Here are the rules that are your path out of a life-style bogged down with stuff, immobilized by disorganization, and stymied by interruption. They will assist you in your day-to-day decision-making process when clutter or household organization is the subject at hand. Keep these rules in ongoing use even after you’ve uncluttered your life, so you’ll keep it that way.
Rule 1: When in doubt, throw it out. Absolutely nothing else we say can have such a liberating effect on your life. Junk is not only costly to store (did you buy/rent a house with extra rooms/storage space to hold your junk?), it complicates your home. Do you spend precious time searching for lost items?
Rule 2: Use it or lose it. This rule is particularly helpful when you are attempting to implement Rule 1 and are getting rid of some of your stuff. How do you decide what to keep and what to toss? Sensible advice for this rule is if you’re not using something, get rid of it. This does not allow you to plan on using it tomorrow.
Rule 3: Efficiency counts, so store things accordingly. Efficient storage reduces clutter by making it easier to replace things after each use. If it’s easier it’s more likely to happen. Efficient storage means that what you need is close to where you use it or where you expect it to be. It also means that things you use most often are stored in the most easily accessible places.
Rule 4: Handle some things once. This rule is necessary because of the excuse “for now.” For example, “I will put this jacket here for now,” or “I will put this stack of papers here for now.” This phrase should be forbidden to a known clutterer. Once you say “for now,” you are admitting that you are going to handle whatever it is more than once, which increases clutter and at least doubles your work load.
Rule 5: Recycle it. We’re not talking about just paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic. Many people have a tough time parting with containers, especially glass bottle. Mayonnaise jars, pickle jars, peanut butter jars…put those bottles to good use and recycle them. The same goes for disposable plastic containers with resealing lids. Recycle them. For that matter, the same goes for old clothes, belts, purses, wallets, bikes, etc.
Rule 6: Pick a number and stick with it. If you really do use an empty mayonnaise jar for storing bacon fat, go ahead and save one. But if you use one jar every six months for bacon fat, and you purchase one mayonnaise jar once a month, you only need to save one jar. That’s it. One. The same goes for purses. Pick a sensible number to keep, and stick with it. If you decide on seven, that means that the other purses are clutter. Use this as a rule of thumb for everything.
Rule 7: Use a filing cabinet. Every contemporary home needs a file cabinet. Besides being a perfect storage place for such obvious choices as bills, important papers, and correspondence, the file cabinet is just right for warranty cards, product information, instruction booklets, stationery, photos, stamps, your kids’ important schoolwork, report cards, receipts, tax returns and more.
Rule 8: Do something. We’re encouraging you to proceed to action in order to solve or fix something that’s bothering you. We may not know exactly what to do, or exactly where to start, or what to toss and what to save, or what we need in the way of shelves or storage, but we do know we need to clean out, toss, and organize.
Rule 9: A place for everything, and everything in its place. Some clutter is just stuff that belongs someplace else. If everything is in its place, you can find an item precisely when you want it.
Rule 10: Items displayed in the house have to pass a test. Walk through each room of your house and quickly test each item displayed on buffets, end tables, coffee table, nightstands, counters, mantels, shelves, or anywhere else. Ask yourself: Why am I keeping it? What is it doing there? If it has a function, does it work? Am I sick and tired of dusting or cleaning it? Do I have others like it stored elsewhere? Do I enjoy seeing it as I enter the room? How does it really look sitting there for all the world to see?
Rule 11: Don’t do things “later.” A lot of the clutter in your home will disappear if you follow this rule. It’s not much more than leaving a room the way you found it. If there wasn’t toothpaste spread on the sink before you came into the room, there shouldn’t be ay there when you leave it. This rule solves clutter problems without adding one second of time or one ounce of work to anyone’s overwhelmed schedule.
Rule 12: Label things. How often have you gone to a storage closet to retrieve something from a cardboard box you had stored there yourself, only to find that there are now six cardboard boxes there and they all look the same?Label all storage boxes, frozen food and even cupboards sometimes.
Rule 13: Call in a professional. A whole new profession has arisen of saintly people who make their living solving other people’s clutter and organizational problems. They will come into your home and – working either with you or by themselves – will clean out the closets, install the necessary organizers, set up a filing system for you, and generally encourage the calm you’ve longed for to emerge from the chaos that’s been driving you crazy. There’s a catch to this rule, however: We insist that you use it only if you promise to follow all the other rules once the professional has come and gone. The clutter will return almost immediately unless you modify your behavior.