These simple steps will not only clear space in every room, from the bedroom and kitchen to the home office and hall closet – but they'll also cut waste and reduce your environmental impact.
Clutter is what we bring into our homes that we don't want. The first step in successfully reducing clutter is to stop bringing clutter into our homes! Here are two easy ways to do that:
Stop Receiving Junk Mail
The average American household receives an estimated 850 pices of junk mail every year — enough, as we all know, to cover our kitchen tables several times over. It's no coincidence that paper makes up one-quarter of all landfill waste, or that the junk mail industry's environmental footprint is large, equivalent to the tailpipe pollution from 9 million cars..
You can reclaim the calm of an uncluttered tabletop with a few keystrokes. Just register for the Mail Preference Service on the Direct Marketing Association Website. For $1, your name and address will be removed from prospective mailing lists, ending 75% of junk mail within about 90 days.
Stop Receiving Phone Books
While you're at it, opt out of home phone book delivery.. Contact your local publisher, and/or try opting out using www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org or www.YelloPagesOptOut.com..
When it comes to the home office, there's nothing like a cluttered desk to keep you from the work you actually need to accomplish. For procrastinators, the temptation is too great: You end up cleaning the desk instead of getting to the task at hand ... hours drift by ... and you're still left with piles of paperwork waiting for your attention. Here are a few ideas to organize your office and tamp down on the clutter before it happens:
Switch to Paperless Billing
There are pros and cons to paperless billing, but the pros easily outweigh the cons when it comes to both clutter and environmental impact. A paperless bill only clogs your email inbox (a topic for another day) whereas a paper bill clutters your desk. And saving paper means not only saving trees, but 171 pounds of greenhouse gases, 63 gallons of water, and 4.5 gallons of gasoline annually for the average paperless household, according to Pay It Green, a coalition of financial institutions and businesses promoting paperless billing. Now, if only we could find a way to stop them from billing in the first place.
Get a Laptop
A laptop uses as little as 10% as much energy a typical desktop computer uses, and it takes up a lot less space on your desk. In fact, if you actually keep it on your lap, it would take up no space at all! If you do have a desktop computer you feel you need, consider an Energy Star-rated slim flat-screen LCD monitor, which will take up less space and use less electricity than other comparable monitors.
Download Your Software
We've all done it. You buy a new program, and then a little voice pops into your head. "You should probably save the CD... and the owner's manual ... and the box ... and the packaging materials." That's your dirty devil. Your uncluttered angel recommends downloading your software instead. Around the world, 1 billion discs are discarded every year, contributing to the e-waste problem. If you feel like most of them have found their way to your home office, it's time to get with the digital revolution and download your next program.
Ditch the Answering Machine
If all answering machines currently used in U.S. homes were replaced by voice mail, the annual energy savings would be nearly 2 billion kilowatt-hours, equivalent to taking 250,000 cars off the road, according to the authors of The Green Book. Why? It's simply more efficient for a centralized facility to process all that data, then to have each individual use his or her own desktop machine. More to the point, and it's one less gadget cluttering up the desk.
Recycle Old Electronics
A decade or two into the information revolution, and the typical household has generated a small mountain of E-waste like old televisions, VCRs, DVD players, video games cell phones (and, uh ... answering machines). Chances are there's a drawer in your home office that's become the unofficial purgatory for a mess of cell phones and chargers. Clean it out! Electronics can be recycled, , either by the manufacturer, the retailer or by community drop-off programs. Cell phone recycling is even easier: You can donate your old cell phone to charity or, if it hasn't been sitting around too long, even sell it for $125 or more.
Consolidate Your Chargers
The age of personal electronics devices has freed us from our desks! And yet, somehow, it has left our desks cluttered with the cords of chargers. Do yourself and the environment a favor by buying a power strip, plugging your devices into it, and then only turning it on when your devices are actually charging. That will prevent phantom loads – electricity that flows to a charger, whether it's plugged into your device or not – while keeping your chargers at hand and in one place, so you never have to hunt for them or trip over them.
If you're like us, your ambitions as a reader exceed the time in your day allotted for reading – those 30 seconds between picking up the book and your head hitting the pillow for the night. As a result, the pile of books and magazines piles up... and up ... and up, until you contemplate replacing your nightstand with a bookshelf. Here are a few ways to tamp down on that clutter:
Go to the Library
The Internet hasn't killed print — not yet. If you're a bibliophile whose library overfloweth, or a magazine or newspaper subscriber who watches unread issues pile up on the nightstand, it may be time to reintroduce yourself to the local library. Borrowing one book at a time not only saves you money but will cut down on clutter and keep your conscience clear of that nagging feeling about not reading enough. Let someone else worry about restacking your books neatly when you're done with them. And if you can't finish the book in three weeks, maybe it's time to give up on it. (Or just renew it.)
