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Get Rid Of The Clutter

We've all had those hectic days- too much to do with not enough time to do it. If only we could simplify our lives.

Well, the May issue of Family Circle features helpful tips on how to streamline and simplify your life.

And Susan Ungaro, the magazine's editor-in-chief, and organizing expert Kathy Peel, one of the magazine's contributing editors and author of "The Family Manager Takes Charge," visited The Early Show to demonstrate how to be better organized. They focused on organizing a closet, creating a simple mail/bill paying center and controlling kids' playroom clutter.

Family Circle provides the following easy solutions to help simplify your life:

  • When the house gets too messy, do a '10-minute tidy,' when everyone in the family drops what they're doing and cleans for 10 minutes.
  • Divide your house into sections, then spend five minutes in each of those areas when the house is in disarray. Use a timer to keep you on track.
  • To minimize the amount of time spent on errands, keep a running list of what tasks need to be done, then try to do them just one day a week.
  • Assign chores with job descriptions and alternate them among children each week. For example, one child can be assistant cook one week, and part of the clean-up crew the next.
  • Sort and recycle mail as soon as it arrives.
  • Limit your laundry duties to one day a week.

Here are four consequences of clutter and good reasons to get rid of it:

Clutter wastes time - People spend valuable minutes/hours searching for lost items buried under clutter. (Ten minutes a day looking for misplaced items wastes sixty hours a year.)

Clutter wastes money - When any item is buried in an abyss, you end up buying a duplicate, even though you know you already own one.

Clutter wastes energy - You have to clean it, work around it, or move it to get behind or under it.

Clutter is dangerous - It can cause household accidents.

Closet Organizing Principles

  • Group like items together - Shirts go with other shirts, but short sleeves should be separated from long-sleeve attire. Pants and skirts should each have their own areas. Make use of under-the-bed storage space. Put off-season clothing and outdoor wear in low, wide plastic containers.
  • Hang work, play, and dressy clothes in their respective categories, giving prime placement to the kind of clothes you wear most often.
  • Group the same types of clothing within each category: shirts with shirts, skirts with skirts, and so on.
  • Remove all wire hangers and donate them to the dry cleaners. Replace with plastic tubular hangers. They don't misshape clothes or create rust marks, and they space garments nicely.
  • Keep empty hangers at the end of a rod so you'll always have one handy.
  • Use 5-tier space-saver hangers for pants and skirts.
  • Don't keep wrong-size, -color or -style clothes or items with permanent stains or irreparable tears in your closet or in your house. If they're in good condition, give them away. Otherwise, throw them away. (Keep a large paper shopping bag in each closet to collect clothes to be donated.)
  • Store off-season clothes in another closet or trunk, or put a sheet around them and hang in the back of your closet.
  • Use an over-the-door shoe organizer to store socks, hosiery, shoulder pads, small purses, gloves, etc.
  • Store shoes in transparent boxes on a shelf above the clothing rod. Keep the pairs you wear regularly in hanging bins.
  • Keep a small step-stool in your closet to reach higher shelves.
  • Use a tie rack not only for ties, but for belts, scarves, leotards, lingerie, ribbons, etc.
  • Keep a laundry bag in your closet for clothes to go to the dry cleaners.
  • Put a cup hook on an inside closet wall to hold a small pair of scissors to clip loose threads.
  • Keep a small wastebasket in your closet for tags, cleaner bags, and pocket or purse debris.
  • Fill a small box with last-minute fix-up items: lint brush or roller, threaded needles, small scissors, pin cushion, and a roll of masking tape (for emergency hem repairs when you don't have time to change clothes).
  • Move a small chest of drawers or shelves into your closet to make use of the space beneath your shirts, jackets and skirts that don't hang to the floor.
  • Nest luggage-small suitcases or duffle bags inside larger ones.

Conquering Paper Clutter

  1. Allowing paper to pile up is a little like turning your back on two rabbits. Leave them alone for too long, and they multiply rapidly. To keep paper from proliferating, follow this simple excavation plan: Dig in and start digging out.
  2. Put all the papers you need to deal with in one place. Get a wastebasket or recycle box, a paper shredder, file folders, file box or crate, labels, pens, and stapler. Start with the first paper: decide if it's valuable and necessary. If not, toss or recycle it. If it's worth keeping, move to the next step.
  3. Choose a file heading for it, label the folder, and file the paper. If there are two or more papers associated with the topic you're dealing with, staple the papers together. Don't use paper clips. They get caught on each other and fall off easily.
  4. Create a Mail Center and take your mail there immediately when you bring it in. Keep a trash can close by so you can toss junk mail as you sort it into magazine storage boxes labeled: Bills, Read/Reply, Magazines/Catalogs. Use a paper shredder to destroy any junk mail with personal ID information.
  5. Centralize Bill Paying Items. Keep everything you need to pay bills--a letter opener, pen, stapler, envelopes, stamps, calculator in a plastic storage bin or basket. Twice a month, get bills from the mail center and pay. Have a file box or crate with sections for each month of the year. Then have three folders behind each month, labeled: Bills/Reports, Tax Related, Receipts. This will make tax season tons easier next year.
  6. Set destroy dates for when-I-get-around-to reading-it papers. If you haven't read the Sunday paper by Tuesday, toss it. The same goes for magazines and catalogs.

