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Chat online with others about relationships, grandparenting, family and more. Get AARP member discounts on travel, shopping and more. Reich has since served about clients through her firm, Resourceful Consultants; she's booked for appointments a month in advance.


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For most clutterers, 10 two- to three-hour sessions do the trick; some clients ask for occasional tune-ups. A few have a standing weekly date. She doesn't work with compulsive hoarders , whose homes can fill from floor to ceiling with trash. Such people have a complex disorder best treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, medication or a combination of both. The organizer, who rattles off rapid-fire tips as she works, is blunt but also a born nurturer; she softens her advice with kindness and humor.

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When Fred tells her that the hardest part is getting started, she nods sympathetically. Fred, a retired menswear executive, is still doubtful. If you think you're going to spend five minutes here and there, it will be undone in a minute. Then, play some music, enlist a friend to help, pour some wine — whatever works so you get cracking. Sort things into three piles — keep, toss and donate — and tackle what makes you most bonkers first. Label Maker: When you label a drawer, you're not only telling yourself what goes in there.

Guide to Organizing Your Home

You're telling your entire family. Trash Bags Use these to collect items you'll donate or discard. Then, make sure all the bags leave your house. Nice Boxes Store items you use often or want to keep in attractive boxes that can be stacked, labeled and displayed. File Folders Keep your file categories broad. If you have too many narrow categories, filing becomes burdensome. She turns to Fred. And then you can go to the movies. Fred nods.

From Clutter to Clarity - Kerry Thomas - TEDxAshburn

I don't even know what's in there. Reich feigns horror. And if you get rid of it, think of the money you'll save. They're bad for the environment, take up space and encourage you to buy things you don't need.

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To Reich, clutter is not merely piles of junk. Clutter is stress : It nags at you, drags you down psychologically, slows you down physically. People tend to hang on to their stuff for a few different reasons, she says. Some clutterers suffered a major loss early in life. For them, accumulating stuff that no one can take away can be a source of comfort. Other clutterers grew up with a parent who didn't save anything so the person overcompensates or a parent who saved everything so there was no model for purging.

Still others hold on to things as a way of preserving memories they fear they'll lose otherwise. Reich understands the comfort and security that stuff can provide, but when it piles up, that feeling of safety quickly turns into oppression. She maintains that the things you own should be beautiful, useful or well loved. Reich has clients ask themselves these questions: Have I used or worn it in the past year?

If the answer is no, out it goes. Is it justifying the space it's taking up in my house? Sometimes clients tell her she is wasteful when she advises them to toss still-usable things. Au contraire, says Reich.

The Clutter-Depression-Anxiety Cycle: How to Stop It

After the to hour megapurge, she urges people to live much more simply and stop being haunted by what-ifs. You can always replenish when supplies run low. She picks up a cracked box that once held a computer. She chucks the box in the trash. One box! She moves on to a container stuffed with ancient manuals. As Fred steps gingerly out of the way, Reich grabs a stack of files and scribbles categories on the labels: medical, insurance, tax receipts.

People like to make a separate file for every single thing, she says, but documents are more likely to get filed if you're not hunting for micro-categories, so the "car" file can include insurance, maintenance and expense records. Next, Reich zeroes in on a horror she finds in almost every home: a plastic bin crammed with wires. No one ever knows what the electric cords and chargers in this box are for, she says, "but everybody is very afraid to throw it away. Cords are replaceable, but not your grandmother's vintage beaded purse.

And about that purse: Reich says that of all the items we hoard, sentimental ones are the most difficult to pitch, because along with all that sentiment comes a large dollop of guilt. But if you don't truly love the silver service your great-aunt gave you, you should donate it, or sell it on eBay. You're not living her life, and she would be unhappy that the tea set has become an albatross. Nor do you love your grown kids less if you decline to keep storing their childhood artifacts. Fred lugs over a box of photos.

She rifles through them. Put them together with a narrative in a nice album, or burn them onto a DVD. To make sure a memory is preserved, treat it as preservable. Two hours later, Fred's desk is half cleared, four boxes are bound for the closet, and a trash bag is stuffed. He is grinning like a kid. The following week, Reich meets me at the apartment she shares with husband Jeffrey, a real estate lawyer, and their year-old twins, Rebecca and Matthew, to show me her rules in action. Her homey abode, done in soothing shades of cream and sand, is — no surprise here — immaculate.


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  • There are acres of space on her granite kitchen counters. You don't need She's not a fan of little-used, space-hogging specialty gadgets either. She recently urged her mother to toss a fondue maker that hadn't been used in years. When her mother argued that it was expensive, Reich invoked the rule of sunk cost, the first thing she learned in business school.

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    Trailed by her Havanese dog, Charly, Reich opens up her pantry, a wonderland of minimalism. Reich heads downstairs to her bedroom and flings open the doors of her husband's closet. All is pristine, except a yellow promotional bag that she snatches "What the hell is this? Jeffrey confirms that marriage to Barbara took his tidiness to the next level.

    Do the most distasteful task first. Tackle your "hot spot," the place that drives you the most crazy, before you try to clear out anyplace else. Your angst will diminish, and you'll be much more motivated to continue. Stick to routines.

    Declutter Your Life — Now!

    Do things the same way every time: Put your purse in one place, your keys in one place. As he never entertained clients in his office, the coffee table was only used when he set things on it. Moving the coffee table out gave him a clear walkway and saved him a lot of potential shin damage. Are there furniture obstacles in your office design? Move them or move them out entirely. You need to be able to walk around. There now. An office design showpiece. Now the hard part. Begin to organize your office by looking at your office desk and decide what has to be there.

    Your computer, obviously. Put it back. Your phone, definitely. Put it back, too. But what else? Deal with them and file them. The half-eaten doughnut from last week. You know what to do with that Office supply stores and chain retailers have all kinds of plastic trays and caddies, including those that are designed to fit perfectly into a desk drawer.

    Use them to get your office supplies organized. To further organize your desk, stacking trays are ideal for your inbox and outbox. What office machines are slowing you down or cluttering up your office design?

    Does your computer need a memory or a hard drive upgrade? Or time to upgrade the primitive touch-tone phone to a speakerphone. Increase the functionality of your office machines and make some more workspace available. Clear even more workspace and organize your office by giving some of your office essentials their own separate space. Investing in a printer stand will keep it within a usable distance, free more of that valuable desk real estate, and give you some more shelf storage space for accessories such as printer paper.

    Have a small desk and need even more room? An occasional table placed next to your desk will add an elegant touch to your office design and serve as an additional working area. Be sure to select one of the correct height so you can work at it without having to hunch over. Is your desk cluttered with books or manuals?

    Invest in a bookshelf, either freestanding or built-in. How else can you improve your office design and organize your office now that you've got an attractive and a functional workspace?