One of the most common New Year’s resolutions we make each year is to get organized. Whether it’s de-cluttering, finding better ways to store toys, or re-organizing the kitchen, we all want to start the new year off with a clear head – and home. But all too often, even the most well-intended new year’s resolutions like home organization end up getting lost in…well, in the piles of clutter we intended to remove last year.
I often used to say that my house was a direct reflection of my current mental state, meaning that if the house was a mess, chances are my head was, too. But this can quickly become a “chicken or egg” situation in which it’s hard to tell if a cluttered mind creates clutter at home or the domestic disarray creates anxiety and stress. Either way, our homes should be havens at the end of the day, whether returning from the office or wrapping up a long day of running kids to activities. So, today, we’re offering five ways you can take control of clutter with simple home organization in the new year.
Starting a home organization project can be intimidating, especially when it’s the whole house that needs to be organized. But by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps and carefully considering ways to be more efficient, both in the organization process and in maintenance, you’ll find that a little effort can go a long way. All you have to do is get started!
Here are five simple, yet effective tips for starting your home organization projects:
1. The most important thing to remember is that it’s ok to start small.
Trying to tackle the entire house in one afternoon will not only prove impossible, but it will leave you feeling overwhelmed and more like to shelve your resolve rather than the things currently lining your closet floor. Take it one step at a time – or rather, one project at a time.
2. Set goals and make a plan.
Before you even get started, decide which spaces are your top priority. These can be the spaces you use the most, or the ones that cause you the most anxiety. Rate your goal-spaces in order of priority and set project deadlines for each. Just remember to be realistic! You may want to frame your timeline around upcoming events, such as a birthday party or family gathering. Be sure to set aside time for these projects, remembering that a particularly messy basement or garage may take longer than something smaller like your pantry.
3. Have a sorting system for things you want to keep, things you want to donate, and things that need to be tossed.
There are few of us who truly need every item in our house. And let’s be honest, some things are just beyond salvaging. The easiest way to decide what stays and what goes is to make three piles labeled, “Keep,” “Donate,” and “Toss.” You may want to have boxes or bags on hand to easily capture each category. As you sort through your things, whether they’re toys, clothes, or kitchen gadgets, carefully consider how often you actually use them. If it’s been awhile (some say six months, some say 12), maybe it’s time to donate.
Likewise, as much as it pains us to throw things away, there are times when items are simply beyond repair or use and need to go the way of the dumpster. Of course, carefully consider if each item can be recycled. Consult your local recycling center for tips on what is recyclable and what isn’t – and check here for tips on how to get rid of hard-to-dispose-of items like batteries and electronics. (Hint: be sure to take batteries out of toys and gadgets you’re getting rid of, unless they are being donated!)
4. Organize first, then consider what you need to buy for maintenance.
The temptation for many of us when tackling a home organization project is to run to Target and immediately purchase every toy bin, kitchen organizer, and closet contraption we can get our hands on. I mean, we’ll automatically be more organized if we have more things with which to organize, right? But think about it. What have you just done? You’ve added more “things” to your home when your primary goal was to get rid of “things.” So curb your enthusiasm just a bit and get the hard work out of the way first.
Once you have an idea of what your “keep” piles look like, then, and only then, will you know what you need to help keep things tidy. You might just find that in the midst of your cleaning efforts, you clear up space that wasn’t there before.
Consider re-purposing existing (but newly empty) storage spaces like bins, drawers, and closets for even more effective storage. Here are few ideas:
- Make the most of closets, particularly in kids’ rooms. Invest in some extra clothes hangers and hang most of your kids clothes up – even t-shirts and shorts. Not only will they (and you!) be able to view them better, but it will free up drawer space that can be used for toys or other things that tend to pile up in a kids’ room.
- Don’t forget “hidden space” like the back of doors. Clear plastic shoe organizers can be a lifesaver in nearly every room of the house. Hang one on the back of your pantry door to store spices and bottles that are otherwise hard to find in your cabinets. Use them in the bathroom for hairbrushes, hair accessories, make-up, lotions, and other common items. Hang one in the coat closet for storage of gloves, hats, and scarves. Or keep one on the back of your garage door for easy access to things like nails, screws, batteries, and more. The possibilities are endless
- Take stock of the furniture in various rooms. Take advantage of drawers and shelves in pieces of furniture including TV cabinets, coffee tables, and side tables to store things like art supplies, family games, or books so that they’re easily accessible, but also easy to keep out of sight.
- Use bins to store items seasonally. At the start of each season, go through and store away shoes, clothes, even décor, that is not seasonally appropriate. Keep your bins labeled so that you can easily find them when the stored items are back in season. True, this does take a bit of ongoing effort and you may not have ample storage space. But if it’s possible, it can be a big help!
5. Last but not least, make a maintenance plan.
“I just cleaned this room…how is it already a mess again?” said EVERY PARENT EVER. If you have kids, you know all too well that they don’t always have the same organization goals that we have. Let a toddler loose in a freshly cleaned playroom and it will look like a crime scene in 10 minutes or less. So be sure that as you complete each project, you have effective ways to keep it organized. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be functional. Here are some ways you can help to maintain you clutter-free home throughout the year:
- If your “project” took place in a common or shared space, make sure your whole family knows the new system. Don’t be afraid to take them on a guided tour, carefully explaining where things go and how they can help to maintain the system.
- Use labels freely! If you’ve ever stared blankly at a spouse or child who can’t find obvious things in an obvious place, remove the mystery. Label bins, drawers, and whatever else you need to to ensure that everyone knows where everything goes without question.
- Create a maintenance routine. Set aside even a small bit of time each day to do a walkthrough and clean up. This might mean taking five minutes to sort mail and school papers so they don’t end up on the kitchen counter. It might mean a 10 minute “clean-up race” to see which kid can put away the most toys before bedtime. Or, in addition to daily tasks, you might want to set aside one Saturday every month for a family effort. The point is, once you’ve organized, keep it up – you’ll be amazed at how far a little effort goes once you’ve got a system in place. You may even want to try a few of our favorite spring cleaning hacks to help you along the way!
- Don’t forget the little stuff. Simple tasks like making your bed everyday, making sure the kitchen is clean after each meal, and controlling paper clutter can help save your sanity and increase your inspiration to maintain your newly organized life.
- Get the whole family involved. You’re not the maid, even if it feels like it sometimes. Create accountability for everyone in the house by creating chore charts or assigning responsibility for certain rooms or space. Even young children can be part of the solution when it comes to their toys and rooms. Older kids and teens are more than capable of helping out with other chores like dishes and laundry. And don’t forget your spouse. Perhaps the garage is their domain – let them have it. Just remember that you don’t have to do it all.
No matter how large or small your home organization projects are, a little hard work now can go a long way in helping you to maintain a home that you are not only proud of, but one that feels peaceful, organized, and, best of all, clutter-free all year long.