I typically get the organization bug about twice a year… in the new year and in September when the kids are back in school. I also organize as I’m working on projects or just in a problem area (like the junk drawer in the kitchen) that is getting out of hand. But, once the Christmas decor is down (we still need to take down our tree), I like to take some time to purge and organize. I know I’m not alone in this because that is the topic of most home decor and lifestyle magazines, blogs, websites, and all of the stores put their plastic storage bins front and center. I’m often asked about cleaning and organization tips since I keep a pretty tidy house, so here are some of my tips if you’re working on organization in the new year.
Organizing wasn’t very overwhelming when it was just Jeff and I in a 1,100 sq. ft. townhouse. Now we’re a family of four with teenagers and a garage and basement and a home-based business, organization can be pretty overwhelming. Just one room or closet can take an entire day! Even if you have a full day to devote to organizing, I’ve found it’s better to break up the job into smaller increments of time and spread the work out over a couple of weeks or a month. Working on one small area at a time reduces the overwhelm that comes with decision fatigue and piles created to donate, sell, take to the recycling center, or move to another place in the house. Every little bit, even taking on one drawer or shelf at a time, will eventually add up to an organized, tidy home. Taking your time also gives you the time and space to make better decisions instead of just rushing to be done.
Really challenge your stuff. Why do you have it? Is it something you really use and love? Is it just a default? Has it just been easier to keep it in a closet than to get rid of it? Ask each item questions. “Do I love you?” “Do I use you?” “Does something else I own work better than you do?” “Do I really have room for you?” Asking these questions, even out loud, can help you see your things in a new light. We have so many things in our house that are just there and really aren’t of use. It can be hard to get rid of things at first, especially if you’re not used to it, but it starts to become freeing and you enjoy the new space you created. You can enjoy the things you do love and use if they aren’t crowded by the things you don’t.
This is also a key part of customizing and decorating your home. Sometimes a beautiful room is buried under clutter and simply organizing and purging will let that space shine. If you are not good at this, ask a friend who will help you be ruthless. (Now I will insert here that I’m not in favor of forced minimalism and getting rid of things you really want to keep. I just think there’s a lot more in our homes, mine included, that are there by default more than intention.)
organization tips no. 3
Let your family know what you’re trying to do and ask for their help and encouragement. This is also a key step, so you have the support and even extra hands and opinions to help in your work. It’s also a good time to talk about how you want your home to feel. If everyone in the home likes the idea of being able to find things, not having to wrestle through clutter, etc. than everyone needs to work together to make the home feel that way. Everyone can be a part of the maintenance.
organization tips no. 4
You don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of fancy bins and baskets to get organized. I think bins, trays, baskets, etc. are great tools to make your organization look sharp and tidy, but shoeboxes, disposable food containers, and ziplock bags will work just as well, especially if you’re on a budget. When we had zero budget to spend on our home, I would use diaper boxes and plastic wipes containers to get things organized. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked! You can buy the pretty boxes when you can afford them.
One more note about bins. I think the tendency is to buy the bins before we start organizing. I’ve done that so many times and I end up with bins that are the wrong size or ones I don’t use. Yes, you can always return or exchange them, but if you’re already feeling a little overwhelmed by the process, that just adds one more thing to your to-do list. Wait until you work through the closets, cabinets, and rooms. Make piles of like items that need to be contained and then make a list of the bins, trays, boxes, and baskets you’d like to buy. That way, you’ll end up with exactly what you need.
organization tips no. 5
Don’t get discouraged. Organization is a process and rarely a destination. We use our homes and that means new things come in, things travel throughout the home, shelves get messy, things get put away in the wrong places, etc. I am very neat and organized and I still have messy, disorganized, and junky places in my house. We all do. So, go easy on yourself, and don’t get discouraged if you’re organizing the same closet each year. Observe and learn and make adjustments each time you organize in order to fine-tune your system.
I have some closets and cabinets that need to be tidied up, but my big organizational project this year is the basement. I’ve been wanting to tackle the playroom for a couple of years and it keeps getting pushed to the back burner. The truth is, though, the boys always pull out the things they want to play with into the family room or even carry it upstairs! They rarely hang out in the “boy cave” we made. It would be used a lot more as an exercise/workout room. In addition, they have grown out of most of the toys (the picture above is about three years old), so it’s time to pass them along to kids who will use and enjoy them. I am sort of dreading that project, though, so I’ll have to follow my own advice and take one section at a time and get Jeff and the boys to help.
I can also make it fun by doing some projects in the basement family room, like adding trim and painting the walls! The built-ins are still off-limits when it comes to painting (per Jeff), but I have some ideas to make it all work.
What are some organizational projects you want to work on this year? Any additional tips to share?
If you find getting rid of things to be challenging, you may want to read through the Stuff Series I wrote a few years ago. You can find that HERE.