As we face down the last couple of months of the year, it's important to get organized now so you can reduce your stress and current clutter before the influx of holiday parties and gift-giving begins.
Use my tips to tackle some of the most common home organization complaints, so you can breathe more easily from now until the end of the year.
"I can't find it!"
Cutting clutter is an obvious starting point for resolving this issue. Having too much stuff can make it hard to locate items you need. Favorite shirts get lost in a crowded closet, the perfect spatula hides in the overstuffed kitchen drawer, and necessary tools float to the bottom of an unsorted tool box.
But getting organized may be easier than you think. Let's take those tools as an example. The garage can be one of the messiest places in the house, but this simple and easy starting point will help get it under control.
- Hang a peg board and put in some hooks.
- Using a marker, draw an outline around each tool to indicate its location.
You will have a tool organization system that not only keeps you organized, but also alerts you when the tools are missing. This is especially handy as you install decorations, hang outdoor lights, or build new furniture to host guests during the holidays.
Organizing is contagious - once you start, it spreads rapidly throughout the house.
"I left home without it (again)."
Have you ever walked out of the house and forgotten the birthday card for your friend? Left the set of directions to your niece's wedding on the printer? Or failed to retrieve the receipt for returning the vacuum you purchased last month?
If only we could remind ourselves about these things before walking out the door.
Whether the front door or mudroom is your jumping off point each morning before you leave, you can set up the area each day for total success. Create an organizing system with pockets that hangs on the knob or over the door to hold items you’ll need before you leave for work, school, or events.
A simple door organizer usually costs under $15 and can be purchased in many department stores and online.
You’ll no longer say, "Oh no, I left my outgoing mail, the kids’ lunch money for school, and the keys to the storage unit on the kitchen counter."
"Mom, did you wash my soccer uniform?"
It's amazing that the tiniest room in the house can make or break harmony in the home. The laundry room is often the nemesis of an organized house.
Here’s a laundry system that will restore household harmony and save you time. Get each family member his or her own laundry basket and label it.
When the laundry is done, rather than placing the clean laundry on the stairs or couch and watching everyone walk by without picking up their clothes, ask everyone to come to the laundry room to pick up their personalized basket of clean clothing.
There will be no lost items or mix-ups - and no more blaming you.
"Do I have to do everything?"
The kitchen is the pulse point of most homes. It's a high traffic area that everyone uses all through the day. We open our mail here; study for school here; use the computer here; pile our stuff here - not to mention it's where the food is!
Dedicate one part of the counter to be set up for daily routines, like a lunch-making station (stock it with paper towels, wraps, baggies, and a cutting board) or a coffee and tea station (equipped with supplies like filters, strainers, and sugar).
If you create an organized space for your family to make their own lunches or coffee drinks, your life is easier. That's called delegation.
"What if there’s an emergency?"
Another tip for the kitchen is one that can save a life: a household manual, in either a physical or digital form. You can create this in just a few minutes, and it costs you nothing.
To get started, grab a binder and three-hole punch and put all your vital information in the binder. This includes emergency contact info, the name of your family doctors and vet, school rosters, alarm codes, medications and dosages for the kids, the name of your father's caregiver, the location of your wills - anything you’d need someone to know in an emergency.
When you have a minute, you can digitize it. But start with step one: simply gather important information in one place and keep it contained.
"I can't corral these crazy cords!"
These days, everyone has cell phones, chargers, remotes, and mismatched cords scattered throughout the house. The shortcut for pulling everything together? A central charging station.
It's practical, it's organized, and it can even be decorative. A charging station hides cords, keeps all electronic items together, and can blend in with your furniture.
"There are toys all over the place!"
Many parents’ biggest home organization issue is the kids not picking up their toys.
Parents remember having to do it as a child, so what's wrong with their own kids? The solution here might be as simple as teaching your children organization skills early on, and making it easy for them to put things in their place.
Here's one idea that will allow you to shift from frustration to elation:
- Use bins to hold the toys.
- Each bin should hold toys of the same type.
- Find a magazine or use your computer to find pictures of the toys being stored in each particular bin. For example, if you have dolls and stuffed animals in one bin, attach a picture of dolls and stuffed animals to the front of it.
"I have no place to really relax."
Clearing clutter can create a peaceful home - away from overstimulation and the demands of our external world.
Take that idea to one room in particular: our bedrooms, which are meant to serve as a sanctuary for rest and romance. The piles of laundry, books, and magazines living next to the bed nix any possibility of a calm and relaxing experience.
Let's get the laundry and closet into a workable system, and put a cap on the number of books and magazines in your personal space.
You can start to create a peaceful space by:
- Getting rid of all clothing that does not fit you right now, is in disrepair, or is out of season (box it and store it, sell it, or give it away).
- Going through all the books on your bedside table (or floor), and selecting just one to read. Store the others in an alternate location. Keep just this month's magazines on your table, and either relocate, recycle, or give away the rest.
"Can everybody please clean up after yourself?"
Wouldn't it be wonderful if there could be just one room that we all use and know that everyone is responsible for his or her own clean up? Does your bathroom come to mind?
You can make this a reality by creating a system that works fairly universally.
Get each person in the house a toiletry caddy. Just like at summer camp or in a college dorm, put names on the caddies, and store them on shelves in the bathroom or, if space is really at a premium, ask folks to carry their caddies back and forth from their bedrooms.
The bathroom stays organized and there's an automatic tidying-up system built in after every visit.
"I don't have time to get organized."
One of the top reasons for not getting organized is lack of time. It seems we devote all the energy we have to work, family, school, volunteering, and other commitments.
While many of us dream about alphabetized folders and color-coded sheets and towels, the fact remains that there is often little time in the day to organize or even clean.
The best way to manage this issue is to reduce - and then repeat after me.
- Reduce. Eliminating clutter is the number one thing we can do to create more time for ourselves. When there is less clutter, we spend less time cleaning it, less time putting it back where it belongs, and less space storing it. Take just 10 minutes today and eliminate 10 items you no longer really need.
- Repeat after me. Here’s a mantra for you: "Avoid perfection at all costs." Don’t get too hung up on the details. Unless you’re hosting a very special event, your home doesn’t need to be perfectly organized every day. Sometimes "good enough" will win the game. Talk yourself through those nagging anxieties about having to have all your towels sorted by color.
Relax, reduce, and remember to repeat after me. You’ll be able to enjoy more time to yourself without guilt.