4 steps to start clearing the clutter

Professional organizer Barbara Reich provides a four-step process to getting organized

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A mother to twins, Barbara Reich knows how clutter can happen, but she has four easy steps people can take to keep their stuff from overwhelming them.

"You can't be organized if you have too much stuff, so that's why purging comes first," said Reich.

Reich of Resourceful Consultants, LLC is a professional organizer and author of 'Secrets of an Organized Mom.'

She suggests people start organizing their home by beginning with their hot spot; that's the place in your house that drives you the craziest.

To purge your stuff, consider the following:

If it is broken or stained, lose it.
If you haven't used it in a year, get rid of it.
And don't hold onto gifts you hate.

"If somebody gives you a gift that you don't like, you don't have to keep it," Reich said.

After purging, people should design the space they are trying to organize.  That is step two.

"So if it's a closet, think about whether you can fit in an extra shelf.  Can you fit in an extra hanging bar maybe? Are there bins that you need?  Really design the space," said Reich.

Reich said it can be very enjoyable to do step three: organize.

"It's really fun to put things back in a closet or in a drawer when you have a lot less," said Reich.

Reich recommends storing like with like, putting your stuff where you use it and using one kind of hanger, and storage containers to avoid visual clutter.

After a space is organized, Reich said step four is to maintain it.

"People will say to me, 'Well it takes so long.' It really doesn't.  If you spend three to five minutes a day once your house is set up, you can maintain it," said Reich.  "If you can do it daily, it's really life changing because daily it's really three to five minutes, but if you build it up to weekly then you're at a half hour or more because not only do you have all this stuff piled up but then you have to sift through it and find it.  It's much easier to do on a daily basis."

Reich said a big problem area in the home can be the mail.

"People are killed by the mail. So what I say is, unsubscribe to the catalogs, and don't even bring them into your house.  It really it's a lose-lose situation.  It's just encouraging unnecessary spending on things that you don't need and you don't need to save the catalogs. If you need something, you know where to find it without the catalog as a prompter," Reich said.

Consider getting children involved in the organization process by making it a habit and routine for them.

"I always say kids at a nursery school age, three years old, four years old, they'll hang up their coat and hang up their back pack at school and the parents lament 'Why don't they do this at home?' Well the reason they don't do this at home is because you don't have hooks that they can reach.   You don't have a place for them to put their back pack and it's not a habit when they go to school its a habit," said Reich.

Reich said just like children at school have to clean up 10  minutes before the next activity, have them do the same at home 10 minutes before you leave to go anywhere.

For your kids sports equipment, keep everything together.  Reich uses what she does for her son as an example.

"Instead of storing, for example his soccer jersey in the drawer with his shirts and the soccer shorts in the drawer with the shorts, and soccer socks in the drawer with the socks, I keep all the uniforms together," said Reich.

Reich has a bin or each sport her son plays, so when they're heading out that door, they just have to go to one place to get the right uniforms and equipment.   She said that makes it easier to get out the door; especially for working parents.

Reich said the more parents can do in advance the more enjoyable their time can be.    She highly recommends routines for everything because it can free up mental space to focus on more important issues.   For example, always keep your cell phone in the same place when you charge it at home and in your purse.  Keep your wallet and keys in the same place as well.

Organizing can make people feel better.

"They feel less stressed, they feel lighter, they feel calmer, their lives are more enjoyable," said Reich.  "The more stuff you have, the more time you have to spend maintaining your stuff."

Reich has advice for people who are deciding what to keep and what not to keep.

"I would encourage people to have the stuff they need for the life they want to live, not the life they're fantasizing about living or the life they've left behind because those are the things that weigh people down."

As for her book, 'Secrets of an Organized Mom,' Reich said there is something in there for everyone.

"There is really no one that it wouldn't help.  It's a room by room guide on how to organize and it's fun, it's funny, it's really practical."

For more advice or tips from Reich, check out her blog here.

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