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From McGraw-Hill Jan. 2001

Book Description

Almost everyone struggles with clutter.

Overflowing desks at work...overstuffed closets and piles of mail at home...overwhelmed minds all the time.... No wonder so many people say they are “drowning in clutter.” In Let Go of Clutter, organizing expert Harriet Schechter presents a fresh approach to overcoming the natural urge to accumulate objects and information. Dispensing equal doses of help, hope, and humor, she provides effective and realistic options for anyone who juggles too much stuff, too many decisions, and too little time. Featuring the innovative insights and time-tested techniques that have already helped thousands of Schechter's clients and seminar attendees worldwide, Let Go of Clutter:

  • Shows how to shed sentimental stuff without fear of regret

  • Provides easy-to-use forms and checklists that help readers decide what to jettison and what to keep

  • Includes action plans with systems for conquering all types of clutter--past, present and future

What Readers Are Saying

"I've read many books on decluttering and organizing, but your was by far the best. It was the first one that really helped me to get the clutter out of my life.

I am finally getting control of my clutter. I'm not nearly done, but the progress that I have made so far is wonderful.

I have a couple of tips that worked for me:

For sentimental clutter, I started a journal. Whenever I get rid of something sentimental (the sweater my aunt gave me, the denim jacket I bought for myself when I found out I was accepted to my college of choice, etc.), I make an entry in the journal. I write about the item, what it means to me, and if it was a gift I write about the person who gave it to me. It has really helped me get rid of some things I've been unable to part with for years. The journal lets me keep the memories but get rid of the clutter.

I also found out that my biggest problem with regards to day-to-day clutter (piles of stuff left on tables, piles of folded laundry not put away, etc), was that I tend to forget that cleaning-up is an essential part of each task. I consider a job finished even though the materials are not yet put away. Now I make a conscious effort not to cross things off my list until I have put everything away, and it has made a big difference.

Thanks for all the helpful advice in your book. I re-read parts of it when I feel myself slipping into my old ways."

Sue Seyboldt  Florence, NJ

Read More Testimonials

Table of Contents

The Top 10 Clutter Questions & Where You'll Find the Answers
Part One: The Past--Understanding Your Clutter Background
Chapter 1: Why Letting Go Is Hard To Do
Chapter 2: What Does Clutter Mean To You?

Part Two: The Present--Dealing With Your Current Clutter
Chapter 3: Banishing Your "Energy Enemies"
Chapter 4: Purging Papers and Preventing Piles
Chapter 5: Conquering Stuff and Space
Chapter 6: Shedding Sentimental Clutter

Part Three: The Future--Controlling Your Clutter Quota
Chapter 7: Choosing to Be Choosy
Chapter 8: Managing Mental Clutter

Afterword: More Top Clutter Questions and Answers
Appendix A: Which Records to Keep and for How Long
Appendix B: Recommended Reading and Other Resources


Let Go of Clutter is divided into three parts corresponding to your past, present, and future clutter concerns:

Part I: The Past--Understanding Your Clutter Background

Part II: The Present--Dealing with Your Current Clutter

Part III: The Future--Controlling Your Clutter Quota

The top 10 most frequently asked clutter questions are answered throughout these three parts. Other frequently asked clutter questions, along with their answers, are included in the Afterword. The appendixes provide additional resources to help you continue letting go of clutter.



All participants in my Letting Go of Clutter workshops are asked to write down one question about clutter that is of the most concern to them. Since 1988 I've sorted through thousands of these questions, and organized them into representative categories. Here are 10 of the most frequently asked questions and where you'll find the answers in this book.

Q: Why do we keep all this stuff?

A: See Chapter One.

Q: What can I do about the feeling that I can't let go of the clutter?

A: See Chapters One and Two.

Q: What can I do to make myself deal with my clutter?

A: See Chapter Three.

Q: What should I do about all the magazines and newspaper clippings I want to read someday?

A: See Chapter Four.

Q : Is there any way to keep my desk uncluttered?

A: See Chapter Four.

Q: How do I stop letting my mail pile up?

A: See Chapter Four.

Q: How can I unclutter my closets and get rid of clothes that are still perfectly good?

A: See Chapters Five and Seven.

Q: How do I clear out the wall-to-wall clutter in mv garage?

A: See Chapter Five.

Q: What can I do with cards and letters I can't bear to part with?

A: See Chapter Six.

Q: How long do I need to keep tax papers?

A: See Chapter Four and Appendix A.

Excerpted from CHAPTER FOUR



During my two decades as a professional organizer, I've gone through literally miles of piles and files with my clients. Practice makes perfect, or at least it makes an expert. Over the years, I've developed and refined an effective purging process: Three-speed purging. You see, the secret to effective paper purging is speed--specifically, three types of speed. (No, not fast-faster-fastest, although sometimes it does seem to work that way.) They are: speed sort, speed feed, and speed weed. Speed-sorting and speed-feeding are used for purging piles; speed-weeding is for purging files.

The three-speed process solves three common paperosis-causing dilemmas:

* LINGERING--spending too much time either reading stuff or staring at it while your mind goes off in 40 different directions.

* SIDETRACKING--repeatedly stopping to "do" various papers (pay a bill, fill out a form, return a call, create a new file).

* POSTPONING--putting aside things to "decide on later" later = never).

Come along with me now and see how I help my clients speed through all kinds of piles and files.



1. I usually set a ticking timer for 10- to 15-minute increments beginning at the outset of the session; it creates a sense of urgency and is an ongoing reminder of the passage of time. Along with the timer, I set short-term goals (as described in Chapter Three).

2. The speed-sorting process is often done on the floor unless there is other open, broad, horizontal space available (an extremely rare occurrence).

3. I recommend having at least one ample, empty trash container handy.  Large wastebaskets or boxes work best for this purpose.  Avoid teensy, cute "guest bathroom" wastebaskets; they fill up too quickly.  Plastic bags that flop over are also a waste of time (except when used as liners).  You want to make it as easy as possible to throw stuff out; struggling with floppy bags and tiny baskets wastes time and effort.

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Copyright 2000 Harriet Schechter