Bringing clutter into the light

Is there clutter hiding in your basement, attic, or garage? Is it at the back of a closet, under the kitchen sink, or in your medicine chest? What is the situation under your bed, in the linen closet, and in the drawers of your entertainment center? How are things in your filing cabinet or your car’s glovebox? Are you harboring clutter in an off-site storage facility?

When you can close a door or drawer to hide whatever lurks inside, it’s easy to use that space as a place to put clutter and forget about it. Even though this area might not be distracting you from living the life you want to lead right now, it does create stress and anxiety each time you access the area and whenever your thoughts drift to these spaces. Plus, you are spending money to maintain these objects and areas, and you’re keeping something you might value more — something that actually matters to you — from being stored in its place.

Unlike clutter that “hides” in plain sight, clutter that is tucked away can lead to bug and/or rodent infestations, increase the levels of dust and dander in your home, and keep you from discovering leaks, cracks, or other major structural issues. Not being able to see into your home’s closed spaces can really cost you over the longterm — financially and emotionally.

To bring this hidden clutter into the light of day, find a clear, flat surface you can use as a place to set all of your stored things. A dining room table works well for small spaces, and your driveway can work for large areas. Pull out all of your items and group them by type (make piles of like things). Once you can see all of the items, go through each group to determine if anything can be thrown away, recycled, or donated to charity. Once you’ve determined what should stay and what should go, only return items into storage that should be in storage.

Try not to store anything in cardboard because it is a tasty treat for bugs and rodents and it won’t protect your things if water leaks into the space. Also, label any containers you can’t easily see inside so you won’t waste time when you go looking for something — holiday decorations, camping and hiking gear, 2008 contracts.

Also, while your stuff is out of storage and on display, don’t forget to give your storage spaces a good review and cleaning. Repair any damages and clean out the cobwebs so you return your items to the best space possible. Install battery-operated lights, too, so that you can easily check on your stored objects in the future.

I’m of the opinion that the less stuff you have in storage, the better. Good luck to you as you shed light on your home’s hidden clutter.

16 Comments for “Bringing clutter into the light”

  1. posted by Allison on

    This reminds me of the Clean House (yay Niecy!) “Messiest Home in the Country” 4 I watched the other night. The family’s basement was so cluttered she had no idea that it had toxic black mold! They had to throw away everything in the basement, without even having the option of keeping anything due to contamination. So, having cluttered spaces could cause you to ruin whatever is in them! We should make a “Toxic Mold Inspection/Awareness Month” or something.

  2. posted by amandalee on

    Oh man, YES. We actually just moved into a great 3-room studio, but one of its main selling points was its four enormous closets. So I have one, Boyfriend has one, the linens/bathroom/cleaning supplies live in one, and then the fourth is storage. It’s where we keep his air organ, my yarn stash, our bulk dog food, and winter coats…needless to say, I HAVE to organize it. Like, every day. Otherwise it’ll just be a magnet for stuff we don’t want anymore.

  3. posted by Sarah on

    A very good reminder. I cleaned out a desk we never delve into this weekend and discovered a set of dominos. My BF taught me how to play and we had a lovely, cost free evening.

  4. posted by Kari on

    When we had new kitchen cabinets installed, we decided to make the under the sink area functional and tidy, not a place of horror. We got a series of three clear plastic storage bins, and put anything that could leak or leave residue in them. We neatly piled our drying towels and dish rags. There is a jar with kitchen brushes, and a box of dishwasher soap. Because of the containers, everything is easy to see, easy to remove, easy to keep clean. No more cleaning out before the plumber comes!

    Since hths worked so well in the kitchen, we have also used the same technique in the bathroom vanities and the closets. Corralling goes a long way to keeping things neat and clean.

  5. posted by Mimi on

    Where do you live? AlaskaA? It is way to hot to even think of standing out side for more than three minutes….. about the end of September I can begin to think of hot storage areas.

  6. posted by Jude on

    All of my clutter is out in the open. I’m not a hoarder, but parts of my house look as though they belong to a hoarder. I clean and clean and clean for hours every day. Some year it will be finished (or I will be finished).

  7. posted by Ashley on

    Someone once told me that they didn’t want to buy plastic containers for their storage area because they didn’t want to spend the money to replace the cardboard boxes. My reply was that they obviously don’t care about their stuff as much as they think they so they might as well get rid of it. If it was worth keeping, then they’d invest in it, again.

  8. posted by Another Deb on

    Another benefit is that you find things you forgot you had, like things you borrowed, presents you bought early and need to send, duplicates for things you bought again, etc.

    On putting things on the driveway to sort: People tend to think you are having a garage sale. I call these “Mirage Sales”

  9. posted by Handy Man, Crafty Woman on

    I had already gone through and organized a lot of our basement…anything left was stored in plastic containers. However, when I finally labeled them, it really, really helped! You don’t even need a label maker. I didn’t have one, so I just typed labels on my computer, printed them out, and taped them to the containers with clear packing tape.

  10. posted by Erin on

    This is so true! My husband and I had “that room” in our house and didn’t realize for weeks that we had a hot water pipe leaking in the wall (pin size leak). He went into the room to hunt something up and found the carpet was soaked a foot away from the wall. Lots of boxes of clutter got purged as a result–we were lucky that we found it when we did so more wasn’t ruined. Thankfully the carpet was cleaned and not moldy. Our new goal is to make every room useful and used so issues are discovered quickly.

  11. posted by Wanda on

    My uncle used to clean out the garage on a regular basis, take everything out, (it did look like they were having a garage sale) clean the garage and (unfortunately) put everything back in. They never parked a single car in the two car garage, even after the mortgage was paid off it that tells you how long this has been going on…

  12. posted by Joy from Just Plain Joy on

    I am currently struggling to organize all my bags – plastic, paper, purses, luggage. Visit me here to see pictures and leave a comment about how I should organize my bags – which are currently shoved into a cupboard, my closet, and kitchen cabinets!

    http://www.justplainjoy.com/2010/08/04/what-to-do-with-all-my-bags/

  13. posted by Klyla on

    I have finally been outed…I am a CLOSET hoarder! My house is beautiful in the public areas but those closets, drawers, and shelves…oh, my!

    I did start work on this recently and was thinking “at least no one can see it” and almost talked myself into stopping. Thanks for the kick in the right place!

  14. posted by Dia on

    Ah, yes, those storage spaces!! I have clutter BOTH in the open & tucked away – good reminder that those tucked away places can mask damage.
    & had to laugh a couple of months ago – one of the Docs I work with ‘mentioned’ that his wife (a counselor) had told him about ‘hoarders’ – & he was wondering if hanging on to all those things that ‘might come in handy’ might be classed as hoarding??
    Our new office manager had been going through the office purging catalogues & such – “hmm – do you still need this one from 2004; we’ve got a new one’ . . .

  15. posted by Kelly on

    I just noticed this kind of clutter creeping up on me. Our basement is partially finished with a separate space for storage. We used to have the cat food and boxes in there, so I was in that space every day. Now that we’ve moved the cat stuff and closed the door to that area, it’s slowly become a dumping ground with things piling up. It wasn’t the most organized place to begin with and now it looks like a dump. Closed doors = cluttered dumping ground, at least at our house. As much as I hate the thought of it, I need to invest some serious time in cleaning and purging that area!

  16. posted by Bryan on

    Great article. I think everyone has someplace where clutter is hiding. The worst offenders are car gloveboxes and attics! Be on the lookout for places where you put a lot of things in but rarely take anything out!

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