How to De-Clutter (and Organize) Calendars - Craft Supplies

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Low-Maintenance Living

Calendars (see also Announcements, Bulletin Boards)

People save calendars for lots of reasons. Some folks like the pictures, people who have ten versions of the current year are gripped by the I-really-should-keep syndrome, and still others keep calendars to maintain a record of appointments for tax purposes.

If you have recorded business appointments or expenses on a calendar, it should be saved and filed with your tax records of the corresponding year. If that’s not why you have more than one calendar, then what is the reason? I know — they’re so ... so well, so useful—aren’t they? Yes and no. One is useful. Ten is clutter. Throw them away. I’m not even going to say give them away, because in all likelihood, nobody you know wants them.

But if you are saving calendars because you like the pictures, the question of what to do with them becomes decidedly more problematic.

Chances are, the calendars are perpetually buried in piles of papers and magazines, and you never even see those pretty pictures anyway. If you file them (ouch! please don’t do that!), you’ll never look at them again, and they’ll just clutter up your files. You could frame them, but there’s no telling what people will think of that.

And don’t even think of putting them on a bulletin board or on the front of the refrigerator! What you can do with the pictures is to put them in albums, make a collage with them, or use them for gift wrap. These uses for calendars, especially outdated calendars, are limited, so use it or lose it.

Candles (see also Holiday Decorations)

Candles are great for fancy dinners, romantic evenings, and unexpected power outages. If you don’t anticipate regular fancy dinners or romantic evenings, you can probably toss or give away those half-dozen boxes of tapers that are gathering dust in the dining room buffet. Keep one box for holidays and unexpected excitement. I’m a great believer in being prepared, so it never hurts to have a sturdy candle or a couple of votives in each room in case there is a power outage. (A flashlight in each room, particularly in the bedrooms, can also be a real lifesaver.) While you don’t need to keep a crate of candles on hand leftover from your hippie days, it never hurts to keep some tasteful candles to use when you need to shed a little light on a subject.

It’s always a good idea to keep a small box or two of birthday candles on hand, but there’s no point in keeping holiday candles in the shape of Christmas trees or Easter eggs. Those things never burn quite right anyway, and if you didn’t use them during the last holiday, you probably won’t use them for the next holiday either.

Canning Supplies

Glass jars, lids, and rubber seals can create chaos in an otherwise orderly kitchen cabinet. Assuming you don’t can foods on a weekly or monthly basis, you should probably take all of the canning supplies out of the cabinet and drawers and put them in a box. (A transfile box that you get from the office supply store is good because it’s sturdy and has handles and a lid.) Stack the boxes of canning supplies near your other home-canned goods. If you store your canned goods in the basement or in a porch pantry, put the supplies in that area. That way, next time you have a canning session, you can carry a box of supplies all at one time. You’ll save the time and aggravation you used to experience carrying two or three jars at a time back and forth to the work area, and you won’t have to spend your time digging endlessly to find everything you need to put up those yummies that everyone loves so much.

Even if you do have room in your kitchen (unlikely) for all of those supplies, you’ll still want to consider storing them elsewhere since they’re only used on a seasonal basis. You can put that kitchen cupboard space to better use for storage of items you use on a daily or weekly basis,

And by the way, if you haven’t canned so much as a tomato in five years or more, maybe it’s time to give up the ghost. Give all your gear to someone who does can regularly, and ask for a sample or two of the canned delights. Even if all you get is one jar of those goodies, it’s one jar more than you are getting now.

Car Accessories and Supplies (see also Maps)

Car clutter belongs as close to the car as you can get it, without (in most cases) actually putting it in the car. Cleaners, waxes, oil, and other handy-dandy maintenance stuff goes in the garage or carport. If you don’t have cabinets or shelves in the garage, store those items in a rubber dishpan-type bin or a sturdy box with a lid (a transfile box purchased from an office supply store can do the job). If you don’t have a carport or garage, this box can be stored and stacked on a closet shelf or floor (the hail closet usually serves this need).

Tough Tote Container by Rubbermaid

Safety supplies, such as flares, the spare tire, and jack, obviously belong in the trunk of the car. Some people have so much other Clutter in the trunk, there’s no room for the spare; if this sounds like you, get rid of those papers from the office, tools, toys, pet gear, and whatever else is rattling around and get that spare tire back in the car where it belongs. While most spare tires and jacks have a specific resting space in the trunk, other things, like flares, paper towels, a flashlight, rags, and extra water, don't . These traveling emergency supplies can be organized in a large canvas bag or in a sturdy box and kept in the trunk. Once you corral these supplies, you will very likely eliminate that curious clankety-clank sound that seems to emanate from the trunk whenever you hit a bump or round a corner. And you’ll find that you don’t have to move everything each time you add something to the trunk (like your mother-in-law’s luggage or the groceries).


