Home & Garden

If it's hidden and organized, you're not quite a hoarder

Builders are turning to many natural flooring materials, such as cork tiles, to create different looks. (BOB PEPPING/CONTRA COSTA TIMES/MCT)
Builders are turning to many natural flooring materials, such as cork tiles, to create different looks. (BOB PEPPING/CONTRA COSTA TIMES/MCT) MCT

It's not quite the stuff of Hoarders, but your collection of old Vogues is teetering — metaphorically and physically — in that direction.

And honestly, if it were just the Vogues, you could pass it off as a sign of your discerning taste in fashion editorials. But you have that closet full of sweaters that are older than Justin Bieber. And the drawer — OK, drawers — full of old postcards. And then there are the ceramic bunnies.

But unless you're looking to land on an A&E reality show, it's time to get the stuff in check. We turned to author and organizational guru Peter Walsh, host of the new show Enough Already! on the Oprah Winfrey Network, for advice on appearing to be one of those organized, detached types, even if you're really one of those Beanie Baby types.

■ Strategically declutter. Two areas will give away your hoarding tendency faster than you can say "porcelain figurine." The first is your entryway. "The moment you open the front door of your house, the first impression sticks with visitors," Walsh says. "If there's a sense that this isn't an orderly house, you're doomed from the start." The second is any large, accessible flat surface. "Kitchen table, counters, coffee table. The moment you can't see your flat surfaces, you've lost the battle with clutter." Keep those areas relatively neat, and you're halfway home.

■ Surrender a space. Lasso your clutter into a bounded space so it doesn't take over your whole home. When Walsh speaks to groups, he often poses the same question: "Does anyone have that spare bedroom that as soon as the doorbell rings you yell, 'Close the door to the spare bedroom! Quick!'" And? "Eighty percent of people always have that room." For others, it's the hall closet. One home Walsh recalls visiting had a dining room table with a generous tablecloth that touched the floor. Under the table cloth? Yep. Stuff.

■ Artfully display. "The line between a collection and clutter is razor-thin," Walsh says. "Just because you have a whole lot of things the same doesn't mean you have a collection." If you truly appreciate an item and want to surround yourself with multiple variations of it, do yourself — and the items — a favor. "Display them in a way that brings you pleasure, that doesn't cause stress and that says, 'I honor and respect these items,'" Walsh says. "Anything can look great displayed well."

■ Edit your clutter. Assign homes for your items — Tupperware, books, kids' toys — and don't let the items outgrow their home. If the container designated for magazines fills up, don't add a new one until you get rid of an old one. "I'm not about telling people to get rid of all their stuff," Walsh says. "My thing is, does the stuff you have create the life you want?"

■ Reality-check your collections. If you're holding onto stuff because you think it will appreciate in value, make sure it really will. "A good reality check is eBay," Walsh says. "If you think your Madame Alexander dolls are worth $1,000 and you go on eBay and realize they're worth $4.99, then you can decide: Is this investment in the future (messing) up your ability to enjoy and live in your home today?"