8 Ways to Streamline Your Stuff

The best way to avoid clutter is to buy less stuff. Before buying any item, consider that not only will you have to find room for it, you'll have to clean and in some cases maintain it. Maybe you'll decide you don't need it after all. Of course, you still have to deal with what you already have. Here are eight ways to get a grip on your stuff:

1. Some items you'll have no problem discarding. Put doubtful items, as I've suggested before, into a box, tape it closed, and mark it "Deliver to [Name of Favorite Charity] on [future date]." (Seasonal items should be earmarked for disposal in a year's time.) If you've had no reason to look inside the box when the "deliver by" date arrives, dispose of it.

2. Then find ways to create more or better storage space throughout the house, starting with the closets. Begin with a paint job. It's easier to take stock of what's inside a closet if the interior is painted white. Put items you'll use most frequently in the front. Buy small, battery-operated lights to use where there are none.

3. Stow related items together (for example, sewing supplies; extension cords and surge protectors; glue, tape and twine) in plastic storage bins, plastic drawers or inexpensive cardboard storage boxes from an office supply center, and label the fronts.

4. To add room in a bedroom closet quickly, double the hanging space by using a piece of PVC pipe to make a second tier. Cut a thick-walled piece of pipe to the desired length. Get a piece of middleweight chain that's long enough to slip through the pipe and then reach the closet rod at each side. Secure the chain with S hooks at the appropriate height.

5. If your closet has sliding doors, replace them with a frame and conventional doors. Then use the backs of the doors to hang shoe bags (which can be not just for shoes but also for socks, panty hose and more), a mirror, laundry bags, tie racks or hooks.

6. If possible, build shelves in your closet. Stacks of shirts and sweaters are easier to get at and more visible than when jammed into a drawer. If you're going to use shelves to hold shoeboxes, sweaters or shirts, space the shelves fairly close together -- high stacks of sweaters or shirts get out of order quickly. If you're going to use plastic drawers or boxes for underwear, socks, stockings, space your shelves accordingly.

7. Extra blankets can be stored between the mattress and box spring or stuffed into pillow covers and used decoratively. Store items under the bed in drawers from a castoff bureau (add casters if you wish). Or buy shallow plastic storage boxes with wheels meant for this purpose.

8. You can find unused storage space all over your home if you think creatively. Examples: If your home is built with studs and drywall, you can add cabinets between the studs without losing any room space. Replace the family room sofa with cushions on hinged platforms that have storage beneath. A shallow bookcase to hold paperbacks may fit the wall of even a narrow hall. If the steps to the basement are open, install tracks and a pullout drawer on the underside of one or more. You can even replace nailed-down steps with hinged ones and stow items underneath.

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