Five years ago, we moved into a new home and were seeking a new preschool for my young daughter. I scoped out the preschools nearby and fell in love with a Montessori-based preschool right in our neighborhood. (Score!) Being a former educator myself, I recognized there were many appealing things about a Montessori education, particularly at this young age. Above all, I valued the way a Montessori education emphasized a high level of personal responsibility while also promoting creativity and authentic learning experiences.
It wasn’t until we began to struggle with our playroom’s constant clutter that I began considering applying some of the Montessori techniques in our own home. If my daughter’s teacher could implore 25 young children to responsibly put back all their belongings, I certainly could convince my two daughters to do the same in our own home.
In addition to categorizing all their toys and labeling each category with words and photos, I decided to purchase Montessori Work Mats to define their current play space and make clean-up a breeze.
What’s a Montessori Work Mat? According to the North American Montessori Center, “You could travel to a Montessori school anywhere in the world and you will see Montessori students working at floor mats… The purpose of the floor matsis to define the student’s workspace and to reinforce Montessori's principle of ‘freedom within limits’…The Montessori preschool students are shown how to walk around the mats, how to place their work on the mats and how to respect one another’s personal workspace.”
I encouraged the children to help pick-out rectangular bathtub mats from a local store to build excitement. Then, I explained the purpose of the mats and my two simple expectations for them.
1. Anytime you take out a toy, game, or puzzle, you are to choose a workspace- either your mat or the child-sized table (also in their play room).
2. When you are finished using that toy, game, or puzzle, you are to put it and the mat away before taking anything else out.
That’s right- they are expected to put away what they’re playing with EVERY time they take out a new toy. And it WORKS!
Exceptions are toys that don’t fit on the mat (such as gross motor and dress-up clothes), or when a friend is over to play. (Then, I just allow the playroom to become a disaster and offer a lot of assistance during clean-up time. It gives me a chance to reassess what items are in our playroom and purge.)
This tool has completely transformed our playroom, and it can yours too!
Do you need help getting your playroom in order? Search for a professional organizer at NAPO.net.
- Shayla Brubaker, M.Ed. NAPO Member
Eleven years ago, my husband and I were married on a beautifully muggy Ohio day. As one of our party favors, we gave our guests a CD of our favorite tunes- a mash-up of Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkel, Brad Paisley, DMB, and the Beatles, among others. But eleven years later, we listen to music on our smartphones, satellite radio, or even robots (like Alexa). If we knew then that we only had a decade before CDs were essentially obsolete, I may have rethought that wedding party favor. But, how are we to know what the latest thing will be, and how quickly it will be here? There’s no way to tell what’s next, but one thing’s for sure- the old methods are out. Holding on to DVDs and CDs of information, especially for posterity’s sake, doesn’t make sense. Future computers won’t even have a way to insert a CD (my new Macbook doesn’t). It took me awhile to wrap my mind around the fact that our CDs are the equivalent of slides for our parents’ generation. Once I finally accepted this fact, I realized I needed to tackle some digital projects.
When I tell people that I’m a professional organizer, they often wonder what my own home is like. As someone who defines clutter as both delayed decisions and anxiety inducing, I make sure that I have my physical clutter under control. I have two young children, so I certainly don’t have a perfect, pristine home. But, I go through normal seasonal purges, and I keep up with my clutter on a daily basis, maintaining routines and practices that make sure it never gets too egregious. But, my worst kept secret was that, over time, I had let my digital clutter grow rampant. I had three computers with various data, loads of old CDs & DVDs, and photo collections galore. I knew organizing my digital clutter would be a HUGE undertaking. But, this project would not only make my life easier, but preserve digital files in a way that would make them easier for my children to access down the road.
First, I wrote down my goals: 1. to have all my photos on both an external hard-drive and in the cloud, organized into folders by year, 2. to have all my music from CDs loaded to iTunes, 3. to get any pertinent files from my old computers, have the old computers wiped clean, and recycle them, and finally, 4. to get any DVDs removed from their original packaging and put into an accordion file for road trips. (I'm sure there will soon be a different entertainment option in vehicles, but for now, DVD's are still useful in this circumstance. In almost all other circumstances, we use a streaming service, like Netflix or Amazon Prime.)
