Get Organized and Cut the Clutter

by Dana B. Bryant

Get organized!Are you typing on a keyboard that feels like it's about to be swallowed under all the paper, books and mail piled high on your desk?

Look around you.

Do you feel overwhelmed by clutter instead of enjoying the furniture and room you so carefully picked out once upon a time?

Do you say to yourself that you'll deal with this soon, and instead put it off for a few more days, hoping it just disappears?

Are you so busy that you put things in piles, insisting that you'll deal with them "later?"

If any of these scenarios is too close for comfort, this article's for you!

How Organization Helps

Are you late when your clutter pile eats your keys? On a hungry day, clutter can munch on your purse as well.

Disorganization contributes to stress. It leaves us feeling that instead of time for the important and fun things, there is just a never-ending pile of stuff.

When your home is well ordered, people and things get to where they need to be, tasks get done, and there's time for family life.

Organization allows you to have a life.

Your Personal Organization Plan

You're convinced...until you look around. Breathe! You don't have to reorganize your whole house today. Start with these three simple steps.

  1. Focus on those spaces that you use every day, like the kitchen counter or home office
  2. Spotlight the areas in your house where things tend to gather, such as at the bottom and top of staircases or on the dinner table.
  3. Keep things where you use them so you don't have to search the house just to find that item

Your plan can begin as simply as cleaning the junk out of a drawer if you have to spend time rummaging through it looking for frequently used items.

Choose Tools That Fit You

Are you the type of person who finds plans for organization too...organized? Do they leach your energy just thinking of using them?

Take a few minutes and thing about who you are and how you like things to work. That color coded filing system your sister raves about might be a waste of time and money for you and your family.

Start Small

Are things already out of hand? Take a deep breath and commit to starting small. For example:

  • Have a place by your front door to catch your keys, sunglasses, etc.
  • Clean out the drawer near your stove and make sure things you need to cook are handy.
  • Clear your sink top

According to Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, author of "The Well-Ordered Home: Organizing Techniques for Inviting Serenity into Your Life,"

"Every step you take is important. What we need to do (and I know it's hard) is train ourselves to do ONE thing at a time. That means if we're cleaning a closet, we stay there until it's done. Grab a box to put things that go somewhere else. But DON'T Leave until you're done."

Isolate and Stay on Task

Sandra Felton recommends something she calls the Montecello approach. It's what the folks at the Montecello museum use when cleaning that historic home.

They go around the room clockwise, cleaning everything in front of them until they have moved all around the room. They keep a box for items that go elsewhere. They do what's in front of them and don't wander off.

Is the entire room too big a project? Designate a specific area or give yourself a set time.

Corral the Mess

"There's a great solution I learned called 'corral the mess.' It's things like putting a chair in your bedroom to catch clothes you don't have time to put away. Or putting a basket at the top of the stairs. Or using a small box/bin to catch receipts and other junk from your purse." Kathleen shares.

She suggests that we think of it as organization on training wheels. It's a halfway solution that still keeps things from getting completely out of hand. Remember, there are always going to be busy times and times when housework isn't the priority. That's perfectly fine. What we want instead is a house that works well -- not necessarily ready for a magazine shoot.

Pare it Down

Many of us are guilty of holding on to clothing, receipts, old magazines, and much more... declaring "some day" we'll need them. If you haven't in the past year, it's time to let go! Recycle the magazines, file the receipts that you TRULY need (or better yet, scan them into a pdf file), and donate the rest of your unused items. That closet full of clothing you've been saving for the past five years -- just 'til you lose weight? Say goodbye! Besides, when you do lose the weight, Kathleen reminds us you'll deserve to splurge and treat yourself to a new wardrobe!

Active Storage

Some items you use daily; others occasionally. If you find yourself digging through Halloween decorations to find another box of tissue, you might find active storage your new best friend. Active storage encourages you to arrange your stored items so you can easily access stuff you use most frequently.

Having what we need nearby and where we use it, allows us to save precious minutes in our day to day work. Those minutes can add up to a night out or an afternoon with a good book.

Get Your Family Onboard

Make your family part of the plan. Tell them what you are trying to do -- not be a frazzled mess by the end of the day. It also helps to make cleaning is easy for them by keeping things handy for them. Start small. Don't try to make drastic changes all at once. Be sure to celebrate any success!

Once you create a pocket of organization in your house, it's likely to spread, Kendall-Tackett says. "The goal is not to be hyperorganized for the sake of it, but to make life easier."

What's been your biggest lifesaver?

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