There are entire sections of book stores devoted to books chock-full of organizing tips. But who has time to read all of those? Let me boil them down for you:
1. Before you buy any storage products or start pitching your stuff, you need to decide how you want your space to function. What activities does your space need to serve? If it’s the living room, you might need to make space for TV-viewing, game-playing, reading books and entertaining guests. Once you know how you want your space to function, then you can feel confident getting rid of anything that doesn’t pertain to one of those activities in your space.
2. Having a hard time deciding whether to keep or toss something? Don’t ask yourself if you use the object (most people are pretty good at convincing themselves they will use it “someday.”) Instead ask yourself if you would pay money to replace this item if it was lost in a fire. It’s a subtle cognitive shift that expedites your decision-making process.
3. It can be difficult to know where to put things in a room. Take a cue from the big box stores by dividing your room into zones. In the garage, you might have the camping gear zone, the sports equipment zone, the gardening zone, etc. Store the appropriate items in each zone, and make sure everyone in the family knows where each zone is.
4. Once you have designated zones for all of your belongings, consider whether you need any organizing products to store certain things. Organizing products such as hooks, pulleys, and adjustable shelves can allow you to take advantage of vertical wall space. Products such as bins, baskets, and boxes can allow you to corral lots of small things together. Products can be expensive, so your best bet is to watch for sales in January, which is when most organizing product stores have their big sales.
5. In the kitchen, store items that get used the most in the most accessible cupboards and drawers. Store items that get used only once or twice a year in the back of the cupboards or on the highest shelves. And if you use it less than once a year (I’m talking about you, Panini press!) get rid of it!
6. In the bathroom, make use of decorative bins and baskets to corral like items together such as make-up, hair products, hair accessories and skin care products. Don’t forget to take advantage of back-of-the-door and over-the-toilet storage.
7. In the playroom, make sure storage is accessible and kid-sized. Pull-out bins are a great choice for small fingers. Try to avoid using toy boxes, which become black holes for small toys. Remember that out-of-sight is out-of-mind for children.
8. In the home office, make sure you are going through your filing cabinet at least once a year (after you submit your taxes in April is an ideal time). Every filing system, no matter how fancy and sophisticated, will fail if you don’t sort through your papers at least annually.
9. In the bedroom, cut down on the nightstand and bureau clutter with the use of small decorative bowls to hold change, reading glasses and ear plugs. Regularly pitch the magazines that you are done reading so they don’t stack up, and return books to the bookshelves when you are done with them.
10. Do yourself a favor and do a little nightly pick-up each night. It’s the best way to keep clutter at bay.
11. And remember that decluttering is not a once-in-a-lifetime activity. It’s a part of house maintenance that must be done routinely to keep your house livable, welcoming and comfortable.