To make the project seem a little less daunting, I broke these goals up into steps that could be completed in 1 hour's time. For example, “Put all 2011 photos on the external hard drive,” was one step. Then, I dedicated an hour of time every evening toward completing these sub-steps. I was able to combine these tasks with other tasks around the house because the uploads took a while.
After three months, I was able to meet all my goals and tackle my digital clutter. Now, I have reminders set every season to keep on top of my digital clutter by uploading my photos from my devices to the cloud and external hard drive.
If I can tackle my digital clutter, so can you. If you need help with this or other decluttering projects, be sure to look for a NAPO organizer here.
- Shayla Brubaker, M.Ed., NAPO Member
You start decluttering a drawer, only to find a hair bow that belongs upstairs in your children’s bathroom. Then you go upstairs to put the bow back and you notice the kids’ towels are on the floor. You go to put the towels into the laundry basket and realize you haven’t done a load of laundry in a while, so you start the load of laundry and head back downstairs. On your way down, you notice your husband’s shoes sitting on the stairs so you go to put those away and start tidying the shoe bench. All the while, forgetting your first intention- to declutter the drawer.
If not that exact scenario, us parents have all been through something similar. The problem is you didn’t have a method before you started. Many professional organizers have their own method for decluttering, and one may be right for you. If you’re intention is to declutter your entire home in a tidying marathon, the KonMari method (made popular by the recent Netflix special) may be right for you. However, my method works for busy families who may only have an hour, or a few minutes, at a time to declutter. Here’s how it works…
1. Set an Intention- Whether it’s decluttering the garage or one drawer, decide what your intention is for the decluttering session. Write it on a piece of scrap paper. Close your eyes and imagine what the ideal space would look like. Be realistic. Your home isn’t going to look like a Williams- Sonoma catalog when you finish, especially if you have young children or a budget. Imagine something that’s functional and easy on the eyes.
2. Set a Time Frame- Knowing how long a decluttering project will take can be difficult. However, when you’re focused on your intention, you’ll be surprised how productive you can be in a short amount of time. If the project is a large one, consider breaking it down into 30-minute chunks using the Pomodoro Method (25 minutes of work and a 5-minute break).
3. Remove Everything- Now you’re ready to begin the work. Remove everything from the space you’re working in. Yes, EVERYTHING. If you’re working in a closet, for example, the closet should be absolutely bare. (Stack all items on the kitchen table or bed.) This will give you an opportunity to wipe down all the services and start fresh.
4. Discard or Donate- Now it’s time to start assessing what was in the space. Is it something that brings usefulness or joy? If not, it’s time to discard or donate it. Selling unwanted items is also an option. However, consider the amount of your personal time it will take to sell the item. Unless the item is in excellent condition and has a great deal of value, it’s usually better to take the tax deduction by donating the item to a 501c3 organization. You can even setup a free pickup of your donation here.
5. Organize- Once you only have the items that are ready to re-enter the space, it’s time to decide how to organize them. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to create a functional system. Upcycle old shoeboxes (lined with contact paper), or purchase cheap plastic bins. Or, feel free to splurge if it’s a space that you have to look at a lot. Make sure to label everything using either a high-quality, laminated label or hanging tag.
6. Coach- Finally, introduce the new space to your family members. Explain where items are located and layout your expectations for keeping it this way. For example, say, “I’ve worked really hard today to organize our pantry and I need everyone’s help keeping it tidy. When you’re finished using something, I expect you to put it back in the same spot you got it from. If that doesn’t happen, it creates a mess that I have to deal with when I’d rather be spending time with you.”
Hopefully these tips can help you to declutter any space- big or small. However, if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, hiring a professional organizer can help keep you on task. If you’re in the south-suburban Denver area, contact me. If not, look for another professional at https://www.napo.net.
