decluttering your house

[ by Dina Colman, Four Quadrant Living ]

Is your garage so full that you can’t park your car in it? Are there piles of papers in your office that prevent you from finding what you need? Do you have magazines from five years ago? Do you keep every gift, even if you don’t like it? Is your closet filled with clothes that haven’t been worn in years?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then perhaps it’s time for some spring cleaning—even if it’s not springtime.

Every time I bring new belongings into my house, I discard an equal amount of old things I no longer need. For me, the act of getting rid of clutter is very therapeutic.

Here are some ideas for freeing up space in various parts of your home.

decluttering your home

Probably the most cluttered place in your bedroom is your closet. Do you wear all of the clothes in your closet?

One idea for managing your closet is to place all of your hangers the same way on a certain date. From that date forward, every time you take an item out, return it with the hanger facing the opposite way. At the end of the year, donate the items that are still facing the original way, since this means you haven’t worn that item for an entire year.

Be honest. Do you really need the once-a-year novelty gadgets that are crowding your kitchen drawers and cupboards?

How often do you use the ice cream maker, pizza stone, bread maker, pasta maker or heart-shaped cookie cutter? Even for the items you do use, how many cookie sheets, spatulas and serving dishes do you really need?

Keep the ones you use the most, and donate the rest.

While you’re de-cluttering your kitchen, check the expiration dates on the food items in your refrigerator and pantry. Toss those that are past their prime.

decluttering your home

How many kinds of hair products are now piling up on your vanity? How about makeup? Go through the stash, and get rid of the beauty products that you know you aren’t going to use, even if they’re practically new.

Beauty products often don’t have expiration dates on them, but here are some general guidelines on how long these items last:

Mascara: Three to six months.

Eyeliner: Three months (liquid) or two years (pencil).

Lipstick: Two years.

Eye shadow: Six months (cream) to two years (powder).

Foundation and concealer: Six to 12 months.

Powder: Six months to two years.

Cleanser and moisturizer: One year.

Sunscreen: One year.

Home Office
Are your desk and drawers overflowing with papers? If so, take some time to sort through the pile and organize them. Recycle what you don’t need, file what you can and keep visible those that require action.

On an ongoing basis, try to track where the papers belong before letting them stack up on your desk. To limit paper management altogether, think twice about printing documents that can be stored online. Also, consider signing up for paperless statements for your bills.

If you can’t fit your car in the garage, it’s time for some cleaning. What’s in all of those boxes stored in the garage? Do they go years without being opened, and do you even remember what is in them?

Go through the boxes and mark today’s date (or the date you store a box, moving forward). If you don’t open the box for a couple of years, consider donating the contents.

decluttering your house

Your Entire House
Top clutter offenders that you might find in various parts of the house include:

Magazines. If you have more than six months’ worth of unread magazines, it’s time to consider canceling those subscriptions and re-subscribing once you’ve caught up. You also could subscribe to the online editions offered by many print magazines.

Newspapers. I don’t know about you, but when I got the daily newspaper, I couldn’t keep up with it. It felt like a chore to read it every day. It typically went straight to the recycling bin without being read. I don’t get newspapers anymore. But I know many people who can’t live without their daily paper. If this is you, keep getting it.

But if you’re like my client Jill, who had several feet of unread newspapers stacked up, consider making a change. Perhaps you can get your news online or request the printed version on weekends only.

Gifts. Sometimes you get a gift and you just know that you aren’t going to use it or you really don’t like it. Bypass the clutter stage and immediately put it in the re-gift pile or donate it now. Don’t let the gift take up residence in your home.

This blog post is excerpted from Dina Colman’s new book, “Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life.” Colman, founder of Four Quadrant Living, is an author, health coach and nutritionist.