Setting up closets in a functional way can make the process of decluttering much easier.

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Tools for Decluttering Your House

Making space "clutter preventive" doesn't always mean huge outlays of time or money. A few small accessories can make a big difference.

Consider unused space in cabinets. You can install racks below shelves for flat items and stack larger ones in clear, nesting containers. Inside the door, hooks and pegs will hold keys or bracelets. Racks can contain soap or spices.

In a bedroom closet, install an adjustable clothes rod below the permanent one for skirts, shorts and scarves. Hanging mesh bags conform to sports gear and other oddly shaped items. Cardboard boxes slide under the bed to relieve clothing congestion.

A lazy Susan puts items in reach on a desktop or counter. Small boxes, zippered pouches or freezer bags help organize the drawers below.

A label maker is especially useful in homes with young children. Make labels to tell what's inside a certain box or where snow boots should be left to dry.

On the other hand, larger items create longer-lasting solutions. You might replace single-purpose furniture with multi-taskers -- an end table with a trunk, for instance, or a table-lamp-magazine rack combination. Individual wall shelves might use space better than one freestanding shelving unit.

If a piece isn't multifunctional by nature, improve it. Add a towel holder to the side of a microwave cart or bathroom cabinet. Attach casters to a child's toy box to roll it into a closet.

Papers are a common source of clutter. A useful filing system for organizing them might range from folders in a drawer to a small cabinet. To really maximize space, convert papers to digital files using a scanner. You can store the hard copy in some safe, remote location inside or outside the home. For unwanted documents, a small shredder makes short work of those with personal information that might be used for identity theft.

Finally, for those things you don't need or can't use, set up three bins: one for recyclables, one for donations or garage sale goods, and one for plain old trash. Look at each item objectively to decide its destination. Ask yourself: How easily could I replace it if needed? How much does it improve the quality of life? Do I use it when the occasion arises? Fine china, for example, may be used only a few times a year, but you may really value it at those times.

So once you tackle the problem, how can you maintain a house free of clutter?