If you fantasize about living in a spotless and super-organized home, but never manage to throw anything away, that’s a problem—and not just because clutter is an eyesore.
Those piles and stacks can become a fire hazard, notes Lisa Zaslow, a professional organizer and founder of Gotham Organizers. “The stuff that tends to accumulate—like mail, shopping bags and magazines—can be extremely flammable,” she says. “And in a very cluttered home, the piles may even block windows or doors.”
To help make your home easier on the eyes and a safer place to live, follow Zaslow’s clutter-busting punch list:
IN THE KITCHEN
- Keep a shredder or “ID blocker” stamp handy (a rubber stamp with a dense pattern), so you can cross out your name and address, and recycle junk mail right away.
- Toss all burnt and cracked wooden spoons and cutting boards, as well as any cracked or chipped glassware or crockery.
- Decide how many plastic and paper bags you really need; you may be able to recycle the rest.
- Designate a space for plastic food containers; decide on a reasonable number to keep; clean and recycle the rest.
- Sort through old placemats and cloth napkins, asking yourself “Would I use this if guests were coming over?” If the answer is no, donate it.
Did you know? 50% of all residential fires are caused by cooking.
IN THE BEDROOM
- Before going through your clothes, set firm criteria for what you will get rid of—e.g. anything that is ripped, stained, doesn’t fit or is no longer fashionable—then stick to it! Having a rule of thumb makes the sorting process a snap.
- If you have multiples of the same thing, such as several pairs of black pants, decide how many you really need (you probably wear only two or three) and donate the rest.
- Recycle all magazines older than, say, three months; remove dust-covered stacks of books from the nightstand or floor and put them on bookshelves.
- When it comes to future purchases of clothes, pillows, linens and other items, commit to this easy rule: One in, one out.
Did you know? 36% of fires caused by candles occur in the bedroom, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
IN THE LAUNDRY/STORAGE AREA
- Donate old towels or sheets that you are storing here; if they don’t fit in your linen closet, you likely don’t need them.
- Go through the closet or cabinets and toss whatever you wouldn’t take with you if you were moving, e.g., half-empty cans of paint, old Halloween decorations and that wedding-gift picnic basket you have yet to use.
AROUND ELECTRICAL OUTLETS
- Get down on your hands and knees and unplug charging devices that you no longer use.
- While you’re down there, label what each cord is to make it easier to identify and remove in the future; also wrap up slack cords with twisty-ties for more convenient dusting and cleaning.
- To avoid overloading the circuit, never use more than one power strip or plug multiplier in a socket.
- Keep outlets in use clear of papers and books.
NEAR THE FRONT AND BACK DOOR
- Clear the front closet or coat rack of clothes that are out of season; donate pieces that haven’t been worn in years.
- Stow shoes in a big basket or low shoe rack against the wall; put away those not in current use.
- If things are piling up near an entryway—such as tote bags, umbrellas and baseball hats—it may be because they don’t have a proper place to be stored. Designate where they should go, e.g., on hooks inside the coat closet door. Be sure to donate unneeded spares.
By Caroline Hwang
Read more: Spring Cleaning Checklist