30 Days to a Happy Home

This is how to get it clean and calm

Prevention (USA) - - CONTENTS - BY LASHIEKA HUNTER

OR­GA­NIZE YOUR SPACE AND CLEAR CLUT­TER THIS MONTH WITH JUST ONE SIM­PLE STEP EACH DAY—YOU’LL BE HAP­PIER AND HEALTH­IER FOR IT.

You know that glo­ri­ous feel­ing when every­thing is in its place? That’s a happy house. A clean liv­ing space has been linked with im­proved health, bet­ter fo­cus, and even in­creased en­ergy, but more than half of Amer­i­cans say they’re stressed out by clut­ter—and don’t know how to deal with it. There’s a so­lu­tion, and it lies in tack­ling the mess one task at a time. “You don’t have to do every­thing at once or per­fectly,” says Becky Rap­inchuk, au­thor of Clean Mama’s Guide to a Healthy Home. “Just do one task daily, and you’ll see how much it im­proves your mood.” If you’re prone to an al­lor-noth­ing mind­set, try to re­mem­ber that lit­tle things can go a long way in spruc­ing up your home. Here’s a month’s worth of quick, doable tricks to make life a bit more sane. Junk piles, you’ve been warned.

CLEAR A SUR­FACE, ANY SUR­FACE

Fo­cus on one or two clut­ter hot spots that are small enough to be swept clean right away, like your night­stand or your cof­fee ta­ble. It’s low-hang­ing fruit, but it’ll make your home feel a lit­tle neater and in­spire you to whip other ar­eas into shape, says Melissa Michaels, the au­thor of Make Room for What You Love. Shoo the mess off one sur­face into a box, then walk around putting stuff back in its right­ful place (or in the trash).

LOSE OUT­DATED FIT­NESS GAD­GETS

We love the ’90s too, but equip­ment pur­chased when the Macarena was hot has prob­a­bly out­lived its value. Dump any­thing that’s dusty, then stash the good stuff—say, re­sis­tance bands— in a bas­ket near where you use it.

MAKE THE KITCHEN LESS MUGGY

You can never have too many cof­fee mugs…said no one ever. Pull yours out of the cup­board, pick about 10 that you ac­tu­ally use, and do­nate the rest, says Sara Pedersen, cre­ator of the blog Time to Or­ga­nize.

DISOWN OWNER’S MANUALS

Most are posted on­line, so you don’t need pa­per copies. Plus, the dig­i­tal ones are much eas­ier to search through—that is, if you ac­tu­ally end up need­ing to read them at any point.

CHOOSE ONE HIGH CLOSET SHELF TO CLEAN

The dark corners of the closet of­ten are for­got­ten and con­se­quently get filled with dust and clut­ter. If you have many shelves that are over­loaded with clothes or knick­knacks, don’t panic—just choose one to or­ga­nize to­day. “Take every­thing off, wipe down the shelf, and ask your­self if you re­ally need or want each thing,” says Rap­inchuk.

RE­TIRE OLD MAKEUP

It could be har­bor­ing bac­te­ria or fungi. Ditch lip­stick and foun­da­tion af­ter a year and mas­cara af­ter three months. Also dump any­thing that is in a cracked or icky case, that has changed con­sis­tency, or that smells funky.

PICK A SPOT FOR ODDS AND ENDS

Sur­prise—we like your junk drawer! “Some­times we need the re­lief of open­ing a drawer and toss­ing in things that don’t yet have a home,” says Karen Kingston, the au­thor of Clear Your Clut­ter With Feng Shui. Still, junk draw­ers need at­ten­tion. Tip out the con­tents and sort them into three piles: items to put some­where else, items to chuck, and items you’re not sure about (keep those, but scrap ’em if they haven’t been used by the next cleanup).

GIVE SOME SOCKS THE BOOT

Get rid of any that are ho­ley or liv­ing the sin­gle life and fold what­ever’s left. “The drawer will be neater, and you’ll fit more in it,” says Bar­bara Re­ich, the au­thor of Se­crets of an Or­ga­nized Mom.

SAY NO TO PA­PER BILLS

They have a funny way of turn­ing into pa­per clut­ter. If you haven’t started do­ing bill pay­ments dig­i­tally yet, go on­line and set up at least one to­day.

MAKE A SINK SCRUB

It pre­vents a strong odor in the morn­ing! “A nightly sink scrub sets the tone for the next day,” says Rap­inchuk. Cre­ate her gen­tle go-to scrub: Fill a quart-size ma­son jar with a box of bak­ing soda and mix in 30 drops of es­sen­tial oil. Sprin­kle the pow­der over a wet sink, add dish soap, and scrub.

PART WITH KID ART

Those bins full of projects your chil­dren made ages ago? In­stead of hold­ing on to the phys­i­cal items, take pho­tos of them. The mem­o­ries are what count, and pics can trig­ger those. If there are a few you can’t bear to let go of, put them on dis­play in­stead of leav­ing them to clut­ter up the base­ment.

DI­VIDE AND CONQUER

Pick a drawer you use ev­ery day and or­ga­nize it into dis­tinct sec­tions—or bet­ter yet, use a di­vider! We spend a year of our lives look­ing for lost items, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Pro­fes­sional Or­ga­niz­ers, but di­viders make it easy to find what you need. They also stop items from shift­ing when you open or close a drawer.