With safety equipment in the trunk, what other car clutter could there possibly be? Consider these possibilities and what to do with them:

  • Change—Put change (for tolls and parking meters) in the console, and keep it there. If you don’t have a recession in your console, use a plastic container of some sort. If you can, glue or in some way attach the container to the dash so you always have it within reach. If this isn’t possible, get a container with a lid that at least ensures the money stays put and can be retrieved when necessary.
  • Documents—The only documents you should keep in the car are those required by law—usually the registration and your insurance identification. You might also want to keep your auto club card in the car, and it’s always a good idea to keep the name and phone number of your insurance agent either in your wallet or in the glove compartment.
  • Gym Clothes — These either go in the trash or the washing machine, depending on how long they’ve been simmering in your vehicle.
  • Ice Scraper — In summer, put this in the box of supplies in the trunk. In winter, keep it in the glove compartment (if it fits), or under your seat.
  • Makeup (see also Cosmetics, Handbags) — Makeup melts into a gooey mess when left in the car, so I can’t figure out why women put it there in the first place. I suppose it’s so they can spend lots of time applying the stuff to their faces at red lights (which turn green before they’re finished) and in parking spaces that other people are waiting for. You’ve probably guessed I’m against using the car as a dressing room while others wait.
  • Hairbrushes and combs in the car provoke the same response from me—and these days, men often spend as much time fussing over their hair as women do. If you want to primp, retire grace fully to another room (such as the restroom) before you go out to the car. Keep your beauty paraphernalia in your purse if you must, but don't keep it in the car.
  • Maps (see also Maps) — There’s no need to have a map of every state sliding around with you every day. One map for the state and city you are actually in should do the trick. To keep it handy when traveling, try clamping it to the visor with a clothespin or putting it in a special organizer that attaches to the visor. You can also keep maps in the more obvious traditional spots, such as the glove compartment and the pocket in the door.
  • Sales Gear—Sales people haul a mountain of stuff around with them, virtually operating out of their cars every day. If this is you, try keeping pens, pencils, paper clips, stapler, and the like in a small tool or tackle box. Instead of files, which tend to spill at the first abrupt stop, put some of your papers (particularly leads) in a binder; keep a hole puncher in the tool box so you can add to the binder when necessary. Also, keep a cigar box in the car for business cards and miscellaneous phone numbers. And yes, each day, spend a few minutes cleaning the car up and getting organized for the next day, just as you would if it were a desk.
  • Sunglasses—Oh, all right. One pair only.
  • Toys — Unless the kids are always in the car, get the toys out of the car and into the house where they belong. If the kids are always in the car, keep a small box of select toys in the trunk, to be played with during daily car travels. You can also hang a holder with pockets on the back of the front car seat to hold everything from coloring books and crayons to baby bottles or baseball cards.

Cards (see also Bulletin Boards, Gifts, Mail, Memorabilia, Papers, Postcards)

Greeting cards choke our files and bureau drawers, and otherwise invade other piles of papers on a daily basis. It starts with birth announcements and birthdays, and continues with graduations, weddings, parties, mother’s and father’s day, funeral announcements, sympathies, thank you’s, and a host of other reason-to-send- or-receive-a-card events. You can’t seem to let go of the cards you’ve received because the event was so memorable. Multiply this card by the number of friends and relatives who send you cards and multiply that by the potential number of memorable events in your life, and you’re looking at a house full of cards contributing to your ongoing clutter conditions. Cards are nice to receive, and they do remind us how wonderful we are, but keeping every single greeting that you (or your children) receive can be hopelessly redundant. Select a special few from each truly important occasion, and store them in either albums or plastic storage boxes. Throw the rest away. And if you are saving all of the cards your children ever received, you can part with at least 80 percent of those as well. After all, if your kids don’t care enough about them to figure out what to do with them, why should you take on the task?

For those of you who are always picking up greeting cards in the stores because they are so pretty, or clever, or funny—or just plain perfect for some occasion (what occasion, you don’t know at this particular moment) —try to curb your card-buying habit until you send out some of the ones you already have. And, to avoid having to search for an appropriate card (you know you have one around there somewhere), try storing all of your unused cards in a nice basket with a handle. Add some stamps and a pen, and suddenly your this-calls-for-a-card obligation becomes a simple and pleasant task that can be handled at your desk, from your easy chair, or your bed.

Catalogs (see also Desk, Magazines, Mail, Newspapers, Papers)

Once during a question and answer period of a lecture I was giving, a woman asked me how long a person should keep catalogs. Responding with my usual intellectual snap, I said, “Well, I dunno, how long do you keep yours?” “Oh,” she replied, “about four seasons.” I never had to say another word in answer to the question; five minutes of hysterical laughter from the audience said it all.

I think catalogs serve a terrific purpose — I’ve even listed super catalogs in the Resource Helpline at the back of the book. They can be a time-saving alternative to shopping that’s as simple as picking up the telephone or filling out an order blank. But keeping them beyond one season—whether it’s a seed catalog or a fashion catalog — is ridiculous. Prices change, and merchandise isn’t kept in stock past a certain date anyway. Still, some people collect them compulsively, hopelessly adding to their mounting piles of paper, magazines, and newspapers. The people who find themselves with Uncontrollable catalog clutter generally fall into one of two categories:

1. Dreaming Before Deciding—These people dream over catalogs, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, they can’t decide if they want to buy anything or not. So they hold on to the catalog. Indefinitely.

What to Do—If you’re a dreamer who has trouble deciding, bite the bullet with do or die decisions. When you get a catalog, put it in your TO READ pile (see Paper) and then go through it at your first opportunity. And no, the first opportunity is not when you are in the middle of some other distasteful chore. (People just love to stop what they’re doing to look through a catalog.) You don’t have to look at it right this minute, but when you do, be prepared to make a decision right then about the purchases you are going to make — or TOSS THE THING IN THE TRASH! A slightly less painful alternative is to cut out the page with the item you are going to buy, pull out the order blank and affix your mailing label from the front of the catalog, and throw the rest of the catalog away. Now, as soon as you get the money, attach it to the completed order blank and mail it off.

