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There's a dinosaur in my closet

Agriculture.com Staff 03/22/2006 @ 1:47pm

Seriously. I have a dinosaur in my closet. My brother-in-law, Rob, gave it to our younger daughter, Alexa, when she was 3.

I have a suspicion that I'm not alone. OK, maybe dinosaurs are rare, but there must be lots of white elephants. At the Women in Denim meeting in Storm Lake, Iowa, women crowded into Start Fresh, Get Organized sessions.

Reality shows on cable are devoted to clutter. In each Clean Sweep episode, a team helps owners transform their homes and dispose of clutter. A newlyweds' show illustrates that "one man's junk is another's treasure."

Now the University of Illinois Extension has a Web site called Dealing with Clutter. Ten years ago, Karen Chan, a consumer and family economics educator, developed this topic. She's heard all of these excuses (and more):

I don't know where to start or what to do with any of this.

I have to leave things lying around to remember to do them.

I am afraid I'll need something right after I get rid of it.

I'll never get through these papers. When I try, I end up with a big stack.

I can't get rid of this; it's too special.

I can't throw it; it cost too much.

I'm afraid to toss this; it has Social Security numbers, financial accounts, or personal information.

If I put it away, I'll never find it.

Chan offers three tips to get started:

Find a buddy to provide moral support and advice for a few hours.

Start small. Choose a manageable task first (a junky drawer or closet shelf).

Begin with a vision of how you want it to turn out. It helps with motivation.

Meredith Corporation (parent company of Successful Farming magazine) has published three great books on clutter. Order Clutter Cutters, Conquer the Clutter, and Mission: Organization by calling 800/678-5752 or by visiting the Farm Home Collection:

This dinosaur has been a house guest for 10 years. It's time for an exit plan.

Modern humans began as hunters and gatherers. Today we no longer need to stockpile things. Our failure to adapt has led to a modern malady called TMS (too much stuff) syndrome.

Los Angeles psychologist and organizational consultant Peter Walsh compares Americans' weight problem with our growing problem of clutter.

"People hold onto stuff (like their kids' clothing) as a way of holding onto the past," he says. "Or they keep things they think they might need someday as a way to control the future."

Consumerism also drives this economy, and the pace of technology makes products obsolete almost overnight.

Fifty cities in 17 states have chapters of Clutterers Anonymous. Its Web site even has a 12-step recovery program.

Last fall, I started sorting things in an upstairs room. When I finished, I saw that everything was much better organized, but I didn't gain much space.

We donated stuffed animals to the local sheriffs' departments. We've given board games to the 4-H Camp. But I still have three containers of dinosaurs.

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