Shayla Brubaker, M.Ed., NAPO Member
The Declutter Bug
First, because we live in a society that requires legal disclosures, I have to say, do not do any of these things while operating a vehicle! These suggestions are meant for while you’re WAITING, car in the parked position. Ok, now that we got that out of the way...
Sitting in the car waiting for that dismissal bell to ring can feel like a waste of time. Even if your child’s school has an efficient dismissal system, you’re bound to have some wait time. Instead of scrolling through social media, here are some productive things you can do while you wait...
1. Delete photos from your smartphone. We all have those accidental photos of our big toe or a series of photos where we were trying to get the kids to smile. Get rid of the ones taking up space on your phone and you might even find some keepers!
2. Make a to do list. Are you thinking about all the things you wish you could be doing? Make a list and assign times to get tasks done throughout the week.
3. Clean up your inbox. We all have a ton of junk emails. Do some tidying of by scrolling to the bottom of unwanted emails and clicking unsubscribe. Delete old emails and flag emails to follow up with later.
4. Call back your mother. (Or friend) Follow up with that friend or family member you’ve been putting off. You’ll have to wrap up the call shortly, so it’s a perfect time to have a quick conversation.
5. Clean out your purse or wallet. Trash those old receipts and toiletries junking up your purse or wallet.
6. Write your child’s teachers or administrators a quick email letting them know how much you appreciate them. A quick email could brighten someone’s day. And we know our teachers could use some love after spending the week with our children.
Most of these things can be done anywhere you’re waiting: a doctor’s office, salon, waiting for a meeting. What productive thing will you accomplish while you’re waiting?
Need help getting your clutter organized? Contact me for your FREE 30-minute evaluation! DeclutterBugCo@gmail.com
The kids are getting ready to go back to school next week. I'm looking forward to having a little more time throughout the day to get things accomplished without the constant mediating of sibling arguments or moans of "I'm bored." I'm even glad to have some routine back to our lives. But, waking up early and getting the kids off to school on time is not my favorite aspect of the impending school year. When I'm disciplined enough to follow these tips, our morning is as smooth as the butter on our toast.
1. Create a Spot for Important School Papers: Even though a lot of our school's communication is now done online or via email, the kids still come home with a lot of paperwork: homework, projects, permission slips, donation forms, event reminders, party invitations. They all land on the counter closest to the door. Be sure to setup a "landing pad" for these items, along with other important papers like bills or coupons. A vertical filing system close to the door can be especially effective for keeping these items in a convenient and tidy place.
2. Prepare Outfits for the Week: One night, my husband and I had dinner with our girls at an Asian restaurant. After our meal, the waiter brought out five fortune cookies instead of four and asked if we knew why the extra cookie. He even offered to discount our meal if we guessed correctly. We were stumped. The answer? The last person to grab from the pile still had a choice. What a great lesson! Kids love choices, especially when it comes to their clothing. But, they aren't always the best at picking out seasonally appropriate clothing. (Like that one time my daughter came downstairs dressed in a sweater dress and jean jacket in the middle of the summer.) So, take 5 minutes every Sunday evening to pick out six school appropriate outfits and place them in a separate location, including the necessary undergarments and socks. I especially like using a closet hanging bar to separate school clothing from others. My girls love being able to choose their outfits, and I love not having to send them back to their room for a wardrobe change.
3. Prepare Lunch Items for the Week: Everything runs smoothly when you’re prepared. Take some time on Sunday evening to make lunches for the week. Or, for older children, setup a lunch station for kids to select their own items for lunches throughout the week.
4. Wake up Early: This is my least favorite tip, as I love to stay up late and struggle to get out of bed most mornings. But I find if I can wake up early enough to get my routine in front of my kids', the morning is a lot better. After all, there's nothing more annoying than my kids getting into my cosmetics as I'm getting ready, or poking their heads in on me in the shower. So, if I've completed those tasks before my kids awake, I'm ready to focus on helping them get the items they need to have a successful school day.
5. Have a Visual Checklist for Your Kids: Hand your kids a dry erase marker and a laminated checklist to get prepared for the day, like the one here. Make it a contest to see if the entire family can complete their tasks by a certain time in the morning. You can even reward kids with extra screen time or a fun activity if they complete their tasks with extra time to spare.
