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It’s the little things that count.

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If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of getting organized, remember that a small effort in a key spot can make a huge difference. Here are some ideas.

1. Clean out the kitchen junk drawer (yes, even I have one!).

Clear off the counter and unload the drawer onto it. Now separate things into categories. Mine contained pens, matchbooks, twist ties, rubber bands, pads of paper, chip bag clips, coupons, recycling information and miscellaneous items such as one of the rubber feet off the rice cooker and parts for a shelving system I no longer have. Coupons I put in my wallet and recycling info went into the filing cabinet. Most of the miscellaneous stuff got thrown out. The remainder went into plastic drawer organizers from the Container Store, with room left in the drawer on one side for the paper pads. So, most of what was in there stayed, but now it’s arranged so that I don’t have to hunt through it for what I need. This is a microcosm of organizing.

2. Clean off your mail table.

I hope you’re in the habit of opening your mail over the recycling bin. This way you can get rid of advertising and solicitations you’re not interested in right away. But there are other items you receive that you may be undecided about, or not end up having time for and they usually accumulate somewhere (if they’re not on the mail table, check the desk, the dining room table, the kitchen counter). These are event notices, catalogs and publications, for example. So go through that stack and see what’s outdated and no longer relevant and get rid of it.

3. Clear out old magazines.

These pile up in baskets, magazine holders, coffee tables, nightstands, bathroom racks, etc. It’s a great idea to have your reading material in places where you do your reading, but if you aren’t reading at the pace you’re receiving new material, bite the bullet and get rid of the old stuff. The easiest way is to take out the bottom half of the pile, the older stuff, and toss it. If your collection isn’t in chronological order, just keep the latest issue or two of each publication and get rid of the rest. If you’re really behind in your reading, consider letting some of those subscriptions lapse.

4. Toss out old bill stubs.

I’m talking about the stubs from your utility, cable, phone, etc. bills. I keep mine in a stack on a desk shelf. They are in chronological order only; I see no reason to separate out the PGE from the phone bills and file them separately. (The chronological method works fine for business bill stubs too. Just keep them separate.) I keep mine going about a year back, which is when the shelf starts getting full, then I take a sheaf off the bottom and throw them out. Note: if you deduct those expenses on your taxes, of course, you'll keep the bills.

These three tasks should only take you an hour apiece at the most (#4 should take about 2 minutes). They involve high traffic areas so clearing them out should make a difference in how cluttered things feel. This is what you want. It may feel like a drop in the bucket to organize a junk drawer, but if you open it several times a day, you’ll be rewarded regularly with this sign of progress.

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