The Importance of Organization

Why is organization important? I will hear people say things like: “I’m just a messy person,” “I thrive in the chaos of clutter!” or “I just don’t think I will keep things organized. I’m a disorganized person.” These are really just excuses to not deal with clutter. They don’t see the benefits of organization, or they think the cost to getting organized is greater than the benefit. I want to share with you how EVERYONE can get organized, and the importance of organization in your physical space.

One thing about organization that some people don’t address is how organization systems are not one size fits all. We are all very unique and thrive in different environments. Some people like to have everything put away and their environment to be visually clutter free. For someone else, this may cause them to not use those items – out of sight out of mind. Some people thrive in a visually cluttered environment. Their creativity is sparked by seeing all the things! This is why it’s important to find out what kind of environment you are striving to create when thinking about organizational systems.

Cass, from the Clutterbug, has come up with four different types of organizational systems, which I have found to be great classifications. Each one is represented with a bug. The first is the ladybug. This type of person likes things to be put away out of site, but their cabinets and drawers can get easily cluttered because they want to quickly shove things in drawers, baskets, or cabinets. They need a macro-organizing system – where things are quick and easy to put away. The next type is a cricket. They also like a clutter free environment, but they like things to be organized in detail, so micro-organization works best for them. The next type is a butterfly. They prefer everything be displayed. A butterfly also needs the fast macro-organizing solution, however they will want things to be visible. They often feel like they could never get things organized and feel messy, but the truth is they can have a place for everything fitting within the way they thrive. Lastly is the bee. These people are also visual people and want their things on display, however they want things to be organized in detail. Like the cricket, micro-organization works best for them. They are likely the type of people who are big into crafting or even have a home business with a lot of supplies that need to be organized in detail.

It’s important to recognize what type of organization works best for you, especially if you’re the type that likes things visible and macro-organized. This type of person typically feels like they are just not the organized type, so they give up. So, why is it important to be organized? I would propose, whatever type of person you are, it is beneficial to have some sort of organization system where everything has a place. Organization allows for us to be productive and efficient in our day to day responsibilities. We are not slowed down by clutter: finding someplace to put something, or worse – looking for something we can’t find! When there is order in our physical space, we are more efficient and productive.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, well-known Psychologist and professor, has a wonderful lecture about the importance of “cleaning your room.” I will insert a video of that lecture if you’re interested in checking it out. The premise of this talk is when there is something in your life you are struggling with, whether it’s mental health, a broken relationship, or just something you want to change about yourself, the best place to start is by changing the external: “clean your room.” You start with something concrete that you can control. He says so pointedly, “If you want to organize your psyche, start by organizing your room.” There is a connection between our mental and emotional health and our external environment. Cluttered environment often equals cluttered mind. Peterson says, “Is that their house [referring to someone who is a hoarder] or is that their being, their mind? The answer is there is no difference.” Starting externally, turning chaos into order, can put you on the path of bettering other areas of your life. Clean your room. It’s the easiest place to start.

So, whether you’re a ladybug, cricket, butterfly, or bee, you CAN get organized. Organization is important so we are efficient and effective in basic routines in life, freeing up the time and space we need to live a more full life. We are able to work on our health, to work on our relationships, or to work on something we have been wanting to change in our lives. The upfront work of organization can be challenging, but worth the end results.

20 Things To Do Before 2020

It’s hard to believe, but we are less than three months away from the calendar turning over to 2020! As this new year is just on the horizon, I thought I would share some common things that perpetually stay on our to-do list, or chores we forget about. Get these (or some of these) 20 things completed before 2020 and start the new year with a clean slate!

{1} Make “that” appointment. We all have appointments that we push off because we don’t want to deal with the results or we just don’t feel like we have time to get it done. Your health is important, so make “that” appointment before the end of the year! Dentist appointment, routine well visit with your doctor, mammogram, or an appointment with a specialist you’ve been putting off. Perhaps it isn’t a medical appointment – you need a haircut you’ve been putting off, or other self care appointments.

