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eliminate, not just organize

For the longest time I thought I needed to be more organized.

Now I know I just need less stuff!



Did you know that there are 300,000 items in the average American home? That is astounding to me! And that the size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years? Yet 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage.


Minimizing will help you thrive because the less stuff you have, the less time you’ll spend cleaning, organizing, looking for things, and moving things to find other things. Sounds good to me. Let the decluttering begin!


Here are a few tips that have been helpful for me and my family, and maybe they can help yours too.


1. Create a decluttering timeline

If you don't have a lot of stuff, it may be possible to declutter your home on a weekend, or even one day. Though it may be more realistic to create a longer timeline to declutter your house in say, 30 days, for example.


Don’t expect organization to happen overnight. Depending on the area to be organized, schedule an hour each day to work in the area. Break down the spaces you need to declutter, estimating how long each will take. Then organize that into your overall timeline. Give yourself some buffer time in case things don’t go exactly according to plan.


Keep your goals realistic and attainable, so you can declutter without feeling overwhelmed. Getting a garage whipped into shape will take more time than it takes to organize a linen closet, so don’t get discouraged.


2. Start in one place

It is so easy to look around at clutter and think “I don’t even know where to start!” That can be such an overwhelming feeling, almost defeating. But there is hope! Start by picking one space at a time. Perhaps one with only a small amount of clutter. And it doesn’t have to be a whole room. It can be something as small as one drawer! (Maybe that pesky kitchen junk drawer?)


Many attempts at organization fail when the task of cleaning up the entire house seems daunting, and we simply give up before we even start. When you complete one area, celebrate it. Then move on to the next area, and the next, and the next. Before you know it, you’ll start feeling organized – and motivated – to take on the larger areas.


3. Declutter like crazy

Once you’ve selected an area, go through the contents. You may hold on to things because you think you might need them “someday” or because they are valuable or still in great condition. But we use a lot less of our stuff than we think. And here’s a great perspective to make parting easier giving those items to help someone else just feels good!


Try to be as thorough as possible during the decluttering process. If the item hasn’t been used recently, that’s a pretty good indication that it can be discarded. Use the two-year rule of thumb – if you haven’t worn it or used it in two years, it’s time to say goodbye. These items take up valuable space, and truth be told, probably won’t be missed.

Mark a few boxes Keep, Garage Sale, Trash or Donate. As you declutter your space, and place items in the appropriate bin, you’ll be able to eliminate having to wade through disorganized items. Even when decluttering, everything has a place!


The more you can get rid of, the less cluttered your space will feel. Think of it like this – you can either have the stuff or you can have the space – not both.


4. Take inventory

After you've removed items to be discarded, take a good look at the remaining items. Are they necessary? And more importantly, do they bring you joy? If you still see items that are neither useful nor provide happiness, get rid of them.


Once the decluttering phase is complete, the organization can begin. Look at each item. Does it belong here? Does it make sense to keep it here? Is there another place where you've got more room to keep it, or another area where it would be more easily accessible for its purpose? I speak from experience when I say, take that sewing machine from the back of your clothes closet and move it to the laundry room, near the sewing kit. Then when it's time to tackle that area of the home, you can incorporate the sewing machine into the new storage plan for the laundry room, where it is more easily accessible for use.


5. Gather like items together

As you’re taking inventory of items remaining in the space, begin to collect like items into groups. When I was organizing my pantry, I put all spices together, all canned goods together, all baking utensils together, etc. You get the picture. When items are divided up by type, it’s easier to see exactly what you have. And if you have doubles or even triples of some items, get rid of the extras.


Separating items into categories makes it easier to see what you’re working with in order to choose appropriate containers or bins to store each category.


6. Choose suitable storage containers

The three rules to organization are visibility, accessibility and flexibility. Choose containers that are either transparent or that you can easily label to help immediately identify the contents and save valuable time.


Make sure the items you need most often are the easiest to access. Likewise, place the items you don't use as often on a higher shelf or in another area.


Select a storage system that can adapt to your changing needs. That way, you can reconfigure and reuse solutions to solve a variety of storage and organization issues.