2. Catalog Junkies — Catalog junkies have no problem whatsoever deciding what to buy — they order something from just about every catalog that lands in their mailbox. The junkie spends an awful lot of money and time ordering things. Then the stuff comes in the mail, and invariably some of it's the wrong size or color, or it just doesn’t look as good as it did in the catalog, so even more time and money gets spent to send it back. It’s a habit, and an expensive one at that.

What to Do—Junkies would do well to wean themselves off their habit by not even looking at some of the catalogs that come in the mail. If you get three this week, try tossing one without even looking at it. I know you’ll survive, and it’ll save you money too.

Ultimately, whichever type you are, take a look at how many you are receiving each month (check that corner pile if you don’t know where to begin). If you’re getting more than half a dozen catalogs per quarter (yes, quarter), you are past your limit. Drop a note to some of the more useless catalog companies and let them know that you can’t bear to be faced with so many options on such a regular basis, so would they kindly remove your name from their mailing list. Don’t cancel the catalogs with the organizing products in them though — you’re still going to need some help corralling the rest of the clutter in your life.

CHA-OS: A condition of confusion and total disarray, as the original unformed state of the universe. Or, what your life has become since clutter took over.

Children (see also Baby Clothes, Balls, Car Accessories and Supplies—Toys, Games, Memorabilia, Sports Equipment, Stuffed Animals, Toys)

Children, of course, are most definitely not clutter. But the clutter they generate can be mind boggling. Toys, school papers and projects, sports equipment, and clothes can often seem to take over the house, leaving (gasp!) precious little room for the more necessary adult clutter. Since nearly everyone at one time or another has had problems with the kid’s clutter, and more importantly, with getting the kids to actually take care of their own stuff, the question is how to get the kids to take over their own clutter control chores. (See Clutter Checklist)

Start early on with the In and Out Inventory Rule. If something new comes in, something old goes out. Toys that are broken or have lost their allure can go to a charity when new toys come in the door. Teach your child the value of giving, versus the hopelessness of hoarding too many possessions.


Children will be more likely to clean up their own clutter if you provide clutter control aids that make sense to them. Try these:

  • Bins—Make use of bins wherever possible, particularly for smaller children. They can be put on shelves, on the closet floor, and under the bed for easy retrieval. A sturdy dishpan can hold any number of things, including crayons, puzzle pieces, and shoes. Tossing shoes into a bin may not be the most elegant answer to the shoe organization problem, but it can help eliminate the frustrating searches for a missing sneaker when you’re late for the soccer game.
  • Closets—Lower rods to accommodate the child’s height so that putting clothes away is a simple matter. You can raise them as the child grows.
  • Clothes Hamper/Bag—Keep a hamper or a large canvas or cotton bag in the room for dirty clothes. The bag can hang by a cord from the closet or bedroom doorknob. Kids are more likely to deposit dirty clothes if they don’t have to go very far to do it.
  • Hooks and Pegs—Hang hooks and pegs on the wall at the children’s level. They can hang clothes, school bags, and large cotton or canvas bags for toys or school supplies.
  • Rolling Basket Systems—These carts can be used to hold all manner of things, including underwear, sports clothes and equipment, and art projects and supplies (like that macaroni art that everyone holds so dear). You can also use this cart to eliminate the problem of what to do with school papers. Simply turn it into a filing cart by hanging Pendaflex files on rails (you can purchase these with the cart). Label the files Awards, Reading, Spelling, Writing, and so on. Inside each Pendaflex file, place a manila file folder with the same label. Now your children can proudly show you their daily schoolwork, and , after you have oohed and aahed over it, they can just as proudly file it in their own “filing cabinet.” This system teaches and creates organization at the same time.

A Bin

At the end of the school year, remove the manila file folders, sort through them with the child, and save the best. Put these in a transfile box, and mark it with your child’s age and the year, and store it as you do mementos (see Memorabilia). Be careful not to get carried away by keeping every scrap of paper the child brings home, however. If you do, you’ll need to rent a warehouse to store it all. This cart should take your child through his high school years, serving as a school records and supply center that can be rolled to the homework area as needed. When the little darling finally leaves the nest, you can use the cart yourself for clothes, projects, or hobby or stationery supplies.

Cleaning Supplies

I know a lot of very disorganized people who are impossible clean freaks. They have every imaginable type of exotic cleaner with special rags for this, and special rags for that. I think clean is a good thing, but I’m not willing to store a raft of cleaning supplies and gadgets that outnumbers the things I need cleaned. Keeping the supplies organized is easy if you just stock the basics.

Look for more all-purpose cleaners that will do double, or even triple, duty for you. Too often people run out and buy the latest fancy-smancy cleaner, and then it never gets used, because when it comes right down to the cleaning nitty-gritty, nobody wants to cart a zillion bottles all over the house to do something as simple as clean. If you’ve got a lot of gourmet cleaning products that you never use, give them to someone who wants to spend more of their time cleaning than you do.

