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What you need to know for 12/11/2017

Cluttered house blues can be a nicer, neater song

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Cluttered house blues can be a nicer, neater song

Some ideas are pretty simple, like picking up after yourself every day
Cluttered house blues can be a nicer, neater song
Cheryl Libutti said kitchen implements and foods can be organized by basket in a basement shelving system.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Got clutter?

Sure you do. Everybody does.

Old papers, old books and old appliances are all over the attic.

Old tools, old golf clubs and old furniture are all over the basement.

Sweaters, skirts and suits hang unwanted and unworn in bedroom closets. Seventy bath towels fill linen shelves.

But wait, there's more:

  • Fifty glass candle holders decorate window sills.
  • Boxes of Christmas lights - bought at 75 percent off in January - are stashed under a guest bedroom.
  • The dining room table and living room mantle are magnets for bills, junk mail and school books.
  • Dozens of pens are stuffed into mugs and glasses: picking one that really works is like playing the Lottery.
  • Magazines from 2016 are still under the coffee table.

And when the taxman comes to the door, Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale.

That's why people like Cheryl Libutti come to the door first. Libutti, who lives in Delmar, has built her "Pretty Neat Home Organizing" business around the idea that people can always find paths to clearer, more organized spaces.

Part of the expertise comes from personal trial and error. Libutti has 20 years experience running a household and has been home full-time for the past 10 years, managing her home and with her husband raising three children.

Libutti believes people hire clutter and home organization specialists for both support and advice. "It's not just you having to make those decisions on your own," she said. "It's having someone there with you to talk it through."

Some ideas are pretty simple, like picking up after yourself every day. Five minutes every night is better than 45 minutes catching up on a Saturday morning.

Reducing volume can be a little trickier. It can be hard parting with items of sentimental value, Libutti said, and especially hard parting with clothing.

"People get very attached to clothing they've bought," Libutti said. "Anything they've spent money on, they feel it's wasteful to get rid of."

But donating a sweater or suit jacket to goodwill organizations is not wasting it. "You're passing it on to someone else who can use it," Libutti said.

And a large box of donated clothing can become a tax credit during income tax season.

Libutti offered other tips:

  • Assign a home for everything,. "All your office supplies should be near a desk or where you pay bills or do paperwork, mail."
  • "Almost every woman has a chock-full, messy linen closet. You can clean that out. New sheets and towels are not that expensive and it makes you feel good to have new, fresh linens."
  • Old bath towels and sheets can be re-purposed - cut into small pieces of cleaning rags and fabrics to wax the car.
  • Avoid saving plastic food containers from supermarkets. They can quickly multiply, and people are beginning to use more glass containers anyway.
  • Begin large projects, like attic or basement re-organizations, by investing just a short amount of time each day. Fifteen or 20 minutes in the morning or evening is better than doing the whole job in five or six hours.

People are happier, Libutti said, when they are not surrounded by things they don't need.

"People feel relief when they're rid of this stuff," she said. "It's cluttering up their space. When they get rid of it, it's a big weight off their shoulders.

"So it's better to make a clean break and just get rid of it or pass it along."

Niskayuna's Neil Bindelglass works with people on the move for his Saratoga Senior Move Managers business. Bindelglass said he is often moving people from a five-bedroom house into a two-bedroom apartment. Not everything from the house can make the trip.

"What I try to put them in the mindset of is, keep the things you need and don't worry about the other stuff," Bindelglass said. "Typically, once they move getting rid of the stuff becomes my responsibility, not their's, which makes it a lot easier for them. They don't actually have to get rid of the stuff themselves."

It can still be a hard sell.

"It's really hard to change people's way of thinking and a lot of my clients are Depression-era kids and they don't want to throw anything out because if you throw it out, then you won't have it anymore," Bindelglass said. "I always look at it as, if I throw something out that I needed, I can go out and but it again if I have to."

Organizers are not just throwing books and papers into a box and throwing them out. There are inspections.

"If I'm doing a huge sort with a client and I think there's some stuff there that's valuable, I'm going to set that aside and put it in front of an expert who's going to tell me if it's worth anything," Bindelglass said. "I would rather be safe than sorry."

Old magazines - like 40 years worth of National Geographic - can mean a few bucks at home or estate sales. But just a few.

"Ninety percent of them end up getting recycled at the end of the day," Bindelglass said. "But if I have 400 magazines and I've sold 20 of them for a couple bucks, hey, that's a couple buck we didn't have before."

For Bindelglass, clutter also comes with old clothes, kitchen goods, books, papers. "I have yet to have a client where I haven't found a box of punched telephone bills," he said. "Remember when they were on punch cards? We're talking '50s, '60s, early '70s. I have clients who gamble and they have every lottery icket they ever lost on."

People will keep the tickets for tax breaks, stacking gambling losses against gambling winnings.

As for clothing, Bindelglass runs into the same problem Libutti does. People hate to fold something up and kiss it goodbye. But different rules can apply for men and women.

"For women's clothing, the general rule is if you haven't worn it in two years, you're never going to wear it again, get rid of it," Bindelglass said. "Men's clothing tends to be more classical. I'm wearing a 10-year-old sweater today, it looks brand new, like something I could buy in Macy's this afternoon."

There is no defense or reprieve for kitchen appliances that no longer work.

"You bought a new toaster but the old one can be fixed," Bindelglass said. "But you're never going to fix it. Throw it out."

Disposal can be done at a metal salvage yard, along with a trunkful of other metal rejected from the home.

"I can't tell you how many times I come across 20 pounds of old copper pipes in the basement, and that's money," Bindelglass said. "Same thing with old refrigerators."

Sometimes, homes with heavy clutter can become hazardous. "A basement can be dangerous to walk through without possibly tripping and falling," Bindelglass said.

Other times, people have decide to move out of a cluttered home. And once the clutter has been removed, they've decided to move back.

"I've finished staging and they didn't sell their homes because they realized it wasn't the house they hated, it was all the stuff," Bindelglass said. "That's happened to me a couple of times."

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