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Has your domicile gotten out of control? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the one place in the world that’s supposed to serve as your sanctuary? Would you like to make your living environment more, well, livable? Just click on any button to reveal a whole host of decluttering, space planning, information management, productivity, and other miscellaneous organizing tips for that room. And welcome home!

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Copyright 2014

Turning Your Attic Into Functional Storage (Instead Of Wasted Space) Taming Your Child's Room (To Prevent All Those Kid-Messes) Ending Kitchen Clutter (And Saving Time On Meal Preparation) Finding New Homes For The Clutter (So Your Car Can Actually Live In The Garage) Creating Efficient (And Attractive) Storage In Your Bathroom Getting Your Closet In Order (And Bringing This Couture Nightmare To An End) Regaining Control Over Paper (And Your Manage-The-Family/Work-At-Home Office, Too) Keeping Your Car Organized (In The Midst Of Crazy-Busy Work And Personal Use) Getting Your Books/Magazines (And Other Miscellaneous Media Items) In Order

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Turning Your Attic Into Functional Storage
(Instead Of Wasted Space)

If you're like most modern homo sapiens, your attic has become a dumping ground for crap you've not needed, looked at, nor used in years -- most of which you'd probably forgotten you even owned! Broken furniture, dead appliances, decades-old clothing, discarded hobby supplies, junk you stuck in a box 3 moves ago (and have never bothered unpacking) -- I'll bet you've never even asked yourself whether these are really necessary to your existence on the planet. That's the problem with far-away storage spaces like the attic -- so easy to lose track of what's up there and why you were keeping it. And this is why our focus in organizing the uppermost portion of your abode is going to be clutter clearing:

  • The elimination of excess always begins via a rough sort. Start with twin boxes labeled "keep" and "get rid of" -- as you wander through the stacks and piles, see if you can't assign every belonging you encounter to one of those categories. Don't stress yourself out worrying about what any particular thing is or how it should be stored or where to put it just yet -- that nonsense comes later on. Right now, all we care about is singing like The Clash. (You know, should it stay or should it go?) And yes, I understand that decision-making is hard -- that's why you're also giving yourself a triplet "not sure" bin. If your brain feels like it might asplode as you ponder an old bowling ball or college notebook or green shag toilet-lid carpet, toss it in with the other "I don't knows" and we'll deal with it later.
  • As you reacquaint yourself with the ghosts of possessions past, consider whether each item is "beautiful, useful, or loved" (according to whatever criteria you deem appropriate) -- if the answer is "not," why the hell you're hanging onto it! Because it was expensive? Wasting precious storage space on something that serves no purpose in your life isn't going to get your money back -- post a Craigslisting and recoup some of that lost cash! Because it's a family heirloom? How is stashing a historical item away in a closet to gather dust honoring your lineage? Pass it on to a relative who can actually use it! Because you feel guilty about disliking that ugly lamp Aunt Mildred gave you as a wedding present -- or stupid about wasting $200 on an outfit you never wore (and now doesn't fit)? It's easier to let those negative emotions go once you've evicted said object from your domicile!
  • The most insidious kind of disorder is what I like to call "limbo clutter" -- consisting of those poor homeless and neglected critters who occupy the purgatorial nether-region between "currently useful" and "obviously trash." I'm talking about that blender with the burned-out motor (which could easily be fixed, if you'd just tote it to the repair shop), that skirt with the ripped hem (which perfectly complements your fave black jacket, if you'd just take the time to sew it up), ye olde alarm clock (which works just fine, when it's equipped with functional batteries), and that extra hedge-trimmer you've been holding hostage for more than a year (which actually belongs to your brother). Do yourself a favor -- take a minute and separate good-to-go stuff from those items needing repair, waiting to be returned, or missing a vital piece to be fully operational again.
  • Let's talk about the "get-rid-ofs" -- once you've donated, re-gifted, recycled, or sold everything that's in any way salvageable, don't feel guilty about pitching the rest. Of course we're trying hard to save Mother Earth from the sins committed by our disposable society, and we don't want functional items ending up in a landfill -- but you're guaranteed to find some legitimate trash mixed in amongst the treasures. Before you stash that thing away because you might need it "someday," define what "someday" looks like -- exactly when, where, and under what circumstances will that doodad serve a purpose in your life? And if you find yourself hoarding tons of used tin foil or mangled twist ties or pens that have run out of ink, you might need to re-evaluate your definition of "useful."