If you live in a small apartment, don’t overdo it with too many duplicates. One can of cleanser in the bathroom and one in the kitchen saves a lot of running back and forth, but four backup cans take up too much space. On the other hand, if you live in a two- story house, it can be a good idea to have a stash of cleaning supplies (including, if possible, an extra vacuum) on the second floor.

Let’s face it, unless you were born in a barn, cleaning is something that has to be done regularly. By organizing your approach to cleaning and your cleaning supplies, you’ll gain more time for yourself to be used in more interesting areas of your life. Also, once you’ve cleared up the rest of the clutter in your life, maintaining that clutter-free space on a regular basis contributes significantly to the overall organizational effort. In the end, cleaning is part of getting, being, and staying organized and clutter-free.


Traditionally, people tend to stuff cleaning supplies either under the sink, or in the pantry. You can keep the supplies and equipment neater by using some simple storage aids:

Under the Sink:

  • Dishpan—This can be used to hold supplies and /or rags, and at least serves to keep everything together.
  • Roll-Out Basket—These are made of sturdy wire and mount on runners under the sink so that you can pull them out and have easy access to the supplies. These baskets help cut down on the problem of bottles and cans falling over on top of each other as you reach for one in the very back of the cabinet.
  • Supply Caddy—This divided bin has a handle so that you can pick it up and carry it from room to room when you’re cleaning. It’s easy to store under the sink or on the pantry floor. In the Pantry:
  • Door Rack—You can install a door rack with shelves that mounts on the inside of the door—which is otherwise usually overlooked as potential storage space.
  • Strip Rack—For mops and brooms, a strip rack with pressurized grooves or loops can be installed on the inside wall of your pantry to keep all the equipment orderly and up off the floor.

Roll-out Basket.


A clock in every corner invariably means that wherever you look, it’s a different time of day. This is guaranteed to drive you buggy, especially if you are chronically late to begin with. You can simplify your life by having only one clock in your bedroom, synchronized with the other clocks in the house. Now, regardless of which clock you look at, you’ll know exactly how late you are running.

Clocks that don’t work should either be fixed and used or given to a charity that fixes things. If you can’t find the time to get it repaired or to call the local charity, throw it away. After all, it’s not going to wake you up tomorrow morning, is it?

Closets (see also Bags, Clothes, and any other category of clutter you happen to be harboring)

The phrase “behind closed doors” takes on a special meaning when it comes to closets. Some things get put into closets never to reemerge. Years later some hapless soul decides to organize. Junk and treasures come tumbling out to exclamations of “I can’t believe it! I wondered what happened to that,” and , “What on earth is this doing in here?”

Usually closets get cleaned out only as a last resort. When people say they have to move because they don’t have enough room, what they really mean is that they don’t have enough closet space. The choice then becomes crystal clear: clean out the closets and get rid of some stuff; or spend a fortune to move to larger, more expensive quarters. When you consider the cost of moving versus the cost of organizing, you may very well decide to do the latter.

A good starting point is the utility closet. Also known as the spare closet, the hall closet, the back closet, the front closet, and the linen closet, this is the closet that holds a cornucopia of belongings frequently suited for a time capsule. These closets provide shelter for all manner of things, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Boxes of books
  • Boxes of receipts, dating back ten years
  • Boots
  • Broken lamps and /or small appliances
  • Clothes for charity
  • Coats, jackets, sweaters
  • Craft supplies
  • Empty boxes
  • Gift paper and ribbons
  • Half-empty cans of paint
  • Hats, gloves, scarves
  • Kitty litter
  • Linens
  • Paper bags
  • Pet kennels, leashes
  • Slide projector (and eighteen carousel trays)
  • Spare tire
  • Sports gear
  • Suitcases
  • Tools
  • Toys and games
  • Trophies
  • Umbrellas, some broken
  • Vacuum cleaner and attachments

Start by getting some large cartons and mark them:

  • ELSEWHERE...(things that go in another room)

Then pull everything out of the closet, sorting as you go. If some thing needs to be cleaned or altered, put it in the appropriate box. Things that go in another room include toys and games (put these in the kids’ rooms), old Tupperware® and sets of dishes (into the kitchen, dining room, or charity box with this stuff), and books, magazines, and newspapers (see also Books, Magazines, and Newspapers).

You can reduce the avalanche of linens by putting a fresh set of linens in each bedroom (see also Linens). Placemats that you haven’t used in five years can go to charity or to your sister. Linens with impossible stains could be turned into rags for cleaning. You can put sports gear in a big garbage can in the garage (see also Sports Equipment), and papers that are more than ten years old should hit the trash can without remorse. Coats, jackets, and boots that you never wear definitely go to charity, and any other clothes should be in good repair and clean. Only put back items that you regularly use. To get rid of the rest of the stuff, ask yourself how often you use it, and if you’d be willing to pay to move it.

When you’ve finished, distribute the contents of the boxes. Put the things that go in other rooms in those rooms. Then go straight to the car with the items for charity, the cleaners, and the tailor and drop the items off at the appropriate place. If the boxes sit around the house for any length of time, both you and members of your family will start pulling things out of the boxes. The trash box and the charity box, in particular, invite wails of anguish as family members insist that you can’t possibly be getting rid of this or that treasure. Before you know it, the stuff will be all over the place again, and in an effort to neaten up the clutter, you’ll put it right back where it doesn’t belong—in the closet.


