Resolutions to clear out the clutter roll around this time of year like loose batteries in a junk drawer.
Some well-intentioned organizers attack the task with such fury that they attempt to redo their files, their homes, their lives in
one afternoon. Others poke their heads into one closet, then another, and end up frustrated because they simply don't know where to begin.
But, alas, there are master organizers out there who make a living shaping up the rest of us. They teach us how to sort through clutter -- suggesting what to keep and what to deep-six -- and, once that toilsome task is completed, how to store possessions effectively before they become clutter all over again.
The key, experts say, is to start small. If your basement is a nightmare, tackle one corner at a time, writes Ronni Eisenberg in "Organize Yourself!" (Collier Books, $7.95).
Eventually, of course, you can toy with the idea of installing all sorts of nifty storage paraphernalia: closet systems, drawer dividers, boxes, bins, racks and hooks. These are available locally at stores including Hold Everything, Houseworks and California Closet.
"Creative Ideas for Household Storage" (Consumer Reports Books, $15.95), by Graham Blackburn and the editors of Consumer Reports Books, also is chock-full of storage ideas.
Clothes closets top many people's list of chaotic spaces. "No matter how much closet space you have, it's never enough. It is one of America's least-talked-about problems," Neil Balter, president of the California Closet Co., is fond of saying.
Balter, who introduced "organization by design" to closets across America (including Western New York) through his 90-franchise California Closet, recommends that clutter bugs clean out the following:
Anything with a stain that's never going to come out, a hole you can't hide or a tear that can't be mended.
Anything you like in theory but hate when it's on your body.
Old purses that almost always look shabby.
Outdated basics such as the white blouse with the long, pointed collar.
Your oversupply of ratty weekend clothes.
The skirt or pants that have been just a little too small for the past three years.
Shoes with turned-up toes.
Anything that isn't quite up to the quality of what you are wearing now.
The coat that won't fit over your jackets and is too short for your dresses.
Here are some categories of clutter that homeowners find themselves confronted with, as well as ideas on controlling them, by Stephanie Culp, author of "How to Conquer Clutter" (Writer's Digest Books, $10.95) and other experts.
Solution: Throw away makeup that is old, sticky, melted or gooey. Bacteria grows in these items. Get rid of hardened nail polishes, dried-up face creams, tarlike mascara and frightful shades of lipstick. Give unused samples and tiny bars of soaps to charity.
Storage ideas: Use small baskets, acrylic or plastic containers to hold and group small items such as makeup brushes and manicure equipment.
Hold Everything, for example, sells an acrylic cosmetics tray with multiple compartments. Some women even store cosmetics in tackle or art supply boxes.
Or keep cosmetics you use on a regular basis in clear zippered bags and store out of sight. Put everything back in the bag immediately after using. When you travel, simply grab the bag and go.
Solution: Untangle when watching television. Have good pieces cleaned and repaired, if necessary. Sort out costume jewelry you never wear and, if in a safe condition, give to a child for dress-up or to charity.
Storage ideas: Store silver in tarnish-free pouches. If a jewelry box is not big enough, opt instead for drawer dividers and put jewelry in compartments. Some organizers are covered in moire taffeta just for this purpose.
Other suggestions from Neil Balter: Plastic mesh wall grids are useful for keeping jewelry visible and accessible. Jewelry also can be kept neat in a drawer with a kitchen utensil divider. Earrings store neatly in ice cube trays, a separate cube for each pair.
Solution: Instead of using a single, cluttered toy box, Ms. Culp suggests grouping toys by type -- books, dolls, blocks, soldiers, etc. -- and storing in bins.
To help the child keep the categories straight, tape a representative picture to the front of the bin. Label bins for older children. Store bins on shelves, under the bed or on the closet floor.
To make cleaning up toy clutter easier at the end of the day, help the child put all of the toys into a toy cage on wheels or a laundry basket and take it to her room to be put in the proper bin category later.
Storage ideas: Look for plastic or rubber bins, baskets, dish pans, even unused cat litter pans.
Solution: Control clutter ushered in by the new era of VCR programming by cutting back on videotaping (who has the time to view all those waiting-to-be-watched videos anyway?) and by storing videos on racks.
Storage ideas: Video bugs have a number of storage options available, ranging from stackable racks that hold about 12 VHS tapes each to the "Colossal CD Tower" available at Hold Everything. The 5-foot-high storage unit holds 552 CDs or 160 videotapes.
Finally, one also can achieve a clutter-free life by sticking to Neil Balter's golden rule: "Every time you buy something new, get rid of something old."