Taming Your Child's Room
(To Prevent All Those Kid-Messes)

I can't tell you how many folks I meet who swear to me that children (as a species) are genetically incapable of maintaining order -- nuh-uh! I'll argue that kids are my best organizers -- they crave structure, they thrive with a predictable routine and orderly surroundings. There's more nurture than nature at work here -- I don't care how old you are, it's all about what you've been taught, how your environment is set up to encourage (or discourage) good habits. Getting a small house-ape to put his toys away at bedtime is no different from talking a banker into clearing his desk when the whistle blows 5:00 at the end of each work day -- it only happens when you've got meaningful systems and consistent processes in place:

  • The name of the game is "age-appropriate" -- you can't expect your average rug-rat to perform behaviors that surpass his current developmental abilities, to understand concepts that are beyond his mental comprehension, to access storage spaces he can't reach. If you want those clothes hung up, place your wee one's closet rod at his shoulder height. If you'd like foot-sole-injuring playthings to end up in a tub rather than all over the floor, make sure your precious snowflake has adequate finger strength to remove then replace the lid -- or give him open bins to work with. If you're tired of finding shirts in the pants drawer and socks mixed in with underwear, give that not-yet-able-to-read preschooler picture labels rather than words. And if the idea of having to change out an entire room full of furniture every time your child grows and evolves to a new level, stick to modular storage components that can be adjusted and expanded as his capacity and needs change.
  • Another trick that makes it easier for crotch-droplings to keep track of where their belongings belong is keeping like with like. Divide the available space (bedroom, playroom, converted basement) into appropriate "centers" -- one each for grooming, rest, play, art, schoolwork, reading, music, whatever activities best suit your family's interpretation of the mini-me lifestyle. Then make sure that every single relevant item is stored in that area. It's also not a bad idea to have several small portable containers around the house (baskets or crates with handles are preferable) -- for quickly and easily gathering up migratory toys/books/clothes and unidentifiable-kindercrap. Give 'em a clearly-defined place for everything to live and a way of returning homeless items to their domiciles, and there's no reason for kid-clutter to accumulate in other parts of the house.
  • Out of sight equals out of mind -- so using clear tubs and see-through mesh bags for storage allows itty-bitty eyes (as well as big ones) to immediately recognize what's being kept where. Just do your best to match the size of the container to the item -- dumping a bunch of teen-intsy Legos and Hot Wheels into a gigantic toy box is a recipe for lost pieces, epic-meltdown-level temper tantrums, and mess strewn about the room. Keep smallish critters (like marbles, army men, crayons, jacks, and Barbie shoes) together in clear labeled jars or buckets -- then put those containers in the larger chest.
  • Instilling your munchkins with good organizing habits also means educating them about time management and prioritization. Modern humans are expected to balance multiple external responsibilities while fitting their scheduling needs into the larger familial picture -- and the earlier these skills are acquired, the easier later life will be. One way to get your peeps on the same page is to have a household planning session once a week where you sit everyone down, talk about what's going on in the various school/work/home/extracurricular arenas, record each person's activities (each in a different color pen) on one central calendar -- then address any conflicts, get supplies for upcoming projects, and carve out room for things like chores, homework, and quality time.

