The holiday season tends to leave a trail of clutter in its wake. Between decorations, gifts (and their wrapping) and the supplies you put out to host guests, it's no wonder you'd have a mess on your hands. As overwhelming as it may seem, it is possible to declutter your space (and set off a New Year's resolution to be more organized). And you certainly can do better, if you devote some time and attention to getting it right.
First things first -- be ready to commit some time to this task. Decluttering takes time, and you'll likely get discouraged (and possibly quit) if you expect to finish it all in a single weekend. When it comes to decluttering, it's a mess-tackling marathon, not a sprint.
The most important trick for decluttering is compartmentalizing and sticking to it. Experts say letting yourself get distracted or overwhelmed is a sure ticket to organizing failure. Go through one room at a time, tune out distractions, and follow a checklist. Divide the project into four categories: "toss," 'keep," "donate" and "misplaced." This system will help maintain a steady flow as you move through the room. If things belong there, leave them; otherwise, place them in the box and move on. Don't follow through with the action on the box until the room is complete. It can be tempting to move misplaced items back to where they belong as you come across them, but that's the kind of thing that derails decluttering efforts!
Once you've completed a room, go ahead and return the "misplaced" and "keep" items to where they belong, get rid of the "toss" items, and put "donate" items aside for later.
Another tip is to follow the old saying, "a place for everything and everything in its place." If something goes back to the same place every time, it's pretty easy to avoid a mess.
Once you've got your clutter under control, keep a daily or weekly checklist of things to do that will help maintain your newly ordered surroundings. Get into a routine of resetting rooms when you're done using them. Put away books, pencils, toys, craft items or whatever you might be using as soon as you're done with them. This will quickly become second nature if you make it a regular habit.
You can also turn to the experts for help by hiring a professional organizer. A pro tends to cost between $55-$100 an hour, but the skills they bring to the table make the cost more than worthwhile. If you can't afford to hire someone for the several hours it would take to organize the average home, consider a shorter consultation. Even if they walk you through just one room, an organizer can teach you the basic skills to bring order to your mess in no time!