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Thinking about decluttering? Start small to build your confidence


Washington Post
Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Professional organizer Cris Sgrott-Wheedleton joined Post staff writer Jura Koncius last week on our home front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

What is the best room of the house to start with when trying to declutter?

I always recommend starting with a smaller area (coat closet, pantry or linen closet). It will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something and will also help you build confidence! Most people get discouraged because they start with larger projects and tend to lose steam after having to make decisions when encountering all of the stuff. By starting small, you avoid the decision fatigue, and it sets you up to feel good about your project and organizing in general.

I feel like I come out of the holidays overwhelmed, behind on everything and unable to catch up (until, say, March).How do I keep myself from feeling so out of control during the holidays? Are there key things I can organize to make it easier?

The best way to stay organized during the holidays is to do a little organizing every day. Take 10 to 15 minutes to do one or two tasks each day, and you won’t feel so far behind as time goes on.

I am pretty good at decluttering, but I often struggle to find places to funnel the items to. I have a couple of dressers that I need to donate. Any ideas on where I can bring them?

Large organizations such as Goodwill (and) Salvation Army would be glad to take those from you. Give them a call to schedule.

I have a 3-year-old and a 1½-year-old who love to color but cannot do it unsupervised. How can I store these items so that my kids can see them (such as in a transparent container) but only I can actually open the container? I’ve tried using zippered mesh bags and GladWare, but the kids can open those by themselves.

Can you add a vertical storage solution that hangs on the wall? That would prevent your kids from easily getting to them. I think the small, clear shoe bins are the best solution for small toys and crayons. The only issue is keeping them out of reach.

Are you opposed to filing cabinets? I know they tend to fill up with useless paper.

I’m not opposed to filing cabinets as long as they are used properly. People tend to keep paperwork they no longer want or need. I am a fan of always evaluating what you have and keeping only what you really need. Keeping paperwork for the sake of keeping paperwork is where we get into trouble. Take some time to weed out the old and think about organizing what’s important. Organizing paperwork takes time and dedication. Set a timer for an hour a day until you’ve sorted through everything and decided what is important or not. Start with your old paperwork. It will be easier to purge things, and you’ll start to feel more confident moving forward.

What is the best way to keep track of all the bills, insurance papers, etc., that we deal with on a daily basis? We want to make sure our bills are paid on time.

We recommend to our clients that they put their bills in a safe place, such as a basket, bin or drawer. The important part here is to not throw anything else in that safe place. Bills only!