Steps to a More Organized Home

The Problem: Organizational Help Needed

My resolution is to become more organized in my home and shopping. The problem is I have so much "stuff" I don't know where to begin. Some items are good, some sentimental and I hate to discard them but the clutter is probably costing me money in the long run. I can't find things, go out and buy it only to discover it was behind something. I would appreciate any and all tips and suggestions on where to begin and how to enlist the help of my 14 and 12 yr. old children.

Book Resources

I've been there, and done that, and so I have a few tips that might help you. First, get a hold of some good decluttering books. I recommend Don Aslett's "Clutter's Last Stand" and Stephanie Culp's "How to Conquer Clutter".

These books are both inspiring and hilarious. For example, in "How to Conquer Clutter" The National Geographic Magazine and Tupperware have their own separate categories! I know in this house I have been trying to encourage my dear husband that the NG's really should go, but he insists that they will be useful "someday"!!

As far as encouraging your children to help, these books help a bit with enlisting the help of others to declutter. There is also a great book called (soemthing like) "401 ways to get your kids to help at home" by Bonnie McCullough Runyan (or is it Runyan McCullough?).

There is also another book on moving "from pigpen to paradise" that my husband bought me as a joke years ago. I love it! It is called "Sidetracked Home Executives" by Pam Young and Peggy Jones (sisters). This system is great "if" you use it!

And if you like the idea of making meals only once a month or so, there is a cookbook for you too. It's called "Once a Month Cooking" and is available from most Christian bookstores and some mainstream ones as well.
Paulette D. B.

From a Veteran of Clutter Wars

I've been struggling with organization since I got out of college and discovered that my organizational skills were non-existent. There are plenty of how to resources out there. One of my favorites is Messy No More by Sandra Felton. She has a whole series of books that you might find helpful.

The only thing that I would add is that you should not get discouraged. Pace yourself. In the past, I'd try to organize my entire life in a weekend, and then two weeks later, my apartment would be more of a disaster than before. Go one step at a time. Choose a closet or a desk that you are going to organize first. Think about how you'd like to do it. Then work on it one saturday. Often it takes time to figure out how you want to organize things. Give yourself the time, and I think you'll be much more pleased.
Russell S. in Casselberry, FL

In This Box...

I was listening to the radio today and they were discussing this same problem. The host had a good idea, she said to start with 3 boxes and one area of your home. Mark one box as "trash", one as "give away", and one as "place somewhere else". Plan on spending no more than one hour at a time on your task because if you work longer than that you may not make as good of a decision. For example, start with the lamp table in the living room. "Throw away" all ink pens that don't work or only work part of the time, put the tape and glue in the "place somewhere else" box and "give away" the watch that you are never going to buy batteries for. When your finished there move your boxes to the bathroom or where you feel you need to take control. After your hour is up, put the boxes in the garage and start fresh the next day. When you have completed your task, get rid of the "give away" box right away! Don't try to find a perfect home for the stuff, just take it to the local charity or church. Trash the "trash" and put the other stuff in a place where it is used and you will be likely to put it again when your finished with it. I haven't done this yet but as a stay-at-home mom with 3 boys my house is begging for a dose of this medicine.
Darla M.

True "Confessions"

One great book I read about organizing is Confessions of an Organized Housewife. To summarize the most helpful information, I would say that you first need to really look at what you have and what you need. After basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) then look at what will cost you more not to have and then look to sentimental items. Need means that you need basic cookware and serving utensils. It does not mean you need a fondue pot that is gathering dust. Look at how many of each thing you need too. If you bought new sewing scissors to replace ones that were worn out, did you still keep the old ones? How many mixing bowls do you need if you never bake? Would you be fine if you just did your dishes more often. For clothing it is good to have a friend who knows your style (and is not a clothing junkie) come over and help you go through the closets. If you have not worn an item in a year, then toss it! My guideline for a basic wardrobe it 10 items per season. If you live in an area with drastic temperature changes you will need some more clothing, in areas with a constant temperature you can have less. If you love those 10 items you will be set. I realize not all women will want to do this so set your own number based on your life, job, social functions, how much you care, but a limit is good. To help go through this process and still live in your house take 3 large boxes, one for trash, one for give away and one for `I don't know' and then work through small areas an hour at a time. It will be easier to live with and more rewarding that way. When the `I don't know' box is full put it away. If you really mss anything out of it you can unpack that item. Otherwise gove away the whole box at the end of 6 months. Your kids could love this or hate this, but if you have a positive attitude it will be better. Enlist their help in organizing a yard sale or finding the perfect home fo the things you don't need. Good luck and trust it will be worth it.