Once you have cleaned out your closet and /or installed a new space saving system, you should resolve to keep the closet stocked only with appropriate clothing that you wear frequently and enjoy thoroughly. To avoid making shopping mistakes in the future, shop with these guidelines in mind:

Inventory— Make an inventory of what you already have. Then sit down and make a list of what you need—not what you want. If you have a tailored skirt you never wear because you need a certain type of blouse to go with it, then you need that blouse. On the other hand, if you just saw an ad for a fabulous pair of sequined dress pumps and you almost never go out to dressy affairs, although you may want those pumps, you probably don’t need them. (Your black patents will do beautifully.)

  • Don’t Leave Home Without It—Take your list with you, and don’t buy anything that isn’t on the list, no matter what.
  • Make Color Work for You—Determine what your best colors are, and then stick to that color palette. Try to keep it to four basic colors or less, and don’t allow yourself to be suckered into buying something in this season’s newest, faddiest color, when you know perfectly well it doesn’t look good on you. If your colors mix well, the number of mix-and-match outfits at your disposal increases substantially.
  • Coordinate Outfits—Wear your favorite blouse, shirt, or blazer when you shop—or bring it with you. You can buy pieces to work with it, and you can mix and match as you go.
  • Classics Count—Classic, well-made clothes are worth the price. You can wear them for years, and always look terrific.
  • Cozy Up— Make friends with a salesperson or personal shopper (on staff at the better department and specialty stores) and make sure they know your taste in clothes, color preferences, and sizes, as well as what you might need in the way of outfits and /or accessories.
  • Shop Spring and Fall—Try shopping twice a year only. De pending on your budget, this may mean that as soon as the fall fashions come out you do your shopping, and when the new summer styles come out, you shop again. If your pocketbook can’t handle those full prices, you can still shop twice each year, except instead of running out to shop the minute the new fashions are presented, wait until they go on sale; then go out and make your purchases. Just before summer fashions are introduced, the winter things go on sale, and that’s the time to buy your winter clothes. When the new winter styles are about to be presented, all of the spring and summer things go on sale. That’s the time to buy your summer clothes. Generally, if you shop wisely, you’ll find that your clothing purchases won’t be out of synch with the styles, partly because the fashion industry shows things well be fore we are ready for them. Winter things come out in July when it’s hotter than blazes and go on sale sometime between November and January when you are freezing your watzit off which can make sale time the time to buy for more reasons than one.
  • Shop Sales Carefully—Don’t buy something just because it's on sale. If you don’t need it, what difference does it make if it’s on sale? On the other hand, if it’s on sale, and it’s on your list, snap it up, and take it home and brag your brains out to everyone within earshot about what a great bargain you got.

Clothes (see also Baby Clothes, Handbags, Hats, Jewelry, Laundry, Shoes and Boots, Socks and Stockings, Ties, Uniforms)

When some people get up in the morning, their feet hit the floor running. They skid over to the crammed closet and hastily extract an outfit. But this makes then’ even more frantic, because now the garment has to be ironed, since the closet is in such a mess that everything always has to be pressed before it can be worn. For these people, the ironing board never gets put away.

PITCH: To project from the hand in a forward, thrusting motion; fling; throw; hurl at something. Or, what you should probably do with at least 50 percent of your clutter, but what you won’t do because you’ll fall back on the Pack Rat’s Excuse Almanac.

Clothes closets represent a killer closet category that often defies description. The word “crammed” is usually an understatement. Evening clothes, sporting clothes, work clothes, play clothes, old clothes, new clothes, and even dirty clothes, all vie for the precious little space allowed by the average closet. Hangers get tangled up with plastic cleaner bags and with each other, and accessories such as belts and ties either fall on the floor or get caught in the middle of the rest of the mess. One day, I’m convinced I’ll pick up the newspaper to see headlines screaming about “The Closet That Ate New York.” To insure that your closet doesn’t wind up in the day’s headlines, you can tackle the problem head-on.

First, pull everything out of the closet. (Once you have everything scattered all over the room, you have reached a level of commitment that will only be relieved when you can see the bed that's now buried under a ton of clothes.)

Set up special cartons for sorting your clothes as you go through them. You’ll want cartons marked CHARITY, TRASH, OTHER ROOM, and MENDING/ALTERATIONS. Tackle the mountain of clothes one garment at a time, giving each item careful consideration; does it really go back in the closet or does it belong in a carton? A word of warning here: the MENDING! ALTERATIONS carton is not supposed to be a holding bin that sits around indefinitely. Take those clothes to the seamstress immediately. Don’t even consider doing them yourself. If those clothes have been waiting to be mended for months already—and you haven’t done it because you haven’t had the time—you’re not going to do it now. So put that box filled with mendings and alterations in the car at the end of your organizing session, along with the charity box, and drop both of them off without delay.

If at all possible, I recommend having a friend help you clean out your clothes closet. This friend should be selected with care. You’ll want a person who will criticize your taste and doesn’t mind adding some tongue clucking. That way, when you hold up that miniskirt that looked great fifteen years and twenty pounds ago, your friend’s uncontrolled giggles will answer the question of what to do with it once and for all.

Things that you know are the wrong color or “just not you” should go to charity. Other avenues of giving are resale shops, and by golly, that friend who sits there and tells you how silly it looks on you might just take the garment herself. The important thing is to get everything inappropriate out of the closet and out of the house, so you won’t be tempted to put it back in the closet “for now.”

