by Ashley Mengwasser from LaughtersWhatWereAfter.com
It’s okay to call me Wonder Woman. My superpower is a perpetual state of wonderment, you know. I wonder how people’s possessions came to be stored in certain cabinets and closets. Then, I wonder if those possessions would be better utilized elsewhere. These two questions (how did that get here, and where does it really belong?) activate my reflex to seize cluttered spaces and rebuild their components in a more intentional manner. My very own Lasso of Truth. My work isn’t complete until I deliver peace of mind to the inhabitants of every home I serve. Saving the world, one domicile at a time. The shorthand for this DC Comics saga is actually called “home organizing.”
I’ve always known I have a gift I like to refer to as “purge and resurge.” I get rid of stuff – with ease – then enjoy the swell of accomplishment and relief that follows. I don’t keep clothes I haven’t worn in six months to a year. I don’t hold onto papers. And I don’t amass boxes of stuff I simply don’t use. We can either be commanders of our lives, aided by a selective cache of useful goods Or, we can be stockpile people: hidden behind endless towers of things we can’t realistically manage. The former person hosts parties where people “ooh and ahh” at the sight of an organized, welcoming abode. The latter gets heavy objects dropped on his foot and an occasional skillet to the head. Trust me – he hates his life.
The defining attribute of an organized home is always the person who lives there. Are they willing to purge, resurge, and maintain? Or, will they continue to fall prey to the clutter traps that have them feeling oppressed; prisoners of war in their own homes? I can get you started today on the trajectory toward this dream or orderliness, Giddy. But any home organizing effort is a failed one without your own tenacity and willpower. Step one is read my post about minimalism, which lays the foundation for the powerful truth that less is best.
Step two? Implement my 21 home organizing tips below and watch your stuffy pad transform into a palace of order and tranquility. Put the “ohm” back in home, will you? You won’t believe how liberating structure can be!
- Tidy by category, not location. Marie Kondō teaches our efforts are often more comprehensive when we approach tidying this way. Clothes first, then books, then papers, then gadgets (appliances and stuff), then albums and art.
- Store shoes smarter. When storing shoes on racks, consider storing one shoe toe first and the other heel first for optimal space. Think about it…it’s how shoes are paired in the shoebox when we first purchase them. This keeps the shoes snug in a bounded, rectangular space. Or, keep small bins in your closet for the shoes you are actively wearing. You can purchase under-the-bed shoe storage in the form of compact, zippable bags for the out-of-season styles you don’t want to see in your closet right now.
- Store t-shirts vertically so you can see what you own. This works well for drawers that are packed enough to be able to buttress tees up against one another. Just turn them on their sides so you can see them all in a row, like a shelf lined with DVDs. (To the especially young readers, that’s a “digital video disc.”)
- Sort laundry. This is so obvious, yet we ruin our garments almost daily. I have a bag for DCO (dry clean only) items and a bag for everyday wear clothing and towels. Even better if you can use free-standing laundry baskets or bins with separators. This keeps your whites white and your delicates in mint condition.
- For in-drawer organizing, use simple square/rectangular bins to organize drawers. Nothing too complicated. The oddly shaped ones are prime space-wasters.On a budget? Try shoe boxes.
- Forget lids. When buying storage containers and sorting bins at the store, don’t grab lids unless you plan to move the boxes to an attic or basement space.
- Does it spark joy? Here’s another epiphany from Marie Kondō. The overall thrust of home organizing is to surround yourself only with items you’ve chosen specifically because they touch your heart.
- Discard first! This is phase one of any organizing effort, large or small. Believe me, don’t skip the purge! Otherwise, whatever you organize is destined to become cluttered again. Get rid of anything you don’t use, especially if you don’t know why/where you got it in the first place.
- A place for everything, and everything in its place. Where does your purse go? Does it sit beside your dresser everyday? Or do you hang it on the hall tree? What about new toiletries? Paper towels and toilet paper? You should be able to state a resting place for any and everything you own. And do yourself a favor: be intuitive with the storage location, so recall isn’t as challenging. (Hint: Store all toilet paper in a basket under the sinks in your home. And be sure to throw away the plastic wrappers.)
- Better to do your home organizing all at once than slowly over time. Just knock it out and be done with it. If you go room by room, it’ll be months before your small results build into a pervasive appearance of accomplishment. Just sacrifice a day or a whole weekend, and the rest is smooth sailing.
- Process makes perfect. What’s the process for laundry? Dishes? Mail/papers? Online orders? Create one and enforce it!
- Keep a bin in your car for returns. You know how it goes. You buy five new bathing suits online, and only two fit. Three have to be returned to their online birthplace. So, they end up piled in a corner of your home or usurping valuable kitchen counter space for days. Just keep a bin in your car for in-store or online returns. You’ll always have these things with you and will get a constant reminder to return as you load the trunk with groceries.
- Don’t procrastinate. What takes a few minutes each day can take hours later if ignored. Handle dishes right away, open mail immediately, and put the games and toys back in the play place before moving on to a new activity or leaving the house.
- Sort items into five piles when organizing. There’s 1) move to another room, 2) give away, 3) donate, 4) trash, and 5) wait and marinate. Keep items from pile five somewhere close and make a note in your calendar to revisit those things in a month or two. If you didn’t need it, let it go.
- Ask why. Do you want to keep an item itself or, more likely, the memory attached to it? If it’s nostalgia you suffer from, just snap a photo and pay the item forward to someone who will enjoy it. (Remember: an item’s joy is the foundational reason for keeping it!)
- Make place settings and a flower centerpiece for kitchen and dining tables. Flat, empty surfaces are tempting drop zones for clutter. Try a simple basket or slotted mail holder on the counter to store mail and other “needs-attention” papers.
- Maintenance Monday! Start your week off right with a maintenance check. After you get home from work, assess the damage, and get things back in order before you even lay a finger on the fridge for a snack or dinner prep. This half-hour effort readies you for the week ahead and puts your home back in R&R territory. A definite improvement over cease and desist territory.
- Toss it Tuesday! It’s the home organizing craze you’ll love to follow. Just ask MomPositive! In the vein of Maintenance Monday, you tour through the house and just toss, toss, toss! Perhaps each week presents a themed tossing? Guess what: it’s Tuesday! Let’s designate today’s Toss it Tuesday for mail, school papers (schoool’s out for summer!), and old magazines. Feel the purge; be the purge!
- Invest in furniture so you have ample space for a functioning home office. If you’ve ever seen most home offices, there’s usually a small desk covered in clutter and chairs stacked with papers. Make sure your desk offers enough surface area to work. Apart form a work area, you may also require a reference area, a supplies area, and a filing area. Consider your needs, and purchase the cabinetry to accommodate.
- Use cute pails and bins to creatively store supplies. Maybe there’s a cleaning supplies pail with all the essentials under your kitchen sink. A wet/cold weather gear pail for each person in your laundry room. A washcloth pail in the bathroom, sitting next to a towel pail. They make so many these days with chalk label inserts and vintage-style designs, you won’t be able to resist. Spring for what speaks to you! It’s the only type of pail that’s cool during summertime. (Pale, on the other hand, not as cool.)
- Don’t buy storage unless you need it. The worst thing you can do to jumpstart any home organizing effort is run to the store and purchase a wave of baskets, bins, and storage modalities you don’t yet have a use for. Then, you create the brand new clutter of unused storage items! Discard first, reorganize next, then see what you actually need to contain these items. That’s when a Target run is purposeful and fun!
Happy home organizing, Giddy! Home is where the heart is, as they say. So, put more heart into your living space and your living space will be full of heart.