As a kid I was a bit of a mess (totally) compared to my older brother, whose desk was always neat and perfect. Even today, my desk looks like heck. I know where everything is, but nobody else can make rhyme nor reason of my space (I can). Thankfully, my house is not that way, just my desk (and maybe my bureau). My brother has deteriorated to the point that his bureau needs sideboards to contain the mess, while I have learned to conquer the mess.

Since moving from a 5 bedroom home nearly three years ago into my 3 bedroom dream house, I have adopted more of a minimalist approach, or at least as much as one can with six children and a husband (and we traded my father-in-law for my dad) in tow. Okay, in truth, the kids don’t all live with me, but their stuff still fills my house. There is one bedroom for boys, one for girls, my room, Grandpa has a space in the basement (I wouldn’t exactly call it a bedroom) and a spare bed in the loft for guests.

Clutter happens, no matter what I do and here are my best tips to combat THE PILE:

1. Start with what you can see-visual clutter clogs my brain, so I suggest starting with the everyday clutter that builds up, whether it’s your coffee table, kitchen table, or a spot on the counter. Throw that stuff out or put it where it goes!

2. Involve the kids-teach them young that you will still remember that event without keeping the paperwork for it. Focus on good memories rather than keeping a thing to remind a fun time. When they see how nice their room looks, they will feel the peace and calm that comes from seeing the corners of their room. If you have any sort of household help, they can help too, especially in kids’ rooms.

3. Nothing is sacred-it if it that important, it should be in a frame on the wall or maybe in the safe. If you haven’t found a spot for it, find one or maybe you really don’t need it. Does it serve a function? If so, it might be worth keeping; if not, 4, 5 or 6.

4. Recycle-you may not realize all that can be recycled, but more than half of what you used to throw away can and should be recycled. Avoid wasting! The earth only has so much space and so many resources, recycle anything and everything possible.

5. Donation-you no longer use it but cannot bear to throw it away. It’s not empty or recyclable; maybe it has some life left. Donate stuff to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Salvation Army or just one of those giant clothing and shoe bins.

6. Trash-Plenty of crap comes into our houses that is really just a waste of natural resources. If something is broken, no longer functional or useful, it may be time to retire it to the circular file, as we call it.

7. Yard Sale-think you can make a buck? Go for it! Your neighbors may have a need or use for your old stuff. Selling your old stuff for cheap is better than just throwing it out or giving it away. If you don’t have time or space for a yard sale, take a picture and post your stuff on Craigslist.

8. One room at a time-the whole house needs it, but you can’t handle it all in one day! Attack one room, which will inevitably lead you to another and another. Just start in one space and you know it will force you to find spots for all that stuff, sometimes in other rooms. If one room is crazy, attack one room each week until it’s done, by summer.

9. Utilize storage-Bins, toy boxes, shelves-to de-clutter may just mean to organize. Not everything will be trash or recyclable. It just needs a place. Closets and shelves can be organized, one at a time, until all the stuff you want and need can fit. If not, return to steps 4, 5 and 6.

10. Wait 6 months and repeat-it’s gonna build back up. It takes time and effort to keep up on the clutter. Papers, junk and crap are coming into your home every day in the form of mail, kids’ papers, and more. Take time each week to tidy, but set aside a few days or a week each March and October to repeat. That gives a few months before and after the holiday season to let it all grow back into place.

When my house looks neat and clutter-free, I feel that way. My mind is at peace when my home reflects calmness. Or maybe the neatness of my home makes me feel peaceful and happy. Whichever it is, I know when my house is a mess with clutter, I feel stressed about it. Don’t let keeping your house clean monopolize your time or your life, but set aside some time each day or week to reclaim your space. Your psyche will thank you, even if your spouse doesn’t.

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