1)      What's the best way to tackle a de-cluttering project without it feeling too overwhelming?
First, commit to only one project at a time. People sometimes scatter their efforts throughout the house, which really will be overwhelming! Make sure you have some paper bags available to sort things that belong elsewhere in the house so that you’re not tempted to leave your current project to put them away.

There are a couple of ways to approach a project that will help you get your arms around it.  One is “centralizing.” Clear all surfaces and pile everything into one place to sort.  For example, in a bedroom, you can make the bed, then clear the dresser, floor, and other surfaces and put everything on the bed to sort from there.  You can also take everything to a staging area like a dining room or hallway.  Another approach is to rotate through a room like a clock.  Pick a spot, then progress in a circle around the room until you get back to your beginning point.  People in our online program can get a personal plan from our organizing team to help them, too.

2)      How can people know what is suitable to donate and what isn't?
People should check with their local Goodwill agencies to make sure, but what I have learned from touring many Goodwill facilities around the country is that “there is no such thing as a bad textile.” Goodwill recycles textiles and many other household materials, and indeed in 2011 Goodwill kept 86 pounds per SECOND from ending up in landfills!  If you have some clothing that is tattered or unsellable, most Goodwill agencies will be glad to accept it and are especially appreciative if you bundle it separately and label it. Usually Goodwill websites will have a list of things they accept or not, so you can check there easily for other questions. You can find your local Goodwill by visiting or calling 1-800-GODDWILL.

3)      How can families set up a system to avoid having a major clutter problem down the road?
People can improve their situations drastically by thinking about all three of these areas:  Prevention, Reduction and Maintenance. Generally people only think “Reduction” when there is a problem—let’s clean it up and fix it.  But if you focus also on preventing clutter, on having some controls as to what gets across the threshold, and also what maintenance habits need to be in place to keep things organized, that’s how you keep the “Clutter-Pounds” off long-term.

4)      What happens if some family members are packrats and others aren't?
I get this question a lot, and if I had the ultimate magic answer I think I would be enshrined on Mount Rushmore! But in general, that is a problem that requires negotiation, good communication, and compromise. One thing that often makes sense is to agree that common areas of the home stay uncluttered and the areas that belong to the “packrat” person are theirs to keep as they wish.  You probably also want to agree on some sanitation rules, like not leaving food and dishes in these areas.

5)      How can parents encourage kids to be ready to part with unused items?
First, set a good example. Make sure the kids see you organizing your closet and donating things.  Explain to them what happens to donated items and how they help others in your community, and explain that donating things puts them back into circulation where they get another chance to be useful, instead of going into the landfill. We have a Donation Match game that teaches kids how donating and recycling go hand in hand, and which kind of items to donate. You can also teach your kids the “one in, one out” rule when they get new shoes, clothes, or toys.  We have something new, what are we going to donate to make room for it? Teach them that storage space is finite, that we can’t keep everything forever, and we have to prioritize and make decisions.

6)      Why should families choose Goodwill as a donation recipient?
Goodwill is a smart and responsible place to donate, because collectively 82 percent of the revenue from the sale of your donations goes directly to services to help people find jobs. Wherever you donate, make sure you know how much of your donation actually goes to help the cause you are supporting. Some parking lot drop boxes either go to for-profit operations or give only a tiny percentage to the charity they claim to support. Goodwill is a household name you can trust, and I have seen firsthand so many of the stories of lives that are changed from your donations.  Your shirts or shoes or books turn into services like job training, job placement, resume preparation, or financial planning classes.  You can use the Donation Impact Calculator (patent-pending) at to see exactly how your own donation results in minutes or hours of these services. It’s fun!

Want to join the movement?

- Donate and participate in this year’s Back-to-School Clothing Drive. Donors can drop off their clothing items at any one of Goodwill’s donation centers across the country or plan your own donation drives at a school. Visit to find a Goodwill store or donation center in your community.
- Play the Donation Match Game which provides a fun way for children to learn that just as there are things you recycle, there are things you donate. Play the game and enter to win one of five laptops. 
- Visit Clutter Diet to find more de-cluttering tips.

Lorie is a Certified Professional Organizer and an active mother of two teenage boys. She is a regular contributor for Good Housekeeping and the bestselling author of The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life.