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The Urge to Purge...Clean Your Life Up

The Urge to Purge...Clean Your Life Up

- O MagazineAugust 9th 2008

You know those closets and drawers and cupboards that are so full, they won't quite close?

It turns out they could be bad for your health. Every time you look around and feel anxious that the mess is getting out of hand, your body releases cortisol, one of the classic stress hormones, says Steven Maier, PhD, a neuroscience professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Arianne Cohen, the author of Help, It's Broken! A Fix-It Bible for the Repair-Impaired, asked top organizing experts to help us get a grip.


The Kitchen

Purging: Even Emeril doesn't need six spatulas and four whisks; two of each will do, so start by tossing extras. While you're at it, check expiration dates on foodstuffs and pitch anything that's past its prime. Next, tackle seldom-used appliances like cappuccino and bread makers. "Those things don't need to live in the kitchen," says Ellen Kosloff, senior professional organizer at TaskMasters New York. "Put up a rack in the garage, or store them on a hallway closet shelf."

Prevention: The number one rule: Keep the counters clear. "Counter space is only for items you use daily," says Barry Izsak, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers and international organizing expert based in Austin, Texas. "Everything else can be stored in a cabinet or pantry."


The Household Desk

Purging: Begin by throwing away the no-brainers, including junk mail, expired coupons, brochures, and catalogs. Next, create desk zones. "Have a bill-paying zone, a stationery zone, a mail zone, and a reading zone," says Kosloff. "Keep everything you need for each activity in neat containers."

Prevention: Tackle your zones weekly, particularly bills and mail. For incoming papers such as children's art or tax information, keep one folder or container for each category, and at the end of the year (or month, if things really pile up fast), choose the keepers and purge the rest.

The Bookcase

Purging: Some people would consider it a sacrilege to ever get rid of a book, but if you've decided it's time to winnow, donate all books that don't meet any of these three criteria: books you love, books you read regularly, books whose content can't be found on the Internet.

Prevention: Librarian's rules: No stacking or double shelving allowed. "Group your books into categories like fiction, nonfiction, and travel, so you can see what you have," says Chris McKenry of

Get It Together LA.

And good news: "Regifting is perfectly acceptable with books."



Purging "You should own nothing that is not useful, beautiful, or loved," says Izsak. If a tchotchke can't pass this test, out it goes.

Prevention: When a new tchotchke comes in, Kosloff suggests immediately rejecting it if you already own something similar. Keep only the little objects you'll use (a vase, a pretty bowl) or that are uniquely meaningful (a handmade gift or travel memento).

The Arranging it AllSM team is mentored and trained by a Certified Professional Organizer.

National Association of Senior Move Managers Accredited A +

The Board of Certification For Professional Organizers Certified NAPO - National Association of Professional Organizers Member NAPO - National Association of Professional Organizers Golden Circle Member - 20 Years Certified Senior Move Manager National Association of Senior Move Managers Member NASMM Circle of Service

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