6 Things To Do Before Getting Organized

Today I wanted to talk to you about the steps you should take before tackling an organizing project. It is important to prepare before organizing a space so you are efficient in getting your spaces organized.

{{ONE}} First, you need to remove everything from the space. If this is overwhelming, work section by section in a space. For instance, while organizing the kitchen, work one cabinet or one drawer at a time – removing everything from that section. Sometimes seeing everything out in the open can help you realize how much you have. It is also easier to organize things into a space that is a clean slate.

{{TWO}} Next, you need to declutter. Are you surprised?? Have I said this enough?? You must declutter prior to organizing. There is no need to organize items that are no longer needed or loved. It is also silly to buy organizing tools prior to decluttering because you will likely not need as much as you think.

{{THREE}} After you declutter, it is time to categorize. Keeping like items together usually makes the most sense when organizing a space. Once you group things together according to like items, you may be able to declutter even further if you see you have duplicates of items.

{{FOUR}} Once you have everything categorized, then you can decide how you would like to organize those items – in bins, baskets, boxes, or drawer organizers. You will then need to measure your space to determine what size of storage containers you will need. And you thought you would never use math again! Measure twice, buy once! It can take some research and shopping to find the right storage solution for your space.

{{FIVE}} Next, it’s time to purchase your storage solutions – whether it’s bins, baskets, boxes, or drawer organizers – find what works for your space. My favorite places for storage containers are The Container Store, Target, and Amazon. I know there are several other stores that have great storage solutions as well!

{{SIX}} This next step isn’t necessary, but I always like to deep clean a space before organizing it. If everything is already removed from the space, it’s the perfect time to clean it! It’s always nice to put items back into a clean space!

Well, I hope this post was helpful to you if tackling an organization project seems daunting to you. Taking these simple steps before trying to get organized will help to make your organization project go smoothly!

Here is the YouTube video I shared on my channel in conjunction with this blog post.

Chaos To Order, Sustainable Room By Room Organization

Today I wanted to share with you how I keep our home organized room by room! There are several different organization tools that are helpful in keeping your home organized. But, there are also some everyday practices that will help in keeping your home organized.

The first thing I wanted to talk about is decluttering. I won’t be-labor this point as I know I have several blog posts about the value in decluttering. When getting a space organized, there is no sense in organizing items that you no longer love or are no longer useful to you. I’m sure by now you have all heard of Marie Kondo’s Konmari method of decluttering. I don’t necessarily like everything about her methodology, however I do like the idea of decluttering by category. Some people get overwhelmed by pulling everything out in one category, so I suggest working one room or space at a time as well. Start with items that are easier to declutter – like kitchen items, which don’t have sentimental value and work your way up to sentimental items. Generally, the process of decluttering gets easier as you gain momentum. Also, it’s important to note that each room or space in your home will need to be revisited. Unfortunately, decluttering is typically not a one time event but rather a process as most homes continually accumulate items.

I wanted to talk a little bit about a system I learned many years ago from the book The Fly Lady. She has lots of great advice in her book, but the thing I have implemented into my routine is creating “zones” coordinating with different spaces or rooms in your home, and each week choosing one zone to deep clean and declutter. I have 12 zones in my home, and by choosing one zone per week my entire house gets deep cleaned and decluttered every three months. It’s not only important to stay on top of decluttering, it’s also important to stay on top of your organization systems as things can get misplaced or in disarray over time.

My number one advice for client’s is to have a place for everything. When each item in your home has a place, it makes cleaning up and putting things away more efficient and easy. I love to use bins, baskets, and lazy susans throughout my home to house items which are alike. For many of these bins, I use labels, making it easy for everyone in my family to know where things are and where they belong.

The first space I want to talk about is your entryway – whether it’s at your front door, back door, or both! Typically this is a “drop zone” – a place where everyone sets down their everyday items and takes off their shoes. You want to have organization tools which will accommodate this. Hooks for purses and backpacks, a shoe rack or baskets for shoes, a key holder for keys, and bins to hold things like hats, scarves, and gloves. Having a space for each type of item works well, or perhaps you can have a bin and or hook for each family member. These are items that are notorious for getting lost, however if you have a place for these items, each family member will know where they go and where to find their items.

