Household clutterThe fall months offer the perfect time to reduce some clutter and get organized around the house before the holidays and winter arrive in full force. I’ve learned the hard way that clutter brings stress from the distraction and chaos it can cause. You know what I mean, don’t you? Just think of the panic you feel when you can’t find your child’s permission slip for the field trip she’s taking that morning.

I’m no expert, but following are my “tried and true” tips that can easily work for anyone who wants to live more simply with less clutter. It’s a journey.

Marching Forward to Cut Clutter

Define your enemy.

My clutter may be someone else’s treasure. Everyone defines it—and the amount they can deal with—differently. A guideline: If you never use it, and you don’t even like it, it’s probably clutter.

Work with the seasons.

Autumn provides an ideal time to think about revitalizing your home. As you put away your summer wardrobe, consider whether to store items or get rid of them. Most likely, your children have outgrown not only clothing, but games too. And how about those magazines you had planned to read at the beach? To stay on top of clutter, repeat this process before and after the holidays, again in the spring, and before summer vacation.

Create space for Goodwill boxes.

I maintain a place in our basement where I regularly put items that we no longer need or want. About every other month, my husband brings these articles to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. You can feel great that your old stuff will be useful to someone else. Save your donation receipts for tax purposes.

Enlist help.

Have a friend with you when you resolve to do some de-cluttering. She can provide the encouragement and motivation to give up some of things you may want to keep for sentimental reasons.

Make it a group project.

Go through toys, tools, books, and other belongings with your family. What you may think of as their prized possessions may mean nothing to them. Many times, I find myself clinging to my daughters’ stuffed animals and artwork like I’m hanging on to their childhoods. You can keep memories without all of the stuff.

Touch papers once.

Many experts suggest handling papers, like bills, junk mail, and school notes, just one time—to file or discard them. I walk right into the danger zone here. I allow papers to pile up for too long before I determine what to do with them, but I’m working on creating a filing system. Remember I said this was a journey?

Have a place for everything.

Eliminate those monster piles by having a spot for everything. A simple rule for family members is that whatever they use (scissors, stapler, pads of paper) they must put back immediately when done with it. Although it requires some practice, this basic routine will help to de-clutter your home on a daily basis.

One step at a time.

Take it from someone who’s been there: it’s too overwhelming to de-clutter your entire home in one day—or even a week or a month. Choose a room, the kitchen counters, or even a single drawer, and work on it step by step. Eventually, you will find yourself living in less clutter and enjoying more space and peace.

Kim Seidel is a wife, mother, and award-winning writer. She’s trying to teach her daughters the value of living without so much stuff.