{2} Finish a project. Anyone else start a project and lose steam? Or maybe your spouse started something and didn’t finish? Set aside time, and plan for it to get the project completed.

{3} Change the light bulb that’s been out. Is this just me, or does it seem hard to change out light bulbs that aren’t working? It seems like every time I noticed that light bulb, it’s an inconvenient time to change it. Set aside time to go around your house with fresh light bulbs!

{4} Clean the cobwebs off the ceiling. This is another task that seems like I notice at inconvenient times. It’s good to set aside time instead of doing it when you notice.

{5} Take the pile to the thrift store. I often have a pile for the thrift store that seems to quickly accumulate. The hard part for me is that it is in a storage closet in our garage, so “out of sight, out of mind.”

{6} Change the batteries in the smoke alarms. This task is so important, but may get left undone because it’s not a chore that noticeably needs to get done!

{7} Back up photos. You can do this onto Google photos, the Cloud, onto your computer, or onto a USB key. We unfortunately lost some of our digital photos because of a computer crash. I have now made it a habit to back up my photos in multiple places. My Google account is connected to the camera roll on my phone, so they automatically back up into my Google photos. I like to have them at least one other location as well.

{8} Dust your baseboards. This is a task that often gets forgotten. I like to “deep clean” one room per week in my house, meaning my baseboards get cleaned in each room about every three months.

{9} Clean your windows. This is another task that gets forgotten. I have to be honest and say our upstairs windows rarely get cleaned on the outside of the house because it scares me to get up on an extended latter! Maybe it’s time we hire someone to clean the outside of all of our windows! The inside of my windows get cleaned on the same rotation as our baseboards.

{10} Go through the pile of junk mail. I now have a “one touch rule” when it comes to papers that come into our home. I deal with them immediately. I didn’t always do this, and I know many people who have a stack of mail and/or papers that need to be dealt with. Set aside the time to purge those!

{11} Delete all the files that you downloaded onto your computer for temporary use. Whether it’s a photo someone sent you, or a form you needed to fill out and send back, our “downloads” folder on our computers can get cluttered quickly. Go through and delete all those items you no longer need.

{12} Take old/unused paint, chemicals, and batteries to a recycling center. These items can stack up in your garage or home since they are not easy to dispose of. I like to go every 6 months to dispose of these chemicals. Ask your neighbor or friend if they have anything as well to make the trip more worth it!

{13} Clean out the gutters. This is another task that we put off! Again, it can be difficult to do if you have a two story home like we do and need to get the extension latter out. This is another chore that could be hired out!

{14} Clean out the dryer vent. This chore is difficult to remember to get done since we don’t see the lint build up in our dryer line. It is something that needs to get done as it can be a fire hazard to let it go too long.

{15} Prune trees. This task is another that you may need to hire someone to do for you. If you have large, mature trees it might be worth paying someone who is skilled in this task to get done for you.

{16} Car care. Get the oil changed, routine car maintenance, car wash, or detailing.

{17} Put away summer items for the winter. Deflate and store pool items, take down hammocks or other storable spring/summer items, cover outdoor furniture for the winter.

{18} Declutter kids’ toys before the holiday season! I always liked to evaluate what toys my kids were not playing with or had outgrown before new toys came in during the holiday season.

{19} Change filters around your home. This is another chore that can be forgotten because we don’t see the dirt on a regular basis. Depending on what type of filters you have, this needs to be done several times a year. While you’re at it, vacuum and/or dust the vents!

{20} Power wash your porch/driveway/walkway! If you’ve never experienced the joy of power washing, you’re missing out!!

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. On the other hand, you certainly don’t need to do all 20 things! This is just an idea of those things that often get overlooked or put on the back burner. Get a few of these things crossed off your list over the next few months and start off 2020 with a clean slate! 