The next location I wanted to talk about is the living room/family room. In this space, it’s important to have functional furniture to store different items that belong in the room, such as game consoles, video games CDs, movies, remotes, and blankets. Once again, if items have a place, everyone will know where to find them. Blankets can be stored in an aesthetically pleasing way such as in a basket, on a blanket ladder, or draped across the sofa. If you’re like me and like to have a variety of throw pillows, you can choose to purchase pillow covers when possible, making it easier to store when not in use. In addition to this, if you like using different decor for different times of the year, find creative ways to store these items. I have a dresser in my office where I store all my extra decor that is not in season. I do have two large bins storing my Christmas specific decor, which I store in the attic. A trick I like is to use dual purpose decor. I use wood bead strings around my Christmas tree as garland, but when it is not Christmas season I use the beads as decor in other areas of my home. Also, you can find a lot of versatile “Christmas decor” that will transition into the winter season.

TV Console with space for Living Room items.
I store extra pillow cases in our side tables in the living room.
I store my extra home decor in a dresser in my office.

The next space I will talk about is the kitchen. This might be one of the most important places in the home to find an organization system that works well for you as it allows you to be more efficient in meal planning, getting groceries, putting away the groceries, and meal prepping. It’s helpful to have your kitchen organized in a functional way. Store items where you use them. I have a corner of my kitchen where I do most of the meal prepping, and that is where all of my utensils and dishes are stored. Organizing your pantry and refrigerator/freezer space by category helps to keep everything contained and easy to find. I have chosen a variety of bins, boxes, and jars to store items in my pantry. Taking pantry items out of their packaging and decanting items into streamline jars and bins is a more efficient use of space. Using labels will make it easy to put things away, and allow family members to know where items go. It also just looks more appealing! In the refrigerator and freezer, you can use bins to keep things in order, and again using labels so everyone knows where things belong. This also keeps your refrigerator more clean, so if anything spills or leaks, it is contained in the bin. Lastly, using drawer organizers helps to keep drawers neat and easy to maintain.

I also wanted to talk about the office. This is probably one of the most difficult spots to keep organized, primarily because often offices become overrun with papers. Again, organization systems help to keep everything in its place. If you have drawers in your desk, invest in drawer organizers, which can be fairly inexpensive. Having little compartments in your desk drawers to store all the little office type items will help to keep your desktop clean of clutter. Dealing with paper clutter can be time consuming and overwhelming! Definitely invest in some sort of filing system for important documents, whether that’s a filing cabinet built into your desk drawer, or some sort of external accordion style filing folder. Additionally, you can use an app like Adobe Scan, a document scanning app, to keep digital records of your paperwork, eliminating a lot of the paper clutter! In my opinion, it’s so much easier to get work done in a organized and tidy space!

A couple of other spaces that often need organization systems are the laundry room and the bathroom linen closet. Having bins to house like items is definitely helpful in these spaces. I store all of our medicine in three separate bins which are labeled, making it easy for family members to find which type of medication they are looking for. Folding your sheets and towels in a uniform way will also help to keep your linen closet in order. I have a YouTube video where I show you the way I fold sheets so they will look neat in your cabinet! This might not work for everyone, but we own two bath towels per person, two hand towels per hand towel hook, and two sets of sheets per bed in our home. One for in use and one for in the laundry or in the cabinet. Having a system like this will cut back on clutter in this space.

The final space I wanted to discuss is the closet and/or dresser. This is another space that can be hard to stay on top of as we often have a constant flow of items coming in. Again, it’s important to make it a habit of going through your clothing items and donating anything you no longer wear or love, anything that is too small or too big, or anything that has a hole or stain. One of the easiest ways to make your closet look more organized is to invest in uniform hangers. It’s up to you to decide how many! Everyone is different in the amount of clothing they have space for and want to own. Also, finding storage systems for shoes, off season clothing items, and anything else you store in your closet is important. As far as the dresser goes, I want to mention the Konmari method again. I have found using the Konmari folding method to be the most efficient way by far to store clothing. More clothing fits in the space when folded this way, it’s easier to find what you are looking for, and once you learn to fold in this way it is very efficient to get your clothing folded. Once again, I have a tutorial YouTube video on how to fold Konmari style!

I hope this gave you some ideas or information on how you can get your home organized and functioning efficiently today!

Real Life Organizing | You Can Be Organized!

Sometimes while talking to clients or friends they either allude to or say outright that their space can’t be organized. Recently one of my friends hired me to help with her pantry. She came over to my house to see how I had organized my own pantry, hoping for inspiration or maybe to gain some trust that I could in fact get her pantry organized? She said that I seemed to be more of a methodical cook than her, and she wasn’t so sure her pantry could function like my pantry. She still reluctantly hired me as I encouraged her that I was up for the challenge! In the end she was surprised that she did in fact have distinct categories in her pantry! Several weeks after I was finished with her pantry, she let me know how much easier it was to order and put away groceries now that her pantry had a system. She was shocked and surprised that there was a sustainable organization system that worked for this space!

