Out with the Old, In with the New

Ways to tame the clutter in your home.

If you find that your home is suffering from overflowing junk drawers, copious amounts of toys and a general lack of order, the new year brings the opportunity to get organized. Read on for ways to pack up the holiday decor and whip your house into shape.

Sort out what you really want to keep.

Before packing up this year's holiday decorations, get rid of the ones that weren't on display this year. "If you don't like it or don't see yourself using it again, donate it now rather than packing it away," suggests Darla DeMorrow, certified professional organizer and owner of HeartWork Organizing.

Color code storage bins.

Use clear bins to store home accents. Add colored tops, such as red for Christmas, orange for Halloween and green for springtime, to quickly locate seasonal embellishments when taking them out to display.

Designate one area for storage.

Having items in the attic, guest closet and garage makes it harder to locate and retrieve seasonal things. Instead, pick a single spot for everything, creating one-stop storage.

Donate unused and unwanted belongings.

The new year is a wonderful time to be charitable. Start by removing toys that young children have outgrown. "Sad but true, kids grow up fast, and a preschooler isn't going to play with rattles and baby toys," adds DeMorrow. "Either store these items or pass them on." Best of all, kids as young as 3 and 4 years old can help to decide what toys and books they no longer want and are willing to give to less fortunate children. Check out the Donate and Recycle Directory at www.heartworkorg.com to find suitable donation sites for household items.

Motivate with money.

For older kids, DeMorrow suggests using profit as a an incentive to entice children to give away old possessions. Let kids consign or use eBay with parental supervision to sell their unwanted accoutrements. Then allow your kids to spend or save their proceeds.

Teach organizing basics.

You may think you are doing your children a favor by quietly throwing out their old trinkets when they are at a playdate. However, teaching children how to declutter their environment is a valuable life skill.

Pack up the pieces.

Board games and other playthings lose parts over time. At least once a year, put all the games and collections back together. If there are broken or missing pieces, immediately fix the items or trash them. It's hard for any kid, even one with high attachment levels, to argue with tossing half a game when it can't be played.

Instill rules for each room.

"Kids don't know what a clean room looks like," says DeMorrow. Establish simple rules for keeping a room put together. For example, nothing should be on the floor except furniture.

Tag storage destinations.

Write out labels to mark where things belong. "Labels can be a great reminder for kids when you aren't in the room," offers DeMorrow. "You can use word labels for older kids and picture labels for pre-readers. You can even hot glue extra items from a collection of small items right onto the storage bin, such as dinosaurs, Legos, and Polly Pockets."

Wrap it up.

After the holiday season, stow away wrapping paper, gift bags and bows. Place them in a tall trash can or clothing hamper so they don't get crushed.

Getting organized takes time and effort. But if you follow these steps, you'll reap the rewards of an orderly house where everything has a home.