Ending Kitchen Clutter
(And Saving Time On Meal Preparation)

The kitchen is the heart of a household -- warm and welcoming, a communal gathering place, the origin of all nourishment. It's also one of the most-used rooms in your domicile -- so when the damn thing doesn't function properly, the rest of your life gets mucked up by association. And far too many people allow their health to suffer because of culinary disorganization. (You can't cook a decent meal when your counters are covered in crap, when you've got no room to work, when you can't find your ingredients or implements -- that's why so many Americans live off of fast food and frozen dinners.) But meal prep doesn't have to be that hard, if you just take a second to get your Peking ducks in a row first:

  • Let's start with the basics -- layout is one of the most important aspects to consider when creating gastronomic order. (Your floor plan can make or break all your other efforts.) Any kitchen is most efficiently set up in a triangle -- with nothing blocking the flow of movement from stove to refrigerator to sink. (Generally, you want take no more than a couple of steps when traveling back and forth between these key locations.) Dividing your kitchen into distinct centers for cooking, cleaning, food preparation, serving, and storage (then keeping everything you need for that activity at its "station") is another major step in an ergonomically-correct direction.
  • Cookware, utensils, small appliances, and consumables should all be stored like-with-like. Group comestibles by category for easy access -- canned goods, beverages, dried bulk items, baking supplies, breakfast foods (you get the picture). Keep small packets of seasoning, Kool-Aid, gravy, sauce, or Jello together in baskets/bins. Everyday dishes should live separately from special-occasion pieces. And alphabetizing spices makes finding the exact herb (with an effing "H") you're looking for much easier -- it also helps you avoid accidentally dumping garlic into a dish that calls for cinnamon.
  • Along those lines, you want to store foodstuffs closest to the point where they're used -- pots and pans by the stove, glassware and plates above the dishwasher, towels and cleaning products near the sink, that sort of thing. But also keep in mind frequency of use. The only items sitting out on your counters should be those that get touched on a daily or weekly basis -- if you find a bunch of junk covered in dust cluttering up your horizontal surfaces, it's time for a change!
  • Don't forget about decluttering your pantry -- most "non-perishables" get gross after 6-12 months, and canned goods can last for maybe 2 years before they start to turn. The best way to avoid having so much that it goes bad is to only buy what you need -- clip a pad of paper to the fridge so you can keep a running tab as you plan meals and run out of essentials. Then when you head to the grocery store, organize your shopping list and coupons in the order that the aisles (produce, dairy, meat, canned goods, junk food) are laid out to save time.

Finding New Homes For The Clutter
(So Your Car Can Actually Live In The Garage)

I hate to ask, but where does your car live? (And yes, I already know that the answer is "in the driveway, 'cuz my garage is full of other stuff.") That makes total sense. Leave the $30,000+ vehicle outside to fend for itself, your all-important-mode-of-transport-and-lifeblood-of-mobility rusting away at the mercy of the elements, getting sunburned and frozen and drowned -- while you carefully protect $500 worth of junk you honestly couldn't care less about. Now that we've had that small reality check, let's look at some ways to get that miscellany of stuff up off the floor, so your ride can sleep soundly indoors at night:

