It’s no secret that countless families are deluged by household clutter. You’ve probably heard FlyLady say; “The most common clutter hot spots are children’s bedrooms, home offices, attics, and garages.” What does it take to create a clutter-free space? Here are my 10 best home organization strategies on decluttering straight from my book, The Joy of Being Disorganized.
1. Stop Homelessness
One of the main reasons stuff piles up on counters, dining tables, coffee tables and floors is that it’s homeless. When an item has no “home,” it gets added to an IPOD (Important Pile Of Decisions). That’s why it’s important to make sure everything in your home lives somewhere. “Homing” items in the room where they’re used, helps ensure that they get put away when you’re finished. For example, I keep a sewing kit in a drawer of an end table in my living room, because I like to mend garments in that room and not in my sewing room in the basement. If I didn’t give the kit a convenient home in my living room, the scissors, pins and thread would end up on the coffee table (because I wouldn’t want to go all the way down to my sewing room to put it away) and I’d be off with the new button I’d sewed on a cuff, not to mention the beginnings of an IPOD on the coffee table!
2. Stop Clutter at the Cash Register
Use that, waiting-to-buy time when you’re standing in line at the cash register, to re-think what’s in your hands or cart. Imagine it as clutter. What you buy today can turn into clutter tomorrow. The better you are about keeping things out of your home, the less likely you’ll be to create IPODs when you get home.
3. Baby Step your Way to Clutter-free
Start with the room that’s bothering you the most. (In my almost 40-year career helping moms get organized, the kitchen is the room most picked by baby-steppers.) FlyLady says, “Start by shining your kitchen sink.” That’s so brilliant! In order to keep your sink shiny, you have to keep it empty. In order to keep it empty, you and your family have to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher. In order to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, it has to be empty!
Do some crime scene investigation by periodically scanning your home for clutter hot spots, and spend some time figuring out why stuff accumulates there. Often, it’s not what you think. Take that pile of magazines under the end table. Behind that pile is optimism. You think, ‘tomorrow I’ll read those back issues of Parent Magazine, but right now I just don’t have time.’ The truth is, if you did have some free time tomorrow, you’re NOT going to want to read the August, 2009 Parent’s Magazine. My rule for magazines is, keep only the current one and dump and Google.
5. Keep Away from Organizing Containers
Victims of clutter often think the solution is to run right out, first thing, and stock up on organizing bins, baskets and pretty boxes to organize the clutter. Stop! FlyLady says, “You can’t organize clutter!” You can certainly try, but I warn you, if you did organize your clutter, you’d probably end up with a home that looks like a Goodwill Store. Once you have a home for the stuff you love, use and need, then it’s time to consider pretty containers. (See # 9)
6. Dump Duplicates
Now I’m not talking about twins here. Getting rid of duplicates, triplicates and quintuplicates is one of the easiest ways to get rid of clutter. One is enough! Why have five hairbrushes or six pairs of scissors? When you buy something new, get rid of something like it that’s old.
7. Stay Out of the Museum Business
Unless you are a curator and know how to run a museum, quit adding to your nostalgia stash in the attic or basement. There’s nothing sentimental about boxes and boxes of your kids’ school keepsakes and souvenirs lining a wall in the basement, garage or attic. Take it from me, when you get to be my age, you’ll have learned that your kids don’t even want the stuff you saved for them. I can also tell you that the real enjoyers of your boxed up memories are mice.
Once I saved some mementos for my son (the first to go away to college). It was a stuffed animal he loved when he was a baby and a tee pee made out of real leather. A mouse family, gutted the bunny and put the stuffing into the tee pee along with seeds they collected from our stash of birdseed. So much for a sentimental moment.
8. Stop the Search
Often, there’s an easy solution to even stubborn clutter problems. In my book, The Joy of Being Disorganized, I wrote about installing a hook for your keys right inside the door, so they always get hung there. If you have very young, key-loving children, you know they can do some very creative things with your keys. It takes 21 days to establish a habit of hanging your keys on the hook and once it’s yours, you’ll save so much search and rescue time.
9. Keep it Together
I have two friends who are not professional organizers, but they are what I call organically organized. Both are named Marci. (For those of you who struggle with being disorganized, I wish I could tell you to just change your name to Marci and voila, you’ll be organized.) Both of these BOs (Born Organized) women have kits throughout their homes. One Marci has a clear plastic shoebox-sized container on the shelf inside her coat closet for gloves and one for hats. Under her sink in the guest bathroom (okay I snooped) she has a clear plastic container for cleaning supplies. The other Marci told me she has all her hand-care items in a clear plastic box. I know I warned you not to head to Target tips # 5, but it can really help you organize activities when everything you need is in one place.
10. Have a Plan
Some spaces, like kitchen counters, and dining tables need daily de-cluttering. But cupboards and drawers can be decluttered monthly or even semi-annually. Whatever the frequency you decide upon, when you declutter a drawer, dump the whole thing out on the counter; wipe the drawer out with a soapy rag. Then, considering each item and put back only what you want to have in the drawer. With what’s left, put away what you want to keep in other drawers and put what you no longer want or use in a box for Goodwill. In my new book, The Joy of Being Disorganized, I provide a simple system to help you get organized just enough to please you. If you’ll share this blog with your friends and family, I’d like to give you one of my most favorite chapters in the book entitled, There Arose Such a Clutter
Thank you for reading my Young@Heart. I hope you are having a wonderful summer! Get organized just enough to please YOU.