“Stuff” happens. We are all Consumers with a capital C. What comes in the front door rarely results in something going out the back door. We save everything because “we might need it someday.” We take great pleasure filling in our time going shopping or to garage sales in pursuit of a deal. And then, before we know it, we’re left feeling overwhelmed and overstuffed and don’t know how to start to fix it. But fix it we must.

Clutter and disorganization is stressful; and stress is not good for us.

Getting rid of stuff is liberating.

Look around your home and workplace. What do you see? A desk stacked with paperwork that needs to be separated and filed so you can easily find things. The family room is strewn with entertainment devices like a supersized television, gaming equipment, videos, music, and toys, not to mention an array of withering plants you neglected to water. Your kitchen pantry and refrigerator are overloaded with perishables that are probably beyond their expiration date, some by months, and dare I say years.

Your cupboards are overflowing with all kinds of empty containers and lids, none of which serve to contain anything. Your counter, which no longer has any work surface, has every kitchen appliance that serves a single function on it: coffeemaker, coffee grinder, blender, food processor, stand mixer, toaster, convection oven, and more. Your clothes closet is so tightly packed — usually with an array of sizes for when you gain or lose weight — that there are many things you rarely if ever wear.

Your bathroom cabinet is overflowing with prescriptions and cosmetics, none of which offer any remedies. Take a stroll out to the garage where everything ends up on the floor, not hanging up or in storage cabinetry, so the car must sit outside in the driveway with the boat, motorcycle, RV and other toys that come with a high price to be maintained. Sound familiar?

How do you turn this dilemma around? Do you try to do it yourself, enlist the help of family and friends by inviting them to a surprise work party and then paying them with pizza and beer for their time? Or do you hire a professional organizer?

Undoing what has already taken a long time to create is no easy task, and it isn’t going to correct itself overnight. Yes, you can try to do it yourself, but that requires a well-thought-out plan executed methodically over a reasonable amount of time. We all have good intentions, but heading to the big box store to purchase lots of storage bins and shelving — without using it properly — isn’t going to get the job done.

Consider a professional organizer who can help set you on the path to freedom from stuff. What is the role of a professional organizer? You need someone who can put systems in place that work, hold you accountable, but more importantly help you get to the finish line and reduce the chaos and clutter for good, making it part of your daily lifestyle. If you have ever tried to move after living in one place for an extended period of time, you know the exhaustion, and swearing, that comes with trying to organize all that stuff. Maybe a parent must downsize, or move to an assisted-living community, after years of saving your childhood art projects and photos.

Compartmentalizing things is the best and easiest way to get started. Pick a drawer, room or closet. Identify what must be kept, what can be donated or repurposed, or what simply needs to be thrown away. Call a document-shredding company to drop off a secure container for those years of tax returns and other paperwork no longer needed, then get a personal shredder to keep up on a day-to-day basis after that. Take old phones, electronic and technology equipment to the appropriate places for recycling or dismantling, then keep your new equipment longer…you don’t always need the latest and greatest.

Donate old eyeglasses to organizations sending them to impoverished countries. Take old prescriptions to drop-off locations to destroy them properly (never flush prescriptions or throw them in the trash). Bicycles, older cars, and other items can be a welcome tax-deduction when donated.

New year, new rules need to be adopted. Reduce your wardrobe clutter. If you buy a new sweater, an older one must be donated or thrown away. If you upgrade your phone or laptop, the old one needs to be scrubbed of personal data and donated. Limit the amount of toys — for kids and adults — by objectively determining what is needed rather than wanted. Sell single-purpose small appliances that can be replaced with a single unit capable of many functions (like a convection oven capable of baking, roasting, toasting, broiling, air frying, proofing, dehydrating and more).

Incorporate living, breathing plants (no artificial dust collectors), pleasant aromatherapy scents, soothing bath and body products, and books, music, and art to enhance the environment in which you live. Move your remaining furniture and accessories around to create a fresh, new look. Restock the refrigerator and pantry with healthy food and drink that nourish the body.

The reward that awaits you is no longer feeling overstuffed and out of control, with a clean and organized place to proudly entertain yourself and friends — and more money in the bank from resisting temptation.