Don’t fret this fall, you can continue your campaign against clutter even when you get discouraged. Every year, several times per year, it seems like household clutter catches up with me. It is an unending process. That is okay. That is just the way it is. The process keeps us in shape and alert. Each time I remove clutter, I get better at it, and you can too. When I participate alertly in the process, I learn new tactics and techniques. The process goes more smoothly. I try a different angle. One fall, I created a new mantra and a new process to dig through closets, drawers, and cupboards: “Use it or lose it.” And, “Write it down.”

Are you tired of hanging onto things because of good intentions or guilt? My response is, “Use it or lose it.” As I purge clutter, I challenge myself that if I continue to keep something in my life that I can’t let go of because it tugs at me, I must put it to its intended purpose soon, or, once and for all, send it out the door. This year I weed out clutter with a pen and paper in hand. I am going to write down the items and the corresponding good intentions that make me keep them. Items on the list that are still hanging on the next time I weed out must go.

As you go through each room of your home, make a plan to incorporate this unused stuff into your life. Put them on “the list.” Vow to finish any partially completed craft projects. Give yourself realistic deadlines. Make plans to wear the clothing, jewelry, or “perfectly good” shoes that you have been hanging onto. Light the candle you had been saving. Listen to the CD that you don’t listen to any more but still aren’t sure you are ready to donate. Read the books or periodicals that whisper to you. Above all, put everything on “the list.”

Keep a list of those “hangers on” as you weed out clutter. These guys are tough. They have probably survived several previous clutter clearing efforts. They are hanging around taking up storage space in your home and they are personally taunting you. They are mean. They promise things that don’t happen.

This time will be different. The process of listing these clingy items, reviewing the list, and trying to accomplish the list will be a consciousness-raising experience. You will look at this stuff differently. One way or another, its hold over you will be diminished. You can’t help but move forward.

For additional inspiration, check out a related book called Love It Or Lose It—Living Clutter-Free Forever by Barbara Hemphill and Maggie Bedrosian (MD: BCI Press, 2002). They offer a 5-step clutter control process: “design your vision, eliminate excuses, commit your time, select your tools, and maintain your success.” I like their process to form an ideal vision of each room on the front end. Seeing an end result in my mind’s eye makes it easier to stay on task. It is also easier to know when you achieve your goal if you already envision the end result.

Another great book to try is Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston (Broadway Books, 1999). I really enjoyed her ideas about room flow. Sometimes I reread a favorite clutter clearing book when I, once again, go through my house to battle my clutter.

Design your vision. Work toward it. Write down the items keeping you from your vision. And finally, use it or lose it. If you can’t get around to enjoying or using something today, when are you going to have time to do it tomorrow? Use it or lose it. You can sell or donate what you find, and help another person out there!


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 www.clutterclearingchoices.com.