10 Areas You Can Declutter In Your Home

There are several areas in our home that we could evaluate our things and determine if we could let go. Here are 10 areas to consider and ideas on how to let go.

1) Multiples of one item. Having multiple of one item is an easy place to begin decluttering. While there are certain things you may want to have multiple of in your home (we have multiple pairs of scissors since they seem to disappear easily!), often times we don’t need those multiples we just accumulated them over time. An easy place to find multiples is in your kitchen.

2) Unused gifts. I think it is a universal feeling to feel guilt getting rid of something someone gave to you. Even if you are someone who doesn’t attach sentimental value to things readily, it is difficult. I’m sure it’s even more difficult for those who do attach sentimental value to items. When someone gives you a gift, that item now belongs to you. You can appreciate their gesture and experience the joy of the act of giving in that moment, but if this item is not useful to you or brings you joy then it is silly to hold onto it just because it was given to you. If the person who gave you the item would be upset because you didn’t use it or you gave it away – that is an issue they have, not you. Usually, your friends and relatives would not want an item they gave you to cause stress or clutter in your home. I think most people would rather the item that they spent money on would be given to someone else to be useful than to sit in a drawer or closet in your home.

3) Sentimental items (especially large ones). This is a tough one. Obviously we don’t need to get rid of all sentimental items. It’s okay to hang onto items that have meaning and remind us of events or times that bring back positive thoughts. However, we need to evaluate how many things we hold onto. Do you hold onto a napkin touched by your middle school crush? Okay, maybe that’s going too far, but you get what I mean. It’s okay to give yourself limits on what you keep as far as sentimental items. Choose a box or two, and keep only what fits inside those boundaries. Some items, especially large ones can be kept digitally by photographing the item(s) prior to letting them go. Typically, the picture of the item will bring back the same memories as the item itself. Also, if you have sentimental items that cause negative feelings, I would recommend letting go of those items. There is no need to hold onto something that causes you pain.

4) Clothing items that don’t fit you. Obviously there are exceptions to this. If you are pregnant or in the process of a weight loss journey it makes sense to have a variety of sizes in your closet. However, if you are holding onto a piece of clothing because you might one day fit into it, that is not a good motivator. Let go of those items and if you do lose the weight, you will be able to purchase new clothes that fit. On the other hand, if you have lost weight and are hanging onto clothes that are too big, in my opinion that’s not good either. You lost the weight, stick to your new healthy routines and you will likely keep the weight off.

5) Unused electronics. This could maybe be under the “multiples” category, but I decided to talk about it separately since so many of us have closets overflowing with old phones and laptops. Typically, when you get a new phone, computer or laptop, you don’t use the old one again. There may be a small chance that your new one breaks and you do need a “back up.” If you feel more comfortable having a back up, then just keep one. By donating these items, they maybe could get a new life for someone in need. Along with these items are all the cords that come with it. If you get a new item, it will likely come with the appropriate cords so you can send the cords along with the old items. Cords do seem to multiply, at least in my house! I’m sure at some point we purchased these extra cords, but this is another area to evaluate if you really need to keep these items. Even as a professional organizer, I have yet to convince my husband of this!

6) Pieces of unused furniture. This one is tough because furniture can be expensive. Furniture also takes up a lot of space. Look around your home to see if there is a chair, a side table, or a coffee table – maybe even a bed or sofa – that could go.

7) Toys! Many of us are fortunate enough to have very generous and giving family members and friends. That coupled with how cheap toys are, and how easy they are to acquire, leads to heaps of toys around our homes. I remember when my kids were young, toys seemed to seep into every room in our home. They already had designated space in our game room, my boys’ bedroom, and my daughter’s bedroom. Not to mention, we had a playroom lined with toy storage shelves with bins! I’m very thankful that my children had such giving and loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends. In hindsight, I wish I had chosen boundaries for their toys, and had them help with the process of letting go of old toys to make room for new ones. Often times, kids get overwhelmed with too many toy choices and end up gravitating toward electronics instead. I think having less toys promotes creativity.

