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Combat clutter
Launch an attack on disorganized closets, offices, garages



You know the neighbor or friend that ignites the fires of envy in you. Itís really not the person with the most expensive car or the fantastic wardrobe, or even the honor student.

Itís the person that has his or her clutter under control.

According to studies, nearly 80 percent of the clutter in our lives is not due to lack of space. Instead, the vast majority of clutter is due to disorganization.

"Everybodyís idea of organization is different," says Brendan McDaniel, owner of Action Organizing Services of Milwaukee. "There is no right or wrong way to file, store or label items. The purpose is to find something when you need it."

Sorting is always the first logical step in getting rid of clutter. McDaniel suggests creating three piles: Best Friend (items to keep), Acquaintance (items youíre not sure about) and Stranger (items to discard).

"Anything in the stranger pile should be discarded immediately, whether it is to the trash can or a donation center," he says. "If you are getting rid of something, take it to the trash right away. Items in the Acquaintance pile can be put aside for a later date, and youíre likely to find more to discard when you hit it a second time."

Jennifer McDaniel, owner of Organize for Life! in the Northshore, suggests the SPACE method for attacking the clutter in your home. After Sorting and Purging, the next step is to Assign a home for your stuff and Containerize it. The final step is Equalizing, or maintaining the clutter-free space with 15 minutes of upkeep a day.

"Putting items in a labeled container is very important," says Jennifer McDaniel. "If items are not in some structure, (the space) tends to become disorganized quicker."

Brendan McDaniel suggests clear plastic bins for regular storage and colored bins for holiday storage. "The colored bins, such as the reds and greens sold around the holiday season or the orange-and-black at Halloween, make it easy to spot the boxes you want at the appropriate time," he says.

To keep clutter down in closets, he suggests turning all the hangers toward the wall at the start of every season. At the end of the season if the hanger hasnít changed, discard the item.

"Many people keep clothes because they think they will lose weight," he says. "Nine times out of 10, if you do lose weight, you want new clothes or styles. Let them go."

Home offices tend to accumulate clutter, particularly papers. According to the Quill Paper Products survey, 45 new sheets of paper are generated by each American office worker each day. Couple that with the 49,000 pieces of mail ó a third of which is junk mail ó the average American receives at home during his or her lifetime and the home office often gets buried in paperwork.

Try this drastic tip to get the clutter moving out: Put all loose papers in a banker box or bin, which will make the office look instantly organized. Then grab a handful of papers and begin sorting them into categories. The experts then suggest using sticky notes to denote the categories and, when each pile is complete, they can be transferred into their own file folders.

Clutter elimination can be applied to any living space, from your office to your home and even your garage, a place that often becomes the "final frontier" for most families.

"The garage has a tendency to become a very expensive storage facility," says Paul Jorgensen, owner of GarageTek in Waukesha. "The typical garage has four corners and eventually everything ends up leaning in a corner and you end up with an Ďoctopusí of things that youíre not quite sure you have."

He says that most of his clients reach a point where they realize they need professional help.

"When does it happen? When they end up going to the store for the third time to buy a rake because they canít find the ones they already own," he says.

GarageTek uses a zone approach to help clients bust garage clutter. For example, childrenís items may get their own zone, a golfer in the family gets another.

"The aim is to give everything its own space," he says. "When everything has a visual spot, you have a much greater tendency to put things back and stay organized."

Likewise, Jorgensen suggests moving everything up and off the floor whenever possible.

"Not only does this help you see that everything is in its place, it also reduces the time it takes you to clean the garage to about two minutes with a leaf blower," he notes. "That makes organizing worth it right there."