It amazes me just how much stuff I have collected over the years. I want to simplify my life and my space, so I have been cleaning my office and rooms at home.

The challenge is deciding when to start and how to part with my possessions. You know, it is good stuff and maybe I have not used it in over a year or two — this may just be the year!

If you’re like a lot of people, you might find that your home or office isn’t exactly the neatest of places. Junk mail, papers, magazines and other items could be cluttering up your space. Don’t fret and get bogged down, there are many small things you can do to keep your area spruced up.

One of the first things you should ask yourself is “do you really need this?” Everything from our desks to our closets can become filled with things we haven’t used since 1987. Start looking for things which you might not need or necessarily even want.

Have you worn that outfit in the past year or two? Do you really need that many pens? Do you think that you’ll use these in the next few months? These are some good questions to ask yourself when you begin decluttering.

Maybe there is even something you have which is broken that can be recycled or trashed. This is a great time to take advantage of thrift stores. Places like Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity ReStore and local churches are always looking for donations.

Gather and sort all like items and put them in their own zones or areas where they will be used. This not only makes things look nicer, but it helps save time when you need something like a rubber band or your keys.

It is good to think about where you would search for something. If you need an item, where would be the first place you would think to look? This is also a good time to think about labels. If you have others in your house and you want to keep the place tidy, make sure they know where everything goes so reorganizing doesn’t have to become a regular activity.

Organization tools such as folders, bins and vacuum bags are great for storing items and keeping them squared away. Containers help define homes for our items and help set limits.

Make a cleaning schedule and assign certain days certain tasks. For example, maybe Tuesday is a great time to clean the bathroom, Thursday is a great day to dust, and Sunday is perfect for laundry. This is when you can reap the benefits of decluttering — the less stuff you have, the less stuff there is to move, dust or clean.

It is also good to cut down waste before it even enters your house or office. Is this something that you are going to use once, or will you get a lot of use out of it? Many common items can be rented for less than the purchase price of a new one. This is an especially good option if you only plan on using it a time or two. Determine if you already own something which can be used for the same purpose.

Just remember, once an area is decluttered and organized, spend a few minutes each day putting things away and keeping things tidy. This daily maintenance is much easier than reorganizing or cleaning your area from scratch, thereby preventing bigger hassles and stress down the road.

For more tips on decluttering, contact the Franklin County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service at 502-695-9035.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.  

Tamera A. Magee is a Franklin County extension agent for family and consumer sciences education. Email her at tamera.thomas@uky.edu. Sources for the column include Jeanne Badgett, UK senior extension associate, Family and Consumer Sciences.

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