There are too many places in my home (and sheds, and basement, and car, and garage…) to store too much stuff. I have this nagging feeling that if I could get rid of half of my stuff, or more, my life would be simpler. I even suspect I wouldn’t miss anything. I dare to think I would have more time and energy if I didn’t need to spend so much time cleaning, tidying, sorting, and weeding out household stuff.  The problem is that when I look at the stuff I have tucked away, it all seems like “good stuff.” Much of it is useful and in good condition. So what’s the issue? Sheer quantity! Contemplate your clutter while I discuss mine and follow the common sense approach to clutter clearing explained below.

Why can’t I get rid of my clutter? Simple. I have a poor memory. Yes, poor memory creates clutter. When I’m weeding out the basement closet, I forget what I have in the hallway and bedroom closets. It doesn’t all fit in my head at once. This makes for incomplete clutter control. There is a simple solution—a common sense clutter control rule to help:

Group like things together. It sounds like a science experiment, but it is actually an organizing rule that helps get rid of household clutter and keeps it from coming back. Although I had read it before in clutter control and organizing books, I couldn’t see why it mattered or how it applied to me. Finally, one day, I got it.

I was looking for a picture frame. I had a cute kid photo I wanted to display. I checked the kitchen drawer and looked at the frames there. Next, I went to my bedroom and pulled out other photo frames tucked away in a dresser. After that, I went downstairs and looked through the desk, and finally, I dug through some frames I had tucked away in the laundry room. Are you fed up yet? I was.

I was running around my house like a hamster in a cage checking out various food stashes. Oh… “Group like things together.” I finally got it. I gathered all my picture frames together. I tossed the broken ones. I donated the ones that I didn’t like or were funny sizes or that didn’t match my decorating ideas. At last, I was left with a small stack of frames that I put in a box on a shelf in the laundry room.

The trick is to apply this rule to all clutter categories of life. I can’t weed out clothing until I’m caught up with the laundry and have all the clothing together. I can’t effectively weed out shoes until I’m looking at every pair I own. That means I have to grab the pairs in the bedroom, the ones in the entry closet, and the ones downstairs and put them all together.

What about my husband’s sports jackets and baseball caps? We have to grab the ones in the bedroom closet, the ones in the spare closet, the ones on his workbench, and the ones out in his truck to get an accurate count of what he really has.

What about my children’s books, games, or toys? If some of their stuff is in their bedrooms and some of it is tucked in the toy room, family room, basement, or garage, then they will have the same problem with weeding out.

At our house, we gather together things like videos, CD’s, stuffed animals, and mittens. Group like things together in each clutter category to make lasting decisions about what to donate, what to save, and what storage containers will keep us better organized.

Store like items together. This is an important corollary to the first rule. Once you have gathered up like items, try to designate one place to store them together. No one really wants to spend time hunting all around the house looking in several places for one kind of thing.

When someone looks for something at your house, do you ever find yourself telling them, “Well, check here, or, if it’s not here, try over there, or maybe it will be in such and such a spot, and have you looked in the (fill in the blank) yet?” When possible, any single category of stuff would be easier to find and manage if it has only one storage spot in the home.

I don’t want to purchase extra stuff just because I can’t find the one I already own. Most importantly, I don’t want to waste time weeding out clutter over and over again because I can only make partial decisions. I can’t keep a complete inventory in my head as I move from closet to closet and room to room.

Finally, think like a PRO—a professional organizer! That is, to Pile like items together, Reduce the quantity, and then Organize the remainder. Try the simple rules and acronym to weed out household clutter once—and for all.


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.