Your Most Organized Year Yet: Resolve to clear away clutter for a productive and comfortable home environment

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Now that you’ve packed away the holiday decorations (you have done that, right?), it’s time to stroll around your home and find ways to improve organization, clear the way for better household traffic patterns, and dump the clutter that adds stress and wastes energy. This doesn’t have to be accomplished in a single day to be successful; instead, go room to room over a period of several days, spending a set amount of time in

Now that you’ve packed away the holiday decorations (you have done that, right?), it’s time to stroll around your home and find ways to improve organization, clear the way for better household traffic patterns, and dump the clutter that adds stress and wastes energy. This doesn’t have to be accomplished in a single day to be successful; instead, go room to room over a period of several days, spending a set amount of time in each location to take inventory, remove and sort what’s no longer needed, and plan purchases and installations that will efficiently organize what remains.

With a little thought and muscle, you can create a more enjoyable home environment and quite possibly your most organized year yet. Here are a few tips for your de-cluttering crusade.

  • Be a guest in your own home. In your most-trafficked living spaces, take a step back and consider how a guest might view the room. There’s a fine line between “lived-in” and “living out of control,” and the amount of clutter is what tips the balance one way or the other. Remove anything that isn’t used or needed daily, and plan storage and catch-alls for the items that tend to be free-floating.
  • Make organization a destination. Set up easy-to-use “organization centers” at key points in the home, such as entryways, mud rooms, and laundry areas. If you don’t have an entire room designated as a home office, carve out a small but functional space in the kitchen or elsewhere to be used for managing mail, making phone calls, and on-the-fly Internet access.

  • A place for everything, and everything in its place. Furnish rooms with shelf- and drawer-filled wall systems, and add clever double duty pieces like ottomans with cushioned tops that can be removed to reveal handy storage.
  • Look up. When searching for storage places, don’t neglect the area above your head. Many manufactures make storage systems that capitalized on space overhead for storage of bicycles or boxes, especially useful in a garage. Racor, for example, has a cabling system that allows easy storage of one or two bikes, as well as a 'HeavyLift' platform system that can safely raise 16 square feet of storage weighing up to 250 lbs into into unused space overhead.
  • Display your organizational flair. As you load up those wall systems with your must-have belongings, take care to edit and arrange visible items in a way that showcases a soothing selection rather than impending overflow (again, think like a guest -- does that shelf full of DVDs say “eclectic movie library” or “there’s no way I’ll ever get around to watching all of these”?).

  • Profit from the results. When setting apart the items you can do without, consider selling or donating anything gently used or collectible. Team up with neighboring organizers for a yard sale, set up online auctions, or, if you happen to itemize your deductions, donate clothing, furniture and books for a break at tax time.
  • Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show’s podcast or sign-up for Tom’s free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program’s Web site.

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