Secrets of Getting Organized - - Contents - WRITER BRIAN KRAMER IL­LUS­TRA­TOR BRIT­TANY MUELLER

Tidy up your fam­ily room, ve­hi­cle, and re­frig­er­a­tor this week­end.

Ban­ish clut­ter from three spots where every­one con­tributes to the mess—and make your fam­ily part of the solutions.

This three- day Clut­ter Cleanse is all about shar­ing: shared spa­ces, shared chaos, and shared fixes. Your fam­ily room, ve­hi­cle, and re­frig­er­a­tor are chal­leng­ing ar­eas to de­clut­ter, but they’re def­i­nitely worth the ef­fort. The changes you make to these ar­eas will ben­e­fit your en­tire fam­ily, and get­ting every­one work­ing from the same clut­ter- bust­ing play­book will yield even greater ben­e­fits.

Here are some great tips for cleans­ing the clut­ter from shared spa­ces.

LEAD THE CHARGE. Stop wait­ing for some­one to take care of the clut­ter in your home. If you’re read­ing this and want­ing to de­clut­ter, you’re prob­a­bly the best per­son to ini­ti­ate a cleanse.

RE­CRUIT HELP. If your fam­ily work­ing to­gether sounds like a fan­tasy, take a more re­al­is­tic ap­proach. Iden­tify the tasks you need help on and make spe­cific re­quests with con­crete dead­lines. (“By bed­time Satur­day, I need you to sort all the video games into two piles: those you play and those you don’t.”)

RE­IN­FORCE DEAD­LINES. Cleanse as­sign­ments carry weight when you back them up with both a car­rot (“You can have the money we make from re­selling the old games”) and a stick (“Af­ter Satur­day, I’m mov­ing all un­sorted games to a box in the base­ment”).

SCHED­ULE CLEANSE TIME. Cleanses don’t spon­ta­neously hap­pen. Block out 30 to 45 min­utes on your sched­ule for three con­sec­u­tive days, fo­cus­ing on one space each day. Tell your fam­ily ahead of time when you’ll be busy (so they don’t in­ter­rupt you). En­cour­age them to work on their as­sign­ments dur­ing this time, too.

GATHER SUP­PLIES. Have the fol­low­ing items ready for each cleanse ses­sion. •

Mark­ers, index cards, sticky notes, and clear pack­ing tape to make quick la­bels • Card­board boxes and plas­tic bags to sort and store items to do­nate • Trash bags for items to dis­pose • Scis­sors or a util­ity knife Hint: Giv­ing helpers their own sup­plies em­pow­ers them— and re­minds them of their as­signed tasks.

TOUCH ONCE; DE­CIDE ONCE. The core de­clut­ter­ing de­ci­sion is to keep or to let go. Sim­ply pick­ing up or touch­ing an item and ask­ing, “Should I keep this?” will of­ten yield your an­swer. If you in­stantly know some­thing needs to go or stay (and you have stor­age space so it can), fol­low your gut.

KNOW FOUR FI­NAL OP­TIONS. Don’t fret about what to do with stuf you’re not keep­ing. You can ei­ther sell it, give it away, do­nate it, or re­cy­cle/dis­pose of it. ( Visit­ter­cleanse for more on these four op­tions.)

KEEP MOV­ING. When you don’t quickly know whether to keep or get rid of an item, place it in a pile and keep work­ing through the room. Save the last 5 to 10 min­utes of the ses­sion to deal with your ques­tion­able items.

FO­CUS ON FUNC­TION. Set high stan­dards for you and your helpers when eval­u­at­ing items. Op­er­ate tools and elec­tron­ics to see whether they work. Ver­ify that you have all the pieces of games, kits, and sets. Dam­aged, bro­ken, or in­com­plete items are rarely worth keep­ing. If you’ll fix the item in the next month, keep it; ev­ery­thing else should go.

BREAK EMO­TIONAL TIES. Have a neu­tral per­son hold up items with emo­tional con­nec­tions (col­lectibles, hand­made stuf, books) and ask whether they’re keep­ers. With­out a phys­i­cal con­nec­tion to a toy you loved in grade school or a novel you read 10 years ago, you can make clear­headed de­ci­sions.

WORK THE CLOCK. Set a timer (or play a spe­cific num­ber of songs) to keep cleanse ses­sions fo­cused. Com­plete as much as you can in the al­lot­ted time and fin­ish the cleanse ques­tion you’re work­ing on. Take a 5- minute break to clear your head. If you have more to go and feel up to it, do an­other timed ses­sion. If you’re tired, wrap it up. You can al­ways re­turn to a cleanse later.

RE­MEM­BER RE­WARDS. Do some­thing pos­i­tive at the end of each ses­sion. En­joy­ing some­thing as sim­ple as a piece of candy, a fresh glass of ice wa­ter, or an ac­tual pat on your back (or some­one else’s) re­in­forces your eforts.

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