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2015 Clutter Challenge: One Room at a Time

Next Avenue readers share their tips as a new challenge begins

Spring is finally here.  And you know what that means … time to declutter.  (You thought I was going to say "Plan a summer vacation?" Sorry!)

Maybe you're ready and eager to toss all that extra stuff you've accumulated over the last year — the magazines you didn't read, the shoes that looked cute but never went with anything, the blender with the fried motor. Or maybe you're inclined to close the door to the spare bedroom and hope the excess junk somehow disappears.

Last year, inspired by Pennsylvania blogger Jacqueline Damian, I collected 465 items to get rid of in a single month following this simple rule: Remove one item on Day One, two on Day Two and so forth until, by Day 30, you have a huge pile of stuff ready for Goodwill or the trash bin. I enjoyed the challenge — I didn't need to give up a weekend to get it done, I had a month to reconsider my choices, and it took only 10 to 20 minutes each day. Making a game of it worked for me, but of course there are many ways to pare down possessions. 

(MORE: The Power of Positive Purging Our Stuff)

For our 2015 declutter challenge, we propose this: Clear out one room, or area, of the house per week for six weeks (or for as many weeks as you have rooms or areas needing help). As with last year, I will be the first to join the challenge (Sadly, even after disposing of 465 items last year there is more to be done.) I will dedicate Saturday mornings to decluttering and collect in the basement what I plan to toss or give away. 

If you have better things to do on your spring Saturdays, you can break it up into smaller 15- to 30-minute sessions throughout the week, using a timer if that helps. To stay motivated and accountable, I'll post the schedule on the fridge and see if I can get my family to help. My six targets are: laundry room, bedroom, kitchen, family room, basement closets and backdoor entrance.  

To prepare for the room-by-room challenge, we asked Next Avenue readers for their tips, focusing on both problem areas and on the most baffling types of clutter, like paper. Here's what they said: 

Problem Area No. 1: Basement

Solution: "Simply moving every item gives me a chance to evaluate whether it's worth the storage space. If it hasn't been used in three years, it goes." Fred, Granville, Ohio

Solution: "To manage clutter in the basement, we create a “Goodwill” area where we catalog, box and stack donatable items. In early spring, we deliver those items and clean the basement." Bruce Cote, Dracut, Mass. 

Problem Area No. 2: Closets

Solution: "I have a rule —  if I get something new, something old has to go." Dot Dickinson, Zachary, La.

Problem Area No. 3: Garage

Solution: "Once a year, I clean the garage thoroughly. That is, everything comes out. Problem is, far too much goes back in — because my husband is hopelessly sentimental and thinks that if you discard the item, the memories will also somehow vanish." Carol Snider, Woodinville, Wash. 

Problem Area No. 4: Bedrooms

Solution: "I try to keep a schedule for each room. For instance, I usually begin in the bedrooms and work my way to the family rooms. If I start in the 'public rooms,' I tend to let the 'private rooms' slide." Wanda Abunasser, Weatherford, Texas

Problem Area No. 5: Office

Solution: "Put it all in a big pile and go through it item by item." Marylou Ruiz, Miami, Fla. 

(MORE: 15 Home Hacks to Save Time, Money and Space)

Clutter Type No. 1: Mail and Papers

Solution: "Try to go through mail as it is received and the junk mail goes right into the recycle bag/box. Unsolicited catalogs, too. I toss almost every one unless [it's] very interesting." Sue Gettinger, Castro, Calif.

Clutter Type No. 2: Clothes

"I call girlfriends to come over and help me weed through my clothes closet. They are excruciatingly honest about what I should pitch!" Jan Evancho, Spokane, Wash. 

"Clear out all coats that don't fit or no one wears any more. I use milk crates for winter hats, gloves and scarves. One crate for each person's stuff, and in summer these go on the floor of closet; in winter. on the shelves so people can reach them better. In spring and summer, the baseball hats and visors go on the shelves for easy access." Mary Cullin, Beaver, Ohio

"Let [your] husband clean out your things, and you clean out his … amazing to see what goes and what comes back!" Sharon, Lancaster, Ohio

General Advice for Declutters

For Keith Kelley of Salem, N.Y., decluttering begins with a question: "Do I really need it? As I age, 'need' is the best word…lightening up is a direction change from gathering things."

(MORE: 10 Organizing Tips That'll Change Your Life)

"I spring clean daily," wrote Natascha Keller of Bloomington, Minn. "I have made it a habit to 'get rid' of five things every time I leave the house. Whether it be a pen, magazine, a pair of shoes, you name it.  As long as it's five items, it counts! Also, if I buy a new item, such as a new blouse, two must leave my closet. A new eye shadow? Two shades I no longer use must go." 

On Your Mark … 

Okay, who's up for the challenge this year? (Please don't make me do this on my own…) If you plan to join in or have already started, please share your successes (or failures) in the comments section below. Before and after photos are welcome, too.  

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