This is my pantry

I share this story because I think people often think that their space (or spaces) cannot be organized. I told my friend that is why she needed to hire me! I had a vision that she couldn’t even imagine. We all have gifts and talents, and my brain just processes things in light of order. Organizing projects can feel overwhelming at first. Even for me, sometimes I feel overwhelmed before starting a project, but I know you just have to take things one step at a time no matter how big or small the project is!

Here is my friend’s before pantry picture

The first step to getting any space organized is always to declutter. You don’t want to organize items that you no longer need, use, or love. 

The next step is to identify categories in the space. The best way to efficiently organize a space is by category. This is why I am a big fan of bins. This will help contain items for each category, making it quick and easy to put items away in the future.

After you have decluttered and identified your categories, you will need to measure your space and then go on a hunt for bins, boxes, baskets, or lazy susans that will fit the space and your style. This can be tricky at times. When we were looking for bins for my friend’s pantry, we were balancing a multitude of specifications. We were looking for bins of a certain size, style, and price point. You have to balance all of these specs and give weight to the importance of each. Just know that this can take time! You may have to scour the internet as well as stores in your local area. It’s not always a one stop trip! Don’t forget your labels too!

Next is the fun part!! Or at least for me!! You will need to remove everything from the space, and I always like to give it a good clean while the space is empty. Then you can begin organizing things into categories. Label each box making it easy to find homes for each of the items.

Organizing a space is certainly not a one size fits all, and it can’t always be done as quickly as a Home Edit Netflix episode. Be realistic, and have your expectations set so that you are not disappointed in how long this process can take.

If it all feels too overwhelming and you can’t hire a professional organizer, enlist a friend to help! Oftentimes it helps just to have accountability even if they are just as clueless as you!

Here is what her pantry looked like after!
Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post

10 Habits of An Organized Person

I think most people would say they would like to be more organized, or they would like to be an organized person. Friends and family often ask me how I stay organized. They may even comment that I’m so lucky to just be naturally organized. People who seem naturally organized really just implement habits in their lives that lead to an organized life. Today I wanted to share with you 10 habits of people who are organized.

The first habit is that they have a place for everything. The number one advice I give to people who want to get organized is to have a place for everything. When everything has a place, over time you don’t even have to think about putting things away. Your brain makes neural pathways as you repetitively put the items away in the same location. Eventually you do it as second nature. Also, if something does not have a home, it just continues to float around your house and every time you use that item, you must think about where to put it down when you’re finished using it.

In addition to having a place for everything, organized people actually put things away in their place after they are done using it. I call this the “one touch rule.” When they are done with an item, they immediately put it back where it belongs. They don’t drop the towel on the bathroom floor, or kick off their shoes wherever they want to take them off. A great example – and a problem place for many people – is the mail creating paper clutter in that dreaded drop zone where everything seems to pile up in your house. Someone who is organized has a habit of immediately dealing with the mail. They make it a habit to get the mail when they have the time to go through and discard junk mail, pay bills, and file papers that come through the mail.

In order to be able to deal with things like mail, functional systems must be set up and used. An organized person has these systems, which they continue to tweek until it works well for them. They have a paper filing system, a place for shoes, hooks for backpacks and jackets, a location where dirty laundry goes (and family members know this as well), and any other organizing bins for everyday used items.

Along with functional systems, organized people have daily routines set up. Having routines will allow you to get things done almost without thinking about it. Not only general routines like exercise, daily Bible reading or meditation, and getting up and going to bed at approximately the same time each day; but also cleaning, decluttering, and organizing habits. We all have a fairly consistent inflow of things into our homes, whether it’s junk mail, kids artwork, or gifts. Having routines set up to deal with the inflow and the organic daily messes that are created, help to keep you organized.

Another habit of an organized person is that they are constantly decluttering. Like I just mentioned, we all have a constant inflow of items into our homes. No matter how minimalist someone appears to be, there is still a need to declutter items from the home.

To help make the decluttering process a bit easier, another habit of an organized person is that they are intentional about what comes into their homes. Some things we don’t have control over – mail sent to us or what our family members bring into our home is out of our control. However, an organized person closely evaluates their purchases to decide if the items will add value, particularly in the long run.

Along those same lines, organized people only own what they use and what they love and declutter the rest. The less stuff we have, the less stuff we have to organize. The less stuff we have to organize, the easier it is to be and stay organized.

Another habit of an organized person is that they keep lists. Keeping lists for different aspects of life help to keep things organized. If you get ideas or to dos out of your head and onto paper (or digitally if that is your thing), your head is clear and you won’t worry about forgetting anything. It’s great to keep separate lists for different aspects of life – a work to do list, a daily to do list, a long term to do list, and an ideas list to name a few.