Keep Only The Essentials
  • Keep all receipts that support tax deductions until it's legally safe to dispose of them, usually three years from the filing or due date.
  • Keep personal tax records for six years only. The IRS can audit them for up to three years after filing; six years, if income has been understated by more than 25 percent.
  • Keep home-improvement receipts for work done on your home or rental property for as long as you own it. These can affect your capital gains/losses computation.
  • Keep cancelled checks to prove in a dispute that you've paid bills (Note to self: Need to quantify this). Store them in chronological order in a box.
  • Keep only this month's investment summary statements if the information is cumulative. Shred the previous statement when the new ones arrives.
  • Keep warranties, guarantees, and bills of sale in their own file so you can find them quickly.
  • Keep receipts and sales slips to check against your monthly bills, and to use in case you need to return or get something repaired during the warranty period.
  • Keep all owner's manuals in a ring binder. (Throw away instruction manuals to simple appliances like can openers or coffee makers unless you honestly think you'll forget how to use them.)

Tips To Control Kids' Playroom Clutter
  • When your children get a new game or toy, help them decide where its storage place will be. Involving them in the "where it goes" decision also helps remind them to put it away.
  • Buy assorted sizes of clear plastic boxes for kids to categorize and store their belongings. Use self-sealing plastic bags to corral and store marbles, kids' action figures, small video-game cartridges, doll clothes and much more.
  • Use a felt-tip marker to dot the back of individual pieces from the same puzzle. Use a different color for each puzzle. This way, they won't get jumbled up.
  • An oversize fishing-tackle box that has two or three levels of compartments is perfect for beads and small craft supplies, and other small treasures.
  • Limit the number of toys that can be out at one time.
  • Set up some playroom ground rules. Preschoolers can be taught to put away a toy they've tired of before taking out a new one. Rotate toys to keep clutter to a minimum. Leave out only toys the kids play with on a regular basis.
    Store some of their toys out of sight until boredom sets in.
  • Have designated toy-pickup and put-away times. Have designated toy cleanup times. For example, before lunch, before dinner, and half an hour before bed. Make it fun by letting kids take turns ringing a bell announcing cleanup time.
  • Put a small-size laundry basket in your child's closet for dirty clothes.
  • Mount hooks at child level so they can hang hats, jackets, pajamas, etc.
  • Use a clear, plastic pocket shoe-organizer bag on their closet door to store not only shoes, but socks, belts, small toys, hair bows, etc.
  • Don't keep wrong-size clothes in their closets.
  • Hang a baseball cap rack on the back of a child's bedroom door to keep caps neat and organized.
  • Create a kids' arts and craft center. Devote a shelf in their play area to stack construction paper, sketch pads, and coloring books. Keep art supplies in plastic containers nearby.
  • Designate a corner or out-of-the-way area where your child can keep creative activities such as art projects, model airplanes, and jigsaw puzzles going until finished.
  • Designate a family fun and games center where you keep board games, cards, dominos, puzzles and building sets like Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. Tip: If you have lots of games and their boxes are falling apart, try removing the contents of each box and storing them in small plastic containers along with the game's directions. Corral plastic bags in a basket or shoebox. Game boards can be folded and stacked together nearby.
  • Label kids shelves (use pictures if they can't read) to encourage sorting and storing things such as puzzles, games, and books together.
  • Use rolling plastic containers to store seldom used toys under the bed.
  • Provide some shelves for your child to display personal treasures.
  • Keep a clean, plastic dustpan handy to scoop up multi-piece toys.
  • Keep an attractive basket with a lid to hold a few favorite toys in the family-room area.
  • Create Family In-boxes. Designate one in-box per child and label the front of it with his or her name. Have your children unload their backpacks first thing after school and put important papers in their in-boxes-permission forms, schedules, tests to be signed, etc. It's Mom or Dad's responsibility to go through the in-boxes at night.
  • Have a designated place where kids put backpacks, sports gear, jackets, etc. when they come home.
  • Encourage the regular weeding out of toys your kids have outgrown.

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