How to Ditch Clutter and Get Organized

Clara Schoen helps south Alabamians ditch the clutter, leaving space to appreciate what’s important in life.

Clara Schoen shows off a client’s recently organized pantry, which features a designated space for everything from snacks to Tupperware. Photo by Summer Ennis Ansley

Perhaps it’s the lighting. Perhaps it’s the subtle aromatic notes of popcorn and coffee. Maybe it’s just lack of self-control. But try as I might, each time I enter my favorite big-box store, I’m drawn toward items I never knew I needed.  A woven llama-shaped basket? Yes, please. A cheeky-labeled, cupcake-scented votive? Throw it in the buggy. Once home, reality hits: I have zero use for the braided pack-animal and, worse, I own enough candles to light Betty White’s next birthday cake.

I know I am not alone in my affliction. Clara Schoen, decluttering extraordinaire and owner of The Home Organized, confirms my suspicion. “As a society, we are constantly bombarded by consumerism, which can easily lead to impulse buying,” she explains. “Homeowners are overwhelmed with the amount of possessions they have accumulated, stuff they thought ‘sparked joy’ in the store. The trouble with that is, if everything is special, then nothing is special.”

It turns out, “stuff” affects more than just the physical space around us. According to Clara, if left unchecked, clutter and disorganization in our homes can quickly create a toxic environment in which negative feelings spill out into relationships. “I want your home to be a place of peaceful rejuvenation and relaxation,” she shares of her mission. “The world is chaotic enough. I want your space to feel good.”

Maintaining that feel-good environment actually begins before strolling into the hypnotizing throes of fluorescent-lit aisles. “Take a list to the store and stick to it,” Clara suggests. But if you find yourself aimlessly perusing, it becomes a matter of asking questions as you shop. Where is this item going to live? Do you want it displayed? What might you take out in order to make room for this? And for the bigger picture, remember that costs add up. Is making the purchase worth not going on vacation this year?

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As for Clara, wife and mom of two growing boys, keeping her home organized is centered on one thing — remembering what’s truly valuable in life. “I want to enjoy my space,” she says. “If I know something is not going to add value to my life, I’m not bringing it home with me.”

Quick Steps to Decluttering

1. Set a timer. Don’t think you have enough time to declutter? Think again. Set an alarm for 15 – 30 minutes, and see how much you can get done without distraction.

2. Start small. To avoid being overwhelmed, pick one or two small spaces, such as a drawer, shelf or dresser, empty it out and wipe it down, then place everything in a pile.

3. Bag it. Grab three trash bags: one each for trash, donations and recycling. For each item, ask yourself if you have used it within the past year. If not, it’s probably safe to toss it.

4. Think quick. Touch each item as little as possible. When you hold items, you grow more attached to them.

5. Find a home. If you keep an item, find a home for it, and that’s where it should stay when not in use.

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