8) Home decor. The styles and our tastes are ever-changing. It’s okay to acknowledge that and let go of items that no longer fit your home decor style. Often, we keep items because we spent money on it, and may feel guilt about letting it go. These feelings lead to overstuffed cabinets and closets filled with home decor we might use, but probably won’t. Be realistic about whether an item truly does bring you joy, or is beautiful to you, or if your judgement is clouded by the feelings of guilt. These items could be used and enjoyed by others instead of hiding in the back of a cabinet or closet in your home. An idea is to think about any family members or friends who would want certain items. I recently wanted to part with these miniature chairs I had in my home for many years. I have a friend who always commented on those chairs when she was over at my house, so I asked her if she would like them. She was happy to get them, which made it easier for me to part with them.

9) Extra toiletries or cleaning items. Do you keep extra toiletries or cleaning items in your home that sit at the back of your cabinet? Evaluate what you will actually use and get rid of the rest. As I have mentioned several times, it can be difficult to get rid of items you paid money for. However, if you are storing the items but not using them, it doesn’t get you that money back to keep holding onto them.

10) Paper, notecards, ect. Paper trails are probably the most difficult thing to declutter. I myself struggle with decluttering these items, and knowing what’s important to keep. Many bills can be sent via email and accessed online if you set that up in your account settings. Other paper items can be scanned and kept digitally. I recently learned about Scanbot, an app you can use to scan in paper items before discarding them. Same with kids papers and artwork. Consider scanning things in and keeping them digitally. If you would like to keep their original artwork, I put together a scrapbook for each of my children with their special artwork. Another area is note cards. Evaluate how often you actually need/send note cards to determine how many makes sense to keep around your home. Many of us send notes digitally, even birthday cards! You may be someone who likes to send tangible cards, and that’s great! Just evaluate how many you need around your home verses how many you own. 

This is certainly not an exhaustive list! There are many other areas in our home where we could reevaluate and declutter. These are just some ideas to get you started!

Organizing Toys

I have three kids – age 22, 18, and 15 – so we have experienced every stage for toys. We have also experienced all you deal with in owning toys: buying/receiving, storing, cleaning up, purging. I have three different types of kids too when it comes to what they like to keep and what they can let go of in regards to toys. I have one who saves everything, one who keeps almost nothing, and one in between.

Toy organization
This was how I had our toys organized when we lived in a 700 square foot apartment. You can see the photo labels on the bins.
Toy organization. Organized playroom
This is the playroom from our previous home, when our kids were young.
Toy organization. Organized playroom
This is what our playroom looked like at the end of our playroom days, in the house we currently live in.

First, I want to say that I am very grateful that we have such generous parents, grandparents, and siblings in regards to receiving things for our kids. However, our kids had too many toys. As I look back, I wish that I had done things differently in handling how to deal with toys. I hope to help someone who is still in the thick of it or just beginning the journey.

Our boys’ room with their toy shelves.

We used to live in a very large house that had a playroom and a game room – both of those rooms housed toys. In addition, my daughter had some of her toys in her room and our sons had some of their toys in their room. That’s a lot of toys! One thing I did that helped with the chaos of all the toys is to have organization systems in place.

Our daughter’s room and her toy shelves.

Having a place for everything gives boundaries and helps the kids learn how to organize. I grouped each type of toy together. When they were very young, I took a picture to represent each group, laminated it and stuck it on the front of the box. Also, any toys/arts and crafts/board games that I wanted them to have help with I stored on a higher shelf where they couldn’t reach. Over the years I had different types of bins and storage containers. I started with plastic bins – which were more cost effective, and easy to attach photos to the front of the bin. We have also had baskets and wooden bins which were more aesthetically pleasing.

