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Organize today. Relax tomorrow.

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Ask the Expert

By Amy Keeling Walton

Got clutter? For most people the answer would be a resounding yes.

It starts with our obsession with stuff. Old stuff, inherited stuff, recently purchased stuff. In its infancy, there was no conflict; the stuff was a nice, manageable collection. Sure you had to deal with it, but you could control where it lived and how much of you it consumed. Now it has quickly grown to this adult child who still lives at home, eats your food and never does his own laundry. Ugh.

It’s time to pack clutter’s bags, kick it to the curb and regain control of your life. You must figure out why you are a clutter collector in order to deal with your clutter effectively. Don’t feel guilty or helpless. There are a lot of clutter collectors out there who are just like you.

Any of this sound familiar?

You’re distracted all the time. You can’t get things done because you can’t remember what you were trying to get done in the first place.

You’re an avoider, a classic Scarlett O’Hara. “I can't think about that right now. I'll go crazy if I do. I'll think about that tomorrow.” You constantly tell yourself you will do it later or you can’t deal with it right now because you have to do this or that first.

You like to hang on to stuff for the proverbial “one day.” One day when this Barbie doll is a collectible. One day when I start sewing again. One day when I need eight platters.

You’re a shopper, a bonafide professional in the world of retail commerce. You hunt for the deal of the year, and then pounce on it before anyone else gets it. Hey, you got it on sale. Buying things may even make you feel good. You wanted it. You bought it.

The entire organizing process frustrates you. Why bother organizing when tomorrow it will be wrecked again? Perhaps you feel like you are on your own in your home or workplace; trying to create and maintain a system on your own is impossible, therefore ridiculous. And forget about teaching the clutter contributors around you. You might as well beat your head against a very hard wall.

You’re a busy, modern woman with no time for extras. You’re lucky to maintain an environment suitable for basic human survival. You take your kids to this practice and that rehearsal, cook supper, clean the house, do the laundry, not to mention managing all your responsibilities with work, church and your extended family.

We all have good excuses for our clutter. Stop making excuses and start making changes.

First, identify the cause of your clutter catastrophe. Think about what type of clutter collector you are and the things you do that make you fit into that type.

Second, write down which area of your house, work or life frustrates you the most; we’ll call it the forest. Then write down smaller areas within the forest that you could organize in 20 minutes; we’ll call these smaller areas trees. Maybe it’s the cheese drawer in your refrigerator, the front seat of your car, whatever.

Third, prune one tree. Set a timer for 20 minutes, take the clutter out and sort it into categories. After you sort, decide what you want to keep, donate or trash. Remember you have 20 minutes. Put the needed items, formerly known as clutter, back into the space. Try to prune a new tree every day until your forest is worthy of an arborist’s gold medal.

You can do it. Identify your clutter collector personality, name your forest and your trees, then get pruning. You are a gardener with pruners in hand ready to proclaim, “I accept the reasons behind my clutter and will deal with it today.”

Amy Keeling Walton is owner of The Neat Freak Professional Organizing in Bardstown. If you have a question for this column,

e-mail amy@theneatfreakonline.com.