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Whenever I think of baby clothes, I think of my client, Sue Ann. Sue
Ann had two kids, a dog that wasn’t housebroken, a bird, a husband, and clutter up to her eyebrows. A large part of the clutter stemmed from
the baby clothes of the two kids. Sue Ann steadfastly refused to give
those clothes up, citing her ongoing energetic efforts to conceive another
child to add to the already chaotic clan.
I’ve worked with more women than I care to count who refuse to part
with their children’s baby clothes, even though they know (unlike Sue
Ann) that they are not having any more children.
Bags (see also Closets, Shopping Bags)
Some people automatically keep shopping bags, paper bags, and plastic bags. They don’t think about it, they just keep them. Like squirrels, bag keepers stash the bags in any number of places — in the closets, in linen cabinets, under the sink, and next to the refrigerator. Some people even start hanging them on the door knobs of all the doors in the house. The old “I might need it someday” excuse is often called into action here. And the fact is, you really might need one of these bags sometime, maybe even this week. But you are not going to need the twenty-five brown paper bags stuffed between the refrigerator and the wall (along with the dust balls and bugs), and I doubt that you’ll need the twelve shopping bags squashed in the hail closet behind the vacuum cleaner. Bags collect dust and bugs, and unless you are a hermit who never eats or shops, you can easily replace bags you throw away simply by going to the supermarket. So keep ten or twelve bags on hand if you must, but throw the rest away. Now.
Balls (see also Children, Exercise Equipment, Sports Equipment)
Baseballs, beach balls, basketballs, volleyballs, and balls for the cat and dog all seem like fun things to have, but storing them can be tricky. What usually happens is that they roll around the house, yard, car, and garage always in the way, and then either magically disappear or deflate just when you’re about to deliver on your longstanding promise to shoot a few baskets with the kids. A simple solution to the ball problem is to buy a large plastic trash can and put it in the backyard or garage. Henceforth, all balls go in the can when not in use. Keep an air pump nearby for the inevitable flat surprises. Assuming you can train everybody to put the balls into the can, you won’t have to worry about lost balls, or worse, somebody stumbling over a loose ball and breaking his neck or suing your socks off. Play ball!
Baskets (see also Collections)
Baskets are terrific for holding things, so much so that they’re included in the Storage: Clutter Containers section at the back of the book. But if you are a basket junkie, you have probably lost sight of the organizational potential of baskets. Baskets hanging from every ceiling and stacked in every corner may have started out as a good decorative idea, but invariably they become dust and clutter collectors, and you become known as a basket case. Put your baskets to use to hold groups of items and , except for a few decorative baskets, get rid of the rest.
Let baskets do double duty; they can be attractive and functional at the same time. Square or oblong baskets are the best bet since they hold more in less space than do round baskets.
Consider these storage possibilities for your baskets:
• Cosmetics (like lipsticks or brushes)
• Dry cleaning (separate from laundry basket)
• Hair ornaments and pins
• Magazines and newspapers
• Pens and Pencils
• Postcards and greeting cards
• Stuffed animals
• Yarn and crochet supplies
Bathroom Clutter (see also Cosmetics)
The bathroom is the nerve center of the average household. And yet, it's often woefully under-equipped to serve the needs of all the people who pass through its portals. If more than two or three people use the same bathroom every day as their launching pad, confusion often reigns as eager participants wait their turn.
You can reorganize your bathroom paraphernalia with the help of a few simple gadgets and techniques:
The average family finds it difficult, if not impossible, to store the basic necessities for all of the family members in one bathroom. Rush hour for a typical bathroom on a weekday morning finds everybody lined up with an assortment of critical bathroom gear tucked under their arms — everything from makeup to rubber duckies to hot curlers. Once in the bathroom, each person means to take their clutter back out with them, but somehow that never happens. Left behind are cosmetics, creams, shampoos and conditioners, hot curlers and curling irons, razors, brushes, hairpins, colognes and aftershave potions, and bath toys. Towels and washcloths proliferate, both clean and dirty, and eventually the bathroom becomes a maze for all who enter. Ultimately, making the room efficiently comfortable and finding more space for the grooming essentials can be the key to conquering the clutter and making the bathroom a better place to be.
Since the bathroom often serves as the jumping off spot in the daily effort to just get started, conquering the clutter there can mean a cleaner, faster, and much calmer approach to yet another day.
Batteries (see also Junk Drawer)
I don’t know why we can’t buy one battery at a time, but we can’t. So, if you’re like me, you rip open the package, take out what you need, and drop the rest into the first handy drawer or container. Then, when you need those extra batteries, you can’t find them, so you go out and buy another package and repeat the entire process again. Short of shooting the battery manufacturers, the best solution seems to be to set up a “battery center.” Dump all of your batteries into a container and store them in the refrigerator. The next time you only need one battery, you’ll know where to find the extras, and since they are stored in the refrigerator, you have a better chance of finding one that works.
Books (see also Recipes)
Books can accumulate with frightening results. Bookcases are all too easily overrun, and stacks of books Start forming in cabinets, corners, and closets. Book-aholics very often feel that their book clutter is righteous clutter, indeed, superior clutter. The books add more to their image than to their intellect, however, since it's a rare, rare thing to find someone with hundreds of books who has actually read even a fraction of the books they own.
