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Twelve Resolutions for a Clutter-Free New Year

12/31/2012 03:40 pm ET | Updated Mar 02, 2013
  • Francine Jay Author of 'The Joy of Less,' and Blogger, MissMinimalist.com
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Do you ever look around your home, and feel suffocated by all your stuff? If so, the new year is a perfect time for a fresh start.

Clearing out the clutter is easier than you think (and actually a whole lot of fun!). Pick one (or more) of these 12 resolutions, and you'll be on the way to a simpler, more streamlined, and more serene life.

1. Do a One-A-Day declutter. Commit to getting rid of one item each day. It can be anything -- a worn-out pair of socks, a book you'll never read again, a gift you could live without, or a shirt that doesn't fit. It takes very little effort, and at the end of the year, your home will be 365 things lighter.

2. Get rid of duplicates. Don't devote valuable space to storing "backups" for your stuff. Do you really need two printers, three staplers, or four corkscrews? Embrace the notion of owning just one.

3. Cancel subscriptions. Magazines and newspapers become clutter when you don't have time to read them and they pile up. Worse yet, your contact information is often shared with other companies and publications, creating even more incoming clutter. Save some trees, and read the articles online instead.

4. Stop junk mail. Remove your name from catalog and other mailing lists. In the future, avoid sharing it with retailers and marketers: don't participate in surveys, sweepstakes, and giveaways, and don't sign up for store loyalty programs. Read those Privacy Policies that come with your bank and credit card statements, and opt-out of information sharing. Stop those pre-approved credit offers by putting a freeze on your credit report, or signing up with optoutprescreen.com.

5. Digitize paperwork. Scan documents for which you need the information, but not the physical copy. And instead of printing to paper, print to a PDF file -- better to store it on your hard drive than in piles on your desk.

6. Declutter clothes that don't fit. Why torture yourself by storing different clothes for different weights? If you keep "fat clothes," you keep the expectation that you might gain weight; if you keep "skinny clothes," you'll be depressed that you can't fit into them. Likewise, ditch anything that bunches, pulls, stretches, or sags in the wrong places.

7. Declutter clothes you haven't worn in the last year. Twelve months' time is sufficient to cover all the seasons and occasions for which you need apparel. Chances are, these duds make you feel uncomfortable, unfashionable, or self-conscious -- and if you didn't wear them last year, you probably won't wear them the next.

8. Pare down tableware. Question whether you need a china service for 12, or specialty glassware for every type of drink. Keep only enough plates, cups, bowls, and utensils for your family's needs.

9. De-junk your junk drawer. First, completely dump out its contents; then, carefully consider each item in turn, and decide if you really want to return it to the space. In fact, this is a great way to tackle any area (drawer, closet, or entire room). Decluttering is much easier when you're deciding what to keep, rather than deciding what to throw away.

10. Let go of heirlooms. Give yourself permission to ditch the velvet Elvis or Victorian settee you never really liked. Parting with sentimental items is never easy, particularly if they belonged to a lost loved one. However, your memories are far more valuable than any object they left behind. If it helps, snap a photo of the item, or save just a small piece (like one teacup from Grandma's old china).

11. Adopt a One-In, One-Out rule. Every time you bring a new item into your house, get rid of an old one. This simple rule works wonders in keeping clutter under control! For best results, pair like-with-like: for every new piece of clothing in, one old piece of clothing out; one new kitchen gadget in, one old kitchen gadget out; one new book in, one old book out.

12. Do a No Shopping challenge. Determine your worst clutter category --such as clothes, books, kitchen ware, or electronics -- and don't buy another such item for a set period of time (a month, six months, or even a year). Stopping the flow of stuff into your house is just as important as decluttering!

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