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Removing Clutter and Getting Organized

When I moved back to my parents’ home last June, I inherited most of their furniture and belongings in addition to my own “stuff” that I had accrued over the years.  There were even items in my childhood room at my parents’ home that belonged to my girls and I from years ago.  We started to work on organizing everything by first making a plan.  It’s a good idea to isolate clutter by room, if possible and work bit by bit so you are not overwhelmed.  For smaller homes, you may need to get more creative, but these techniques can be used for any size home and structured according to the space you have available to work with.  Since full-scale de-clutter and organization may be more than a weekend project, break it down using these simple steps:

Make a checklist of tasks and mark them off when complete – doing so boosts self-esteem and gives you an enhanced sense of accomplishment

  • Assign yourself a different task each day of the week (De-clutter, laundry, vacuum, dusting, organize/rearrange items)
  • Use the proper tools for each job to increase efficiency
  • Eliminate distractions and interruptions – focus on the task at hand
  • Clean and organize hidden items as well as those that are regularly in view
  • For every 45 minutes worked, take a 15-minute break – I instant message my best friend during my break and she and I keep each other in check when working on house projects – it works and we both accomplish more!
  • Donate or sell unused items – if you donate, be sure to get a receipt for your taxes and record appropriate values - typically used items should be documented at thrift store or garage sale values
  • Above all, make it fun and reward yourself – Celebrate!

Start with the common areas of your home such as living or great rooms, den, kitchen, and the most commonly used bathroom.  Ensure your kitchen appliances are stored appropriately, either on or beneath the counter top, space permitting.  Utilize drawer organizers for silverware, miscellaneous kitchen tools, junk drawers, towels, hot pads, and foil, food wrap, or trash/sandwich bags.  Place heavier items such as cans on lower level cabinets.  Plates and heavier dishes such as serving bowls, pie and cake plates, gravy boats, or salad bowls should be placed on the bottom rows of upper cabinets.  Child-proof kitchen and bathroom cabinets to ensure little hands cannot access sharp objects or chemicals.  Many professional cabinet makers now offer built-in organizers including drawer organizers, wire baskets that extend downward for easy reach, and space options such as lazy susans, and built-in racks.  Consider professional closet or office/room organizers to ensure everything has a place in your home.  Ensure your dining table is clear of papers and other items, as a table should represent a gathering place for families to spend quality time together during a meal. 

Since most people gather in living and great rooms or dens, these are typically the most cluttered areas, especially with children and pets.  Ensure that blankets, magazines, pillows, toys, or other items are picked up and put away.  If you have young children that enjoy being in these rooms, invest in a trunk or toy box so that their toys can remain in the common area of the house, yet still have their own place.  CD’s, DVD’s, and videos should also be stored appropriately and away from extreme temperatures or direct sunlight.  For larger comforters, blankets, quilts or pillows, consider purchasing Space Bags™ that not only maximize space by storing bulky items, but also keep the items free from rodents and moths due to the patented suction technique.  Make use of tight spaces in your bathroom by utilizing shelf or under-the-sink organizers.  I invested in a three-tier wicker stand that has deep drawers to hold items that need to be near, yet is still decorative.  Beneath the sink, are baskets and organizers to maximize space.  Utilize shower organizers and keep a squeegee in the shower so you can wipe down the walls, especially if you have ceramic tiles. 

Papers can be a huge source of clutter and are also considered a fire hazard, so it is important to reduce paper clutter as much as possible.  Protect your identity by investing in a cross-cut shredder and shredding all trash that contains personal information including mailing labels on magazines or circulars.  When disposing of cleaning or gardening supplies, I found I had multiple bottles of the same items after combining my stuff with my parents’ things, so I consolidated them into one container to save space.  Before doing so, be sure to check the dates on the containers to ensure that the shelf life has not been exceeded.  Throw out old cleaners, medicines, shampoos, and even canned goods or spices as most of these items do have a shelf life date printed on the container.  Prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs should also be reviewed regularly to ensure the expiration date has not passed.  When disposing of medicines, do not flush them down the toilet or rinse them down the sink because the drug can get into our community water supplies.  When placing your trash at the curbside for pickup, put medicines into a proper child-safe container so that children or animals cannot digest them if the trash bin is knocked over.  Take appropriate steps to ensure that your prescription information is completely removed from the container before disposing of it by marking through with a Sharpee marker or peeling off the label.

In addition to having a clutter-free, organized home and office, the benefits to you personally include reduced stress, guilt, anxiety, indecision, and waste.  Additionally, you will have an enhanced feeling of accomplishment with more time and resources to do other things you enjoy.