Clear the clutter for a healthy home - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Clear the clutter for a healthy home

Updated: Feb 4, 2011 11:50 AM EST
© iStockphoto.com/Dmitry Pistrov © iStockphoto.com/Dmitry Pistrov

By Emily Anderson

Admit it: You need help! You may not be a hoarder, but you probably have parts of your home (basement? hall closet? under the bed?) that you'd rather keep hidden.

Don't worry, though -- you're not alone. Most of us don't even know how much stuff we really have, let alone know how to get ourselves organized. Before hauling everything to the curb, try these planet-friendly steps (no landfills included!) to clear the clutter and breathe a sigh of relief.

1. Give Yourself an Audit

Pull all of your things out from hiding and begin to create three piles: "Donate," "Repurpose" and "Needs Repairs."

You can donate items, sell items at swap meets, or trade items for things you do want. Electronic and computer companies like Dell and Apple have sophisticated programs for reusing equipment. You can also sell items online via eBay or Craigslist, or trade items on Freecycle.org. At the very least, you can donate items to a local Goodwill store.

2. Be a Pickup Artist

Find a set of small storage bins -- plastic or canvas -- and keep a couple in each room of your house to stash random items quickly and neatly. I keep a few canvas bins in each room for wayward items like toys, magazines and books, so I can easily clear the clutter and then put it in its proper place later.

Keep a bin by the front door and make a habit of removing your shoes when you get home. (Bonus: This is an easy way to keep your home clean!) While you're at it, use some of the storage bins to keep your recycling sorted -- mark one for glass, one for plastic and one for newspaper.

3. Stop the Junk Mail

Americans receive almost 4 million tons of junk mail every year -- that's about 100 million trees, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And more than one precious resource is cut short by junk mail: The average American spends the equivalent of eight months of his or her life opening junk mail.

Check out DoNotMail.org for information on what steps you can take to get your name removed from marketing lists. And don't worry: Even if you don't get coupons in the mail anymore, you can still find great deals on household goods online. Go straight to the websites of the brands you love, or check out Groupon and Living Social to take advantage of special deals.

4. Go Shopping

Keep everyday items intelligently organized -- and well stocked -- to avoid a frantic search or an unnecessary purchase. Extra batteries, paper products, cleaning supplies, even shampoo, soap and toothbrushes are wise to keep on hand.

And consolidate shopping trips. You'll save time, gas, energy and money by combining multiple errands into one trip. While you're at it, consider doing more of your shopping online. Many sites will keep a record of your common purchases so you can consult your personal shopping list when you log on.

5. Repeat

You don't have to take on everything all at once. Do a little organizing whenever you can, and it will all eventually add up to a cleaner, greener home. Remember: The things that are good for us personally are often also good for the environment. This is especially true when it comes to our living spaces. Get your home a little more organized and you'll be well on your way to living -- and saving -- green.

Emily Anderson is the author of Eco-chic Home, Eco-chic Weddings and When Changing a Lightbulb Just Isn't Enough. Her work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies' Home Journal, The New York Times and her blog, GoodWithStyle.com.

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