The holidays are over, the calendar has turned a new page and, like many people, you find yourself with a renewed enthusiasm for self-improvement. According to statistics from the University of Scranton, nearly half of Americans regularly make New Year’s resolutions, with weight loss, organization and improved finances ranking among their top three goals.

If getting your home in order is at the top of your 2014 to-do list, try these tips to help send clutter packing:

Identify goals and assign deadlines. Start by narrowing down what you want to organize. Is it your garage? Your kitchen? Your kids’ rooms? Put it in writing and designate a deadline for accomplishing your goal. The more specific the deadline, the better.

Break the goals into bite-size pieces. Tackling a large organization project all at once can be intimidating. Avoid getting overwhelmed by the enormity of the task by establishing a series of smaller, more manageable, goals that will be easier to accomplish.

Reward successes. Keep yourself motivated by designating an enticing reward for each goal you accomplish. You may even look forward to crossing tasks off your list if you know there’s a treat waiting in the wings.

One in, two out. As you put away holiday gifts, take the opportunity to clear clutter throughout the house. A good rule of thumb is to donate, sell or toss two counterparts for every new item received.

Utilize the Four Box Method. Gather three boxes and a trash bin. Label the boxes “Keep,” “Donate/Sell” and “Store.” Items to be thrown away belong in the trash bin.  Ask yourself as you pick up each piece of clutter, “Do I want to keep this, sell/donate it, store it or toss it?” After you’ve made a decision about each item and concluded the decluttering sesssion, give yourself 15 minutes to put the items away.

Keep at it. According to researcher Richard Wiseman, 88 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Why? Changing a behavior requires developing a new habit. And, developing a new habit sometimes requires hard work and commitment. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t achieve perfect organization all at once. The important thing is to take aim at the problem and to elimate clutter one step at a time.

(Editor’s Note: Andy Warren is President of Maracay Homes, the Arizona subsidiary of the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona and Greater Phoenix Leadership; as well as the Board of Directors and as an Executive Committee member with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. He is also an active member of the Urban Land Institute.)

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