Spring To-Do's

It's Tax Time!

7 Ways to Organize Your Home

Tackle those organizing projects you've been meaning to get to, once and for all.

Overwhelmed by the cluttered areas of your home? Take heart -- tackling your space one area at a time can make the overall challenge more manageable.

Here are some particular spots you can target:

The Garage

First, remove everything. Second, after sprinkling some cleaner over the floor, give it a thorough sweep. (You'll be surprised at just how much dust can accumulate.) Finally, instead of cramming everything back in, devise a plan, resolving not to fill the space until you've figured out a way to make it at least 10 percent more organized than last year, even if this means simply putting some of your tools on a pegboard or hanging the bicycles. "Try to use the garage walls for storage more than the floor," says professional organizing consultant Christy Best. "The floor is meant to be clear."

The Garden

There's only one reason men fear gardening: They haven't tried it. Turning soil, raking seed, cultivating new grass, even planting pretty flowers – anyone who has done these things can tell you they make you feel just as masculine as walloping a 5-iron. So go buy a few perennials, grab a spade and a watering can, and get your fingernails dirty. And if you think gardening doesn't burn some calories, wait.

The Storage Areas

We all hold on to too much random stuff, but knowing this doesn't make us any better at getting rid of it. To avoid the pain of a complete purge, take the advice of Katherine Gibson, author of Unclutter Your Life: Transforming Your Physical, Mental and Emotional Space, who suggests the "10-minute toss" strategy. Take two boxes, one marked CHARITY and one marked DUMP, then take 10 minutes every day to put a single item – just one item – into one box or the other. A good rule of thumb is this, if you haven't used it in a year, you aren't going to use it.

The Catch-all Spaces

Almost all of us have a drawer or closet that has become the receptacle for items that fall into the not-sure-where-to-put-this category. Things like paper clips and Post-Its are classic occupants of this kind of space, which starts by having just a roll of Scotch tape and an old felt tip pen, and then, before you know it, has become the Lost Valley of the Rejected Office Implements. Attack these areas one at a time, remembering that, if something is truly useful to you, you'll figure out where it belongs. By the way, rearranging stuff you're never going to use doesn't count as cleaning. "Tidy clutter is still clutter," Gibson says.

The Wardrobe

Clothes have a way of hanging around longer – sometimes much longer – than necessary, and it takes serious discipline to pare. "We wear 20 percent of our clothing 80 percent of the time," Best says. "Try to make good decisions about purchasing new items."

The Family

Involve your family in the spring cleaning ritual by both cleaning your home and kick-starting your bodies. "On the first day of every spring, turn off the TV for a week," Gibson says. "This represents mental and emotional cleansing. During the hours you'd otherwise sit glued to the screen, organize some shared family activity instead. It will make a difference to you as individuals and as a collective."

The Head

Don't make cleaning only about your physical environment; make it about your mental state, too. Industrial designer Emmanuel Amar feels it's as important to devote time to your inner space as it is to your physical quarters. "Every spring I do a spiritual cleaning with smoldering sage and sweet grass, a feather and an abalone shell, with clear intention as to my purpose," he says. "By focusing on, and committing to, the process, I start fresh."

Tips for Getting – and Staying – Organized

  • Block out the time. Don't be over-ambitious, and always assume you'll need at least 20 percent more time than you think.
  • Gather what you need. Avoid frustration mid-task by assembling the right tools, products or other implements before you start.
  • Know where to get rid of stuff. Often we hold onto things just because we don't know who will take them. Do a little research. It will go a long way.
  • In and out. Whenever you bring something new into your home, take something out. This is a simple but effective way to fend off clutter.
  • Don't automatically default to storage bins and organizers. It's too easy to shove everything into storage for another year. Instead, go through your things thoughtfully – and ruthlessly.

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