5Q :: Barbara Tako helps you take on your clutterIn her new book, “Clutter Clearing Choices,” Minnesota author Barbara Tako provides a great many ways for you to “reclaim your life.” PLUS: Tako’s 10 favorite clutter-clearing tips (following the Q-and-A).
While “hoarder” is quickly becoming this year’s noun du jour, Twin Cities author and motivational speaker Barbara Tako has been busy tackling one a lot more of us can identify with: clutterer. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but chances are you’re more likely to know someone who’s simply overwhelmed with heaps and heaps of clutter than someone who is hoarding items to the point of excess.
In her new book, “Clutter Clearing Choices,” Tako takes what she’s learned over the past decade about the fine art of “de-cluttering” and helps us reclaim our homes, lives and, above all, sanity.
Budgeteer: How did you get into the anti-clutter field? Were you guilty of holding on to too many things yourself?
Tako: It began with my mother-in-law. She was nominated for St. Paul Suburban Homemaker of the Year back in the 1960s! At first, I was scared at the thought of even trying to live up to that standard. How could I? But, eventually, I realized that because she ran a tighter ship than I did, she had time for her priorities: her faith, her family, her friends and her interests. That caught my attention.
I love and deeply respect my mother-in-law, and I learned the purpose of clutter clearing and home organizing wasn’t to be “perfect” or have a home that looks like a magazine cover. The purpose is to free up time and energy for other things.
Do you remember the television series called “The Odd Couple”? It was about two roommates; the one named Felix was the model of tidiness and neatness and the other, named Oscar, was kind of a slob. Well, I’m an Oscar pretending to be a Felix, because I learned that the benefits of less clutter and better organizing are that they free up time for life’s priorities, whatever those priorities are. That seemed like more fun than hunting for lost keys or missing paperwork.
What are the most immediate benefits of a clutter-free household?
The benefits of being more clutter-free include: less wasted time (according to the American Demographic Society, Americans spend 9 million hours every day looking for lost and misplaced stuff); less wasted money (when we can’t find what we already own, we run out and buy duplicates); and less stress (our home is more relaxing and restoring and less guilt-inducing and less visually stressful).
For those who hold onto things because they don’t just want to throw them away, which venues could you recommend where their items are most likely to go to a good home and be used (and not just thrown away)?
In tough economic times, it is sometimes nice to raise a little cash by selling your items at a garage sale, secondhand store, auction or on the Internet.
Good places to donate include your favorite charities. Call them to see what items they will accept and to find out if they make house calls to pick things up. Most will give you a tax receipt, which helps a little too.
Finding good homes for your extras is also living green because you are selling, donating or recycling rather than contributing to a landfill. You can feel good about your choice to weed out clutter!
What kind of audiences usually attend your seminars? And what are some of the subjects you talk about as they relate to clutter?
I speak to employees at corporations where the corporations understand that employees who are happier and better organized at home will be more-productive employees at work. I also speak to women’s groups, parenting organizations and church groups. My seminar topics include: clutter clearing and home organizing, kids and clutter, time clutter clearing, paper clutter clearing and simplifying your Christmas.
Finally, with the growth of sites like Craigslist and Web groups like Freecycle, do you think Americans’ tendency toward clutter is getting better or worse? I know I’ve given away some stuff on those two, but I’ve also received a lot more.
That’s a great question. On the one hand, I think people are more aware of their clutter concerns and what to do about them than they were 10 years ago, and the Internet has made it easier to find charities or ways to sell those extras. On the other hand, the Internet has made it a lot easier to shop, whether we are simply looking up store hours or ordering something online. Also, instead of going paperless, a lot of us go through a great deal of printer ink! Overall, I would say the clutter problem has gotten a little bit worse as we struggle to manage rapidly changing technology.
Favorite clutter clearing tips from motivational speaker/author Barbara Tako, owner of Clutter Clearing Choices LLC
1. Feel guilty about extra stuff only one more time — when you toss or recycle it!
2. Group like items together, so you can make good decisions about what to keep and what to donate.
3. Accomplish a lot of weeding out in small blocks of time, as little as 10 or 15 minutes.
4. Use only one organizing system for each category of stuff, so you only have to look in one place for whatever you are looking for.
5. Think like a professional organizer: organize by primary, secondary and tertiary space and stuff.
6. Remember the 80/20 rule! We use 20 percent of our stuff 80 percent of the time and are merely storing the rest.
7. Any paper pile can become a new file.
8. Keep an ongoing donation box or shelf in your home to take discards to as you discover them daily.
9. Be honest with your clutter. Eliminate what you will never really use or go back to or finish.
10. Quit looking at it and worrying about it, and start clearing it!
For more information on Tako’s book, or to sign up for her free clutter-clearing tips newsletter, visit www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
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