A lifetime of memories, or confusing clutter? Try these top organizational tips for your home

Health & Well Being

Photos, keepsakes, and sentimental treasures are signs of a life well-lived. They’re the sweet reminders of birthday celebrations and baptisms, family trips, graduation ceremonies and weddings. But after time, all of those keepsakes may start collecting dust.

married couple sitting on the sofa and looking at old photos.The handprint plaque your son created for Mother’s Day is no less adorable today than when he was 7. But he’s 30 now with kids of his own (and they’re making handprint plaques for you too!).

Your high school letter jacket recalls gridiron glory days every time you see it – but you rarely see it because it’s stuffed in a closet that’s rarely opened.

Every card, every photo, every keepsake has a story, but eventually, something has to give.

Too much stuff makes it tough to focus

There’s a worldwide movement to declutter, pare down, and organize our things and our homes – to have less “stuff” and to bring the keepsakes and treasures that mean most to us to the forefront. As you go about the annual business of spring cleaning, make this the year that makes a difference. Organize your home with a plan and purpose, using some of the ideas presented here.

Tackle the easy stuff first

Most of us have boxes and bags filled with things we intend to sort through, organize and even discard, but never do. Some of it can be recycled, donated or even sold, and some just need to go out with the trash. Here’s a short list of things that rarely have sentimental value and can usually be discarded without causing any heartache.

  • Anything that doesn’t work and can’t be repaired
  • Anything that has expired (medication, coupons, cosmetics)
  • Anything that doesn’t fit, is out of date, or has lost its mate (earrings, socks, gloves)
  • Outdated electronics that can be recycled
  • Knickknacks and home décor that no longer fit your style
  • Plain old junk – newspapers, magazines, shopping bags, gift wrap scraps

Next, move on to multiples

If you had a large family or did a lot of entertaining but now rarely have more than four at the dinner table, consider donating extra place settings, flatware, and dishes to an organization that helps people moving from homelessness to an apartment. Likewise with cookware and serveware – unless you use all five of the 9×12 glass baking dishes you’ve accumulated over time, you can help someone set up their own kitchen with your gently used items.

If you have 20 winter sweaters stacked neatly on a closet shelf, but usually rotate through your favorite five each week, there are plenty of organizations that would be happy to take your bounty.

Look outside too, in your garage or shed. You may have multiple rakes, spades or other garden implements to give away. What about snow shovels? If you’ve had it with shoveling and you’re using a snow removal service, it’s time to unload your excess.

Now for the fun part

After you’ve cleaned up and cleared out the clutter, take a look around at what’s left.

If you’re a book lover who can’t bear to part with even one title, get creative with how you group your collection. You can group alphabetically, by genre or subject matter, or even by book color for a more aesthetic look. In any case, make sure your favorite books – the ones you turn to most – are at the right height for sight and easy reach.

That letter jacket in the hall closet? Do you need to keep the jacket, or will just the letter do? You could have it framed alongside a photo, or a medal or ribbon you earned. Reimagining your most prized possessions in new ways can bring them into the light so you can enjoy them more often.

Travel mementos lend themselves nicely to wooden display boxes with hinged glass lids. Cards and letters organized by occasion or by sender, and tied with a ribbon, make them easier to find when you want to remember a special someone or time in your life.

If you collect something – whether it’s bird-themed items, animal decoys, or sports memorabilia – grouping all items together in one area has more visual impact and keeps your collection neat. Devote a shelf or corner to your collection to focus your attention and care.

holding a box of items for donation.If you find you still have lots of papers or documents that need to stay, consider using clear plastic bins to bring order to chaos, and to protect documents from dampness – especially if you’re storing them in a basement. Label your boxes in a way that makes sense to you, and have fun! If you’re storing pictures of your grandchild or pet, use one of their pictures as part of your labeling system.

Look for labels that offer some flexibility in case you need to make a change later. You can find dry erase sticky labels online, and even tiny chalkboard hanging tags that make it easy to adjust your system.

No matter how you decide to clean up and clear out the clutter this spring, or how you organize your rediscovered treasures, doing so will surely bring you a sense of order and accomplishment you’ll enjoy in the months and years ahead.