There's an App for That
With newspapers and, increasingly, magazines available as downloadable apps, you can now fall asleep before reading your favorite publication on your handheld device – which fits neatly on your bedside table in a fraction of the space of all that paper.
Join an Online Book Shelf
But wait just a minute, the clutter-loving bibliophile screams. How will I show off all the books I've been meaning to read when guests show up, if I don't have an overloaded bookshelf with all of my books stacked in a haphazard and unsightly pattern? Do it online. Sites like LibraryThing, Goodreads, Shelfari, aNobii and BookJetty let you keep track of your books, share your lists with friends and even take notes, rate your favorites and write reviews. If you have someone to impress, you can send the link to your virtual bookshelf.
Whether grocery shopping is a joy or a royal pain, no one loves the kitchen mess that results in unloading all those bags. Here are three good ways to cut down on the grocery clutter:
Get a few sturdy reusable shopping bags — and use them!
The average American uses about 500 plastic bags every year. If you're a hoarder, or at all concerned about the old Reduce Reuse Recycle mantra, you've probably been stuffing these under the sink, or in some closet for years, in case you need them. Stop! Get a couple of good reusable bags and make a habit of storing them in the car so they don't clutter your kitchen and they're on hand when you need them.
Drink in bulk
Sick of lugging 2-liter bottles of soda and seltzer, and case after case of bottled water from the grocery store, only to watch them clog up your counters, cabinets and closets? So stop. For water, a reusable bottle and a good filter will pay for themselves — in psychic well-being — in no time. And even carbonated drinks can be made at home with simple home soda makers. To find a good water filter that fits your needs, use Environmental Working Group's water filter. Prices range from $80 or less for a basic well-rated carbon filtration system like the Culligan RC-EZ-Change 4 to $670 for reverse osmosis system like the Water Factory SQC-4 Reverse Osmosis System, or several hundred for a combination carbon-reverse osmosis filtration system.
Use Reusable Napkins and Towels
Paper napkins and towels spill out, fill up space and clog the trash bag – to say nothing of the impact of deforestation to create all that disposable paper. . A more elegant solution is to buy some attractive reusable napkins and dish towels. Unlike paper, they look good hanging from a kitchen cabinet, and when they're soiled, just toss them in the washing machine with the laundry.
Snack on fruit
Even the most well-organized kitchens tend to overflow onto countertops. One way to keep that overflow from looking like clutter is to turn it into decoration: Get a simple decorative fruit bowl, then substitute fruit for your junk food snack purchases. One nice side benefit: You'll cut down on the number of times you have to take trash to the curb, since the majority of American household waste is made up of packaging. An even nicer side benefit: You're more likely to choose a healthy snack if it's right in front of you, so fill up the fruit bowl and enjoy!
Never in history have we had so much stuff — but never in history have we had so many ways to get rid of the stuff we no longer want. Start with your closet, and all those clothes you think you might wear one day. (I mean, gosh, that Empire Strikes Back T-shirt was a real hit in college, but the way your belly makes Yoda bulge now is a tad unseemly.) Take a tip from Good Housekeeping and have an annual fashion show. Be ruthlessly honest about what the mirror tells you, and get rid of anything that doesn't make you look good.
Sell Your Old Clothes
In years past the options for getting rid of old clothes were limited: Junk it, donate it, give it to a friend or turn it into a rag. Thanks to Internet innovations, we now have moneymaking options like eBay and Craigslist (someone might pay for that retro T-shirt) and far easier ways to network with friends who might need your old clothes.
Give It Away
If you can't sell it, that doesn't mean no one wants it. It just means no one will pay for it. That's where social swapping sites like Freecycle.org come in. They connect you to the legions of people willing to take free junk, er, items. And they are out there. (We hesitate to recommend clothingwaps.com only because you might end up filling your closet up with your friends' discards.)
It might sound cheesy, but one person's clutter is another's treasure. Well, at least your brother-in-law might appreciate those old hand weights, and your sister-in-law loves scented candles, doesn't she? Give regifting a shot, and whatever usable items can't be .
There! Doesn't that feel good? Now move on to the hall closets, the kitchen cabinets, the attic, the basement, and/or the garage