I was visiting at http://iamalongfortheride.blogspot.com/ today where Laura talks about this subject. Although much older than Laura, this is still an issue we struggle with here. Like this:
This is Mr. B's studio, and not necessarily the worst parts. However, it is his place to paint and watch tv so I have kept my opinions to myself about how it looks. It would be hypocritical to do otherwise, since:
since the dining room has these horrible areas. Still, I am trying to find places to put things, although it is a slow process since we moved and so much else has been going on.
Some strategies for controlling it that work for me are:
1. I keep a carton to put discards in all the time. Worn out clothes, gadgets that aren't being used, duplicates all go directly to the box once identified. Either Purple Heart calls and they're picked up in front of the house or I take one or more to a resale shop near a place I have a weekly commitment at.
2. Analyze what's going on. Does your family really love jigsaw puzzles or board games? Then those may be worth hanging onto and storing in a dedicated cabinet or bookcase. Otoh, if those are ignored in favor of a wii or computer games they don't earn their keep to use up space in your house.
3. Small children make masses of pictures and things like that, to the point saving them all could be a fire hazard. You could let the little ones dictate a letter to their grandparents or other relatives that you write on the back of a crayon masterpiece and send it off via the post office. Think how it would brighten up the day of a doting aunt or special uncle to get a piece of mail that's not a bill or advertisement for a change.
4. When those same children get a little bigger and their efforts more elaborate it gets harder to store them. Think about taking a picture of your proud architect next to their sugar cube model of the Alamo or toilet roll castle and save that instead.
5. Try to live by a "one in, one out" rule. I've been replacing old plastic containers with glass ones and have done that each time one of a particular size or purpose comes in the plastic version goes straight to the discard box.
6. Think about things that aren't working. I bought a pair of sneakers that once outside the store proved to be such an odd color nothing went with them. They did prove very useful as emergency footwear at work on days when it was raining and saved my better shoes from being ruined wading through the deep spots on the way to the bus stop. Things that aren't perfect enough to use/wear all the time might be perfectly adequate as spare sweater or towel kept in your car.
7. Think about setting up a staging area. Is there a cupboard or other storage area where you can put library books, the bowl you borrowed for a party, the item you found for a friend where they can be stored till you can deliver them without being underfoot and a pain in the neck till that day arrives?
8. Don't let paper accumulate. Get rid of junk mail immediately and sign up for paperless billing and statements if possible.
9. Try to get like things together so you can see exactly what you have and make decisions about where/how to store them or if you will never need 14 shirts the same color and can donate some. I like trays and use them in all sorts of ways in many rooms of the house. Ones that are too battered or bent get pitched, though.
10. Think about another generation. If you have many items from beloved relatives, consider giving some to your own grown children or nieces and nephews. If they're younger and starting out these links to their family may hold memories that enrich their homes and lives.
11. Ultimately the best cure for clutter is controlling what comes in your door. If you see something in a store and it doesn't meet the criteria of something you really need or something your really love leave it on the shelf. Wait a couple of days to see if you still want it or if the urge to buy it has passed.
12. In the same vein, think about what your children acquire. My friend G. has a granddaughter. When she was 6 G and her husband gave her an outdoor play set for her birthday. The grandparents on the other side paid for its installation. Other good gifts for children are lessons, music, art, swimming, or gifts of experience like a day at a water park or a family pass to the science museum. Those are all wonderful presents that never need to be dusted or put away!
I hope these ideas will be useful to someone!