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Let's Declutter!



You can’t navigate the aisles at Costco or Target without bumping into stacks of plastic bins and storage caddies. These organizing items move to retailers’ center stage in January, perhaps to encourage those who resolved that this will be the year they finally “get organized.”

The national association of organizing professionals, NAPO, promotes January as “GO Month.” (That’s Get Organized & Be Productive Month, which really should be GOABP Month, right? January previously was just Get Organized Month, but when the National Association of Professional Organizers rebranded itself a few years ago as the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals, everything got messy.)

Anyway, NAPO says that January is a popular time for people to “regain control over their surroundings, time and possessions.” The best way to do that, retailers insist, is to … buy more stuff to hold the stuff you already have. They want you to stow your shoes in a new shoe rack and buy skinny hangers to squeeze more shirts in your closets. They’ll sell you bins that you can label neatly to hold the clutter in your garage or kids’ playroom.

The pinnacle (or nadir!) of this trend is this three-tiered rolling cart I spotted a few days ago at Marshalls. It has three wooden bins, one for “things,” another for “organize” and a bottom one for “contain.” It’s trying so hard to be helpful that I feel badly shaming it here.

Buying products to hold stuff doesn’t get to the heart of the problem: You first have to devote the energy and thoughtfulness to weed out the items you don’t need, want or use. Only then should you organize the remainder to store in a space-efficient and convenient way. This rolling cart, however, suggests you can be organized if you just divide your “things” among three bins.

If getting organized is one of your resolutions for 2020, commit first to the hard work of purging. Only after you’ve accomplished that should you consider how to contain what remains.


The headline of a recent Wall Street Journal article (paywall-protected) says it all: Admit It, You Have a Box of Cords You’ll Never, Ever Use Again. I have yet to work with a client who doesn’t have a bag, bin or box of cables that they don’t need but fear parting with. In my home, too, there’s a bulging box of connectors, cables, power strips and extension cords gathering dust. Every few years I insist that my husband and son review the contents, and every few years, they grudgingly release one or two items but insist that we need all the others. 
The Journal article recounts the tale of a couple who has hauled a box of cables on moves to four states. Not long after they finally sorted through the contents and kept only a few, they found another bag of random connectors in their garage.

If you live on the Peninsula and are ready to let go, you can take these items, also known as peripherals, to:
  • Recology’s Public Recycling Center, 333 Shoreway Road in San Carlos. They’re open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day but Sunday. 
  • Green Citizen’s EcoCenter, 1831 Bayshore Highway, Suite 2, Burlingame. They’re open form 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day but Sunday.
  • The store where you bought your computer or phone. Some manufacturers will recycle and/or reuse their equipment.


“Strange Planet” cartoonist Nathan W. Pyle makes me laugh out loud. His webcomic panels depict “a strangely familiar planet full of blue things who are doing things that seem very traditional and familiar to us, by Nathan W. Pylebut they describe them in some unusual ways.” Here’s his take on that frantic rush to hide clutter before company shows up: 

 You can find his book here.

Have an organizing question or need a referral to a resource? I’m happy to help. Email me at or catch me on Twitter @junedbell.
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