees! Definitely not a safe working environment! Safety first! 🙂

  • Unfortunately, our garage looks a lot like your before picture right now. We are planning on getting it cleaned out and organized once the weather is nicer here. However, I did organize my kitchen pantry a few days ago and I’m really pleased with that. I took me 3 hours to get it done but it is so worth it.

    • I love when you start with a project that has a daily impact on your life! Hopefully an organized pantry will spill over into saving money on groceries and meal planning. I hate buying a can of something only to realize I had one in the pantry.

      Call in back up for the garage — it can be done but the more hands and help — the faster it will go! 🙂

  • Meredith says:

    I think it would take me an entire day to just take the stuff out of our garage!!!! Maybe I should just host an episode of Storage Wars at my house. Actually, these are great ideas! Thanks for posting!

  • Having a garage sale sometimes helps motivate you to get the stuff out! 🙂 Other times it creates more work (sorting, pricing, advertising). Do some research in your area and see if there are companies who come get your stuff and sell it on consignment for you. We have a guy (Captain Clutter) who does just that! It might be worth it!

  • Stephanie says:

    Clutter suffocates my happiness more quickly than about anything else. During the first 9 years of our marriage, we lived in 3 different houses. Moving helped me stay more organized purge the clutter. Now we are a family of 6 living in a ranch style home without a basement or functional attic space. We have been there 6-1/2 years, and things are piling up so much!
    Thanks for sharing and providing inspiration for me to “get at it” again. I’m hoping to get rid of so much stuff that it makes the neighbors think we’re moving. 🙂

  • Crystal says:

    I think the main thing is not to be immobilized by your stress or dread of clutter. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by what it would take to get a room (or the whole house even) cleaned up that we do nothing. Just do something! Tackle one drawer, or one stack of papers. Wipe down one piece of furniture, but do something!

    • Lisa says:

      Yes, this is my problem – I get overwhelmed, do nothing, and then feel even worse. You’re right; even a little something helps!

  • B says:

    I LOVE to organize. Looking at the picture of the junked-up attic just gets my hands twitching and ready to get into action!! I’m up for hire if anyone wants to treat me to dinner! hahaha

  • Wendy says:

    Does the clutter in your home (visible or not) bother you?
    My guess is that it does.

    I have to laugh. My clutter is in the attic and if I can’t see it, then no, it really does not bother me. I can’t be the only one that feels that way about invisible clutter.

  • The attic looks so great afterward. I have decluttered and made an effort to live more simply over the last few years, and it has made such a difference! It is really not worth it to have all that stuff.

    • Audrey, since you took the path of a more organized life {that sounds great} — do you find yourself ever missing anything that you donated or threw away?
      This is a big fear that a lot of us have and it holds us back to an extent. 🙂

  • Jeannine says:

    Thanks so sharing this. I have been in the past few years trying to be more organized. It helps in other areas of life too. Your attic looks great. I like the use of the those plastic shelves we use those also in the garage. Upwards I say is a great way to organize.

    Up and off the floor!!And yes, men love this!!

    • I am a BIG fan of organizing up! We dont maximize vertical space enough!
      How has being organized helped in other areas of your life {if you dont mind me asking}? 🙂

      • Jeannine says:

        I would say just basic good health. I can get more done if most areas of my home are basically organized. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. If each item has a home that is well organized we save lots of time not looking for that item or looking for a place to put it. Children seem to really like organization too. It helps them know where their stuff is and how to put it away when they are done with it.

  • Lisa says:

    Our cluttered kitchen cupboards had been bugging me. My original plan was to go one drawer or cupboard at a time, but when I told my husband this, the next thing I knew he had put the extra leaf in the dining table and was emptying all the cupboards. We took an afternoon and sorted, purged, and re-organized. I LOVE the result!

  • Meredith says:

    I’ve been organizing for the past year or so, and, yes, I love it when a space has been organized. What I’m finding surprising is how often and quickly we’ll need to reorganize a space. For example, our store room. Oh my…. we can go through it, clear it out, organize it, and then 2 months later it seems to get cluttered again! Oh well, it is, what it is, but it’s definitely a place we need to revisit often.

    • There are definitely spaces in our homes {and lives} that need to be revisited more often than others. Is your store room your landing zone, as in, do you come through this room everytime you leave and come home?
      Are the issues with paper coming in and out, or stuff getting dropped and deposited?

  • Enjoyed your post and I couldn’t agree more! 🙂

    I look forward to visiting you soon at ‘Pure and Simple Organizing’


  • shelly says:

    Wow, what I wouldn’t give to have an attic like that! Or better yet, an attic at all! No attic and no basement, but the great thing is it means no clutter 🙂

  • melissa says:

    I wish she was in michigan I sure could use the help and guidence… i feel like i will never have the uncluttered,scerene house that i ave always wanted.. that i am proud to show off to company.

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