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Solutions: Tips to get you on the path to decluttering

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Based on previous feedback, I know I’m not alone when I confess that the visions of organization in my head rarely match the current status of my house. Still, there are sudden bursts of productivity that happen every now and then.

Recently, my daughter and I finally managed to make a dent in the clutter that’s taken over the lower level of our home.

This got me thinking about what works for me so far. Here goes:

■Baby steps seem to be the only way for me to attempt to get anything done around the house. As soon as I set aside a big chunk of time, a major distraction comes along to take away my good intentions.

■Two heads are better than one. Whether you hire a pro, get some help from a friend or put your child to work, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re not alone.

■Attitude is everything. Setting a timer or adding a tiny reward makes the process more enjoyable. Throw some upbeat music into the mix and everything seems to run smoothly.

■The domino effect works like a charm. When my daughter was finally ready to part with her Barbie Dreamhouse, I heard about someone whose child had lost hers in a flood. When it came time to give ours to their family, we added some extra bags of toys to go with it.

■Garbage day can be a great motivator. Because I feel a certain amount of satisfaction when I fill my recycle bin to the max, I tend to read the last section of the paper and sort through more coupons and mail than usual the night before.

■Create a system and stick to it. One friend gets my magazines and another gets my daughter’s clothes. We now have a new source for small toys that will go to a local teacher.

■Give as you go. I used to wait until we had at least one big bag for my friends, but now I part with a few pieces at a time, making it easier for me to edit on a regular basis and less time consuming for the recipient to sort through the contents.

■Money can be another great motivator. We recently exchanged some old video games for store credit and sold miscellaneous items that we no longer need.

■Designate a place for outgoing materials. Whether you have library books, store returns or donations, keeping them near the door lets you grab them on your way out.

■Just do it. The classic Nike slogan really works. Thinking about decluttering is a good start, but it won’t get you to the finish line unless you take it a step further by diving in to get the work done.

I was once told that you never regret taking the time to exercise. The same can be said for getting organized. The feeling of accomplishment that follows each project can be the greatest reward.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at