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Organizing 101: Declutter by Category

When we start to declutter our lives, we usually start by moving from room to room, ridding them of things we no longer like or need. That means we might tackle the garage one weekend, then the kitchen the next weekend.

But this style of organizing makes it easy to forget what you already have, and you may find yourself no more organized than when you first started — same old messes, just neater piles.

The key to decluttering is to do it by category.

And by category, we don't mean keep, toss, or undecided.

Rather than starting in a specific room, start with a specific category — say, camping gear. Go through your whole house and pull out all the gear you have stashed in the closets and basement; you might be surprised to see just how many lawn chairs or coolers you have lying around. Keep only the ones you've used recently or frequently, and donate the rest.

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Move on to more categories: books, toys, tools, clothes, sports equipment. It's easier to start with categories you have no emotional attachment to, and gradually work your way up to the more sentimental items, like your children's artwork or old college mementos. These are the things that will usually stump you when you sort by room, as you'll dwell on the memories and decide to keep them, purely because you get stuck and want to move on.

But once you're on a roll getting rid of things throughout the house, you'll find it liberating to make those tough decisions.

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