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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!


submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article appears in the February 20, 2005 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

Are you sometimes lost in your home due to clutter? Where does clutter come from, is the common question. It appears for many reasons. It comes from children’s play things, school work, craft projects and clothes. Adults leave newspapers, magazines, tools, clothes, etc. abandoned. It comes in the form of unwanted mail and other types of papers. It appears on floors, furniture, counters, tables, desks and in storage areas. Clutter can cause problem in the home and with the family because it hides the things we need. Now it is time to de-clutter.

To de-clutter everyone in the home must buy into the idea. Removing clutter needs to happen the same way it started, slow and steady. Set a time to de-clutter. Start with just a few minutes each day. Consider the methods and strategies you want to use. One method that works well is the “four box or bag” method. Start with three containers and the trash can. Label the containers, “Put Away,” “Give Away/Sell,” and “Storage.” Anything that doesn’t go in one of the labeled containers goes in the trash can. Start in the first area and put each piece of clutter in one of the containers. When you are finished with the area, take 15 minutes or put the items in the appropriate place. As you fill the storage boxes, label them and put them in the storage area. Empty the trash can so you don’t change your mind about those items. This method can be used for a single area, a shelf drawer or the whole house.

After you have cleared the cluttered area the real work begins. Now it’s time to put the clutter prevention techniques to work. Some techniques to follow are:

  • Have a home for everything.
  • After reading magazines, recycle them by passing them on to someone else or donating them to a nursing home, office or group, or take them to a recycling site and putting them with the mixed paper. If you want to save an article before tossing the magazine, tear the article out and put in a file.
  • Sort mail immediately. Toss or shred and recycle unwanted mail.
  • Sort through old clothing. Donate unwanted pieces to charity. Go through the closets and sort out clothing not worn or doesn’t fit. Donate to family, friends or charity. One method to use is when a new piece of clothing is purchased get rid of another piece.
  • Set a time limit for keeping things. If you haven’t used an appliance or other item for three years, it’s probably time to get rid of it.
  • Store photos in a scrapbook, photo item or photo box. If you have photos you don’t need or want, give them to family or friends in the pictures.
  • Store the number of shopping bags you will use and recycle the rest.
  • Store toys and games in crates or boxes on shelves. Develop a plan with the children for playing with toys and putting them away.
  • Have a place to put dirty clothes. This can be a hamper or basket in the bedrooms or a central hamper in the laundry area.
  • Store sentimental items and keepsakes in well marked containers in a dry area.

Don’t forget the “junk” drawer. Almost every family has one. Many times it is neglected. Clean out things like old candy, pens that don’t work, old rubber bands and other non-useable items. It’s fine to have a “junk” drawer just don’t forget about it and let it become a problem.

Remember clutter comes from not putting household items in their place. When you use something put it away when you’re done.

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