  • The first step in maximizing your available garage space (and clearing that center area of the floor for vehicle-parkage) is setting up shelving around ye olde perimeter walls. Lightweight ones should accommodate whatever small items are currently cluttering up the works -- car care stuff, hand tools, gardening supplies, sports equipment, paint, etc. Heavier-duty racks can support bigger tubs of holiday decorations, off-season outdoor toys, power tools, ice chests, and what-not. (Yes. I know it's easier to stack them all in a gigantic tower of boxes -- but shelving allows you to get at just the bottom one without knocking the whole thing over and crushing yourself to death.) And on that note -- be careful about storing overweight, bulky, or hard-to-handle items above your head (unless you're looking for a concussion). Getting organized -- it's all about saving lives!
  • When confronted with an activity-specific body of paraphernalia that you have to carry back and forth every time you use it, make your life easier by keeping all the things related to that hobby or chore in a portable container. You're more likely to engage in routine vehicle maintenance when rags, sponges, relevant cleaning fluids, and paper towels are stored together in a large plastic bucket (instead of scattered all over the garage). Your gloves, hat, trowel, clippers, and other gardening gizmos work well in a basket/tray with a handle. And you'll save time getting out the door for soccer practice or little league if each sports' equipment lives in a convenient grab-and-go bag.
  • Don't forget about all that overlooked vertical space you're not adequately utilizing. A pegboard over a work table lets you hang tools where you can see/reach them more easily. (Draw an outline around each hammer and screwdriver and set of pliers with a marker -- easy-peasey to get everyone back in place after a day of projecting.) Wrap your hoses and extension cords around winders and stick them on the wall with a screw-hook. Longer implements (like shovels, rakes, mops, brooms -- even baseball bats and hockey sticks) are just begging to be aligned upside down by their handles using a series of clamp holders. Mount mason jars (by their lids) or a drawer system (by its frame) on the bottom-side of a shelf for separating out small pieces of hardware. Hell, go nuts and hang bigger items from the ceiling -- bicycles, canoes, lawn chairs, ladders, whatever. It's your world to organize!
  • Couple of other random notes, fer ya. Keep the local weather in mind as you choose what to store (or not to store) in your probably-sans-climate-control garage -- lest you find your precious belongings damaged by heat, cold, moisture, or bugs. If you have kids (even adult ones), you can encourage group recreation by designing a play center -- where all balls, bats, blades, racquets, lawn toys, and inflatable beach thingies are stored together. Setting aside a mat or low shelf (right by the door leading into your house) for muddy shoes keeps dirt from being tracked inside. And this should be a no-brainer as you're installing shelves and racks -- but be sure to leave enough room on either side so you can open your car doors without bumping into tools or bicycles or snow skis.

Creating Efficient (And Attractive)
Storage In Your Bathroom

Poor potty. One of the most important rooms in your house (you'd explode without it) -- yet always overlooked in the grand creating-order-and-eliminating-chaos scheme of things. Why is that, I wonder? Does a privy not have feelings? Does the head not deserve respect? Look past that cold unfeeling tile (and apply a touch of air freshener) -- you'll find a warm little center of your home just waiting to emerge. And don't forget that powder rooms are as susceptible to clutter as kitchens or offices or garages (filled with small scattered toiletry items as they are) -- they need some organizational loving too:

  • First off, what is all that crap (figurative, not literal) piled on the counter, totally in the way as you get ready each morning? Try to keep horizontal surfaces as junk-free as possible -- stashing anything you don't touch daily in a cabinet/drawer, reserving fingertip areas for those ablutive accoutrements you use all the time. You also want items to live nearest the point where they're used ('cuz there's nothing worse than stumbling across the bathroom with your pants around your ankles after realizing moments-too-late that the T.P. roll is empty) -- magazines go in a basket by the john, your curling iron next to the mirror where you do your hair, and towels on a shelf by the tub. And we all love Costco, but don't waste precious active (meaning the easiest-to-reach) space on bulk purchases -- keep those 3-gallon refill bottles of shampoo and 64 extra spools of floss somewhere else out of the way.
  • Now a look at how to maximize your limited lavatorial storage. Drawer dividers are a great way to corral small items like eyeliner pencils, lip balm, nail clippers, and earrings. Cursed with deep pull-outs? Look for stacking sectional trays (designed specifically for advantage-taking in vertical spaces). Afflicted with gaping under-sink cabinets and linen closet shelves? Use baskets and tubs to group like items together -- hair care products in one container, medicines in another, soaps in a third. And you might want to set up a series of lidded see-through jars for all that stuff you'd like to keep sterile but still need to access regularly -- cotton balls, q-tips, makeup sponges, whatever.
  • I mentioned that the loo is one of the most important rooms in the house -- it's also one of the highest-traffic (and therefore messiest). Staying on top of W.C. sanitation can be a full-time job, unless you have a system. Start with a little prevention -- wipe up spills and splats as soon as they happen (before that toothpaste or hairspray or god-forgive-me-but-yes-I'm-going-to-say-it-poo dries into a cement-like substance that requires a jackhammer to remove). Giving the counter and mirrors a quick swipe each day makes the deep clean easier later on. And storing supplies (like tub/tile spray, toilet brush, glass cleaner, paper towels) in a bucket under the sink is a surprisingly big time-saver.
  • Don't forget about organizing your other indoor-outhouses. Keeping a couple of baskets in each of those half baths (as well as ye olde guest latrine) filled with sample soaps, shampoo, toothbrushes, and other items your visitors might need is a nice courtesy. It's also an awesome way to get rid of (by actually using) all those miniature grooming products you're always collecting from hotels.

