If you’re tackling your clutter in fits and starts, it can sometimes feel like you’re making little progress. Although you’ve purged a number of things, you’ve hardly made a dent – or worse yet, accumulated more in the meantime. When clutter becomes particularly invasive, it’s time to wage an all-out war.
1. Psych yourself up. Like a general going into battle, prepare yourself mentally for the challenge ahead. Spend some time thinking about how your clutter makes you feel: frustrated, upset, anxious, tired, overwhelmed. Get good and angry at your clutter.
2. Draw up a battle plan. Instead of fighting your clutter willy-nilly, draw up a full-scale plan of attack. Outline the battleground – be it your living room, desk drawer, or linen closet – and decide the date and time to launch your offensive. Devise a strategy for routing out the clutter: such as completely emptying out the contents, then deciding what goes back in.
3. Call in reinforcements. If you’re planning an epic battle (like cleaning out your garage, basement, or attic), round up additional troops. Family and friends make terrific soldiers: they provide extra hands and moral support, and help strengthen your resolve when you feel weak or sentimental. Rally family members to get rid of their own stuff!
4. Identify the enemy. Clutter is an expert in camouflage, and does a bang-up job blending in with your more useful possessions. You’ll find it holed up in your sock drawer, your medicine cabinet, your coat closet and elsewhere. Keep a sharp eye out for anything you haven’t used in the last six months.
5. Interrogate. Give every possession you encounter the third degree: ask where it came from, what it does, and what value it adds to your household. Determine whether it belongs in your kingdom, or should be banished. Don’t give anything a free pass.
6. Round up the intruders. Establish a holding cell for all intruders you find: it can be a box, a garbage bag, or a designated area of the room you’re working on. Don’t be tempted to leave them in place and deal with them later; they’ll surely escape to other parts of the house as soon as your back is turned.
7. Decide their fate. Deal with the captives responsibly. Instead of tossing them in a landfill to deteriorate, give them a second chance: find new homes for them via eBay, Craigslist, Freecycle, or charitable organizations. They may become valuable citizens of another household.
8. Expel them from your kingdom. Once you’ve decided their fate, don’t let them hang around. Have a garage sale, ship them out, schedule pickups, or pile them in your trunk and drive them to Goodwill. Don’t give them a chance to re-infiltrate your home.
9. Shore up your defenses. Set up blockades to prevent future invasions: get off mailing lists, don’t bring home freebies, opt out of gift exchanges, set limits on your possessions, and question every purchase. Be a good gatekeeper, and clutter will find it much more difficult to slip past your defenses.
10. Be vigilant. Constantly be on the lookout for new intruders: scan your surfaces on a daily basis, and expel them before they become entrenched. Pay particular attention to hotspots where clutter tends to gather.
Heed this advice, and you’re certain to emerge victorious. After you reclaim your territory from the invading clutter, you’ll have a new empire of space – and a sense of peace and serenity will reign in your household.