Start your New Year off with all the hope that comes from a well-enabled household.
By Marye Audet
Some people just seem like they were born organized, don’t they?
You walk into their homes and it’s like walking into a Pinterest page with clear counters, pristine floors, and the smell of warm cookies baking in the oven. All of a sudden your mind zips (this is no time for wandering) back to your own house and you visualize the Fruit Loops on the kitchen floor and the stack of paperwork you need to get done. You lament the fact that your house not smell like warm cookies, and then make a mental note to call the plumber again about the backed up toilet in the powder room. It’s a horrible, overwhelming feeling, isn’t it?
But it doesn’t really have to be that way. No matter how busy you are, how crazy your schedule is, or how many kids you have there is a way to have a clean, organized home – without hiring a cleaning crew. Being organized is the result of establishing good habits, and anyone can do it.
First Things First
Getting started on the path to organized living is overwhelming if you’ve let things go. It’s not just that clutter builds up over time – it’s also that you are out of the habit of doing anything about it! It’s hard to choose to clean out the kitchen drawers when you just want to sit down and watch your favorite show. Plus, if you’ve been unorganized for any length of time the mess can be overwhelming.
Where Do You Start?
Laurie Mattingly, of Organizing with Laurie, is a Houston-area professional organizer with a passion for helping people create organized homes. We asked her what she thought the three most important habits were when it comes to staying organized and this was her reply.
- Keep like things together in places that make sense according to how they are used. This makes them accessible and easy to find and put away, saving time typically wasted looking for things.
- Guilt is not a valid reason to keep things you do not love and use. Once you receive a gift the giver has experienced the pleasure of giving and did not expect you to keep it forever. It is more wasteful to let things take up valuable storage space while not being used no matter how guilty you feel about how much it cost!
- Be kind to your future self! Consider that “person” when you are thinking about procrastinating and create habits that will be pleasing. Hang something up, stick things in the dishwasher, sort and toss papers as a part of managing your paper, etc. Taking a few minutes to tidy up before relaxing in the evening and thinking ahead to prepare for the next day is another way to be considerate of your future self.
She also said, “Basically, NIKE is right – just do it – it is always easier to keep order than to create order out of chaos!”
Organizing Your Time
Most of us are guilty of moaning to friends and family about the lack of time in our schedules. From the time the alarm jolts us out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to the time we fall asleep at night it seems like there’s always something or someone who requires our time and energy.
The truth is that everyone has the same 24 hours in every day, it’s just that organized people use their allotted moments differently than everyone else.
- Write everything down. Today’s society has information overload. Just think of all of the things that you have to remember that even your mother didn’t – passwords and phone numbers and appointments, oh my! By writing things down you get them out of your head, which in turn, makes you life less stressful. Get in the habit of using the notes section on your smartphone or keeping a small notebook with you.
- Create a schedule that works for you. This will help you use your time wisely instead of wasting it. You’ll be more productive if you have a schedule and set deadlines, and goals for yourself.
- Don’t put it off. Procrastination is a major time waster. Decide what you need to do, set yourself a deadline, then jump in and do it!
- Declutter and simplify as much as you can. Less stuff means less time needed to dust, arrange, wash, and generally take care of your home.
- Learn to say no to things that you really don’t have the time, or the desire, for. It can cause serious amounts of discomfort and stress inducing guilt at first but you’ll get better with practice. Overcommitting is a common habit of unorganized people.
Organizing the Kitchen
The kitchen can be the bane of the existence of the most organized person. It is the hub of the home, often the place where everyone gathers, does homework, and other projects. Because it is so lived in it’s often hard to keep organized.
- Take a tip from restaurant kitchens and create stations. Put like things together to create efficient work areas. All of the dishwashing supplies, colanders, and other related item should go in the “wet station” by the sink. Put all of your baking pans, mixers, and other baking items together, then repeat with your other kitchen necessities. Put seldom used holiday items on the high shelves of the pantry or some other out of the way place.
