Mitzi Parker: Clutter, and how to end it

Published 4:06 pm Sunday, May 21, 2017

Clutter! We are all guilty of having at least one preverbal “junk” drawer — or closet or garage or storage shed — you get the idea. I’m not pointing fingers; I’m probably guiltier then most. I have lots excuses — kids, fur babies, not enough time in the day, etc. — sound familiar? Spring has passed and I never “got around to” the spring cleaning. The good news is that you can spring clean and clear the clutter anytime; you just have to make a plan and do it!

First, let me start with two important reasons you should tackle the clutter.
• Pests: Clutter is a favorite hiding spot and home for unwelcome critters. Rodents and bugs will use cluttered areas as shelter, nesting areas, and depending on the type of clutter, a food source. Rodents and bugs present health hazards in the home.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) worldwide, rats and mice spread over 35 diseases. These diseases can be spread to humans directly, through contact with rodent bites, feces, urine, or saliva, or indirectly, through ticks, mites or fleas that have fed on an infected rodent. If you or someone in your home suffers from asthma, cockroaches and their droppings as well as mice dander are known asthma triggers.
• Safety: If your cluttered area is out of control, it can be a safety issue.  Boxes stacked on top of each other can fall and cause injury; items placed haphazardly in storage areas can pose a trip hazard. According to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts 2015, falling is the third leading cause of unintentional injury in the home for all age groups, but it’s the number one cause of death for those 71 and older. Clutter can also create a fire hazard. Flames spread quickly and excessive amounts of clutter will hinder a firefighter’s ability to move through an area to fight the fire.
Whether you tackle the clutter on your own or bring in help, here are some tips to make the job a little easier.
• Be realistic. Can you clear the clutter on your own? If the thought of decluttering is overwhelming, recruit a team of friends and family members to help. You may even want to consider hiring a professional organizer — they don’t have an emotional attachment to your “stuff” and can help organize the items you decide to keep.
• Break big tasks into small ones. Instead of tackling your entire house, focus on one room or one closet at a time. This kind of work has a way of expanding, so set clear goals for what you want to accomplish in the time available. If your goal is organizing the bathroom closet, avoid spending your time scrubbing the shower stall.
• Sort to kill. Be brutal. If you have not unpacked the box the last three times you moved or if you haven’t worn or used the item in the last year, chances are you don’t really need it. Toss, recycle, sell, donate, and keep are your choices. Notice there is no I-would-use-this-if-I-got-it-fixed stack, or keep-in-case-I-lose-30 pounds-pile.
• Sell items you no longer want or need. Have a yard or garage sale! Think of all the money you could earn … one man’s trash is another’s treasure. Don’t forget there are many online and social media sites specifically for selling used items if you prefer not to take the yard sale approach. Online is a great way to sell specialty items — collectibles, memorabilia, CDs, albums, books, etc. — that have value but may not appeal to the average yard sale shopper.
• If the idea of a yard sale is overwhelming, donate everything to a local charity. Depending on the items, some organizations will even pick up your donations.
• Throw it away! Just do it! Plan your “spring cleaning” around trash pick-up day. Remember to check with your local trash provider if you have questions about what they will haul away — some will pick up larger items if they have advance notice.
Getting on top of the clutter is one of those jobs that often seems worse than it actually is. Make a game plan, stay on task, and get to work. The end result will be worth all the headache; you will have a cleaner, safer, and more organized home.