With these tips, you should be off to a great morning!
Need help getting your family organized? Contact me for your FREE evaluation! Shayla Brubaker, aka The Declutter Bug: DeclutterBugCo@gmail.com
A little over a decade ago, my husband and I moved from Cincinnati to a suburb of Denver, Colorado. We weren't the only ones to have this idea. Colorado has seen a dramatic rise in population, with the Denver metro area seeing record growth again last year. People from all over are learning what we now know: that Colorado boasts 230 microbreweries, 45 State or National Parks, and as many days of sunshine as Florida. So, those that don't want to move here permanently, want to visit us regularly. There are about 6 to 10 weeks a year that our spare bedroom is occupied by a guest. And, while, everyone doesn't have the luxury of having a dedicated room for guests in their home, there are simple things you can do to make even a combined space more comfortable for your guests.
1. Create a place with privacy- if you're able, situate your guest room in a place of the home with privacy, like in a finished basement (with ample heat) or the bedroom furthest from your own. And, it's ideal if guests can have easy access to a bathroom which isn't heavily used, so they don't feel like they're intruding on your space. If you will share a bathroom with your guests, make sure it's tidy. Get rid of toiletries and products you don't use regularly, and clear off all counter spaces, so guests have space to place their belongings.
2. Make sure it's clean- Your guests don't want to encounter dust and cobwebs, so make sure to give your spare bedroom a good clean out before guests arrive. Dust all furniture and sweep the floors, and make sure the sheets are clean.
3. Include space for your guests to keep their clothing- The last thing your guests want to see is a closet or dresser bursting with outdated clothing. According to the Wall Street Journal, most people wear only 20% of the items in their wardrobe regularly. And, the spare bedroom can be a place that your least liked clothing goes to die. So, take time to get rid of your unworn clothing, so guests have a space to store their own. If closet or dresser space isn't available, consider setting up a luggage rack so guests can easily access the clothing in their suitcase. And, install hooks on the back of doors so guests can hang their jackets or used bath towels.
4. Keep decor simple- Guests want surfaces to place their belongings, so only include a couple of decorative items on surfaces and leave usable counter space for guests' trinkets. And, don't overdo it on the decorative pillows.
5. Include light-blocking window treatments- Guests that travel over time zones will especially appreciate the ability to sleep-in after the sun has come up.
6. Include simple amenities- Guests don't want to bother you every time they need something. So, make sure your guest room is stocked with a few simple amenities like: an alarm clock, a place to charge their phone, tissues, guest towels, bottled water, a waste basket, extra blankets, extra pillows, and a few light snacks. If you really want to create an oasis, add a new pair of slippers, some pillow spray, and a nice hand lotion.
Need to get ready for out of town guests? Contact me, The Declutter Bug, for your free consultation. DeclutterBugCo@gmail.com
As a professional organizer, I often am asked about the state of my own home. “You must have the most organized home ever!” people will remark. The truth is I’m not always organized. In fact, these days I’m only “organized enough”, and that’s okay.
Some people claim there are two types of people: Type A or Type B, Extroverted or Introverted, Leaders or Followers, the list goes on. While other people utilize a whole inventory on personality traits and behaviors that categorize each individual as a certain type, color, or number. But, I like to see things as more of a continuum. If there is a continuum of “Extremely Disorganized People” (those who embrace clutter and chaos) to “Extremely Organized People” (people who have even their underwear drawer organized), I naturally prefer to be the latter. I’m a 10 on the organized continuum.
I’ve always been this way. I can recall peering into my sister’s bedroom as a child and wondering “How the heck can she stand sleeping in such a cluttered mess?!?” Eventually, my mom would force her to clean up her room before being allowed to play. I’d come in and organize it for her, mostly because I wanted my playmate back, but also because I didn’t mind tidying up after her. In fact, I actually enjoyed it.
Being organized satisfies my sense for control. It brings me peace not only to experience the process of tidying, but to spectate at my final result. Organizing and being organized is my zen.
