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Tired of all that clutter? This may be the year to get organized.

Tips for purging your closets and garages of junk.

By Yvonne ZippCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / January 5, 2009

Clutter chaos: Kurt Sidorak's garage in Northvale, N.J., is filled to the brim with clutter.


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If you're one of the many Americans who can't park your car in your garage because of the mounds of stuff lurking inside, fear not. Cherie Turner of Tallahassee, Fla., can relate.

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After she started dating a man whose house was "always immaculate," Ms. Turner vowed to rid herself of years of accumulated clutter – starting in her garage. "I opened the door and lugged everything ... into the front yard. People were driving by and going through my stuff." Turner says. She had to keep telling disappointed bargain hunters, "No, really, I'm not having a yard sale." Three weekends later, her garage was clutter-free, and she started on her closets.

Turner credits support from the online community at The Clutter Diet with getting her all fired up about the process. (The website, which charges a $14.99 monthly fee, treats getting organized like a diet, monitoring progress with "clutter pounds lost" and assigning weekly tasks that are divided into a "meal.") She believes that if she can get organized, anyone can.

"When I first moved away from home, my daddy came to stay [overnight] in my little apartment. The first thing he said to Mom was, 'You know that room she used to have? Well, she has a whole apartment like that now,' " she says, laughing. "So, this has been a lifelong thing for me."

It's a lifelong thing for many Americans, say experts. Getting organized is a perennial on the country's Top 10 New Year's resolutions, right along with quitting smoking and exercising more, says Donna Smallin, a professional organizer in Phoenix, and author of several books, including the just-published "A to Z Storage Solutions."

Part of the reason is that, thanks to mass production, we have far more stuff than in generations past, says Ms. Smallin. So finding a place for everything is a more monumental task than 40 years ago.

People often throw themselves into organizing with a frenzy of energy and then give up, exhausted, when they realize their house will never make the cover of House Beautiful. The quest for perfection just sets people up for failure, says Lorie Marrero, a professional organizer and the founder of The Clutter Diet, who is a big believer in the concept of "good enough."

"I'm not perfect," says Ms. Marrero. "My house is not a museum."

Being organized doesn't mean living in a showplace, both experts say. They define the term as being able to find what you want when you need it in a reasonable amount of time.

While you can spend hundreds of dollars on fancy units to hold your stuff, Smallin suggests slowing the flow before it gets into your home. Cut back on catalogs and magazines that end up in a pile, for example. "How would you like to catch up on your reading in one minute or less?" she asks. Dump everything in the recycling bin and start fresh. When shopping, "before you actually hand the cashier money, really think about what you're buying. Do you maybe have something at home that would do the job just as well? Also think about, 'Where am I going to put this?'... If it doesn't have a home when it gets home with you, it's going to end up being clutter."

To create permanent change, she says, look at who you are now and allow yourself to let go of items – even if they were expensive or a gift from a relative – that no longer fit your lifestyle. "Instead of thinking about all the stuff you need to get rid of, think of all the things you absolutely love and that you use. They're part of who you are today."