Organized people create deadlines for themselves. Oftentimes we organically have deadlines – whether that’s for work, school, or things that must get done related to our children or our personal lives (like appointments, preparation for events, etc.) When an organized person doesn’t have a set deadline – like with home projects or cleaning, they make deadlines for themselves. Having a deadline helps motivate you to get tasks and projects done. Of course there is always room for grace when unexpected things come up!

Lastly, organized people don’t procrastinate. Oftentimes people put off decluttering, putting things away, or everyday tasks. People who are organized, deal with things immediately, and then tasks don’t pile up and get to the point where they are overwhelming. It’s easier to stay on top of things when we don’t procrastinate.

I hope this gave you some practical tips on how you can become a more organized person. It’s never too late to make changes in your habits!

Here is the YouTube video I made in conjunction with this blog post.

8 Ways To Organize Your Spices

For a long while now I have been unhappy with how my spice drawer is functioning for me. I decant all my spices into matching containers, so it looks nice. My spice jars are made of stainless steel and several of them have become corroded, making it challenging to open them. The last thing I want while cooking dinner is to fight with my spice jars! So, I decided to do an overhaul on my spice drawer! If you’re interested in seeing the YouTube video I made sharing that process, I would love for you to check it out!

It can be difficult to figure out how to organize a space to make it function to its full potential. Everyone is different and has different needs and spaces in their kitchen when it comes to organizing and storing their spices. I have used a spice drawer for many, many years. I thought I would share with you 8 ways you can get your spices organized! I love the way uniform containers look, and Amazon has a lot of reasonably priced options for uniform spice jars. However, you don’t need to have uniform spice jars to have an organized space for your spices!

ONE 

I’ll start with the way I just organized my spices, and that is to decant them into small jars and store them in a drawer. You can purchase small jars for a fairly reasonable price. I purchased these from Amazon. There were too many in this package for me, but I can use the extra jars as food storage, add something to them to give away as a party favor, or share them with a friend who wants to organize her spices this way! Another idea is to save and wash out baby food jars to use instead of purchasing some. You could spray paint the lids to make them look sleek.

TWO

You could also use magnetic spice containers. I used these for many years. I put them in a drawer, but this is a great option for small spaces as you can store them on the side of your refrigerator, the microwave, or attach a metal piece to your back splash to store near your stove top.

THREE

Using a tiered drawer spice rack is another great idea. I opted not to use this because you need a lot of drawer space to have enough spices to round out your collection. A typical rack will hold somewhere between 15-18 spice jars. If you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of spices, or can spare a couple of drawers to organize your spices, then this is a great option! I really love how this looks! 

This is from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lynk-Professional-430411DS-Organizer-Metallic/dp/B07PGQL462

FOUR

Another great way to store spices is to use a wall rack. I’ve seen a really great cost effective option at IKEA for this. You could get uniform jars to make an extra special display, or just use the jars the spices came in!

These spice racks are from IKEA: https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/bekvaem-spice-rack-birch-40070185/

FIVE

A recent product I found to store spices in a creative way is spice grippers. They attach to the back of your cabinet door, making this option another great space saving idea.

This item is from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spice-spice-gripper-Strips-Cabinet/dp/B075QZL8RS/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=spice+gripper&qid=1580774078&s=home-garden&sr=1-6

SIX

Another idea is to use a lazy Susan inside of a cabinet. I love to use lazy Susans to organize spaces. It’s a great way to efficiently use your space. Having spices on a turntable like this allows you to easily find the spice you are looking for!

SEVEN

Another idea for storing spices in the cabinet, is to get a three tier organizer. You will be able to easily see and assess which spices you have. This is a great option for someone who doesn’t want to invest in uniform jars, because this will be behind closed cabinet doors.

EIGHT

Lastly, the good old fashioned revolving counter top rack. I registered for one of these for my wedding, so the first several years of marriage it is what I used to store my spices. This is a great option, particularly if you are someone who doesn’t mind storing items on your counter top.

I hope this inspired you to organize a space in your home that isn’t functioning the way you would like. Are your spices organized? If not, I hope this gave you some ideas and inspiration to organize your spices!

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

You could tackle this in one of two ways: I like to just spend part of one day getting the room complete. Alternatively, you could choose one chore on that list per day, making it even less overwhelming. For instance, you could choose one section of cabinets to go through in your kitchen, or choose one day to clean the ceiling and light fixture and another day to clean the baseboards/blinds/window sills. Doing tasks like this that could seem overwhelming in small spurts can make them more 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?