Getting Your Closet In Order
(And Bringing This Couture Nightmare To An End)

My favorite moment with any organizing client is when I hear the words, "I forgot I even owned that skirt/vest/purse/whatever!" So let me ask -- do you know what's currently living in your closet? If not, how does that affect your quality of life? How much time do you waste each morning fighting with your wardrobe? How often are you late getting out the door -- because you've discovered that a garment you love has become unwearable, or you've totally misplaced an article of clothing in the midst of all that fashion clutter? A bad start leads to a bad day -- so one of the most positively impactful changes you can make to your environment is to getting your clothes storage in order:

  • Our first step is to make sure that every bit of your attire serves a purpose in your life -- that each skirt or blouse or suit you own deserves be taking up valuable space in your home. While sifting through your garb, take a minute to pick each item up and ask yourself some hard questions. When was the last time that fabric touched your bod? Does it still fit? How does wearing those threads make you feel? If you haven't donned it in the last 12 (or so) months, if it's more than one size too small (or too big), if it's uncomfortable or out of style, if you don't love yourself when you wear it -- lose it!
  • We need some method of subdividing your apparel -- breaking it into meaningful categories so you can easily find what you're looking for. Maybe store cool-weather duds separate from warm (and have "off-season" migrate to a different location if you're running short on space) -- or sort according to purpose (formal/casual), gender (men's/women's), type (shirts/pants), style (short-sleeve/long-sleeve), and color (light to dark). Then ice that organizational cake by visually separating clothes using rod dividers, or giving each classification it's own shelf/drawer/section of the closet.
  • I'm a believer in customizing each system to its user's needs, so I have very few hard-and-fast rules about how to create order -- except this one! Hang nothing (and I mean NOTHING) in your closet that isn't currently wearable! The last thing you want when constructing the day's ensemble is to keep tripping over jackets that don't fit, pants that need hemmed, ties covered in stains, and shirts that don't match anything you own. Line a few baskets up along the floor -- labeled "donate," "laundry," "dry cleaning," "mending/alterations," and "to buy" (for those lonely souls needing a friend to make them functional again). If you can't walk out the door wearing it today, it goes in one of those bins.
  • You may have more closet space than you think -- you just have to remember to look up, down, and all around. There are a million different specialty hooks/racks on the market, allowing you to hang just about anything from the walls -- belts, ties, hats, scarves, bags, even jewelry. Assigning your shoes to a floor shelf or over-the-door organizer keeps them protected, aired out, and visible -- while saving precious horizontal storage for other items. And if you possess mostly foldables, install some open bins or one of those cool slidey drawer systems in place of your rod for easy access.

Regaining Control Over Paper
(And Your Manage-The-Family/Work-At-Home Office, Too)

You don't have to be a Fortune 500 CEO to need a functional home office. Every human who participates in modern society (so no, I'm not counting Massai warriors or some uncontacted tribe living in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest) has at least a few administrative responsibilities to stay on top of -- filing, finances, communications, that sort of thing. Wouldn't it be nice to have an actual place to sit while taking care of business? Maybe a drawer for your supplies? Possibly even (god forbid) a folder for your paperwork? Whether you're paying household bills from your back bedroom or running an upwardly-mobile micro-enterprise out of your garage, ya gotta have an appropriate space in which to work:

