Home & Garden

Declutter your life — and your home

A room was a storage mess in Cathi Rosengren’s home, left. After taking stock of what wasn’t needed and decluttering, the room has a very different look.
A room was a storage mess in Cathi Rosengren’s home, left. After taking stock of what wasn’t needed and decluttering, the room has a very different look.

With downsizing comes decluttering.

For Cathi Rosengren of Boca Raton, that is an understatement. When she moved from a five-bedroom house in San Diego to a two-bedroom duplex in South Florida, she sold, donated, mailed and hauled away trucks filled with clutter.

“I threw out my mother’s cookware. . . . She has been dead for 40 years, and she had had it for 30 years,” Rosengren wrote on her blog. “It was a sign when the handles fell off finally. I went through it all!”

Rosengren, the former owner of a needlepoint and knitting store, donated her mother’s pots and pans — and sold nearly everything else on Amazon, eBay and Craigslist. She also donated items to friends and family.

“And at the end, I called 1-800-GOT-JUNK,” she said. “When they first arrived with one truck, they called for reinforcements.’’

It took them about four hours to fill three trucks, Rosengren said. “At that point, I just wanted it all gone. Everything that I sold on eBay went to pay for them.”

Getting rid of clutter can be a difficult process. But, storage experts say, there are ways to do it.

Kathy Levy, Container Store operations manager in Hallandale Beach, says start with one space and be realistic about how long it will take.

“Organization can be overwhelming. Pick the thing that bothers you the most or that you’re most worried about,” she said.

Another key is finding a system that works for a specific person instead of assuming a one-size, fits-all policy.

“You have to know yourself and know whom you’re living with. Something that works for me might not work for my sister,” Levy said. “Or something that works for me, definitely won’t work for my boyfriend — like to hang clothes. He’s not going to hang his clothes. He doesn’t want to. He wants to fold them.”

While watching TV, set time to sort the mail during commercials. “It’s kind of about getting people into routines. Organization is an ongoing process. It’s not like you’re ever done,” she said.

Part of decluttering and maintaining organization is letting go of items you no longer use. “Too many shoes, too many kitchen gadgets,” Levy said.

Katie Lindsay and her husband, John, moved from a three-bedroom house in Coral Gables to a two-bedroom condo on Biscayne Bay in September 2013.

“It’s amazing how much you don’t need, but you don’t have to get rid of the memories,” she said. “Do you really need three colanders? If we haven’t used it, we let it go.”

Lindsay donated large furniture to friends, Goodwill and other charities and said the experience was freeing.

“We wanted to see how we would like living in a condo. Our two kids graduated from college. Anything we didn’t need, we put to the side.”

In May, Susy Cortez and her husband, Pedro Pontillo, moved from a three-bedroom home in Kendall to a two-bedroom townhouse nearby.

They donated furniture and clothes to Goodwill, as well as a dining set, sofa and bed to relatives of friends who recently arrived from Cuba.

“There’s always somebody who needs something,” Cortez said.

Now, everything has a place. Her closets are immaculate. She buys a lot less.

“My system is, we are only two people. We cook much less, we buy less groceries. So, the kitchen is better organized,” Cortez said.

Stores such as Home Depot and the Container Store will work with customers to create custom closets and garages, areas that are often the most cluttered.

“Most of my customers say, ‘Well, we’re sharing a closet,’ ” said Argeo Tamayo, store manager at the Flagler Miami Home Depot. Using software, Tamayo can custom-draw and divide a closet for a couple with built-in drawers, shelves and rods.

Kelly Barber, a certified professional organizer, works with clients dealing with chronic disorganization, moving and hoarding.

Her Palm Beach Gardens-based business, Me In Order, starts the process with a conversation about the area in need of organization. She then finds places for the items using what her clients already have in their home.

“We want to make sure we’re developing systems that they can maintain. There’s no judgment, and everything is confidential. We’re just here to bring peace,” Barber said. “Most of our clutter is delayed decisions.”

Where to donate

Some of the organizations may have restrictions. Contact them directly to verify what they accept.

Goodwill: 800-GOODWILL, http://www.goodwill.org/donate-and-shop/donate-stuff/

Salvation Army: 1-800-728-7825, https://satruck.org/

Dress for Success: 305-444-1944, https://miami.dressforsuccess.org/get-involved/donate/

Vietnam Veterans of America: 888-518-VETS, http://www.clothingdonations.org

Miami Rescue Mission: 305-571-2273, http://www.miamirescuemission.com/thrift-store.php

Lotus House: 305-576-4112, http://www.lotushousethrift.org

Humane Society of Greater Miami: 305-749-1817, http://www.humanesocietymiami.org/get-involved/

Books can help

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

10-Minute Declutter: The Stress-Free Habit for Simplifying Your Home by S.J. Scott

One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good by Regina Leeds


1-800-GOT-JUNK?: 1-800-468-5865, http://www.1800gotjunk.com/

College Hunks Hauling Junk: 305-230-2319, http://m.collegehunkshaulingjunk.com/

Clutter Containment Tips

Start in one place: If you have several areas in your home you want to get under control, start with just one. When you complete one area, celebrate and then move on to the next.

Allow plenty of time: Don’t expect organization to happen overnight. Depending on the area to be organized, schedule a couple of hours each day to work on getting the area organized.

Clean house: Once you’ve selected an area, go through the contents. Donate or hold a garage sale for anything you don’t or can’t wear or use any more. Use the two-year rule of thumb — if you haven’t worn it in two years, it’s time to say goodbye.

Take inventory: After you’ve removed extraneous items, take a look at what remains. Does it belong here? For example, take that professional-grade mixer that you’ve been keeping in the back of your closet and move it to the kitchen. When it’s time to tackle the kitchen, you can incorporate it into the new storage plan for the kitchen.

Look for wasted space: Prime examples include over doors and underneath beds.

Maximize vertical space: Instead of only having a couple of shelves to house your kitchen items, take them up to the ceiling, storing the things you need less frequently on the higher shelves.

Divide the space: By adding additional shelves to a single shelf, or by using containers that stack atop one another, you can divide the vertical space and make efficient use of the space.

Keep it moving: Carts can hold an assortment of accessories in a small amount of space and can be wheeled back into a closet or storage area when not in use.

Organize with color: Assign each child a different colored container to keep his or her belongings in and keep them responsible for cleaning up after themselves. Organize projects, bills and other important papers by function and color.

Visibility: The three rules to organization are visibility, accessibility and flexibility. Choose containers that are either transparent or that you can easily label to help identify the contents and save time.