Three basic guidelines for getting a grip on clutter: 1. Decide what’s valuable to you and what isn’t. Decision making is the first step to getting organized. 2. Streamline. From the beginning, expect that a good half of your clutter will be leaving your home (either into the trash or to be donated). 3. Adopt the motto, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Once your clutter is placed in its proper home, it is not clutter anymore.
One in, One out Decluttering
To help you keep items streamlined, follow the in and out rule. For every new item you get, discard one old item. Better yet, discard two. Immediately donate, resale, or throw away the items you removed. This simple tip allows you to quickly control clutter before it overwhelms you or your home.
A few ideas for making the discarding process easier: put items that you know should go but are not ready to part with, into a box. Set a toss-out date for three months. Write the toss date on the box. If you have not needed to retrieve something from the box in that time, toss it (without opening it!) Enlist a friend or spouse to help if you cannot toss it yourself.
Organized storage needs to be at the back door or your family entrance. It needs to be open if it’s going to be really used. Great storage does little good if it’s not easily accessible. A “mudroom” should have a separate nook or at least a hook and shelf for each family member. If possible, provide separation within each individual cubbyhole. It’s best to have fairly flexible storage that can be adapted to a variety of sports equipment and needs. Do not “kid-size” your built-in. Hang hooks low for small children’s coats. The hooks can always be raised as they grow.
Closet – eye level
Place pants on the top rod in double-hanging areas, because they have a narrower clearance from the wall and won’t cast shadows on the clothing below. Place shoe shelves at eye level so you’re not constantly bending down.
Printed material is a constant and ever-increasing bombardment. Many try to push it aside and say, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” But they seldom do. To avoid the accumulation of paper a decision must be made. The best time to make this decision is when you first open the mail. There are only four possible things to do with paper: Toss, Refer, Act, or File.
Whenever you come across a bill, catalog, bank statement, coupon book or other paper item ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if this didn’t exist?” If nothing would happen, toss it. If you think you might need it someday, can you find a duplicate if someday comes? If so, get rid of it. Once the decision to toss has been made, immediately discard into the trash can or paper shredder.
Time Will Tell Bin
Set up a special drawer or basket for papers you think you might need but probably won’t, and check it weekly. This “holding pen” could be used for tracking slips or packing lists that are only needed until the package has been delivered or the invoice has arrived. Clean out weekly!!
Quick Paper Tasks
Keep a basket or file of “quickie” paper tasks, such as recipes for filing, school notes to review, etc.. Handle these while you are on the phone or while micro waving popcorn. Flip through a catalog while waiting for the water to boil or during the evening news. Instead of keeping the whole catalog, save the cover with contact information. If they don’t send another one (which they always do) you can call and order one. Better yet, look on their web site and have no paper accumulation.
Chair vs. Floor
To help keep a teenager’s room fairly picked up allow them a “junk chair”. Instead of piling clothing all over the bed and floor, consolidate it on one chair. Then once a week (or daily before bed – if really bad) have teenager sort through the pile and return all items to their proper locations.
Fine Tune Closet
Arrange clothing by type. The more frequently you use the item or category, the closer it should be to the door. Next arrange by length; then by color. Hanging clothing by length creates vertical storage underneath the shorter items. (Even if you don’t use the space, it makes the closet look less cluttered.)
To un-jumble drawers, divide and conquer. Use small bins or boxes to sort socks, hosiery, underwear, collar stays – whatever items you tend to misplace when needed. Assign each drawer a category: one drawer for slips, camisoles and bras – arranged by color. In another, socks (folded in half), panty hose (roll in a ball and tuck the ends inside) and one with jewelry organized by silver and gold for easy accessorizing.
A Place for Everything
Retrieval is the key to organized storage. Store things where they are actually used. Always assign every item it’s own place. Do not leave anything lying around or put it down with the intention of “finding some place for it later.” By having a place for everything and everything in it’s place it will be easy to find what you want when you want it. You will be organized!!
The old-fashioned toy box may hide the mess, but heavy wooden lids are dangerous. Shelving or shelf units with toys sorted in see-through bins make finding a desired toy – and cleanup later – much easier. Try not to stack any bins. With children, convince is key.
The back of a hinged door is simply another “wall”. Hang hooks, belt or tie racks, shoe racks, pegboard or an organizer on the inside of the closet door. A clear shoe bag installed on the inside of the door can hold more than shoes. Mittens and hats, toys, small office supplies, jewelry or hair accessories, bathroom supplies, craft items, socks… are just a few possibilities.
For the linen closet: Group towels by size, then by color; store sheets in sets according to bedroom. Everything for one set could be stored inside one of the matching pillowcases. Fold everything neatly. Put frequently used items on lower shelves. Designate one shelf – if space permits – as a whatnot area for toiletries, extra tissue boxes, travel items. Label every box, bin and container so each family member can easily find and return items.
Double Duty Furniture
In the market for a new coffee or end table? Choose something that can do double duty. Consider wicker or cedar chests instead. These items look good and offer easily accessible storage. Instead of just a bench in the foyer or mudroom, consider one with shelves or drawers below.
Storage space can be used in unexpected ways. Linen closets make great storage closets for children’s toys. (Sheets are handier stored in the bedrooms where they are used.) Tuck electronic components (stereo, TV, etc.) Inside an antique cupboard or an armoire. Turn your guest closet into a home office. Use a fishing tackle box for nails, jewelry, cosmetics, sewing or craft supplies.
Even small bits of time can be used efficiently and productively. In five minutes you can: make an appointment, make out a party guest list, write or dictate a short note, file your nails, water the plants. In ten minutes you can: sort through the daily mail, repot a plant, order tickets for a concert or ball game, scan a magazine article, dust the living room, straighten up your desk. In thirty minutes you can: skim a report and mark parts for further study, sort through backed-up journals, newspapers and magazines, work on a craft, or take a few bites out of a complex task.
Instead of folding your sweaters in a drawer, try rolling them. Fold sleeves in, like normal, just to the same depth as the drawer. Roll from bottom to neck. Line the sweaters in the drawer, running front to back. Now all sweaters can be seen at a glance instead of just the two normally on top. Works for sweatshirts too!
Five ways to save time: 1. Plan it, write it down, and keep the list with you. 2. Multitask within reason. 3. Know it’s OK to say no. 4. Group errands together to minimize car time. 5. See movies and eat at restaurants during non-prime-time hours.
The key to clutter control is to keep ahead. Straighten as you go throughout the day. If it takes less than thirty seconds to do – do it now. Routinely practice 5 minutes, whole-family pickup time before dinner or bedtime. Set the timer and see how much can be put away before it goes off. With everyone pitching in, the house (or at least one room) can look much better in just a short time.
Getting organized does not have to be an overwhelming and time-consuming task. Break organizing projects down into several smaller tasks. Tackle one task a day. Sunday – the kitchen “junk drawer” Monday – the utensil drawer Tuesday – the Tupperware cabinet Wednesday – the refrigerator Thursday – the pots and pan cabinet(s) Friday – the pantry or food cabinets Saturday – Enjoy the organized kitchen and make a task list for tackling the family room this week.
The more your organization is integrated into your everyday, the more it will free your time. Everywhere you turn you should have convenience. Small but important objects that get misplaced: door keys, glasses, magazine you’re reading…need a special and convenient place. Keys can be placed right near the door on a key rack or in a small bowl on a near table. Put the keys there as soon as you come in.