Solutions: Divide and conquer clutter

Jeanine Matlow

Before I could intervene, the unthinkable happened when a handyman opened my bedroom closet while looking for an access panel to the attic. Besides the fact that he must have been traumatized by what he saw, I was mortified that someone other than a family member had seen my mess.

So I decided to take action by putting my own spin on Marie Kondo’s transformative book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” that stresses how effective it can be to tackle your home by category rather than by room. I adapted her method to fit my situation, so even though my focus was the closet, I was ready to divide and conquer by type.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the floor in my closet and there is no rhyme or reason to what ends up there. My current stash includes Christmas presents to be wrapped, recent purchases to be returned and shopping bags that I reuse when giving hand-me-downs to friends.

Donations and items to be recycled now that clothing can go curbside in my community are among the other categories to be considered.

Whether decorating or organizing, you don’t have to follow every suggestion you’ve seen or heard in order to have success. You might be inspired by what you learned before adjusting it to your liking.

My goal here was to clear the clutter and create different zones for the remaining items, making them easy to find.

But first I had to locate all the holiday gifts I had hidden, which wasn’t going to be easy in the midst of all this chaos.

Still, I was determined to make a dent in my disastrous closet on one of those rare nights home during the holiday season, which happened to coincide with the three-hour finale of “The Voice.” I went to work during commercials feeling like an archaeologist when I finally found the carpet along with some old receipts that must have marked the last time I cleaned out my closet.

First I removed the Christmas presents to wrap and put under the tree and then I recycled the shopping bags I didn’t need. Addressing these two categories made a big difference in a relatively short period of time.

Next, I gathered the clothes I plan to take to a consignment shop after the holidays and I also got the clothing designated for curbside pickup recycling ready to go.

As usual, there were a number of interesting discoveries along the way, like a lone slipper I’ve been looking for and lots of socks that had fallen out of my laundry basket leading to a mysterious shortage I have finally solved.

Someone once told me that you never regret exercise after the fact, saying, “Oh I wish I hadn’t worked out.” For me, the same can be said about organizing. Though it may be a struggle to get started, the results can be incredibly rewarding. I hope to keep the momentum going through the new year.

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