I used to feel very smug about my books. I had hundreds of books, spilling over (neatly, of course) into bookshelves all over the house. After all, didn’t it prove that I was intelligent and worldly? Weren’t my many interests displayed perfectly to go with the decor? I lived with my books and this smug attitude until the day I priced a move from the east coast to the west coast. Reality hit me in the head with a thunk that I never forgot. It was going to cost a small fortune to move those books and , faced with economic choices, I did the only sensible thing. I left 80 percent of the books behind; the other 20 percent made the move by fourth class mail.
Today I have one large bookcase and one small bookcase. The small bookcase holds my first editions, and the big bookcase holds everything else. When the large bookcase gets full, I bite the bullet and give some away before I allow myself to buy any more. This way, I keep my book habit under control.
Finally, with books, the Wait and Save Rule is a good one. Wait until the book comes out in paperback—you’ll save money and space. Chances are your reading pile is backed up from here to eternity anyway, so waiting a little longer won’t hurt. (See Clutter Checklist)
As you go through your books to weed out the ones you can live without, consider these thoughts about the following categories of books:
Boxes (see also Holiday Decorations, Packing Materials)
Lots of people keep boxes because they might move someday. Or, they keep boxes that computer and stereo equipment were packed in—they’ll definitely need that when they move! If you are one of these people, I’d like you to measure the square footage that these boxes occupy. Then, I’d like you to figure out the cost per square foot per year to store these empty boxes (refer back to page 10 if you need help with this). I’ll bet you a doughnut that if you ever do move, it’ll be as cheap to buy new boxes from the movers. Shoot, you’ll probably save money. So get rid of those empty taking-up expensive space boxes. Oh, keep a couple if it’ll make you feel better, but dump the rest. You don’t want to move anyway.
The few boxes you keep can be stored inside of each other, or flattened out and stacked. Boxes that can be broken down in this matter and then reassembled either by fitting the notches together, folding them together, or taping them together are the best to keep because they take up the least amount of storage space, yet provide the same function when it comes time to use them.
Brochures (see also Desk Files and Filing Cabinets, Mail, Papers)
Brochures can represent dreams or nightmares. Brochures for that cruise you can’t afford, and brochures pleading for help for the mountain goats in Timbuktu tend to make your paper clutter Picturesque, if nothing else. If you really think you’ll have the money for that cruise soon, keep the brochure in a box or file it along with other travel stuff (that you probably haven’t looked at since you started clipping it). Brochures asking for your money or your vote should be read, paid (put them in your TO PAY basket — see Mail and Papers — so you can pay it when you next pay bills), and /or immediately discarded.
Bulletin Boards (see also Announcements, Business Cards, Calendars, Cards, Notes, Phone Numbers, Postcards)
If you really want to clutter up your life, get a bulletin board. Then do what everyone else does with it; start sticking things up there that you either “need” or like to look at. Initially you tell yourself that you will stick (and stick is the key word here) critical I-need-to- be-reminded-of-this items on the board. This visual tickler system evaporates as soon as you start automatically impaling postcards from Florida, cartoons that are politically significant to your life and times, telephone numbers, and assorted schedules on the board. You develop a shortage of tacks and pushpins, and before you know what happened, the board is loaded with pieces of paper, one crucified on top of another, making the whole mess a vertical paper burial ground that ultimately leaves you with an obnoxiously nonfunctional eyesore.
The most obvious solution to the problem is to get rid of the thing altogether. If you think about it, you’ll probably admit that what a bulletin board does is postpone the fact that you need to make a decision about a piece of paper. After all, where should you put that postcard and cartoon? The Clutter Checklist provides a few ideas, but for even more information about where to put the paper paraphernalia on your bulletin board, see also Papers, and check all the categories that pertain to the junk on your board. Then put it all somewhere else (your best bet—in the trash can) and take that bulletin board down. You’ve got enough clutter without hanging it on the wall.
If you can’t figure out what to do with the “paperphernalia” hanging on the board now, here’s some suggestions:
Business Cards (see also Bulletin Boards, Papers, Phone Numbers)
People hand out business cards willy-nilly, and accept them with about as much abandon. Back in the office, you start to move them from place to place in a half-hearted attempt to figure out what to actually do with them. Whatever you do, don't , I repeat, don't , put them in those plastic business card holders that hold about a zillion cards. This looks like a good system until you actually need a phone number or name from one of the business cards. Only then do you realize that you have to thumb through all of the cards to get to the one you want, because there is no way to efficiently alphabetize the cards as they are put into the plastic sleeves. You’ll be better off if you put the cards with your phone numbers and add them to your Rolodex when you can. Some cards can be trimmed with scissors along the top or bottom edge and then stapled directly Onto a Rolodex card, saving you the time it would otherwise take to transfer the information. In the end, some cards aren’t worth transferring to the Rolodex. These are the cards you accepted when they were offered because you didn’t want to be rude. Now that nobody is looking, throw those cards away.
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