Pick a Spot, Any Spot

First and foremost in getting rid of clutter, the ideal way is to start in one area. Looking at the whole project can be overwhelming. I'm a neat freak and getting started is real easy. Take one project (such as dresser drawers) take each drawer out, empty and analyze each article before it goes back in. Have bag for dumping and bag for donating, if you haven't used it in a year or didn't even know you had it, get rid of it! Believe me, you won't miss it. I've been pitching for years and have NEVER needed something that was pitched. Same goes for each area of the house, in the kitchen, take each cabinet, empty and look at what you have, how many glasses do we really need, get rid of all those plastic containers that seem to multiply, save just a few. Donate or give to friends, casseroles, pots, dishes, etc. that you really don't need. I got rid of so much stuff that I actually outfitted another complete kitchen for a friend. If you tackle one project a day, you'll have it under control soon. The secret is be sure to have a waste basket right along side you, be ruthless...... As far as having your kids helping, they are at the age that they should be responsible for alot of household chores, their rooms should be part of the project but to get the ball rolling, Mom has to start pitching cause kids want to keep it all. When you're cooking or talking on the phone, go thru your kitchen junk drawer, only l drawer allowed for junk. If you keep up on this, such as once a week, it only takes a few minutes, it won't get out of hand. The night before trash day, go thru the refrigerator and pitch food and items that have expired, wipe down with damp cloth and there is no need to have a messy fridge and it only takes a few minutes. I think the secret to being organized is to do things in increments and don't get overwhelmed. One really good idea is not to become a paper person, this is someone who saves every piece of paper that comes into the house. When you get the mail, open it in the kitchen by the waste basket, we all know what is junk mail, so why even bother opening and reading it. Just pitch. Another great idea is to have an envelope (business size) for each month. Keep this in kitchen drawer, when bill is paid put receipt in January envelope, on the front, mark month, list bill that you paid and amount. At the end of the year, you will have just 12 envelopes and all your receipts at your fingertips, no more searching desk drawers for all those papers that you didn't throw away.. Once its done,its a great feeling and keeping a neat house is certainly alot easier.
Suzy "Homemaker"

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Well, I wish I could say I was extremely organized, but I'm trying! Here are some ideas (and I look forward to seeing the other suggestions): First, reduce your wardrobe. I've been trying to get mine to almost all black clothes, as black is chic, flattering, and easy to match. This has made getting dressed in the morning easier, and causes me to spend less money.

Second, have places for things. I keep children's clothes in boxes marked by size stacked in the closet. The kind that hold copier paper work really well. Roughly speaking, each box holds enough clothes for one child per season, so if I have extras, I pass them along to a relative. This lets me shop ahead at garage and clearance sales without overloading drawers.

Third, look into selling books and records at second-hand shops. It is a lot easier to get rid of old ones when you get money for it!

Fourth, put food staples like sugar, flour, and beans in glass jars on the counter. If you see it, you are more likely to use it in cooking, which prevents things from getting buried in the back of the cupboard.

Finally, be ruthless. This is the hard part. If you haven't looked at your college textbooks in years, get them out! Get new rubber bands with the mail every day? Don't save them! You know you need to do this, and I know I need to do this, now if we can both just get inspired . . .

One Year Rule

I have found that if something has been stored in my basement (or closet or wherever!) for over a year and I have neither thought about it nor needed it, I am more likely to get rid of it when I *DO* find it! My husband and I have found an Internet auction site called eBay and we have begun to sell collectibles and unnecessary items on there. Your auction takes 7 days and then you send it away and it is off your hands. IMO, it is a better deal to get money for the item rather than take it to Goodwill and dump it for free (unless you feel it really is worthless as a money maker).

Each Week...

I, too, faced this problem, and I was spurred on when I watched one of my neighbours hire a dumpster when she moved after 15 years in the same house!

Last summer, I decided that I would give myself 2 months to formulate a plan. I have almost finished the job except for the basement. I have taken 20 bags to our church's clothes drop-off, another 10 boxes to a woman's shelter (mostly "spare" sheets, blankets, and kitchen stuff), given away hundreds of toys, games, and books, and have averaged 5 extra bags of garbage a week. (Just in time, too, because we now have a 3 bag limit and get charged for extra!) I wrapped Christmas presents from paper that I found in a box in a closet. I think I bought it on sale 7 years ago, which means it went through 3 moves! I also gave presents from a stash that I had forgotten about.

My best tip is from Deniece Schofield's book. I see lots of people running out to buy Rubbermaid organizers this time of year. She says to try dishpans instead. They are a great size for organizing all sorts of stuff, and you can't fit so much in that you have to start organizing the organizer. Best of all, I bought mine at Walmart for $1.76 each.

My organizing goal this year is to stop buying stuff that takes up space!

Corner to Corner

A good place to begin is a one corner of one room. or one drawer in your kitchen. or one shelf in your closet. doing a little daily will help you feel less overwhelmed. discarding what you don't need is extremely helpful. about the sentimental items... take a picture of the item, write down the "story" behind it and formally saying goodbye.

Another option is to find three large boxes and label them friends, acquaintances and strangers. discard the strangers (those items you have no idea what they're for or belong to items you no longer own), organize the "friends" in your newly found space and ask yourself "what would be the worst thing if I discarded ....." with the acquaintances. ask your children to do the same with the items in their room for starters. they can then help you by having their own area to organize, with your supervision. for example, have your 14 yr. old do one corner of the basement with the 12 year old responsible for another corner while you work on yet another. The best thing you can do to get organized is just pick a place to start and begin!
Hariette G. (professional organizer) in Atlanta, GA

Breakdown, Then Build-Up

This is in response to "Patty." In helping her with her problems of organization, I'm remembering the task I had before me just last week--that if revamping all four of the bedroom closets in my home. I'm not sure if this will help her, but here goes my process:

The first thing I did was take everythig out of the boxes (even if I had to utilize several rooms). Then I put related things back into boxes. Like, all my lace and ribbon in one box, all my fabric in a box (or boxes), all the kids "memory" stuff in another, etc. Then, I placed a number on each box, which I reecord on a paper, along with the DETAILED contents of the box. When putting them back in the closets, I "bury" the boxes I don't get out too often--like the Christmas ones, etc. The ones I use alot, I keep out in front of the others. A good idea is to keep track of where camp gear is if you use that alot too.

Then, lastly, keep an open box somewhere in your home. Into that, place all the things you aquire throughout the year that SHOULD go into one of the boxes you've already stored. Instead of pulling apart your carefully packed boxes just to, say, put a pack of pictures intoa box, you can wait til Christmas (when you dig out all the buried boxes ANYWAY,) and place all the things from the "catchall" box into their respective boxes.
Elaine S.

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