  • Shall we discuss how your space is laid out? Ergonomics is the science of creating a biomechanically-pleasing environment -- routine activities (like computing and corresponding) shouldn't give you a pain in the neck, a sore back, or carpal tunnel. But what-oh-what will accomplish this lofty goal? How about a monitor positioned at eye level, a desk height that encourages flat wrists, and perpendicular torso/thigh alignment while sitting (for starters)? Placing everything you use regularly within arm's reach is another important step -- no bending, stretching, or hiking across the room to get at your equipment. (However, don't waste active storage hoarding ridiculous quantities of supplies -- only keep what you need nearby and put the rest in a closet/cabinet.) And "L" or "U" shaped workstations offer the most efficient set-up -- plenty of room to comfortably maneuver on all sides.
  • Unfortunately, even the most fantabulous spatial arrangement is rendered useless when your desk is covered in unopened mail and miscellaneous undone to-dos -- you need a damn system for the incoming paperwork! Sort whatever you receive (from the postal service, business meetings, your kid's school) daily -- if you accomplish nothing else, at least weed out the crap (which goes in that circular file on the floor) and decide what steps you need to take with the remainder. As you sort, place each action item in a corresponding folder according to its specific to-do -- "to read," "to pay," "to file," "to respond." (Then set aside time in your calendar each week to actually tackle those tasks.)
  • Once the to-dos are done, they need a place to live -- but what kind of home are you giving them? Does each get its own room in a logical, orderly, well-maintained domicile? Or are you jamming a bunch of unrelated strangers together in a cramped, cluttered, neglected hovel (one that looks suspiciously like a cardboard box or shopping bag)? It's time to revise your filing system -- or (if you ain't already got something in place) create one from scratch. Start with broad categories (like "insurance" or "house" or "marketing"), then divide each of those into logical subcategories (such as "auto" and "life" and "health" under "insurance"). Arrange your main topics alphabetically, then do the same with those individual subsections. Finally, insert your documents chronologically in each file -- you should never have to guess where to put (or find) a piece of paper again.
  • One more issue to discuss -- time management. If you don't have a calendar, get one -- I don't care if it's on the computer, your phone, or a paper planner, you need some place to track upcoming appointments and to-dos. Record important details right then and there whenever possible (especially if you're using an electronic program that allows for freehand notes) -- having addresses (for out-and-about activities), office hours (when interacting with businesses), confirmation numbers (for will-call), and shopping lists (when running errands) handy makes life soooo much easier. But avoid multiple calendars -- you're less likely to forget a meeting or end up with a conflict between a doctor visit and soccer practice if you record business and personal appointments in the same place.

Keeping Your Car Organized
(In The Midst Of Crazy-Busy Work And Personal Use)

Your car is more than just a mode of transportation, it's also a miniature version of your world on wheels. Think about everything you carry with you as you drive -- snacks/water, work paraphernalia, sunglasses, a billion straws (where do they all come from?), toys and school supplies and extracurricular equipment (if you have kids), bills you need to pay, magazines you want to read, returns that are waiting to be taken back to the store. Was said vehicle really designed to store all this junk? Probably not -- and that's why your ride is so frigging cluttered! But setting up systems for keeping it organized? That's all on you, baby:

  • Let's talk first about the "temporary" stuff you're toting around. Keeping an errand bin in the trunk (a place where consumer-regret-purchases-to-return, dry-cleaning-to-drop-off, art-to-frame, broken-items-to-be-fixed, discards-to-donate, bodies-to-bury, and library-books-to-take-back can live) makes it easier to actually complete those tasks. If you like to process paper to-dos while on the move, carry a mobile supply box with you -- writing implements, stapler, paper clips, stamps, whatever you need to work on the road. And if you're always dragging the accoutrements for a particular activity back and forth, store them in a plastic portable crate with handles and a lid.
  • Getting that poor little P.O.S. in order is not just about cleaning out -- it also involves adequately equipping your bucket in case of emergency. Everyone (I don't care who you are) should have a pen/paper, a flashlight, jumper cables, a blanket, and bottled water -- at a bare minimum. Then depending on where you live and how you travel, your road kit might also include other necessities -- flares, a tire jack, traffic flashers, oil, an ice scraper, chains, whatever. And make sure you've got your insurance/registration easily at hand in case of an accident or police altercation -- storing glove compartment paperwork in an expanding file (with labeled sections like "maintenance," "legal," and "insurance") means less time fumbling around as the officer stands over you with his gun drawn.
  • You'd be amazed at how much of what seems like innocuous "car clutter" is actually "automotive garbage." Fast food packaging, candy wrappers, disposable coffee cups, napkins, junk mail, parking tickets, those stupid fliers you find on your windshield -- it accumulates so fast. But what a difference just keeping a small trash receptacle (a collapsible can or hanging bag) in the back seat makes! Also, taking a minute to empty your jalopy after a long day (tossing the crap and putting important items back where they belong) allows you to start fresh and neat and tidy in the morning.
  • If you're a nomadic employee, an itinerant worker, a job-driven-road-warrior -- consider the many mobile office products being built for (and marketed to) your kind. I'm not usually one to recommend specific gadgets and gizmos (I'm more interested in teaching foundational principles, healthy boundaries, and behavior changes) -- but there's so much cool stuff out there designed to help mileage-clockers be more efficient and effective in your travels! Workstations (complete with supply storage) that fit in your passenger seat, laptop desks that attach to your steering wheel (not while you're driving), modular expanding rolling filing systems -- truly, a freed cubicle inmate's wet dream!

