Tips From the Professionals On How to Declutter and Detach

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Professional organizers say the battle is often not disorganization, but emotions.

The first one is guilt - the feeling of ''I should be organized, but I'm not.''

''It is astounding how much guilt and shame are associated with being disorganized,'' says Paulette Ensign, president of NAPO. ''The classic statement is: 'I'm sure you've never seen anything quite this bad.'''

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Specifically in home organization, for example, guilt also comes in the form of spending money, say, on a blouse that looked great in the store, but never gets worn.

Another prevalent emotion is sentimentality. People hold on to their clutter as tightly as they do memories.

Take clothing. People cling to their varsity jacket, cheerleading outfit, Army fatigues, the baby clothes of now-grown children.

''Hold it up, take a picture, then put it in the attic,'' says Neil Balter, president of Organizers Direct. ''You wear 20 percent of your clothes 80 percent of the time, and the rest just takes up valuable space.''

A few of Mr. Balter's favorite axioms are ''Use it or lose it'' and ''Clean your clutter and give Goodwill to another.''

For those who want to start unloading their closets, wardrobe and closet organizers suggest a few general rules of thumb:

* If you haven't worn it in a year, it's time to put it in one of four piles:

1. Charity. Clothes that don't fit but are still usable and in good condition should be given to a charity. If they are too stained or worn out, use them for rags or washing the car.

2. Consignment. Clothes that could be sold or, if the tags are still on them, can be taken back to the store.

3. Alterations.

4. Seasonal. Put in appropriate storage.

* If you can't see it, you won't wear it. Store things in see-through bins or garment bags.

* Reassess your needs. How do you want to arrange your clothes? By type (shirts, pants), by complete outfit, by color, by length on the hanger?

* ''De-stuff'' it. Are there things stuffed in drawers that should be hung up, given away?

* place for everything. Get space-saving racks for ties, scarves, belts, and other accessories. But draw up a feasible plan, including a budget, before spending money on fixtures.

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