Where Do I Start?

Three quick ways to control the clutter

Is your house cluttered? If you answered "are you kidding?" you're not alone. I have what I call a horizontal filing system--stacks of papers, magazines, photos, lists, and catalogs that cover almost every table and countertop in my house. It's a constant battle, and it's one I wage in minutes stolen between naps, meals, and play. If you're not sure where to start in your home, try one of these quick ways to battle the clutter.

Start with the smallest pile
Sometimes clearing away just one small corner can make you feel like you're regaining control. Bask in the feeling of accomplishment you get by being able to see your kitchen countertop again! And build on each small success--try not to let the clutter creep into spaces you've reclaimed.

Start with the area that bothers you the most
Is that growing mound of newspapers driving you nuts? Are you unsure of what bills need to be paid because they're hiding in a pile of junk mail? Tackling one area that really bothers you can make you feel much better about the clutter that's left.

Start with the room you spend the most time in
The more time you spend in a room, the more likely clutter will gather there too. But the good news is, you'll also have plenty of opportunities for quick attacks on piles of magazines, books, toys, and laundry.

Remember, it doesn't really matter where you start--just start somewhere! And be ruthless! Recycle newspapers daily. Toss out magazines and catalogs you haven't looked at in a month. Put important papers and receipts in one pile and then file them away later. Best yet, don't even let that junk mail in the house--recycle it on your way from the mail box.

Before you know it, those stolen moments can add up to a less cluttered and, more importantly, a more comfortable home.

Amy Guzules is a technical editor and lives in San Jose, CA with her husband Bill, and daughters Madeline (1997) and Sophie (1999).