Things that are too small (and have been for quite some time), out of date, or that been waiting to be altered for just about forever, should also be given away. If it’s way too big or you never really liked it in the first place, get rid of it.

As you’re deciding which clothes to keep, watch out for that many-tentacled monster, the I can’t get rid of this syndrome:

• “I can’t get rid of this! As soon as I lose twenty-five pounds, I’ll be able to wear it again.” If you can lose twenty-five pounds, you deserve a whole new wardrobe. Get rid of it! “I can’t get rid of this because if I hold onto it long enough, it’ll come back in style.” Even if it does come back in style, you can bet designers will do an updated version and you’ll feel slightly off-center wearing it. Get rid of it!

• “I can’t get rid of this—I paid too much money for it!” (Or them if you’re talking about shoes.) If you paid too much money for something, whose fault is that? Furthermore, do you want to continue to spend money in the form of storage space (square footage costs money, remember)? Get rid of it! • “I can’t get rid of this because it’s so good — I’m saving it for a special occasion.” Every day is a special occasion, so unless it’s covered with sequins and bugle beads and cut clear down to your navel, either use it or lose it.

Another stumbling block to cleaning out the closet is the Whens:

•“When I get something to go with this, I’ll wear it.” Oh? And when might that be, and how long have you been saying that?

•“When I get this altered, it will be fine.” So get it altered. Right now.

•“When my husband takes me out (admittedly not that often), he likes me to wear these shoes—he thinks they look sexy. Otherwise I don’t wear them, because they kill my feet and hurt by back.” Let me see now, does this mean that they don’t hurt your feet and kill your back when your husband takes you out? Get rid of them, or give them to your husband, and let him dance down the driveway in them!

As you put good clothes back in the closet, aim for a simple wardrobe that's comfortable, attractive, and interchangeable. Only keep the clothes that you feel good about wearing. Get rid of any wire hangers and put your clothes on good plastic hangers or skirt and /or pant hangers.

Plastic hangers are better than wire hangers for more than one reason. You can easily hang all of your clothes facing in the same direction, and believe it or not, this makes the clothes in the closet hang neater and saves space. (Regardless of how you hang the garment on the hanger, all you need to do is swivel the head of the hanger to make it face in the right direction). Since plastic hangers are thicker than wire ones, your clothes are less likely to get smashed and crushed. Plastic hangers also have notches to hang straps of gowns and thin strapped blouses so that they won’t fall off, and plastic hangers stay cleaner than wire hangers, which are natural dust collectors. Finally, everyone has experienced, at one time or another, the frustration of tangled wire hangers— plastic hangers put an end to that annoyance.

Don’t leave plastic (from the cleaners) on the garments. It only makes the garment difficult to see, and is dangerous for children and pets. If YOU are hanging on to these plastic shrouds to keep dust off clothes, ask yourself why the garment is collecting dust.

Group the clothes you wear in categories:

  • TOPS
  • SWEATERS (if you hang them)

Hang the categories grouped by color. This makes selecting and coordinating outfits much quicker and easier. Make sure you place the hangers facing the same way — this really does save space. Empty hangers can be put at the end of the rod so you know where they are, stored in another closet, or placed on an extra rod that you can install about six inches from the closet top shelf. (To organize your footwear, see Shoes and Boots.)

It helps to put accessories such as ties, belts, scarves, hats, and handbags in an easily accessible area of the closet or in your dressing area. (See also Ties, Handbags, and Hats) You can install one of several different types of closet organizational aids to help accessories and other articles of clothing organized within the closet.

You may also want to install a double rod system, which effectively doubles the available closet space by putting one rod up over another, measured so that blouses and shirts can hang on the top rod, and pants or skirts can be hung on the rod below. While the top rod is a bit higher than a normal single rod system, it's reachable, and makes selecting and coordinating outfits a simple matter and takes up a minimum of closet space.

Or you may want to call in a closet company to put in a new closet interior. Often these companies can double and even triple your closet space by adding shelves, rods, and basket systems.

Other Clothes

Clothes not stored in closets can include underwear, sleep- wear, socks and stockings, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweaters. These clothes should be gone through as ruthlessly as you go through your closet—get rid of everything that doesn’t fit, is the wrong color, is stupid (like some of those T-shirts with those ridiculous statements that you once thought were so profound), and ! or is out of date. Underwear with hopelessly stretched-out elastic or stains can become rags. Socks without mates can go—hanging on to one sock past sixty days or so is like clinging to a fantasy. That other sock is not going to miraculously reappear, so give it up. Check that pile of stockings and pantyhose for runs, and get rid of all but the unblemished pairs. Resist the temptation to save more than a few “work clothes” for when you “work” in the gar den or on the car. You don’t need a complete wardrobe for those activities. A couple of pairs of old pants and a few T-shirts or sweatshirts will do the trick. Tennis clothes and ski gear should be checked for fit and condition. Along with things that don’t fit, get rid of any stained or ripped clothes that you don’t wear.

