You know that junk drawer in your kitchen that catches everything – every pen, every battery, every random screw that fell out of who knows what? It exasperates us, but often we don’t do anything about it. Sometimes (especially around the holidays) it feels like the house is a “junk” drawer. Am I right, ladies?
Well, it’s a new year and the perfect time to start good habits. Good habits begin with good strategies. Our experienced Moms at MomsOutLoud.com have pulled together some tried-and-true clutter-clearing strategies to get you started on the right track. Here are 4 Steps to Organizing Your Home, with a few favorite products and some other good ideas thrown in.
Step 1: Baby Steps
While you may be tempted to tackle the whole house, every closet and every drawer, especially after the Christmas decorations have been put away and the chaos left behind is nagging you, BE REALISTIC in what you can truly manage. Pick one closet, or one room. Feed your sense of accomplishment by starting small and making you de-cluttering spree successful. You’ll feel better about your efforts, and you’ll be less likely to end up with a pile of mess that just gets moved to another room because you ran out of time or energy.
Step 2: Take Inventory – Keep, Donate, Toss
For whatever area you decide to tackle: pull EVERYTHING out. If it’s expired, doesn’t fit, doesn’t match, or has not been used in a year, GET RID OF IT! Sell, donate or recycle what you can, and toss the rest. Please do not make a garage sale pile for a someday-soon garage sale that only exists in your mind. You are trying to de-clutter, not rearrange clutter.
Get your kids involved, too. (After all, in my house at least, kids are 60% of the inhabitants but – it seems – drive 95% of the clutter.) Tell them that it’s time to make way for new clothes and toys. Let them have some choices, but make it clear that you have to approve those choices.
Your goal is to have no more than 3 piles: “Keep”, “Donate” (OR “Sell” if you commit to doing so in the next few days), and “Toss”. You may temporarily have a 4th pile called “Undecided”, but at the end of your inventory-taking session, this pile must be redistributed into one of the other three piles.
If you’re like me, you will probably have a tiny pile of expired medicine (“Toss”) and a few articles of clothing that will never mend themselves or fit over your once-upon-a-size-six-now-a-size-fourteen posterior (“Donate” or “Toss”). That’s the easy stuff. Now, force yourself to really think. Do you really need the five half-used bottles of hand lotion that you can’t stand because they’re watery, greasy, too flowery, too medicinal, etc? Do you really need that skirt that you may be able to wear if you are invited to a summer brunch event (even though it’s been five years since you went so such an event)? If you don’t like it or don’t use it or you have a substitute for it in your “Keep” pile, get rid of it! Your goal here is to reduce the number of items you have to find a home for.
Step 3: Make a Plan & Go Scouting!
Before you put everything from the “Keep” pile back on the shelf, make a plan. Does it go on display, or does it go in a cabinet? Figure out what you have and how it will be used — displayed or hidden. Then decide which room or closet would make the best home. Once everything is in it’s “right” general location, your job is to determine how best to put everything in its place.
One key element of this is to actually count and measure your “Keep” items. Yes, I said measure. If you want to make a plan that will work to organize your stuff, you need to know exactly how much stuff you have. So get that tape measure out and get measuring. Dimensions and size will be essential to helping you select your storage solutions.
Notice we didn’t say “Go Shopping” in this step, we said “Go Scouting”. The first place to look for storage options is your own home. That basket that’s holding all your “to be filed” documents in your office? A great place to display pretty rolled up towels in your guest bath (after all, those documents you need to keep will be filed after this exercise!). That wooden box your sister-in-law gave you that you’ve never really done anything with? A great place to store extra stationary and pens on your desk. Once you’ve assessed your storage options, you can better make a shopping list for what you truly need.
Your goal in this step is to make sure everything in your “Keep” pile has a designated home – and then is placed there.
Keep these ideas in mind as you make your plan for organizing what you keep:
- Shelving. Wall shelves, bookshelves, closet shelves, wherever you have vertical space, you have a candidate for a shelf. That’s prime real estate, baby. Even in a room where multiple doorways seem to limit your shelving potential, you could run an 8″ or less deep shelf above the doorframes for extra space. Just be careful not to decorate the shelves with nick-knacks, figurines and twenty thousand picture frames. That would defeat the whole purpose of this exercise. Where ca
n you find awesome shelving? Ikea. Seriously difficult to find more variety at better prices (see right, picturing Antonius shelves and Muck bins).
- Containers. Another excellent way to visually de-clutter is by using decorative storage boxes or wicker baskets on shelves. Even if the contents themselves are a jumbled mess, by containing them inside a pretty box will keep your room look streamlined. Pier 1 always has great quality baskets that will hold up to everyday use (see their seagrass basket set, above left). Container Store is a great choice for plastic bins and other types of decorative storage units. My personal favorite storage box is the leftover diaper box, clearly labeled and totally free. You can even cover it with decorative kitchen contact paper to make it better fit with your decor (even if it will be in a closet). Re-purposing rules!
- Uniformity. A visual trick used by the pros is to keep each area “uniform” – in terms of colors and shapes chosen for the containers, balance between vertical and horizontal, etc. Even family photos hung on a wall with similar colored and shaped frames can look like art. (Picture at left is of the 10 pc Gallery in a Box Kit at Target.com.)
Step 4: 15 Minutes a Day
Once you’ve completed your decluttering exercise, don’t let yourself go back to your old ways. At the end of the day, spend just 15 minutes making sure that everything is in its place. You spent all that time making sure everything had a place – don’t allow yourself to waste it and need a second session in only a few months.
Following these 4 easy steps will help you reduce clutter in your home, and – just as important – keep it out!