Ready to Declutter? Here's What to Do With Paper, Photos, Sentimental Stuff and More

Professional organizer Andrew Mellen shares his top tips for getting your home - and life - organized

Feel like your’re drowning in your own clutter? We asked professional organizer Andrew Mellen for advice on how to get your home organized and “unstuffed.”

“Unstuffing your life means clearing away the physical clutter and obstacles that stand between you and the life you dream of,” said Mellen, author of Unstuff Your Life! “It’s about getting everything out of the way that shows up when you make excuses for things.”

Here are some of Mellen’s top tips:

Keys, Mail and Cell Phone
•Hooks make a great home for keys or bags.
•Decorative bowls can be attractive homes for smaller items.
•Give your mail a home—such as a tray—and make sure everyone in your family uses it.
•Designate a home for your cell phone in every room and you’ll never find yourself searching under the cushions.

Learn how to create a kitchen command center to organize your mail, important papers and have a home for your cell phone.

•Clear your counters of everything you don’t use daily.
•Function needs to trump your desire to decorate (especially in smaller kitchens). Instead of cluttering up surfaces with decorative items, try hanging plants, vegetable baskets or pots and pans. Your counter space will thank you.
•Gain more efficiency in your cupboard by storing “like with like.” All the trays should be together, all of your baking supplies together, etc.

Decorating your kitchen? Click here for kitchen design inspiration.

•Scan important documents, label them accurately, and file them electronically to avoid digital clutter.
•Make sure you have a regular program for backing up all of your electronic files.
•Visit Unstuff U for a guide to filing strategy as well as templates for storing all of your valuable information.

•Group hanging clothes according to type (coats, short sleeve and long sleeve shirts, trousers, etc.) and then within type, by color.
•Alternate shoes heel to toe/toe to heel when storing to gain space.
•Use lined baskets to corral smaller items such as scarves and small bags or clutches.
•Hang belts and ties according to color.

Basement and Garage
•Think twice before you place that box of old clothes in the basement or garage. The clutter you choose to keep today is only a decision you have to deal with in the future.Keep anything stored in paper or made of paper up and off the floor.
•Use the walls and vertical space to maximize storage capacity.
•Do not store photos, yearbooks or other sentimental objects that could develop mold or mildew in spaces that are not climate controlled year-round.

Click here to learn how to declutter your garage.

Your Car
•Keep a basket or tub in the garage, just inside the door, that you can load up and transfer to the trunk or backseat for running errands. •Keep a few trash bags, wipes, napkins and tissues in the glove box. •Have a first aid kit in the car and easily accessible—not buried under the spare tire in the trunk. •Keep your coupons in a zip lock bag or clear envelope in the car—that way you’ll never be out shopping without them.

What does your car color say about your personality?

Sentimental Stuff
•Enjoy your sentimental objects but don’t let them become the stuff that takes over your life.
•Display one or two sentimental items on a shelf at a time. Rotate them with other collectibles that you keep stored and out of the way.
•Share your own family heirlooms with your loved ones. Don’t wait until you’re not around to enjoy the gift of sharing.
•Talk with your family now about the things you’re keeping for them—they may not want them.
•Anything that reminds you of a painful or difficult time is probably not something you want to reminisce with in your old age. Let it go now.

•Photos are meant to be a record of a time, not to replace your memories of actually having been somewhere or done something.
•Be mindful of not living behind the camera instead of participating when you attend events or vacation.
•Store photos in ways that you can easily interact with them—if you don’t have the time or inclination, let go of the idea of making albums and use acid-free boxes or other storage containers to keep them safe and easy to get to.
•Don’t keep any photo where you or someone you love doesn’t look good, is out of focus or is only partially in the frame.
•Get in the habit of downloading, naming and filing digital photos rather than dumping them on your hard drive with vague or generic names.
•Apply tags to digital photos to be able to find and sort them quickly.  

•Check email only when you have time to answer email, otherwise you’ll just have to re-read it again later!
•When sending an email, if the total message is less than 11 words, just put it in the “Subject” field!
•Don’t check email at your most productive time of day—use that time for high value activities.
•Pick up the phone when a 30-second phone call would be faster than a series of emails trying to coordinate plans.

For more tips like these, visit Unstuff Your Life.

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