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cabin fever

Cabin Fever? Clear the Clutter


What to do on these dreary midwinter days? As the winter lulls on and spring creeps closer, it is the perfect time to shake cabin fever by clearing the clutter that has accumulated in our homes.

If you're anything like me, "inside" projects take precedent during the long winter months. While the cold, dark weather leaves little opportunity for outdoor activities, indoor activities and home projects take precedence. Besides, when the weather eventually turns nicer, who wants to be stuck in the basement or a closet cleaning and de-cluttering?

Effectively dealing with clutter can save time and money as well as promote relationships and enhance health and safety. You may feel a sense of accomplishment or achievement once you've addressed the clutter in your home. Your emotional health may get a boost as you may feel calm and "put together" after you've de-cluttered.

Clearing out our clutter involves the concept of value. Before you get started, you may need to consider how you define clutter. Even though clutter is subjective, in general, it can be defined as "a disordered heap or mass of objects." For the purpose of de-cluttering your living area, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you use or even like the item?
  • Does the item have a "home" or place where it belongs?
  • Can you repair or finish the item?

If an item brings value into your life in that you enjoy it or use it, you can consider the item a "keeper." If you have a hard time identifying how the item brings you value, the item is likely clutter.

The trick of evaluating the value of an item is to consider what value the item has at this present moment of your life. This means you must be mindful and honest about what exactly you do and do not need or use. For instance, if you are retired but still have a closet full of work clothes, you should consider if those clothes continue to bring you value while they are hanging in your closet, going unused. Or could they be valued by others if you donate them to a resale store. Determining your need and use of an item is the first step in clearing your clutter.

Once you're ready to tackle the clutter, you'll need to develop a strategy to do so. Click here to visit the University of Illinois Extension's website "Dealing with the Clutter" for specific strategies.

Here are some general tips for keeping your clutter in control:

  • Sort, store, and classify similar items together. Items that are used together should be sorted and stored together. It may be helpful to label cabinets, storage bins, and other storage containers so you can readily identify the contents.
  • Adopt a "Take it in/Toss it out" rule. As a general rule, try to get rid of one item for every item that you bring into your house. This rule can apply to clothing, shoes, books, videos, or toys. Stay on top of clutter by cleaning out constantly. Get rid of the old as soon as you get the new.
  • Start small. The process of de-cluttering can seem overwhelming if you try to tackle every room, every closet, every project at once. Doing so will likely leave you overwhelmed and frustrated – increasing the chances that you'll give up all together. Focus on one room or area at a time. Address only what you can handle and do no more.
  • Gather all of your paper items in one place. Paper is a big contributor to clutter. Create a space for where the paper belongs and honor a set time each day where you will go through the papers in the basket or bin. around to reading
  • Simplify your gadgets. Reduce the number of items in your home that have duplicate functions. For example, blenders, mixers, magic bullet, food processors, all have the same general functions. Ask yourself if you really need one of each or if you could manage with just one and let go of the rest.
  • Evaluate your items daily. Know that sometimes what you need today, you may not need tomorrow. De-cluttering is a continual process that requires daily attention and upkeep. You may want to schedule a daily or weekly "un-cluttering" appointment for yourself. Setting a specific date and time can help you stay on track with your de-cluttering goal.
  • Generate less stuff. A great way to keep your clutter in control is to bring less stuff into your home. If you can, avoid garage sales, freebies, souvenirs, and buying in bulk.

It's cold, it's dreary - give yourself a boost by getting started today on clearing the clutter in your home!

For more tips and information on how to clear your clutter, contact your local Family Life Extension educator. Click here for contact information.

A great resource for de-cluttering is the University of Illinois Extension webpage Dealing with Clutter featuring information on ways to deal with clutter, answers on what to do with clutter, and help on getting organized.


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