Monday, January 16, 2012

Top 10: Ways to Remove Clutter & Stay Organized

We are flying back to St. Louis today with two more suit cases than we came with. After celebrating Christmas with four gift exchanges, I look forward to organizing my home as we move back in. Those of you who know me well can tell that I am a bit of a neat freak. I like to stay organized because honestly, I can't sleep at night with cluttered surfaces! Yeah, it's probably crazy, but it's how my brain works. I also struggle to keep things tidy with a husband who can't let go and two little boys constantly collecting rocks. Many friends ask me for tips to manage the clutter, so here goes. Let's start at the beginning.

You know your home is cluttered when:

  • Friends drop by and you rush to sweep stuff off the couch to make room for them to sit.
  • You have three side tables and a coffee table in your living room but your coffee rests on the floor.
  • Your cabinet doors are open juuuuuust an inch. All the time.
  • You have four separate places for incoming/outgoing mail.
  • Your key bowl also holds a chip clip, a bouncy ball, bandaids, stamps and a flash light.
  • You have more than one junk drawer.
  • Your junk drawer is also your sock drawer.
  • You often pick up items or papers and ask yourself "what IS this?".
I'm sure some of you have made a new years resolution having to do with general organization in your home. I do not claim to be an expert by any means. However, keeping a clean organized home is something I love to do. Sure, it's a challenge, but I find that my kids and husband work and play harder when our home is in order.

For those of you who struggle to get motivated or stay on top of the game, here are my Top 10 tips for removing clutter in your home:

10. Have a spot for everything. If you find something without a home (mail, magazines, washable markers), ask yourself "Why is this purple washable marker homeless?" and make a home for it! Group similar items together, like art supplies and sports equipment.*

9. If you don't need it, don't want it or haven't used it in over 12 months, get rid of it! ESPECIALLY if this item also does not have a home. If it's maternity clothes, pass them on to a friend and get them back if/when needed OR put your best items in one clear bin and store it away.

8. Trade unwanted items with friends. I always find myself with too much of a certain craft supply. I buy an entire spool of ribbon for one specific project because I liked the color. Then, I am left with 10 different colors of entire spools of ribbon. I handed some off to a friend who is also a pre-school teacher. If I find myself needing three inches of blue ribbon, I know where to go!

7. If it's damaged, get rid of it. Shirts with holes or stains, toys with sharp edges or missing pieces, let it go. It's been well loved, but it's time to move on. If you're at all crafty and can't quite let go of that striped Old Navy sweater from middle school, here are some fun project ideas for old clothes via apartment therapy.

6. Try to keep new and old items at a 1 to 1 ratio. A new skirt comes in, an old item of clothing goes out. Dan and I share a closet that is about 3 feet wide, 7 feet tall and 1 foot deep. We each get one 3 foot long bar to hang clothes on. You'd better believe I live by this rule and Dan does, too! Before going on a shopping spree (do people really do that anymore?), take a few items out of your closet to giveaway or sell at a resale shop. Only allow yourself to buy the number of items you were able to remove from your closet. Since we're talking about closets....keep those basic beloved items front and center. Suits, evening dresses (what are those?) and other items that are rarely worn should stay near the end or furthest from the door.

5. Rotate toys. We've all seen how quickly our children lose interest in new toys. This doesn't mean you need to throw it out. Divide the toys into two groups: one that stays in the playroom or kids' room and the other group is put away in a box. Every other month, switch the groups and get some work done while your children re-unite with their toys.

4. Meal planning! Ok, truthfully, I am horrible at meal planning, but I always have dinner ideas in my head and a list of items needed when I go out shopping. If you're like me and don't have a meal planning binder, simply check your pantry, cupboards and refrigerator before shopping. This keeps your shelves free of 12 cans of coconut milk, making room for other foods.
{wow, that pantry makes me so happy!}

3. Spring Cleaning is a popular time when most people put away winter decor and clothing and generally get motivated to clean house. I suggest doing a quick clean sweep with every change of the seasons. It will take less time and will be less daunting of a job. Throw out any make-up or toiletries or that have expired, bring clothes that are season appropriate to the front and center of your closet and put away items that wont be worn for a few months. 

2. Do not attach. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but stuff is just stuff. It is not the memory. Keep an interesting suitcase or decorated box for those special items but leave it at that. If space is limited, naturally you will be forced to choose only the most dear items to have in your keepsake box.

1. Believe in the phrase "Less Is More". Less stuff is more freedom, more space, more time, more money, more fun! If "Just In Case" is your current mantra, you will live with clutter your entire life. Only buy items you will use immediately. This is a rule I am still working on following, especially when it comes to craft ideas! It's one of the hardest rules to follow, but it's worth it.

*everyone needs a junk drawer. Let that be the place for batteries, rubber bands, tooth picks, paint samples and smiley face stickers. (now you know what's in my junk drawer!) Make it the smallest drawer in your kitchen or office and clean it out if it's ever difficult to close.

**images came from apartment therapy. oh come on. my house is NOT that organized!


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