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Declutter: Tips to tidy up your home, inbox

Interior concept of collection design

As winter gear moves into storage, it's a perfect time to evaluate other household items and "weed out what we don't use," said Kim Schlichting, owner of Northland Organizing in Duluth.

Our physical surroundings affect our mental state and vice versa. When things are in order, we think more clearly. When there's "eye clutter" in the home, it turns into mind clutter, Schlichting said. Here are her tips to declutter.

Kitchen, bathroom

The kitchen is expensive real estate. Clear counters of rarely used or oversized appliances to create space for daily meal prep. Schlichting is a strong believer in donating and recycling. Toss an appliance only if it's broken and can't be repaired. Evaluate dishes and consider what you use and need, (e.g., Do you actually use all of those coffee cups?).

And: "Throw out the science projects," she said, meaning check the refrigerator, freezer and cupboards for expired food.

Think about each room, its title, its purpose and how it's used in the household. In tidying up, take care to move items into the space that matches its function in your home, i.e., move the blow dryer from the bedroom to the bathroom.

Scan and toss old makeup, lipsticks and mascaras. Check under the sinks in the bathroom and the kitchen and reorganize for easy access.

Bedroom, closets, dressers

The master bedroom should be a peaceful retreat, a romantic haven. "A television doesn't belong in the bedroom," Schlichting said. The room should be for sleeping and sex.

Be sure to keep surfaces cleared of unneeded items. A lot of time is wasted looking for things, so group like things together, such as scarves or sandals, and do a clean sweep of the linen closet for items that could be recycled or donated.

Clear clothing that doesn't fit. Period.

Schlichting suggested going through a closet or dresser and applying these questions to each piece: Does it fit? Is it in style? Does it complement my figure? How does it make me feel when I put it on?

Save for sweatpants and comfort clothes, only maintain space for items that work with your body and fit now. That includes the jeans from 10 years ago.

"They're not in style anymore," she said.

Garage

The garage is meant for a vehicle. If the home doesn't have a garden shed, this is a good space for lawn and garden equipment, but it generally shouldn't be used as a storage unit, Schlichting said. Scan for items that have gone unused or those you haven't looked at in years. Clear them away by donating, selling or recycling.

There are also ways to open up space with bike racks, shelving and hooks for hanging brooms, rakes and shovels.

Duluth's old homes can make for less storage space in a garage or closet, and there's a reason for that. A century ago, people didn't own as many clothes and shoes, Schlichting said. And instead of closets, homes had wardrobes.

Ways to organize

After deciding what needs to go, decide where it's going. Use cardboard boxes or tote bags to sort items into 10 categories: keep, sell, toss, donate, recycle, shred, lost and found, mend/fix, belongs elsewhere (not in this room or space) and deliver (a store return, a library book, etc.).

Email

Utilize email folders to categorize and prioritize tasks. Title them "this week" or "this month," and then address those emails accordingly. Tackle emails that call for action today.

A good housecleaning tip: Take the time to unsubscribe from unwanted email lists. Many include a way to unsubscribe, and if it's from an actual person, "politely say 'please remove me from your mass email list,' " Schlichting said. This alone can help keep the inbox tidy.

As far as the number of email accounts, keep it simple. Schlichting has a personal and a business account. "I don't really see the advantage of having separate ones if you don't have a business," she said.

What about a Hotmail account from high school? Go through it, forward the emails you feel necessary to hold onto, and then delete the account, she said.

Routine

Spring cleaning doesn't need to be limited to spring. If not at the start of every season, maintenance should be routine, and upkeep is easier than a yearly overhauling.

"It doesn't have to be a horrible experience to clean or declutter.

"Throw on some music, burn a candle — that's usually what I do," she said. Tackle the area that's causing the most stress, but if organizing isn't your thing, Schlichting suggested starting small. Pick an area like a junk drawer, pull it out and only return items that are used. Set a timer and work until the buzzer rings. Then, commit to return to it, or hire a professional organizer, she said.

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