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Tackling the junk

Getting organized is the first step to spring cleaning.Pro organizers have advice here for you.

It’s time to start thinking about spring cleaning.

But after the extra-cold winter, junk has likely piled up around your house. It was too cold for extraneous trips to the Goodwill donation center, or sometimes even to haul the trash cans to the curb.

Before you can even ponder washing windows and polishing furniture, you’ve got to scrap all the discarded toys and threadbare coats, not to mention the egg separator your mother-in-law put in your Christmas stocking 14 years ago and you’ve never even taken it out of the cellophane.

We checked in with professional organizers in the local area for tips on getting de-cluttered.

Here are some of their suggestions:

Start with the area that bothers you most. Even organizing a single kitchen cupboard can get the job off the ground, said Organize It All owner Joan Heath, who has served Dayton-area clients for 10 years.

“Once you see how nice it is, that can encourage you to keep going,” she said.

Define your goals. This is the first step Lori Firsdon, owner of Forte Organizers in Centerville, takes with clients. Typical goals can include making more money, spending more time with grandchildren or cooking more nutritious meals for your family.

Once you’ve defined your goals, “you can figure out what you need to keep around you” to help achieve them, she said.

Start with clothes. When switching from winter to spring wardrobes, take the extra step of getting rid of clothes that don’t fit, suggested Alicia Miller, owner of Cut Your Clutter in Covington. Miller helped a Dayton woman who was featured on the “Hoarders” television show to rehab her house so she could move back in after living in her truck.

Tackle the garage. That’s where a lot of items, such as Christmas decorations, build up over the winter, Miller said. She suggests grouping items together in categories: biking items (bikes, helmets, bike racks, water bottles), toys, sports gear, decorations.

Throw out anything you haven’t used in the past six months to a year. Some other questions Heath suggested asking yourself: Would I go out now and buy it if I didn’t have it? Do I love it? Would I miss it two weeks from now if I didn’t have it?

Miller expressed the question a different way: Is it serving the type of lifestyle I have now? That pair of skis you haven’t used in 15 years probably needs to go; you can always rent skis.

Set boundaries, either by count or by space, on your “stuff.” Determine how many pairs of black dress pants you need, and then get rid of your least-favorite pairs that exceed that number, Janet Jackson, owner of Organizing Solutions in Piqua, said. Or designate a kitchen drawer for plastic containers, and throw away any that don’t fit.

Evaluate why you’re keeping something. If it’s for sentimental reasons, maybe a photo of the item would suffice, Jackson suggested.

Define the purpose of each room. Then scrap any item that doesn’t belong, Firsdon suggested. Example: Toys wouldn’t belong in a home office.

Also, Firsdon suggested thinking about the sorts of items that tend to collect in in large numbers. For instance, she and her husband don’t drink coffee or tea, but she once counted 48 coffee mugs in her kitchen. She got rid of all but a few reserved for guests. Pens, magazines and stuffed animals tend to fall in this category as well, she said.

Divide rooms into parts, and list each part on an index card. For instance, index cards for a bedroom could read, “under bed,” “closet” or “shoes.” Then, when you have five minutes to spare, pick a card and get cracking, Firsdon suggested.

Designate a home for everything. If you do, your flat surfaces won’t become automatic collection points, Heath said.

Once you get organized, stay organized. Miller suggests spending five minutes per day putting items back in their place, and choosing one room to tackle each day.

Organize before cleaning. Some people find it easier to clean than to purge junk because cleaning doesn’t require decisions, Firsdon said. But “an uncluttered house looks cleaner than a clean house that is cluttered,” so getting organized should be the top priority, she said.

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