I watch the show Hoarders Buried Alive with a cringe on my face: how do people allow their homes to get so cluttered, so...dysfunctional? While large amounts of clutter collected over a period of time is usually indicative of an underlying, emotional problem, clutter from months or days is easily dealt with. You either have to increase your space or organizational tools, or decrease your clutter. Normally both are needed. Read below to find out how to do what may seem impossible.

Things You Will Need

Bins/boxes/organizing elements
A Charity to donate to
A truck/van/vehicle with space

Step 1

Designate spaces in your home where organization can occur. For example, when you collect all of the books, magazines, letters/mail, and other media from each of your rooms, where in your home will you designate as the space for it? Perhaps you need to purchase some shelving or baskets, or perhaps your closet needs another bar installed into it so that you double your hanger space. You do not need to purchase these items before you get started, but keep in mind that after you collect all of the items from an area into boxes, you will need to find space for what you keep. By designating spaces for items, then you will stave off clutter in the future.

Step 2

Bite off a sizable chunk of your clutter to deal with, such as one room--enough that you are motivated to begin, but not too much so that you become discouraged. Gather boxes and label each box so that you can categorize the mess. Typical labels include: media (books, DVDs, videos), things to give to others, donations to make, clothes, trash, pictures/photos/scrapbooks/memorabilia, recyclable, cosmetics/beauty/toiletries, tools, etc. When labeling the boxes, think of each box in terms of where the items need to go when you put them away--garage, library, kitchen, etc.

Step 3

Come up with a question to ask yourself when you pick each item up and before you decide its fate. Good questions that will lead to results include: Have I used this in the past year? Does this fulfill a purpose? Can someone else find more use from this item? Can I easily and cheaply replace this item if I decide to get rid of it now but need it again in the future?

Step 4

After you have some boxes together, the next step is to act on the boxes. Donate the donation box (and get a tax receipt so that you can deduct the value come tax season). Take the books/media/magazines/letters to the area you have designated for them. Typically a lot of clutter exists because you are holding onto things to give to others. Take the box you have labeled to give for others, and schedule a time to do so. For the next week, perhaps you can take one item per day to the person you would like to give it to. Take next Saturday to unload this box (or boxes). Plan your weekend errands around giving these items away. You can find the time, but make sure you do it within 2 weeks of putting these items into the box, or donate them instead.

Step 5

Perhaps you have a box full of things that are for future activities, such as yarn for a project you had meant to complete, scrapbooking materials, etc. Designate some closet space, attic or basement space for these items, and make a new rule that if you are not working on the project in the present moment, then you will keep these items stored so that you do not see them.

Step 6

Once you have this area organized into boxes and have begun to act upon those boxes, move onto your next area or room and start this process over again. Stick with your schedule; tackle one room a day, a week, etc. Don't forget to tackle your car and your trunk, as well as your garage.

I have talked about ways to clean up your clutter for now, but what about keeping the clutter away all together? Create habits that will keep you from getting back to your home's current state, such as: when you have things to give to others, either give it to them within two weeks, or donate the item; keep a box designated for donations in a closet, and as you grow out of items or not longer need them, put them into this box and donate when the box becomes full; take a few hours a week to make sure that your items go back to the areas where they belong, such as DVDs going back into their cases and clothes going back into your closet; make use of baskets and containers to collect like things together so that they will stay out of sight until you have time to get to them.

By making these habits a priority, you will be creating a clutter-free future for you and your family.

Tips & Warnings

If you are a hoarder by nature, and your home looks similar to that of the homes in the shower Hoarders: Buried Alive, you may need to seek professional assistance.