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The Value Village donation centre is closed in Dartmouth, N.S., on April 1, 2020.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Taking on an overloaded closet or dusty boxes in the basement could provide more than just the satisfaction of ending a long run of procrastination.

In a time of rising stress levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the act of decluttering can come with a number of benefits.

“In times like this when you’re stuck at home, you can have some anxiety,” said certified home stager Lora Cristofari. “Clutter can create more anxiety. There’s a liberating feeling of getting rid of some of that stuff.”

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With Canadians being encouraged to stay home to help flatten the curve, many are taking the opportunity to tidy up and make progress in areas big and small.

“Every single person I’ve talked to is like, ‘I’m going through a closet,’ or ‘What do I do with my photos,’ or ‘I’m going through my old papers,’” said interior designer and professional organizer Jane Veldhoven.

“Everybody is organizing. I think that tells us that it’s because it makes you feel good.”

But while it may feel rewarding, many are wondering what to do with clutter — books, memorabilia, clothes, etc. — that doesn’t find its way into the trash or recycling bin.

Thrift stores are closed, garage sales aren’t happening and people may be skittish about buying and selling online while trying to follow physical distancing recommendations.

Facebook community groups known for exchanging items such as furniture and clothing have also quieted in recent weeks, with Toronto’s Palz Trading Zone (formerly Bunz) encouraging members to limit their posts to “essential” items.

Veldhoven said one option is to bag items or put them in a container with a label to ‘Donate’ or ‘Sell.’ Storing them in a garage or storage locker could work until things return to normal.

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“Let’s designate an area that we’re going to call a green zone, which means green it can ‘go’ out of my house,” she said from Halifax. “But it’s going to go somewhere.”

Cristofari suggested using clear bins so you can see what’s inside and move them to a garage or shed.

“Get it as far out of the room as you can so you can appreciate the work that you’ve done, and so that it doesn’t just sit in that room and just get shoved back into a closet,” she said.

Have a pile of old flash drives in that desk drawer? Veldhoven said taking care of digital projects can also be rewarding during these uncertain times.

“The process of downsizing, decluttering, organizing and putting things where you can see them, use them and enjoy them — that gives you a huge sense of control,” she said.

Clutter can be found in every room, drawer and cupboard in the house. It can sometimes be a daunting, overwhelming task to get it under control.

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“Start small and create a plan,” Cristofari advised. “Dedicate a certain amount of time every day. So maybe it’s only 30 minutes a day. If you’re really ambitious, you can look at an hour a day.”

Veldhoven suggests that when starting out, determine which area needs the most attention. The master bedroom is often a good starting point.

“Normally you wear 20 per cent of what you have 80 per cent of the time,” Veldhoven said from Halifax. “That’s true for almost all of us. So you can normally let go of a lot more than what you think you can.”

Her advice is to take everything out of the drawers and the closet before taking stock.

“Make a humongous pile and a mess in a sense,” said Veldhoven, who stars in “The Big Downsize” on VisionTV. “Then take a really hard look at the amount of time that it’s been since you’ve worn it or used it. Have you forgotten that you had it?

“But also look at what does it add to your life to keep those things?”

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Cristofari, who owns the Jax & Belle Home boutique staging firm in Newmarket, Ont., said the approach also works in smaller areas like a kitchen drawer.

“You have to take everything out (and) look at everything you have,” she said. “Do you really need five spatulas in that drawer?”

It’s also a good idea to keep a washcloth handy, Cristofari added.

“You’d be surprised how many crumbs land in that drawer,” she said. “If you don’t take everything out, you’re not going to see those crumbs. So while you’re organizing, you need to be cleaning.

“Do it at the same time.”

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