- Chuck your Summer clothes. "If you didn’t wear that summer dress or those shorts during the entire season, there’s very little chance you’re going to wear it next. Time to get rid of it — no matter how cute it is or how much it cost. It’s taking up space in your closet and it has to go."
- Get containers. "Once you’ve pared down the essentials that you want to keep, and after you’ve had a chance to clean them all, grab an airtight container (a closable bin, a zippered plastic bag, and/or a set of vacuum bags), fill it with the clothes and a couple of cedar blocks to keep away the bugs. "
- Find a place. "Find an out-of-the-way place to store these clothes until the weather starts getting warm again." One great option for clothing storage is to keep them under your bed.
- Examine Winter clothing. "Similarly, for your winter clothes which have been hibernating . . . examine each piece carefully. Make sure it still fits you, that it hasn’t been damaged since last season [by bugs, water, and smells], and make sure you still love it. If it fits all of those criteria, then move it to the front of the closet or the top of the dresser."
- The trash bag technique: "The very first thing you should do if you're feeling overwhelmed in your space is to set aside 10 minutes a day." Walsh says. Give everyone in your household two trash bags and have them fill them up during that 10-minute window every day. Fill one up with things to trash and the other up with things to donate or sell. If you live with someone else and the two of you use this simple technique for one week, you'll end up with 14 bags of trash and 14 bags of stuff going to donation at the end of the week. "That's a really simple technique — 10 minutes a day that will make a massive change," he says.
- Back-to-front clothes: Walsh says we all wear "20 percent of [our] clothes 80 percent of the time." The best way to check what you don't need is to use the back-to-front method. Turn the clothes that are hanging in your closet so that the hangers are facing back to front. For the next six months, every time you wear a piece of clothing, hang it back up the correct way. "At the end of six months, whatever is still hanging back to front, chances are you are never going to wear. Send it off to Goodwill."
"You've got to embrace digital technology and realize that paper is your enemy. It's 2013. There's an infinite supply of data storage available; more than any number of file cabinets you could ever cram into your office. And, even better, searches are now done as quickly as you can type. So, the best tools you need today are a good scanner and a good shredder.
Get into the habit of scanning anything you think you might need later; store it in the cloud; and, then, shred it. Not only will that keep the paper off your desk, you'll also be able to access it anywhere you go. And, by the way, yes, of course, you should keep originals which are signed (but these days most other paperwork should be tossed after scanned)."
"It all starts with a plan. Before you decide what meals you’re planning to make this week, take a look in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Ask yourself what items are in there that need to be used now and what dishes can you prepare from them? From there, fill in the rest of the week’s menu and write a grocery list of only those things you need. I guarantee you’ll stop overbuying things you already have and you’ll also not throw away perfectly good food just because it’s gone past its expiration date. Additionally, when an item is on sale or you have a coupon that is too good to pass up, make sure that you store those newly purchased goods behind the ones you already have. You’ll be certain to get the most out of the groceries you buy!"
"I always say that 'later' is the best friend of clutter and disorganization. Whenever you're tempted to just throw the dirty dishes in the sink or leave the clothes in the dryer unfolded, catch yourself. Realize that it's the small steps that need to be done to stay on top of the clutter. My one bit of advice on the subject would be to replace the word 'later' with the word 'now.' Get into the habit of repeating that word under your breath, and pretty soon you’ll have a ton of accomplishments you can be proud of."
"The biggest advice I can give for when you're traveling is that if you're going to be staying for more than a night or two, as soon as you get into your hotel room, UNPACK and store the suitcases away from the main traffic area of your room . . . Unpacking also lets you take a quick look at how well your clothes 'traveled' from home. It's better to know the night before what articles may need a quick ironing job than waking up that morning and feeling panicked about not having time to look your best."
"I’m always amazed at how much time and care people take putting up their holiday decorations every year, but come Jan. 2, there’s often a mad dash to take everything down, throw it all in a few boxes, and store it away in the basement or attic. The problem with that is that it leaves you with a hugely disorganized mess next season.
"My advice: take a little time when taking down the decorations and ask yourself whether you really need to hold onto each piece or whether it can be tossed. Part of the fun of the holiday season is reliving great memories with special holiday decorations. But if you’ve stored the cheap inexpensive holiday ornaments side by side with those that you cherish, you’re burying your own treasures. Also, don’t forget the stores will have more sales next year on holiday decorations — and if you’ve done a good job of purging the unimportant stuff, you’ll have more freedom to go out and buy a couple of new special pieces to add to your memories."
What do you usually do with your leftover holiday decorations?
Do you go to great lengths to hide your mess from visitors? For example, you stuff all your clutter in your spare bedroom and don't let anyone see it so they are none the wiser. There are two types of people who do this: perfectionists and people who just don't think it's worth it to be organized. For the perfectionists, they think if they can't do it perfectly, they're not going to do it. The people who don't think it's worth the effort simply don't think it's a priority and it doesn't impact their life in a big way.
Solution: First, "get over yourself!" said the organization expert. Second, get a friend (wine optional) and make decluttering a fun activity. But don't ask someone in the family or who lives in the same house as you to help because that can cause tension, warns Walsh. Make sure you offer to go over to your friend's place the following week to declutter. Third, start small so that it's not overwhelming. Perhaps you can start by clearing out your bedside table or your bag.
You have endless piles of magazines, books, and more. Don't beat yourself up over missing out on special tips, because Walsh jokes that there are only three original ideas in the world and magazines print them over and over again. Sooner or later, you'll come across the same information again.
Solution: Walsh only keeps two back issues of a magazine, and if he decides to keep a new issue, he will throw away an old one so he will only have two copies of the magazine. As for books, if your shelf is full, make sure every time you buy a book, you give one book away. Decide which ones are important to you and keep those.
"I'm a big fan of ripping out a page or two from a magazine to keep as inspiration (just don't overdo it)! To keep them organized, I use three different books or binders. One is for recipes, the second is for projects I want to do, and the third is for places I want to visit. Every time I come across something I want to keep, I tear the page out and immediately tape it into the appropriate book. The trick is to make sure you refer to those books regularly. Not sure what to make for dinner? Go to the book. Not sure what to do this weekend or what restaurant you should try? Go to the book. Tearing the pages out is only half the job . . . The second is making sure that you use the info that you've collected. Remember also to set a limit for the pages you keep so as to avoid paper hoarding. Once you get to 30 items in any book, before you can add an article, you have to discard one."
Do you like tearing out magazine pages to keep?
Archive all your emails: "Bite the bullet: archive—don't delete—archive all of those emails or all of those emails from more than a month ago, and start from scratch today." You can set up an automatic filtering system that will immediately shuttle your emails to the appropriate category. Most email systems have the option, and Walsh favors Hotmail for that function.
Keep your inbox clean: The organizing expert says he's "never had more than 10 or 15 emails in my inbox at any one time." He's able to answer every email he receives by having them automatically categorized.
Set aside time for email: Set up a schedule for your emails. Walsh avoids looking at emails the first hour of his morning and does whatever needs to get done "first up in the day." He then sets aside 90 minutes of uninterrupted time to handle email. "I don’t try to multitask; I think multitasking is a huge myth. Trying to do more than one thing at once, you end up doing nothing well," he says.