Accessories, such as scarves, belts, and gloves, should also be checked for fit and appropriateness. Belt styles change right along with waist measurements, so get rid of the ones that don’t fit or are out of style. Pretty Scarves tend to get put in a drawer and forgotten; go through these, remind yourself of how pretty they are, make a note of how you can wear them with your current clothes, and then do just that—wear them. Otherwise, give them to friends or to charity. Gloves are always useful if you wear them but like socks, if one is missing, the other one is worthless. No sense spending the next three winters with that one glove mingling with the pairs you have in the bureau. Handbags can be hung on pegs, hooks, or a mug rack, or they can be stored on shelves with vertical dividers (make them by having pieces of ply wood cut to fit) to keep the bags stored upright.

Drawers can be better organized by placing dividers and other organizers into the drawer. This can be as simple as putting shoe boxes in a drawer to separate socks and stockings, or you can order custom dividers to hold your lingerie and /or jewelry. Rolling basket systems can replace dressers, or add to them by providing extra storage space (you can roll them directly into your closet if you like). Some things stay neater longer if they are put on a shelf rather than in a drawer. T-shirts and sweaters, for instance, seem to do better on a shelf where you can see at a glance what’s there and pull out what you need. A drawer invites rummaging to get at what lies on the bottom. Once you’ve done some digging in a drawer, there is usually very little motivation (or time) to put things back in order. Somehow a shelf is easier to keep neater, especially if you install dividers (you can get plastic ones that snap into place to keep the stacks neater). If you do move items to a shelf from the drawer, don’t make the stacks too high, or you’ll have collapsing piles of clothing all over the place.

You can also make use of stackable see-through sweater and lingerie boxes as well as under-bed storage drawers for storing out of season clothes, thus freeing up drawer space for the clothes that you’re wearing now. Cedar chests, wicker trunks, and vinyl storage units will also provide storage space for out-of-season clothes.

Whatever methods and storage equipment you use for your clothes, keep your wardrobe current by weeding out inappropriate clothes as you go. If you start losing control over the closet, remember the In and Out Inventory Rule — something new comes in, something old goes out. It works every time.

Collections (see also Antiques, Baskets, Hats, Knick-knacky, Memorabilia, Photographs, Postcards, Rocks, Salt and Pepper Sets, Souvenirs, Stuffed Animals)

Collections can definitely be hazardous to your organizational health. ‘Whether it’s license plates or butterflies, collections start with interest and end in out-of-control clutter. You may even be like Pat the Pack Rat, who collected everything for no particularly rational reason. Like her cat’s whiskers, which she said were magical. When they fell off his face, she saved ‘em, and the only reason she didn’t have a huge collection of whiskers was that the cat didn’t shed his whiskers all that often. So unless what you’re collecting is appreciating at a dollar rate that exceeds the cost of the square footage needed to house it (such as antiques), or unless your collection gives you pleasure on a daily basis, you would do well to pass it on to someone else or pitch it.

Collections from your childhood days that are now stored in the garage don't actively contribute to your general health and welfare. Collections that are stored all over the house, both in full view and behind cupboard doors and in drawers, require dusting and moving around every time you need more space for something else. If you can’t bear getting rid of the entire collection, keep a small precious selection, and get rid of the rest. And if you have children who are beginning to shift into the collector’s mode, set firm limits now, before it gets out of hand. Otherwise you’ll have rocks, stickers, and who knows what all, all over the house. They can cull their collection by selecting only the most important items. This will teach them the value of organization, space utilization, and it will help them prioritize the accumulation of things in their lives. Whatever is chosen can be displayed in albums, as a collage, on a bookcase or in a cabinet. Keep the collection confined to that particular space allocation by using the In and Out Inventory Rule.

After you have taken the steps necessary to cut back on your collection, a little preventative maintenance is in order. Make sure you announce to family, friends, and associates, that you are no longer collecting, so that they can stop aiding and abetting your collection clutter by giving you gifts to add to your habit. And the next time you pass a beautiful porcelain frog (if frogs are your thing) or a fantastic rock (rock hounds relate to this), close your eyes and pass it by. Eventually, you won’t even think about, or miss, that collection.

College Papers (see also Papers)

Dusty college papers always make me think of school, and school makes me think of tests. So, for those of you who feel you must keep those college papers, here’s a test for you to help you really get in the spirit of things:

1. How many years have you been holding onto those papers?

____ 2 or less ____2-5 years ____5-10 years ____more than 10 years

2. Why are you keeping them?

____My terrific grades serve as a testament to my unparalleled intelligence.

____ I might need them for reference some day.

____My English Lit papers remind me that I was voted the class clown for three years in a row.

3. Where are these papers stored, and how much square footage do they occupy?

4. Now (here’s a little math for you) multiply the square foot age by the cost of that space, and write in the total dollar amount below:

5. Have the bugs found your precious papers yet? (Note: if they haven’t, it’s only a matter of time until they do)

SCORING: There is no scoring system for this quiz. There is almost no way to pass this particular test, since I know of no earthly reason to save college papers (and/or textbooks).

Your class clown days are over and if you acted like that today you’d be hooted out of the community. While you may have been intelligent at some point, your intelligence is taking a beating here because it’s just plain goofy to keep things like this that you never refer to or use.

If you are convinced that you’ll need them for reference, I’d like to remind you that times change, for goodness sakes, and reference materials become outdated practically every other minute. Libraries can provide all of the reference you will ever need, and in all likelihood, we’re talking about a trip to the library once every five or six years anyway, which is a much more sensible approach to the issue of reference. You won’t need these papers someday, they don't constitute legitimate memorabilia, and they are taking up too much space and drawing bugs in the process. Let go of the past by letting go of these papers.

