By Patricia Lee, Houzz

The new year is a great time to improve your habits. I recommend you adopt one habit per month. If you do, by the end of 2018, your home will feel more peaceful and clutter-free.

The Design Villa, original photo on Houzz

1. Last year: You piled your clothes on your bedroom bench or chair.

This year: Hang up your clothes daily to free up your sitting space. It takes just a few minutes to hang clean clothes or toss dirty ones in the hamper. Of course after a long day, it would be much easier to simply drape your clothing over a chair. But doing this robs you of a place where you can sit and wind down, as well as a space that is visually free of clutter.

Organized Living, original photo on Houzz

2. Last year: You kept clothing season after season even if you never wore it.

This year: At the end of each season, pull out clothes you had no interest in wearing. Personally, as much as I mean to make use of all my clothing, I end up rotating the same favorites from my closet and neglecting others. If an item in my wardrobe is too fussy or impractical — for instance, if I constantly have to adjust an ill-fitting garment, or a piece has difficult-to-reach back zippers —I tend to pass over it in favor of an easy-to-wear piece. For me, that’s a trigger that it’s time to let the fussier item go.

At the end of each season, if you haven’t reached for certain outfits, consider donating or selling them to make room in your closet for the pieces you not only love but also wear often.

Cynthia Lynn Photography, original photo on Houzz

3. Last year: You bought items that you didn’t necessarily love or need because they were on sale.

This year: As a professional home organizer, I like to be minimal and surround myself only with things I love and need, so I am careful and selective about what I bring into my home. If I find something on sale that I also love, that’s perfect. But I won’t buy something that I am lukewarm about just because it is on sale, nor will I stock up on items that might be useful in the future. In my opinion, it is more economical to save your money for something you use often than to buy something on sale that you use only twice.

Case Design/Remodeling Indy, original photo on Houzz

4. Last year: You removed clutter by boxing items and putting them in the garage to deal with later.

This year: The garage is both a great place to store things and a terrible place to store things. It’s ideal for keeping infrequently used, or large and bulky, items such as seasonal decorations, sports equipment and camping gear. However, storing things in boxes in the garage can result in the items becoming out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

Don’t move items into the garage to avoid decision-making. Instinctively, you probably already know if something is of no value to you — yet you pack it in the garage anyway, possibly to avoid dealing with it. For example, that inflatable pool you accepted as a hand-me-down from a friend — it would be so great for the grandkids, but you know you aren’t likely to spend the time and effort to set up, take down and repack such a large item. Or maybe you have instructional videos, promotional freebies and participation medals that don’t have much meaning to you. But you feel you should keep them, just in case.

I recommend you drop that keep-it habit and start deciding right away whether to hang on to an item. Otherwise, your intention of going through boxes at a later date may wane … until you eventually forget what’s in those boxes anyway.

Paul Craig Photography, original photo on Houzz

5. Last year: You forgot about items in your refrigerator, leading to bad smells and surprises.

This year: Review freshness of items in your refrigerator weekly. A sweep of uneaten leftovers, expired sauces, sour milk or wilted vegetables will keep your refrigerator fresh and manage odors. Also, use or toss packets of condiments from take-out meals instead of saving them — those things can pile up and, in my experience, rarely get used before they expire.

Bunker Workshop, original photo on Houzz

6. Last year: You kept a mental list of what you need to buy at the grocery store.

This year: Make physical or electronic grocery lists, and take inventory of what you already have before going to the supermarket. A friend of mine created a grocery shopping form with all of the items that she typically buys. She lists the items in columns that replicate the aisles at the store and marks items on the form that she needs to replenish. Bringing that list saves time at the store, as she can navigate the aisles with the relevant list in hand. It also helps prevent impulse buying.

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