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What's Causing Clutter in Your Home? A New Year, a New Home

U.S. News & World Report - Money logo U.S. News & World Report - Money 12/29/2016 Tori Toth
Pile of boxes junk inside a residential garage. © (Getty Images) Pile of boxes junk inside a residential garage.

Every home has clutter, but it’s important to get a handle of your mess. As you ring in the the New Year, now is a great time to purge, especially if you plan on selling your home this year. One of the most cost-effective ways to prepare a home for sale is to organize it, but for many home sellers it’s no easy task.

It can be hard for homeowners to see what’s right in front of their eyes, so clutter piles build up without making an impact on daily life. Especially if you’re putting your home on the market, you’ll need to change your mindset. Part of a home stager’s job is to help sellers approach each room with an outside perspective, in order for them to detach from the space and view their home as a product.

Reducing clutter not only provides more square footage in a room, but helps show off the home’s positive features, while allowing buyers to visualize living in the space.

[See: 10 Unorthodox Ways Your Real Estate Agent May Market Your Home.]

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Clutter can be naturally created for fear of forgetting or losing your belongings. This way of thinking leaves a home in constant disarray, keeping everything out in plain sight on easy-to-reach surfaces and leaves less to be desired for buyers.

To combat this problem a home stager will have sellers start the moving process to begin decluttering. It’s important to remind homeowners having trouble separating themselves from the space that their valuables won’t be forgotten or lost, rather packed up for a short period of time so buyers can see the product they’re considering.

Finding a Home for Everything

Clutter easily builds up in a home when items are homeless – meaning they don’t have a proper place to begin with. Clothes, shoes, toys and mail without a designated place to put these items tend to wander around. A crucial part of organizing your home is creating a place for each item. Of course, keeping the space in order only happens when you return an item back to its home after use.

The system only works when you develop the habit of putting everything in its place. When you take your jacket off, for example, hang it up in the closet or on a coat rack – not on the back of the chair or on the floor. By always returning an item home, you’re building a maintenance system into your organizing process. Another good habit to adopt is to take five to 10 minutes every night and put items away. This way, when you wake up in the morning the house is ready to show off.

Too Many Choices

Sometimes there’s a lack of action because there are too many choices, which can make organizing overwhelming. With so many storage products available to get organized, a person who has a hard time making choices in life can fall into this trap. Not knowing what product would be best for their needs delays them from ever starting. And if clutter has been building up for years, it can be particularly hard to tackle that overwhelming feeling.

Next time the thought process is paralyzed with uncertainty of what to do, start with one small organizing project. This will inspire the person to complete more projects and move things forward.

Letting Go

Another reason for clutter can be from a person’s inability to let go of their belongings. Homeowners that have a considerable amount of clutter can spend hours dwelling over each item because their belief is they might need it someday.

Many times homeowners will hold onto items for the wrong reasons and this can be a real emotional struggle that deters them from obtaining an organized home. It’s important to ask a series of questions to help get past this including: Is the item beneficial to the person? Has the item been used in the past month or so? By honestly answering these questions, even an indecisive or hesitant homeowner can cut down on clutter.

While it’s great to always be prepared for anything, a good rule of thumb is to donate or store anything not needed in the next three to six months. Sort through all belongings quickly, choose what stays and what gets packed, donated or sold by thinking of those immediate needs. Don’t forget to label everything and stack it neatly away for easy access.

[See: 12 Home Improvement Shortcuts That Are a Bad Idea.]

Scheduling It

It's too easy for a homeowner to never begin the decluttering process because of time constraints. This won’t magically happen overnight, so schedule blocks of time – as many as two to four hours throughout the week, or even just 15 minutes a day depending on what needs to be organized to make your goal a reality.

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