RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—A cluttered state of living isn't just a nuisance when you need to find the car keys. It can translate into impaired mental health, leading to feelings of anxiety and even depression—not to mention tripping hazards. Conversely, controlling clutter not only helps your mood, it can be a step toward keeping a healthier home. If kicking the clutter is one of your resolutions for 2012, here are three projects to tackle first.
# 1: Start with the entryway. Whether it's a porch, hallway, or foyer, seeing a cluttered mess as soon as you get in the door isn't very welcoming. Entryways set the mood of the house, so if yours is bogged down with strewn-about sneakers, umbrellas, jackets, and other random items, try these fixes:
Set up a post office. To keep mail from piling up and important bills from being lost, place a mail holder with separate sections for incoming and outgoing mail as close to the door as you can get it. That way, mail can be sorted as soon as it comes into the house. For added efficiency, choose a mail sorter with separate slots for bills and correspondence, or with separate areas for each household member. Place a bin nearby so unwanted mail can go right into the recycling stream, and include stamps and blank envelopes so they'll be easy to find. To cut down on unwanted mail and catalogs to begin with, visit CatalogChoice.org. You'll save hundreds of trees by reducing paper use.
Create a return bin. Designate a box, bin, or shelf for borrowed items that need to be returned, such as DVDs, library books, and toys left behind by visiting kids. You'll never pay a late fee again!
Set up a shoebox. Nothing screams disorganization than muddy shoes tossed around a room. Use an old chest, a wash basket, or a shoe organizer, and instruct the household to toss their dirty shoes into it as soon as they enter the home. You'll avoid tracking dust and chemicals into the house, and keep the entryway clear, to boot.
# 2: Undo under-sink clutter. Pediatrician like Alan Greene, MD, author of Raising Baby Green, has found that one of the most toxic places in the house is under the kitchen sink. It's also one of the most cluttered. Instead of housing 10 different half-full specialty cleaners under there—most of which contain carcinogens or other harmful chemicals—mix your own general cleaning solution of 9 parts water, 1 part white vinegar in a spray bottle. For particularly dirty areas, wipe with soapy water first, and then use the vinegar solution. You'll save loads of money, keep nasty chemicals out of your air and water, and clear clutter at the same time.