GET OFF AN­NOY­ING MAIL­ING LISTS

To cut down on credit card of­fers you just have to tear up, visit optout­pre­screen.com or call 888-5-OPT-OUT, sug­gests the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion. These are run by the ma­jor con­sumer re­port­ing com­pa­nies, and you can re­quest to stop re­ceiv­ing of­fers for the next five years or even per­ma­nently.

HAVE A SHRED­DING DATE

Some chains like Of­fice De­pot of­fer ser­vices to shred sen­si­tive pa­per­work. Check their web­sites for de­tails and com­mit to a day to head in, or rev up your at-home shred­der to clear out un­needed yet sen­si­tive doc­u­ments.

TIDY UP YOUR TAKE­OUT MENUS

Trash the ones you’ve had since the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, along with any you and your fam­ily know by heart or can eas­ily book­mark on­line. Give the rest a more dis­creet and ac­ces­si­ble home in a vinyl folder tacked in­side a pantry door.

USE A LA­BEL MAKER

Try it on pantry or linen closet shelves. “It cre­ates a vis­ual cue to put things where they be­long,” says Donna Smallin Ku­per, cre­ator of the blog Un­clut­ter.

OR­GA­NIZE THAT FRIDGE

If yours is like a black hole—left­overs go in, but they don’t al­ways come out—take a few min­utes to chuck any­thing that’s out­dated or uniden­ti­fi­able. Then pull shorter items to the front, Pedersen says. That’ll make it harder for food to get lost and eas­ier for you to see what’s there be­fore a grocery store run.

DO A DEEP DIVE INTO YOUR WARDROBE

Grab all the “some­day” items (as in, “I might need this se­quined dress for a ’70s throw­back party some­day!”) and boost cloth­ing karma by giv­ing them to a pal or to char­ity. Chances are if you’re not wear­ing it now, you won’t in the fu­ture.

CLUT­TER-PROOF THE LIV­ING ROOM

Tell your fam­ily that your main liv­ing space now has a strict cart-and-carry pol­icy, says Cyn­thia Ewer, the au­thor of Cut the Clut­ter. That means while ev­ery­one’s wel­come to hang out or do homework there, any items they haul in must be col­lected when they leave. To make it eas­ier, stock up on bas­kets with han­dles to help kids (and grown-ups) ferry stuff in and out.

WIPE DOWN THE BASEBOARDS

You may not give them much thought, but ban­ish­ing the dust and grime on your baseboards makes a big dif­fer­ence in how clean your home feels.

“Use baby wipes, which have mois­tur­izer that works re­ally well to gen­tly clean wood,” says Rap­inchuk. If it’s un­com­fort­able for you to crouch down or work on your knees, use a long-reach duster or the crevice at­tach­ment on your vac­uum cleaner.

FENCE IN MESS

Stick pretty serv­ing trays here and there. Like bins, they help you cor­ral smaller items to­gether in one place (say, nap­kins and condi­ments in your kitchen or beauty prod­ucts in your bath­room).

DEJUNK YOUR JEW­ELRY

Empty tangled cos­tume pieces onto a ta­ble, thank them for the good times, and weed out any­thing that’s chipped, bro­ken, or out of style.

DITCH THE CLUT­TER BLINDERS

You can get used to ig­nor­ing your mess with enough prac­tice, so work on zeroing in on items that don’t be­long in a space, says Rita Em­mett, the au­thor of The Clut­ter-Busting Hand­book. Start­ing now, glance over your shoul­der ev­ery time you leave a room. Any­thing out of place? Take it to the right spot.

CHECK FOR LIDS

Give food con­tain­ers a new job re­quire­ment: They must have lids, or to the re­cy­cling bin they go. To cut down on strays, store lids on their re­spec­tive con­tain­ers.

SCRAP ’EM

Dec­o­ra­tive pil­lows are like bunny rab­bits—get a few cute ones, and pretty soon you’re over­run. Scal­ing back is an easy way to make a room feel less chaotic, says Ruth Soukup, the au­thor of Un­stuffed: De­clut­ter­ing Your Home, Mind & Soul. Take some away for a month and see if you miss them.

MARTHA UP YOUR SHEETS

Pros swear by this clas­sic Martha Ste­wart move: When you’re putting away laun­dry, stick folded sheets in­side a match­ing pil­low­case to store sets to­gether and make them eas­ier to keep track of.

LOOK FOR SNEAKY STOR­AGE SPA­CES

There are spots around the house, like the backs of doors or sides of cab­i­nets, that you tend to ig­nore. But with a few good hooks, they could help you get stuff out of the way. Pick the ones you’ll use most.

CALL IN CHAR­I­TIES

Some, like the Sal­va­tion Army, let you sched­ule pickups on­line so you can clear out those books and old clothes you boxed up but never got around to drop­ping off at a do­na­tion bin. Re­mem­ber to get a re­ceipt for tax pur­poses.

ELIM­I­NATE EX­PIRED MEDS

Get rid of any that have changed color or odor or that are in un­marked con­tain­ers and can’t im­me­di­ately be iden­ti­fied. Dump them out of the bot­tles and into a plas­tic bag with an un­palat­able sub­stance like kitty lit­ter or cof­fee grounds be­fore toss­ing them. Even bet­ter, ask your phar­macy if it hosts drug “take-back” pro­grams, or check a site like dis­pose­mymeds.org for ini­tia­tives in your area.

RE­LAX!

Take a deep breath, look around your space, and cel­e­brate your progress. Your home is calmer and hap­pier, and now so are you.

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