Cosmetics (see also Bathroom Clutter, Handbags)

My views on cosmetics are fairly controversial. I happen to think that they don't make women beautiful. Since I stand virtually alone in this conception, I will endeavor to address the issue of cosmetics storage in a more realistic vein. Most women (and men, for that matter) do like the effects of makeup, and therefore, women buy the stuff by the truckload. But men start to wonder about the value of cosmetics when the clutter overruns anything that he hoped to store in the bathroom (such as a razor and a can of shaving cream). Men get a little bewildered about it all. Surprisingly, they don’t say much about the fact that they dislike not having any bathroom space. But I hear it at my seminars. They don’t know what to do about the cosmetic problem, which is perceived as a woman’s problem (even though the women very often use cosmetics to please men). So, a word to the wise here should be sufficient; cosmetic clutter I noticed, and is not necessarily approved of.

The first thing to do is to go through all makeup and get rid of anything that's old, sticky, melted, or otherwise too gooey for words. Throw away hardened nail polish and mascara wands that have turned to tar. Rouges and lipsticks that you never use should go also. Face creams that look like a miniature dried-up riverbed can also be tossed. Besides the utter uselessness of old cosmetics, it's important to remember that bacteria do grow in these items, so you wouldn’t want to use very old makeup anyway. Teeny tiny samples that have accumulated can either be tossed or given to charities (who are always looking for unused hygiene items for their clients). Ditto those tiny bars of soaps and shampoos that you carted home from the last hotel you stayed in. Use it or lose it. (Charities love those unused items too.)

Once you have weeded out the cosmetics, the next step is to organize what is left, and , if appropriate, reallocate the bathroom space so that it's more evenly shared. You could, for example, move your hair brushes to a bedroom spot or even to a corner in the hall outside the bathroom. Put a small stand there and keep your hair paraphernalia in the drawer to keep it handy. Hang an attractive mirror on the wall, and you’ve actually “extended” your bathroom.

Colognes can also be applied in the bedroom, and extra supplies such as shampoos and soaps can be stored in the linen closet.

Once you’ve organized the cosmetic clutter, remember to periodically eliminate old bacteria-laden items, and , if at all possible, try to resist buying a new shade of this or that every time you breeze through the drugstore. When you go to the department store, bypass those cosmetic counters where dozens of beautifully made-up salespeople are just waiting to snooker you into buying yet another jar of overpriced miracle cream and racy red rouge. I personally doubt you need that stuff anyway.


You can organize your cosmetics with the help of a few simple gadgets and techniques:

  • Makeup Center— Use small baskets or plastic or Lucite containers to hold and group small items such as makeup brushes and manicure equipment. You’ll save time because you won’t have to dig for the small items, and you’ll end up using less space overall as well.
  • Bag It Keep the cosmetics that you use on a regular basis in a clear plastic zippered bag. The bag can be stored out of sight in a drawer, cabinet, or covered basket. With everything in one bag, there’s no searching through drawers for the lipstick. Put everything back in the bag immediately after using, and you’ll be guaranteed a simple, time-saving start every day when you “put on your face.” When you travel, simply grab the bag and go.
  • Tackle or Art Supply Box—These portable storage units can hold and carry all manner of cosmetics and can be transported and stored easily.
  • Drawer Dividers —Drawer dividers can separate and organize your cosmetics, and if you get the plastic dividers that snap together to hold cutlery, it's easy to keep them clean. Just pull out the divider that's dirty and give it a quick wash. (These dividers are also good hidden storage slots for your toothbrush and toothpaste.)

Craft Supplies (see also Art and Art Supplies, Paint and Paint brushes, Sewing Supplies)

Craft supplies generate hard-to-store clutter that can quickly turn into a nightmare. Once the clutter takes over, the prospect of working on the craft seems to lose its magic, with unfinished projects sitting forlornly in corners, boxes, bags, and drawers. Working on too many craft projects is asking for trouble, so the first step is to reduce the amount of supplies on hand along with the unfinished projects by eliminating all but the most necessary or fun craft paraphernalia.

If you can, setup a craft corner, and keep everything in that area. Allocate a special cabinet or chest to keep everything in, or put up shelves over a desk or table and chair to consolidate your supplies in one area. Once you’ve organized your supplies, set aside some time on a regular basis to clean up craft clutter by finishing projects before you start new ones. Completed handicrafts can make lovely gifts or additions to your own home or office, so what are you waiting for? Get organized, and get back to work!


Adapt some of these storage and organizational ideas for important craft supplies:

  • Roll With It—Use rolling baskets to hold the supplies and unfinished projects. When you’re ready to work, simply pull the rolling basket over to your work area.
  • Miniatures Mastery—Use metal parts cabinets or tool or tackle boxes to hold small items. Label each drawer for simple storage.
  • Can It—Use oatmeal cartons or coffee cans to hold supplies such as knitting needles and special brushes.
  • Carry-all—Use a supply caddy to hold supplies that can be easily carried to the work area. Or use wicker baskets with handles and /or covers to hold and transport supplies.
  • Containment—Use bins, dishpans, and cat litter pans to hold supplies.
  • Divide and Conquer—Use drawer dividers to separate sup plies stored in drawers.
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