Getting Your Books/Magazines
(And Other Miscellaneous Media Items) In Order

Why are folks (who're perfectly willing to toss clothing that no longer fits and sports equipment that's served no purpose other than gathering dust) so reticent to let go of a book they last read 20 years ago, or a magazine article they haven't looked at since college, or a video they might want to watch again "someday?" It's not just a difficult subject for organizers to broach with a disordered client, it's out and out dangerous -- try convincing an otherwise reasonable individual that it's okay to get rid of a 1989 copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica or an outdated National Geographic or even an old VHS tape (when they no longer own a player), and you risk losing a limb! But I'm the kind of gal who likes to live on the edge -- so I'm going to do my best to help you trim, tighten, and regain control over your collection:

  • Organizing media works best if you treat it like a filing system. The first step is sorting items by format (books in one pile, magazines in another, audio recordings separate from passive visual entertainment, video games segregated from computer programs) -- then break those out by subject (fiction, gardening, jazz, classical, comedy, action). Finally, take a second to alphabetize within each subsection -- I prefer by artist then title, but you choose whatever works for you. Don't forget to label each shelf/container with the type of media and category ("Books: Fiction" or "Music: Jazz") -- and if you're feeling really squirrelly, you can even create a master index for easy access!
  • Can I please please PLEASE talk you into going through your entire library once a year and cleaning out whatever's no longer personally relevant or doesn't actively interest you anymore? I'm not suggesting throwing anything in the trash (god forbid) -- but I'm pretty sure we could find someone else who would appreciate that information. Sell? Donate? Give to a friend or colleague? Pretty please? If you're having a hard time deciding whether to keep or evict, ask yourself if you could get that data again easily (should you desire it in the future) -- at the library, via download/streaming, or through another reliable resource. And if you're keeping stuff that you yourself don't care about because someone else might want it, you aren't the lending library -- pass it on and let it go!
  • Do magazines languish around your home for months and months and months past their expiration date, as you hope to find the time for a cover-to-cover perusal? Just because you might enjoy a single article, doesn't mean you have to read (or keep) the whole publication. As soon as that latest edition arrives on your doorstep, scan the table of contents for items of interest -- then feel free to rip those pages right the freak out, Dead Poet's Society style. (I promise you won't go to hell.) Put them in a "to read" file and toss the rest (in the recycle bin, of course). Once you've reviewed and evaluated and pitched anything not future-reference-worthy, organize keepers in ring-binders -- each representing a larger category ("gardening") with divider tabs for sub-categories ("flowers," "shrubs," "pests").
  • If you do feel compelled to keep entire volumes of periodicals (as might be appropriate with historical/collectible magazines or professional journals), you need a better way to store them than stacked in a pile. Try a few vertical magazine boxes (the kind with the angle cut in the front that allows you to see their spines) -- one organizer per title or per year, aligned upright on a bookshelf where you can actually get at and refer back to your reading material.