This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a bunch of fancy bins. Start with what you have in your house and be creative. I’ve used plastic bins and cardboard boxes wrapped in pretty paper to store things. I’ve added colorful ribbon to otherwise boring bins. Getting organized (in a pretty way!) does not have to be expensive!


If you do need to purchase additional bins, I love these storage bins. They are clear, sturdy and stackable – and made in America – for a good price! I also love these sturdy clear bins with handles, perfect to hold items in the pantry or in the fridge!


To take it one step further, I often put small bins inside of larger bins. This helps control the clutter even more because each item has a specific spot. I know when I take items out and use them, they have their own space to go back to and I’m more likely to put everything back correctly. (Within the shelves of my office, I use a bunch of smaller baskets, canvas bins and racks to corral items like ribbons, gift tags, twine and tuille.)


7. Label bins, boxes and organizers

This is my favorite part! I love labeling. Not only does labeling help quickly determine what is where, but it is also pretty, too!

There are several ways I like to label. Sometimes I’ll create labels and print them from the computer. Other times I’ll grab my trusty Sharpie marker (in my favorite purple ink!) and handwrite a label. And if I’m feeling especially trendy, I will write a chalkboard label. I don’t have a label maker, but for those that do, that’s a great option. There are just so many possibilities!


Along with labeling the outside of my bins, I will sometimes create a list of contents. And when I say “I”, I mean my mom! 😊 She is a stickler for making sure everything that is in the bin is accounted for on the list. I hadn’t ever given it much thought or wanted to put in that much effort, honestly, but I must say it makes finding items much easier. Thanks Mom!


8. Maximize space

If you're in need of more storage space, think creatively about additional areas that you can utilize. Prime examples include the back of closet doors and underneath beds. Those areas are valuable real estate in your home and are often overlooked.


If you don't have a lot of room to work with, a surefire way to instantly create more space is to go vertical. Instead of only having a couple of shelves to store your kitchen items, take them up to the ceiling to really maximize the vertical space — you'll store the things you need less frequently on the higher shelves.


Also, by adding additional shelves to a single shelf, or by using containers that stack atop one another, you can divide the vertical space and make efficient use of the area. By dividing the space, you eliminate the possibility of stacking tall piles of clothing, papers or other items that are destined to topple over.


9. Train yourself (and others!) to put items back in their proper place

Once you’ve decluttered and everything is organized and, in its place, the only way it will stay that way is if you get in the habit of putting things back where they go as soon as you are finished using them.


Honestly, this is a challenge for me. My creative side tends to leave supplies and half-finished projects lying around. I’m getting better about only having my ‘organized chaos’ in one or two areas rather than all over the house however it is still an area for improvement, a work in progress.


One way to get into the mindset of putting things back where they belong is to use a visual cue. Maybe something as simple as a post-it note on the fridge that says, “Put it back!” Or a similar note on the bathroom mirror or closet door. An easy reminder to encourage a change in behavior.


New habits don’t form overnight, but if we create smart organizing systems and make it a priority to maintain them, over time, putting things back where they belong will feel more like second nature and a lot less like work.

 

COLOR ME ORGANIZED Use color to enhance your organizational efforts. Assign each child a different

colored container to keep his or her belongings in and keep them responsible for

cleaning up after themselves. Organize projects, bills and other important

papers by function and color in your home office.

 

When we feel like everything is unorganized, it can be totally overwhelming to bring it all back to order. But if we address one small area at a time and follow these simple suggestions, we really will start to see progress more quickly than we think!


Plus, an organized atmosphere also declutters our brain and there is no better feeling than the satisfaction of having a freshly organized space – and maintaining it.


Have a tip or product that’s served you well in your organizing efforts? Please share below. We’d love to hear from you!


Happy decluttering,

Michele

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I loved this blog about decluttering. I am definitely one who keeps just about everything. My son-in-law marvels that I have manuals for everything in my home that came with one. I have recently started to declutter a bedroom closet where most of my golf clothes hang. I don't golf anymore due to health constraints, so I do need to elminate them. I have started folding the shirts and shorts and will either put in storage bins until I can figure out how I want to dispose of them or find a fellow golfer who wants them. Anyway, I have at least started. It's not easy, but it is necessary. Judy

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