Have you ever been late dropping the kids at school because you couldn’t find your car keys? Missed a car payment because you misplaced the bill? We all experience times when we can’t find what we’re looking for, but usually it’s not our memory that’s the problem — it’s clutter. Most homes have surfaces, drawers and cabinets filled with unsorted and unnecessary items that keep us from locating the important stuff. But you can change all that with these simple steps that’ll declutter your space and organize your house.
The best way to cut back on postal pile-up is to sort mail — rather than simply stack it, the day it arrives. Make bills top priority and have a designated place on your desk so you’ll remember to pay them. Magazines and catalogs should be separated and placed in the location in which you read them — a bedside table or, ahem, the bathroom. Be sure when you add one new magazine, you discard another to keep the stack to a minimum. And there’s just no reason to hang on to junk mail — toss immediately and shred anything that may include your personal information.
If your workspace isn’t organized, your brain won’t function optimally, either. Surfaces should be clear so you have adequate room to write, read or use your computer without balancing it on your lap. Loose papers should be sorted, stacked and filed regularly — at least once a week. Establish an inbox for unread mail or pending correspondence and keep only key supplies — pens, paper, stapler — in sight. Everything else should be kept in a drawer or on a shelf and put back after each use. Sounds tough, but it’s well worth the effort!
Given the amount of family foot traffic, the bathroom can get disorganized pretty fast. The first step toward order: Grab a trash bag and throw out what’s wasting space, like expired cosmetics and meds and nearly empty bottles of shampoo. Next purchase compact bins to stash under the sink or in the linen closet for storing hair elastics, bobby pins, brushes and the like. Tools with cords should be wrapped with a rubber band to keep wires from getting tangled or damaged. Got a house full of teenagers? Consider giving each one a personal shower caddy to help minimize mess (and squabbles over conditioner).
By nature, kids like to take everything out — and put nothing away. Help them stay organized by providing bins for books and toys, which makes cleanup a snap. Place a hamper in each child’s closet for dirty laundry, and label drawers and shelves so children can put clean laundry away on their own — well, at least some of the time.
There’s no way to relax in the family room if it’s littered with clutter. Don’t let your coffee table become a resting place for homework, books and outdated magazines. You need space to put down a drink or snack, so when spills occur, the mess goes on the table, rather than on the rug or someone’s biology assignment.
Establish a designated spot for the TV remote control — perhaps a small tray that can also hold coasters and eyeglasses. In the market for a new coffee table? Consider one with drawers or a large shelf below to stash extraneous items (but do a monthly clean-out or that’ll become clutter city, too).
How does the fridge get so packed so quickly? One reason is keeping foods well past their prime. Do a weekly weed-out to get rid of old leftovers, nearly empty jars of salsa or anything that hasn’t been used in six months — opened or not. Don’t forget about the freezer! Anything hanging around for nine months or more should be tossed.
Keep order in your cupboards by separating long-term dry goods (flour, rice, pasta) from short-term items like cereal, cookies and crackers. Keep the most-used items at eye level and store specialty items or appliances that you only use once in a while, (like that waffle maker) on the top shelf.
One more tip: Spices and canned goods are easier to find if you organize them alphabetically.
It’s a lot to take in, sure, but starting to institute these tips one room at a time will help it become second nature in your house. While it might not cut down on the chaos that happens in the mornings, at least the house will look nice!