New Year's Resolutions, Make Them a Reality (cont.)

New Year's Resolution No. 5: De-clutter Your House

If your family's mail collects on the dining room table, you need help. That's where Cynthia Townley Ewer, editor of, can get your New Year's resolution on track.

Ridding the house of junk mail is one of Ewer's specialties. "The greeting cards, the invitations -- that's the fun mail you read immediately," she tells WebMD. "It's the rest that seems to propagate in the middle of the night."

To get mail under control:

  1. Don't bring it into the house -- not until you've done a first toss, that is. That means sorting mail over a trash can, tossing junk immediately, saving other mail for review later. "It's like speed dating, there's no lifelong commitment," says Ewer. A trash can in the garage or by the back door is convenient for this.

  2. Do your tossing when you're not distracted, after groceries and kids are safely inside the house.

  3. Give remaining mail a "home." Put it in a designated place. A magazine file holder is good for this, especially one that is transparent, so you can see what you're looking for, Ewer suggests.

  4. Now the "R" word -- routine. You need a routine for dealing with bills, credit card statements, etc. Set a time every week for this. "This doesn't necessarily mean you have to pay all the bills at that time," Ewer tells WebMD. "But if you let it go any longer than one week, you won't see the bank overdraft or the erroneous charge on your credit card."

  5. Set up files. You might need a file for pending matters (such as a dispute with a merchant or rebate in progress), another for "bills to pay," another for statements, etc.

Keep in mind, though, that there's no such thing as clutter-free living, says Ewer. Nobody's absolutely perfect.

As with your mail, it helps to establish "clutter preserves" for your other stuff. These are like wildlife preserves -- limited areas where clutter can live freely, as long as it stays within boundaries, Ewer writes on her web site.

Here's another New Year's resolution: Set aside one chair in the bedroom for clutter. "Clothing may be thrown with abandon, so long as it's thrown on the chair."

Originally published Nov. 11, 2004.
Medically updated December 2005.

SOURCES: Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of nutrition therapy, The Cleveland Clinic; spokeswoman, the American Dietetic Association. Nadine Kaslow, MD, professor, Emory University School of Medicine; chief psychologist, Grady Health System, Atlanta. David Baron, MD, chairman of psychiatry, Temple University Hospital and School of Medicine, Philadelphia. Sharon Horesh, MD, internist, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta. Cynthia Townley Ewer, editor,

©2004-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.
Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2005 8:59:35 AM