Have you ever misplaced something and had to buy a second one, only to find that first one later? Lost track of a high value discount coupon, or missed out on a rebate because you had the date wrong and/or couldn’t find the form? Wondered where that note from the teacher went – the one with the dates of the upcoming events listed on it?
We’ve done all of these things.
Sometimes you get so busy working and commuting and trying to spend quality time with the kids that organizing and getting rid of stuff you don’t use anymore drops off the radar. Sometimes you wake up and realize that you've got a ton of clutter and you just can't relax in your own house.
This post is the first in a series on household organization. Be sure to check back as we tackle specific rooms in the home.
The Cost of Clutter
Clutter and disorganization costs you. Think of the real costs of purchasing duplicate items, losing items that you have to replace, and things that get broken because they weren't stored or maintained properly. If your kitchen was more organized, is it possible you'd cook more from home, skip the drive-through and cut your grocery budget?
Now think of the time that you waste moving stuff around and stressing about missed appointments and deadlines. How much time do you waste looking for stuff in an average week or month? Looking for things like a specific tool for a DIY job, your favorite sweater or an important document?
But there’s hope! Even if you don’t think you have the time or the stamina to get organized, you can. Really! If we've made progress, you can, too. Here’s how to get started and make it stick.
Declutter First to Get Organized Later
The first step to getting organized isn’t actually organization - it’s decluttering. Because you can’t organize clutter. Right now we’re going to reduce what you have, so you can make it nice and organized later.
Recognize that this won't happen overnight. It didn't get that way overnight, and it won't be fixed that way, either. You do need to break it down so you see progress and you can stay with it.
Pick one Room at a Time
Pick one room to focus on at a time. For me, I started in our dining room, since it’s a high traffic area, and we were long overdue to get the kids’ craft table and toys out of the corner so we could reclaim the entire space. It’s also very visible, so it would be a public victory. It might be your dining room or your living room. Just pick one.
Take a before photo. If you've got a lot to work through, you'll want to check back periodically to see that you've made progress. You don't have to show it to anyone - just have it ready.
Assemble Your Supplies
Don't run out and buy containers or shelving just yet. Your initial supplies need to be three boxes. Label them Keep, Toss and Donate. If you have a lot of paper to go through, you can add a fourth one for Recycling. You might need your shredder nearby to immediately get rid of older documents that you don't need to keep anymore.
While you don't need to buy organizational items just yet, you can definitely start thinking about what you might want or need for the items that stay. Start a list and jot down some of your ideas as you go. Will you need some new shelving when the decluttering is done and you need homes for the items that remain? Something to display a collection or hold paper? Again, don't buy anything yet. For now, just focus on purging what you can.
Set Aside 15 Minutes a Day
Start with 15 minutes a day. That's all you need to commit to at first. When your time is up, if you still have more stamina, then go another 15 minutes. Just don’t try and do it all at once, because you could get burned out and overwhelmed. Plus, let’s be honest – you’re likely to be distracted by those short people who live in your house and depend on you to eat.
So 15, maybe 30 minutes each day is your initial target. If you need to, set a timer so you know when you’ve hit your time limit. See how much you can go through before it goes off. Turn on some high energy music to help you get moving.
I started in that craft corner of our dining room, which had become a dumping ground for paper scraps and unsorted craft supplies. Maybe you want to hit the coffee table first, or just start in one corner. Pick a smaller area that you can see definite progress in while working your 15 minutes each day.
As you’re working, group like items together. Toss any broken items or obvious garbage. Recycle what you can. I found a lot of random puzzle pieces and toy parts that needed to be reunited with their kits. At the end of the time, empty the toss and recycle boxes, and get those random bits close to where they belonged – even if it was just in the other room, near where the main item was. Put your donations in the car so they're out of the house and will get dropped off soon. But be sure to clean up what you just went through so you're not left with an even bigger mess.
Organization Doesn't Need to be Expensive
I guarantee you that you'll feel better just by getting rid of the excess in your home. Lose the papers, the items you don't need or use anymore, and you'll breathe better. Just know that you don't need to go spend hundreds of dollars on matching containers and expensive kits.
January is one of the best times to purchase organizational supplies, but you can find deals each month of the year if you look for them. That idea list will come in handy when you do get to the point of organizing what's left in your home, and it will help remind you not only what you need, but what you DON'T need. You'd be surprised what you can do with some inexpensive magazine holders and a $10 set of Rubbermaid drawers!
Small, 2 x 10-inch plastic baskets or trays can be found at your local big box store or even the dollar store. They're great for sorting craft and office supplies inside drawers. When the kids' craft area migrated from my dining room to their individual rooms, all the markers, pencils and other supplies were sorted into a small three-drawer system that fits right on top of a table or desk. I spotted a two-pack of magazine holders at the office supply store, and now coloring books and notebooks can be stored upright instead of flat in a big stack.
A pack of two over-cabinet baskets cost $10 and helped hide toothbrushes and other items inside two bathroom vanities that don't have drawers. Discount stores have baskets and nice-looking fabric bins that can hide toys on a shelf, or store remotes, coasters and other items that can quickly be moved to use the coffee table.
Watch for the other organizational posts coming this month as we get start to organized in the new year!
If you'd like to read more about getting started organized, here are some other helpful organizational posts from around the web:
- How to Get Organized: Six Steps that Work Every Time at Single Girl's DIY
- How to Clear the Clutter When You Hate to Clean: 9 Easy Tips at Sunflower Mom
- Five Week Organizing Challenge for Your Entire Home at Love Our Real Life
- 5 Storage Solutions for Christmas Decor at Busy at Busy Lifestyle Gal
Your comment "you can't organize clutter" got me thinking. I often mindlessly organize the clutter in my kitchen and dining room without much thought. I'd like to be more intentional and throw away those papers or whatever it is instead of organizing the clutter into piles.
I love the 15 minute rule. I set a timer on my phone and I was amazed at how much I got done in 15 minutes.