In hindsight, I wish I had done a better job of teaching my kids how to purge and let go of things. My oldest especially has trouble letting go of things. I used to feel like this was my fault, but given our middle child has no problem with this I think it is a temperament thing. I do believe it would have helped her to learn how to think about things in terms of what to keep and what to donate or discard if I was able to guide her starting at a young age.

This was our game room. You can see some of the toys on the shelf, and there were more in the closet. Notice my 3 year old playing on the computer and not with the plethora of toys we owned.

As I look back, I think my kids were at times overwhelmed with all the toys, and may have resorted to playing video games or playing on the computer more often than I’d like to admit. I remember having to direct them – to come up with ideas of things they could do. This wasn’t always the case, but I do wonder if they had less toys to choose from, if they would have been more creative in play. {{As I’m putting this blog post together and looking through the photos I had in mind to share, I’m even more regretful! We had an overwhelming number of toys!}}


I also think of how much of my time was spent organizing, reorganizing, cleaning up, and purging their toys. I think if they had less toys I would have had more time to spend with them. In hindsight, I would have had better boundaries for my kids and allowed them to make the choice as to what stays and what goes. This would give them the boundary, like whatever fits in this set of boxes, but would give them the autonomy to make the choice as to what is most important to them. Now that we are done with the toy phase, all I can do is pass along any wisdom and experience I gained in going through that stage of life!

Zone Cleaning

Several years ago, a friend let me borrow a book titled “Sink Reflections, The Fly Lady’s Baby Step Guide to Overcoming CHAOS.” One of the main takeaways I got from this book was her idea of zone cleaning. This method allowed me to keep on top of the clutter a little at a time. In her book, she describes 5 zones of your home: entrance/front porch/dining room (1), kitchen/pantry (2), the main bathroom/one extra room (3), master bedroom/bath/closet (4), living room/den/family room (5). I personally have broke down these categories even further to make completing these tasks more manageable. I have 12 zones in my home. Each home is different, and the amount of time you have to complete the tasks are different, so it is easy to tailor this to your home and schedule.

Decluttering
Here are about 10 items I recently found in my kitchen to declutter

The basic idea of zone cleaning is to choose one room each week to focus on deep cleaning and decluttering. I typically “circle” my house to keep track of which room is next. With this method, in my home, every 12 weeks each space gets a deep clean. Deep cleaning for me includes things that I don’t do each week: clean the ceilings/light fixture, dust the baseboards/blinds/window sills, clean the interior of the window, remove items from cabinets or drawers to clean inside the drawers, if the room has carpet I steam vacuum those. In addition, while I have things removed from cabinets and drawers I evaluate what I am using or what is expired to determine what can be decluttered. I try to choose 10 items from each room each week. I don’t always find 10 items in each room, but I will frequently find more than 10 items in some of the rooms. If I found exactly 10 items per week, that is 520 items per year leaving my home! That number seems overwhelming, but if you break it down to focus on just one room per week it is manageable!

In my bathroom declutter, I like to go through our medicine to determine if any of them are expired

The basic idea of zone cleaning is to choose one room each week to focus on deep cleaning and decluttering. I typically “circle” my house to keep track of which room is next. With this method, in my home, every 12 weeks each space gets a deep clean. Deep cleaning for me includes things that I don’t do each week: clean the ceilings/light fixture, dust the baseboards/blinds/window sills, clean the interior of the window, remove items from cabinets or drawers to clean inside the drawers, if the room has carpet I steam vacuum those. In addition, while I have things removed from cabinets and drawers I evaluate what I am using or what is expired to determine what can be decluttered. I try to choose 10 items from each room each week. I don’t always find 10 items in each room, but I will frequently find more than 10 items in some of the rooms. If I found exactly 10 items per week, that is 520 items per year leaving my home! That number seems overwhelming, but if you break it down to focus on just one room per week it is manageable!

