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Kathy Vines, the expert behind Clever Girl Organizing , in Melrose, doesn’t sugarcoat things.

“Spending $1,000 at an organizing store doesn’t make you organized,” she says. “Throwing everything in a dumpster doesn’t make you organized.”

To truly declutter, she says, a person needs to look within.

If you’re ready to face your inner clutter, here are her top five tips:

■   Know your danger zones and triggers. “Are you a Future Clutterer (‘I might need it some day so I should keep it.’)? Or a Past Clutterer (‘This reminds me of a time or a person from my past and I can’t bear to let it go.’)?”

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■   Understand that ‘later’ is a dangerous word. “ ‘I’ll do that later’ is the gateway to ‘I’ll do that never.’ ”

■   Accept that everything must have a home. “When they don’t, they end up surfing from spot to spot, pile to pile, drawer to drawer, never to be found when we need it.”

■   Never leave a room empty handed. “Always be in the mode of ‘hitting the reset button.’ If you leave a space, look around for something that needs to be returned to where it goes.”

■   Try bite-sized decluttering attacks. Set a timer for 20 minutes and eliminate other distractions to see what you might accomplish. One drawer, one pile, one box, one space.


Beth Teitell can be reached at beth.teitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.