Simplify and Downsize: Tips for Reorganizing Your Home

From Better Homes and Gardens

You spent time and energy creating a home for you and your family when you first moved in, and now, your house is lovely, bright and comfortable—with the exception of one thing: the clutter. When you had just one or two decorative plates brought home from your European travels, they were cool and eclectic. But now that every relative has returned from vacation with a new ceramic plate for your collection, it's time to reassess. Here's how to cut clutter and emphasize all of the things you love most about your home.

Purge old paperwork.

Getting rid of old office paperwork is extremely liberating—particularly for the overnight guest who is sharing her bedroom with your office. Tossing random notes, old checklists and files quickly transforms an office into a place where you can think, and where guests can feel welcome. Create a box to hold papers that need shredding as you sort, and then shred them while you watch television to make the time go by quickly. When you've cut through the backlog of papers, start fresh and shred papers immediately after you've sorted the mail.

Shop your pantry.

For some people, being prepared means having enough food to feed an army. But the more you store, the more likely you are to forget what you have. In an effort to cut pantry clutter, explore new recipes for a few weeks to utilize what you already own. Avoid buying more nonperishable items until you run out of something. You'll save grocery money and free up room so you can restock in a more orderly fashion. Make note of how long it takes you to clear out your cupboards, and use that as a guideline for how much food you really need to store in the future.

Create a restful retreat.

Make your bedroom a haven by surrounding yourself with things that bring you comfort and peace. Let go of furniture and other objects in the room that take up space without adding value. If space allows, carve out a nook for a reading chair and ottoman or a chaise. You can also layer your bed with blankets that add color and warmth. Install artwork or use paint to customize and brighten your space.

Organize for your needs.

An organized closet can help set the tone for the day ahead. When you can see everything you own, you can find things faster, get dressed with confidence and feel ready to tackle the day. When deciding how you should organize a clothes closet, ask yourself the following: How do I look for things? How do I get dressed? How do I put things away? Sort your items into categories based on your responses. To make things even easier to find, try color-coding items within your categories.

Declutter and do good.

It's easy to hold on to bath products such as soaps and lotions, especially those received as gifts. But don't let these items steal prime countertop space or crowd out items you need to access every day. Create a boundary, such as a basket or bin, for "relax" items; when it's full, follow a one in, one out rule. Have extras worth sharing? Local shelters are always looking for supplies.

Create play stations.

When toys, books and dress-up clothes have proper homes, children can participate in the cleanup process and help keep clutter to a minimum. Consider dividing a bedroom or playroom into activity stations to create clear separation. Make sure children have easy access to items they gravitate to frequently, such as a basket for books. Avoid oversize containers that make it hard for children to find toys, and keep lids to a minimum—except on items you want to control access to, such as art supplies.

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