I know some people are obsessed with the KonMari method of decluttering, and that works well for some people. But if throwing all of the clothes from your whole house into a pile seems overwhelming to you, maybe the zone cleaning method would work well for you. The problem with decluttering once and for all is that we constantly have things coming into our homes, especially if we have children. This zone cleaning method will allow you to continuously go through your items so you don’t have to dedicate a large amount of time all at once to decluttering. What do you think of the zone cleaning method? Have you heard of it? Does it sound like something that would work for you?

From Chaos to Order, Tips for Pantry Organization

Do you have a difficult time keeping your pantry organized? It’s challenging to keep a pantry neat, even for the most organized person. Items are always coming in and going out, which can make it difficult to have systems set in place that help keep it organized. Obviously everyone has different sizes of pantries, families, and budgets to support such a transformation. I have some tips that might help bring order to any chaotic pantry.

One of the easiest ways to keep things organized is to invest in some storage containers and bins. This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You could use unused bins from around your home, or even use cardboard boxes to store items. Mason jars are an inexpensive way to store food, and makes your pantry look visually appealing. If you do have the budget for it, there are a variety of options and places to get storage bins and containers. I love Target or the Container Store, and I know Dollar Tree often has great storage solutions.

Bormioli Rocco Fido glass jars
Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars

By far, my favorite storage containers are the Bormioli Rocco Fido glass storage jars with airtight lids. I have used these jars for over 15 years to store my baking items, staple dry goods (like rice and pasta), and even some staple snack items (like nuts and dried fruits). I have continued to collect these jars over the years as our needs have expanded and changed. They are a bit of an investment up front, but I think it is so worth it! I also recently did a pantry makeover and bought some reasonably priced plastic containers to store all of our items that generally come in cardboard boxes, making the pantry look more uniform, and making it easy to find what we’re looking for.

Using bins to store like items is another way to keep things organized. This would be especially useful for items that are in one category but rotate so you’re not purchasing the exact same thing each week.

Use baskets like these to store like items
Riser used for canned goods

There are other great organization tools for the pantry. I like to use a riser for my canned goods – that way I can easily identify everything I have available. You could also use baskets or bins for canned goods, allowing you to pull out the basket to see what you have. In addition, there are can storage bins which allow the cans to “roll” out one at a time. I use this for my cans of sparkling water. You could also use it for cans of soup or vegetables if you keep a good stock of those on hand.

Plastic storage containers, and can organizers help keep things looking neat

I like to label everything. You certainly don’t need to do this, particularly with clear jars or bins in which you can see the contents. I personally just like the look of the jars and bins being labeled. I like to keep meals and snacks simple, so I tend to purchase the same things over and over. If there is some change, the labels are fairly easy to remove. If they are extra stubborn, I just use Goo Gone and it easily comes off. I have used a variety of different labels over the years. I have written with a Sharpie on a plain label or name tag label. I have printed out labels. Most recently, I am obsessed with my simplistic embossing label maker. I like the old school, mid-century look to it. You certainly could get a fancier label maker as well.

The best way I find to organize a pantry, particularly if it is really messy, is to remove everything from the pantry. You could take this opportunity to clean all the surfaces. It’s also a great time to evaluate what food has expired or is not being used. For the food that, for whatever reason you aren’t eating, you could take it to a food pantry or I like to ask friends if they would like anything as everyone’s tastes are different!

Once everything is cleaned out, you have a clean slate. Now you can categorize the items and decant anything that will go into storage containers. One thing to remember prior to going out and purchasing storage containers is to measure your space. You will wanted to make sure the containers fit on the shelf where you are planning to store them. The final step is just a game of jigsaw puzzle – trying to see where everything fits. Especially when my kids were younger, I liked to have their snack foods on their level, and have junk food items up on a higher shelf where they couldn’t reach. It’s funny, even though they are teenagers, the snacks are still on the lower level in my pantry and the junk food is still stored on the top shelf!

I hope this gave you some ideas or inspiration to get your pantry organized! Do you have any tips for keeping a pantry organized? Any questions I didn’t answer?