Use these tips to dig out from under your clutter

Be a clutter cop

It's nearly spring -- the traditional season of taxes, renewal and cleaning up your living space. If you really want to make a dent this year, author and inspirational speaker Barry Dennis suggests getting rid of the "chotchky" -- a term from his book The Chotchky Challenge, referring to all the things you acquire, yet don't really need. Dennis -- who uses a phonetic spelling of the Yiddish word tchotchke -- said we need to change our way of thinking to let go of our excess.

Here are some of his tips to removing your excess:

Bag it up. "Grab three bags -- one to donate, one for recycling, and one to throw away. A lot of our stuff is simply worthless. You don't need seven shampoos or 10 facial lotions. Start with the bathroom and work your way through every room. How many socks do you really need?"

Ungift. "How much unwanted stuff have you received as gifts? We get a gift that we hate, but we keep it out of guilt, so every time we see it, we are reminded of this and we are exhausted. Instead of acquiring more, tell them that you're trying to let go of things, and you'd prefer a gift that doesn't take up space... . Then when you give a gift, try to make it a gift that gives back."

Hold a storage unit sale. "This is one of the easiest ways to lighten your load. If you're actually paying someone to store your unused junk, you don't need it. Throw a sale and use the money for something that will add to the quality of your life, like a nice dinner out with your family."

Avoid toxic people. "They support our self-destructive behavior, and they're moving through life unaware. It might be hard to distance yourself from these people if they've been a part of your life for a long time, but if you make the choice to do so, you will notice a difference."

Pause before you consume. "Whether it's dessert, a relationship, a pair of jeans on sale or a mindless TV show, ask yourself: 'Does my heart truly desire this? Will it make my life better? More fulfilled?' Do a gut check. Pausing before you acquire or consume can prevent every type of clutter from overtaking your life."

-- Jen Weigel, Chicago Tribune