Time to get organized

Now that you're done, open the closet and cabinet doors and take pictures of the inside contents. These pictures should be taken as you finish each drawer, closet and room. Develop in duplicate. Keep one set. Put the second set, in a clearly marked envelope, into your bank's safety deposit vault or give to a friend or relative who does not live with you. In the event of a fire or theft, you have both proof of what you owned -- and enough memory joggers to complete the necessary paperwork accurately. (I'll bet you've thought about doing that for years!)


The kitchen and pantry offer more opportunities for sharing. The holidays have depleted most charitable organizations' food kitchens. This is the perfect time to donate any pantry items that you probably won't use. While you're at it, donate the extra cookies and nuts that you bought "just in case we get unexpected company." Get rid of anything that doesn't fit into your image of a healthful diet. Dump the stale crackers and cereal and anything else that has outlived its shelf life. Chipped plates get thrown away, odd glasses get donated. See, you're about 50 pounds lighter already, and it was virtually painless. Let's keep going.

Purging your files, whether at home or at work, is another great way to lighten things up. I use large manila envelopes. I label them alphabetically and include the year. For example, I might have my first envelope labeled auto, book clubs, cell phone and credit union, 1999. In it, I would put anything that is currently in those file folders that I absolutely must save and probably don't need to keep handy. When the envelopes are filled and packed into a clearly marked box, I put them somewhere out of the way of possible harm. If you have doubts about what you really "need" to save, you can ask your accountant or attorney. Even your banker can help you decide.

Continue on through the house as time allows. You can even break it up over several days. Just note how much you are actually unloading, sharing and dumping. Don't forget to take your pictures.


Remember that the goal here is progress, not perfection. Your house still won't be perfect; not even your grandmother's house was. But it will be better. You won't have to jam things into closets to make them fit, and your drawers will actually close easily again, for a while at least. You should be feeling pretty proud of yourself. Go ahead, pat yourself on the back -- you've earned it.

Last, but not least, when you've finished counting up the "pounds of butter" that you've gotten rid of, and while you're feeling good, plant a few flower bulbs, (indoors, if you have to). What better way to celebrate a new beginning than by watching some new greenery emerge to smile at the sun? It'll keep you smiling, too.

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