Give Up Clutter for Good

Just a week ago, New Orleans revelers celebrated Mardi Gras, tossing some 25 million pounds of beads. The following day—Ash Wednesday—marked the beginning of Lent, the annual religious observance that asks Christians to engage in six weeks of penance or self-denial by giving something up.

Whether or not you’re a regular churchgoer, there’s one way to give things up that will reward you immediately, even as you help others: Pledge to give up clutter during Lent—and maybe for good—by cleaning out your old clothing, housewares and other unused goods and calling for a pickup.

Clutter not only gets in your way, it clutters and confuses the mind. “Like used plastic shopping bags stuck on the branches of a riverbank tree, our clutter poisons our view and enjoyment of the objects that we do need and want and use,” says green living expert Annie B. Bond.

Her “8 Easy Steps to No More Clutter” begin with a thorough sorting exercise. Arrange your stuff into five categories: “Essential” things you need every day; “Favorites” such as photos, jewelry, and souvenirs; “Other people’s stuff” that winds up in your space; and “Annoying” or “Downright gross” items like junk mail and dirty laundry.

Start with the gross, she says, and sort out the simply annoying. Return other peoples’ stuff and find places for your favorites. Finally, put all of your essentials in places you can access and use them. Anything that still doesn’t have a home when you’re finished is clutter—and you can throw it away or donate it.

This is a comprehensive approach to spring cleaning, to be sure, but with almost five more weeks of Lent, you’ll have time to give something up and still do the virtuous work of helping others. When you donate the stuff that clutters up your house, the proceeds go toward programs that help feed, house and thank the nation’s veterans for their service.

There’s never a bad time to give up clutter, but you, your family and the nation’s veterans will all be better off once you do. So start today—you’ll be happy you did!

Now That Halloween Is Over

Recently, Martha Stewart was making the rounds of TV talk shows to promote her creative ideas for Halloween decorating.

She’s a whiz, using Styrofoam pieces, netting, cheesecloth and glow sticks to create creepy-crawly décor perfect for a ghoulish good time.

When Halloween is over, however, how do you create storage for items that you’re sure to use next season?

Stewart and other organizational gurus recommend the following:

  • Purchase Halloween-colored plastic storage bins that are stackable and come in a variety of sizes. Keep your holiday decorations color-coded by using black, orange or purple bins for your Halloween items.
  • Consider purchasing or making dividers to ensure your decorations — hanging bats and cheesecloth ghosts, for instance — make it through storage intact for more creepy fun next year.
  • Keep your smaller decorations or breakables in popcorn tins, and add a label about what’s inside.
  • If you buy storage bins in bulk and don’t want to spend extra to color code your Halloween items, consider purchasing transparent bins so you can easily see what’s in each container.
  • Make sure you purchase bins that will fit into your storage area. Measure your closet, for example, to make sure you’re not buying a bin that’s too large or can’t be stacked in the available space.
  • Think about the material for each item as you attempt to pack it away. Is it worth saving? Will the materials degrade over the course of a year in storage?
  • Organize your decorations by area of your house. If you have items for the front porch, for example, store these items together to save decorating time.

If you love Halloween as much as most people seem to, you might have accumulated more items than you can possibly use.

Here are some tips for cutting through the clutter:

  • Consider donating costumes that your children have outgrown. You may have other costumes that can be repurposed, so consider donating those as well.
  • Look for shabby items, and toss them. Donating to nonprofit groups is a worthwhile endeavor, but they don’t want your trash.

Here’s a great decluttering technique that you can test out as you take down all of your Halloween decorations.

Assemble four boxes, labeled “trash, ” “give away, ” “put away” and “sell.” Give yourself an hour for the task, but set a timer for 45 minutes. Use that time to go through your items and sort them into the boxes. When the timer rings, set it again for 15 minutes, and use that time to clean up and move the boxes to the appropriate spot.

Don’t forget that would love to receive your items to fund its programs for veterans. You can visit the site to schedule a pickup. Easy!


Let’s Get Organized!

Some families have a special day and time for house cleaning and getting organized for the week. For example, cleaning together before lunch or an outing on Sunday can turn into a remembered family ritual. Depending on age and ability, children can be assigned weekly tasks, with the entire family working together to tidy and clean each room and lay out clothing and other necessary items for the week.

Getting Kids to Help

Getting kids to help around the house, particularly to care for their clothing and put away laundry, can be a hassle. To remove some of the stress, each child should have a separate clothing basket to carry clothing to the laundry room and to bring fresh clothing back to his or her room, family experts recommend. Decorate it with the child’s name. Better yet, let the child decorate it.