Do you have a closet you’re terrified to open? Do sweaters, paperwork, and random Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues from the last millennium clog up every drawer? If so, then there’s a very high likelihood you’re overdue for some serious spring cleaning.
But what’s that you say: Lying on the couch bingeing on the latest season of “House of Cards” sounds way more enticing? Then you’ll love our first installment of the Lazy Homeowner’s Guide: a collection of hacks and shortcuts that make decluttering a breeze.
Try a few of these tips to whip your place into shape with minimal time and effort. Honest, you’ll barely work up a sweatTrick yourself into tossing things
If you know you have a problem parting with things, Jennifer Adams, celebrity interior designer and lifestyle expert, advises taking on your separation anxiety literally. Get two large boxes; label one “repair/clean” and the other “not sure.” Box up the latter items, and date the box.
“If you haven’t opened the box in a year, donate it,” she says. Same goes for the “repair/clean” box. Stick them in the trunk of your car, and drive thyself to the nearest Salvation Army or other charitable organization.
“Face it: You’re not that committed to those items if you haven’t repaired, cleaned, or looked at them within a month or two,” Adams says.Turn castoffs into cash
Maybe extra moolah is the prime incentive you need to help you clean out cluttered spaces. If selling your unwanted stuff on eBay is too complicated, try the simple-to-use app OfferUp, the largest mobile marketplace for local buyers and sellers. Take a snap of your unwanted items, and post it on the site—and you’ll instantly be connected to buyers in your neighborhood.Curb your clothes
Your closets are likely full of clothes you don’t wear and are ripe for purging. What should you chuck?
“Focus on clothes that don’t fit, are out of style, require expensive tailoring, that don’t look good on you, or are duplicates,” says Cynthia Kienzle, aka New York’s The Clutter Whisperer. You could end up eliminating a large swath of your wardrobe, yet feel you have more clothes since everything you pull out is something you’ll actually wear!Save space in your closet
After purging, set up simple systems and maintain them. One of Kienzle’s favorite inexpensive closet organizing tools is Ikea’s $5 hanging shoe bags. She calls them “the best organizing bargain around.” She also likes the Container Store’s Elfa door rack system—secured inside of closet doors—to hold scarves, gloves, and belts. For about $75, it’s an “inexpensive investment relative to the enormous value they provide. And they look so nice!” Finally, skinny Huggable hangers can triple your closet space, plus the felt keeps clothes from sliding off.Purge paperwork
It’s time to unload those old catalogs, coupons, junk mail, and tax support documents (after all, you don’t need to keep your tax documents forever—for most states it’s only the past seven years). If you need to shred but dread the prospect of feeding a small home shredder all weekend, she recommends using Staples or FedEx Office shredding services. Easier still, you can hire a shredding truck to come to your apartment building or home.
For the remaining papers you want to keep? If you’re not inspired to invest in a file cabinet (um, you were heading to Staples already, right?), try inexpensive stackable plastic file boxes for $9.99 each at OfficeSupply.com.
To cut down on junk mail, you can easily get off catalog subscription lists at Catalog Choice. Also, eliminate paper bills by setting up electronic payments through your bank.
Inspect your pantry
This is one of those hidden areas where unused stuff tends to mysteriously gather like angry supporters at a Trump rally.
“Start by tossing out all expired food,” says Jerry Egner, CEO of Closets by Design, a home storage and organization company. Next, he says, donate food you won’t eat as well as kitchen appliances you haven’t used in over a year. With your new space, install shelves to organize and keep food in sight so you’ll be sure to eat it.
Break down large projects
If the idea of tackling the entire closet in one ugly fell swoop makes you cringe, break down this arduous task into bite-size pieces, says Adams. That’s what she tells clients to keep them from getting frustrated or overwhelmed by the decluttering process.
“When tackling a closet, start with just a section—the floor, your shoes, top shelves,” she says. “If you don’t get through the entire thing, at least you’ll have one item to check off the list.”
Organizing is an ongoing process, says Kienzle. She suggests keeping a container on your closet floor.
“Whenever you see an item that you no longer want, drop it in,” she says. “Take the contents to a thrift store when it’s full. And sort incoming mail daily to prevent it from piling up.”
Bill Golden, an independent real estate agent with Re/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside, offers his favorite organization hack: “Entertain periodically. Before gatherings like dinner parties, my husband and I tackle decluttering and cleaning tasks that normally get overlooked. We joke that this is a chief reason for entertaining.”
Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.