Motivation is the best tool to get a handle on clutter and it's usually driven by your goals. Inviting friends to your home without embarrassment or knowing where you put important documents can serve as the motivation for getting things in order.
For the initial clean up, garbage bags are essential for getting rid of trash and holding donations. Just be sure not to confuse the two. In the maintenance phase, keep trash baskets and recycling bins handy for tossing out newspapers, magazines and junk mail, but don't forget to take them to the curb for pickup. Speaking of mail, sort it each day when you bring it in the house, so it doesn't become clutter, and so bills and important documents don't get lost.
Storage bins are a great tool, but experts recommend you don't buy them until end of the process, when you know what they'll hold and where you'll store them. Apply the same philosophy to shelving and files: Don't buy them until you know how many shelves and files you'll need and how you'll use them.
Hiring a professional organizer is also an effective tool for conquering clutter. Organizers may work with a client for an afternoon to get an office under control or they may work with a family for years, helping them to obtain and maintain an uncluttered lifestyle. In some situations, a third party's ability to ask the right questions with compassion is often more effective than having a family member help.
In extreme cases or when clutter impacts physical and emotional health, mental health professionals are called in. The next section explores how clutter and health are linked.