After the holidays when it is cold out and the snow may be piled high at the end of the driveway, it is a great time to get motivated to get rid of clutter and get organized. This can be an introspective time of year. As long as we are stuck in our homes right now, why not make them as pleasant and nurturing for ourselves as possible? I always look for fresh ideas and a little motivation to tackle my stuff at this time of year.

One winter I found motivation in Donna Smallin's book Organizing Plain & Simple (Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA, 2002).  Her book motivated me to get back to the basics. A good way to get started is to read a new-to-you clutter clearing and home organizing book or reread a favorite. Donna Smallin's book is well organized and concise. You can work through your home with her room by room as you read each chapter. Or, you can use her Table of Contents or Index to quickly get ideas to tackle specific concerns like kids' rooms or home offices.

Organizing Plain & Simple provides multiple solutions for each room of the house. I like that because I have never been a fan of the "one size fits all" school of organizing. Smallin shares ideas from other professional organizers in her book, and it is amazing how differently three professional organizers will answer the same organizing question. I think the variety of responses makes me feel optimistic about my own clutter frustrations. There really is no one right way to do it! This also means there are many clutter clearing and organizing books that might do the job to get your motivation going again.

What helps to motivate clutter clearing besides books? Take a field trip to an organizing store. Seeing the products that are out there might motivate you to go home and deal with some of your clutter. Please don't buy anything, though, until you've gotten rid of the clutter and you know exactly what you need to organize the rest.

For another motivator, try a reward. Preferably not shopping to bring more clutter home to organize…But, how about a new organizing product, a movie, or a massage or pedicure? By taking care of your home, you are taking care of everyone else who lives there, so it is fair to reward yourself too.

Another way to motivate yourself is to plan a dinner or a party in your home. This creates a deadline for you to take care of that clutter. Some of us work better with a little pressure. If that is your style, go for it! If that isn't your style, skip the stress.

Getting help could also motivate you. Enlist children, spouse, partner, friend, or professional organizer (www.napo.net is the website to find members of the National Association of Professional Organizers). If you know someone is coming to help you, you are going to be more likely to make some progress. Here is a tip: Sometimes people become reacquainted with their stuff when they pick it up to sort it. If touching clutter makes you want to hang onto everything, have someone else handle each item for you and you simply make the decisions.

You could also try to motivate yourself with the "just do it" technique. Get rid of the perfectionism and procrastination. Set the timer for fifteen minutes and tackle something. Many tasks aren't as difficult as we make them in our heads, and they don't take as long to do as we think they will either. Every little step can help make your home more comfortable and free up your time and energy for other things. Small areas of successful improvement motivate me to keep going to tackle other areas.

Remember that clutter clearing and home organizing is a process–not a "once and done" activity. The contents of any home are a function of the season, your life stage, and your current hobbies and interests. My home is better organized and less cluttered than it was five years ago, but my kids are older now, and I have gotten better at weeding out and organizing! It takes time to learn the techniques, to practice them, and to better understand my home and family. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does get better little by little. You can do this!

Just like weight loss, which requires dieting, or fitness, which includes exercising, or any other self-improvement activity, there is no magic pill out there for de-cluttering. Small steps can make immediate improvements. Be stubborn. Keep going even when mistakes happen or things backslide and back up on you. Who is going to win here? You or your stuff? You are, of course!


Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com.