- Use clear containers to store items in your pantry. It’s a good idea, if you can, to pick up a variety of clear containers to use in the pantry. Items in boxes and bags can encourage pantry pests for one thing but more importantly it’s much easier to see exactly what you have when it’s in clear containers. Added bonus – it can give you a lot of satisfaction to see all of those pantry items lined up in neat containers on the shelf!
- Schedule time to clean out the refrigerator every week. The night before trash is picked up is the best time to do it. By cleaning it out every week you’ll be able to see what’s in there and, best of all, no more gross blobs of furry green stuff. It will smell better, too.
- Use cabinet and drawer organizers and dividers to create custom spaces in your kitchen. That way when you open a drawer everything will be right where you can see it and when you open a cabinet all of the pot covers won’t fall out onto your toe. Not that that ever happens to anyone we know.
Organizing the Bathroom
Getting ready for your day can be time consuming and frustrating if you have to hunt through a multitude of bottles and jars looking for the product you need. Sometimes just trying to find a clean towel is an adventure! Put an end to morning frustration by getting your bathroom clutter under control.
- Keep like things together in bins that you can store under the sink. This will help keep the countertop clear and make it easier to get ready in the mornings.
- Put things away after you use them no matter how much of a hurry you are in.
- Hooks along the wall can be decorative as well as a great place to hang extra towels.
- Use the space over the toilet for storage. Many companies make special shelving that fits over the toilet and can hold everything from extra toilet paper rolls to bath towels.
- Develop the habit of leaving the bathroom better than you found it. Take a second to wipe the water splashes off the counter and mirror, hang up a towel, and otherwise straighten up before you leave the area. Better yet, encourage all family members to develop it, too.
Organizing Other Areas
- Hooks near the main entry can hold coats, backpacks, and bags.
- A small table by the front door can be used to hold library books, mail, and keys.
- Keep the home office neat by taking care of papers as they come in. Shred them, take action on them, or file (or scan) them. No more paper clutter!
- Color-code your file folders to make it easy to find what you need.
- Keep bedrooms neat by using special sliding drawers that fit under the bed.
- Keep the floor tidy with a hamper the hangs on the back of the door.
- Make it easy for kids to access and put their clothes away. Open bins on shelves are great for this – 3-year olds can’t use hangers! Anything you can do to reduce something from your To Do List!
- Use storage ottomans in the den and living room to hold everything from afghans to magazines out of sight.
- Pegboard is inexpensive and keeps things organized in garages, basements, and even craft rooms. Paint it to match your décor.
When the Whole Family Isn’t On Board
Sometimes it can be hard to get everyone on the same organized page. What then? Tiffany Mensing of The Great Indoors has these tips –
- First of all, take a deep breath and give yourself a break. You are managing a lot and there are often more important (and fun!) activities to do with your time than to organize your home.
- Don’t get trapped into thinking, “My home is only organized if it looks like it came out of a magazine.” If throwing your shoes on the floor of the closet doesn’t bother you, there’s no reason to get a shoe rack. Embrace your organizing style.
- Start the organizing discussion in your home and include others in the organizing work (including your husband!). Ask him what works and doesn’t work for him and work together to find a system that is a compromise between both of your organizing styles (as hard as this can be!). This will go a long way in creating an organizing system that everyone maintains, not just you.
- If you and your husband have drastically different organizing styles, it can be helpful to create a “his zone” and “her zone”. Let him keep his area however works for him and try to let go of it not looking the way you would like.
- Determine what common areas cause the most stress. Attack those so you can bring down the “organizing stress level” in your home.
- If you have a lot of items that need to be put away, but you don’t think you have anywhere to put them, attack the storage areas (garages, attics, closets) in your home. Opening up storage areas allows you to clear out the living spaces.
- Create a plan of attack, work down the list, and make changes as your life changes.
- Recognize that when life changes how you function in your home changes too, and your organizing systems will need to be adjusted. Again, give yourself a break!
Being organized is basically about developing good habits, using them consistently, and being aware of how you are spending your time. Don’t try to do it all at once but aim for changing one bad habit at a time. By the end of the year you’ll have serious organizational skills!