However, as my life became increasingly chaotic, the idea of having a tidy house completely vanished. With two young children, it was simply impossible to control the clutter all the time. With certain strategies, I could manage it, even get the children to participate in keeping things tidy. But there were other days, days when our family was at its most busy, that I’d look at my house and wonder if a bomb went off. Even though it went against my personal need for order, I convinced myself it was a normal phase of life. That being “organized enough” was okay for now.
Then, when both of my children started to attend school, I decided to start a new career doing something I’ve always loved: organizing. I took courses, researched the field, and set-out to help other people conquer their clutter. I began to think, if I’m helping other people become organized, I must exude organization perfection in my own environment. What if someone came into our home when it looks like a bomb just went off? How embarrassing would that be? They’d turn me into the authorities! I must go back to being completely tidy... All. The. Time.
This went on for some time, as I frantically trailed my children during my free time trying to tidy our own space, pulling my hair out every time my children left their Shopkins all over their house. (I really hate those damn Shopkins.) But, with my new career, we were busier than ever. It was just too much to keep up with. Something had to give.
Then, I had a client with two young boys, a toddler and newborn. When she invited me to her house, she was visibly distraught. She needed solutions for her boys’ toys. I was able to help her get a system in order that made it easier to keep the toys in one area of the house and streamline clean-up time. But, I had to wonder if I really solved her problem. After all, I couldn’t change the fact that her children were too young to clean-up their toys, at least not by themselves. After our session, I had to have a frank conversation. “This system will help, but it won’t change the fact that there will still be chaos. You have two young children, so we have to have realistic expectations about maintenance. It’s normal for it to look like a bomb went off sometimes.”
After hearing my own words, I had to reassess my mantra. Was it okay if my house was sometimes untidy? Yes, yes it was. Because, as long as we’re “organized enough”, it was all going to be okay. There are still going to be times I curse to the air because I’ve stepped on yet another Shopkin, but I’m not expecting perfection. Because perfection is just unrealistic right now, or maybe ever.
So, to the moms, the busy professionals, or anyone in a chaotic period of life, as long as you’re “organized enough”, it’s going to be okay. Your home doesn’t need to look like it came out of a catalog. Take it from me, I’m a professional organizer, and even my house looks like crap sometimes.
Last week, I taught you six strategies for How to Stay Organized in Your Home and Life. But, if you’ve ever wondered how “organized people” do it, there’s more. Read on for six more strategies on how to keep your home and life organized.
1. Wake-up Early. Research shows that the age old saying that “the early bird gets the worm” actually has some truth to it. People who wake up early face less distractions, are more productive, and can even lead healthier, happier lives. And, if you find yourself frantically trying to make it to work or school on time, waking up earlier is a necessity for staying organized. Those extra moments could be the time that you plan your day, sort the mail, or tidy the kitchen. So, set that alarm clock another 15-20 minutes earlier.
2. Go Paperless. Paper clutter can really dominate our lives. Bills, receipts, and catalogs can pile up fast. So, contact the companies that send you bills to set up auto-pay and paperless receipts. The 1-2 clicks it takes to file them electronically is much more efficient than a manual sorting system. Also, contact companies that are sending you junk mail, like credit card offers and catalogs you don’t want, and ask to opt-out by clicking here.
3. Don’t Impulse Buy. Most homes simply have too much stuff. Yet, most people only wear 20% of the items in their wardrobe regularly. And, children are living in a world where toys and electronics have become so plentiful that they become distracting, rather than engaging. Once you’ve decluttered and organized your space, you need to be very selective about what comes in to your space. If it’s going to lead you down the path to disorganization and chaos, it’s certainly not worth the money. So, avoid window shopping that might lead to impulse buying decisions.
4. Hang on to the Memories, Not the Stuff. While looking at photos, memorabilia, and old art projects can be fun, you’re much more likely to revisit them if you have less. Think about it, if you have fifty scrapbooks you’d be less likely to revisit them than if you had just five. And, if the purpose of memorabilia is to document for a future generation, the less is more approach is even more appropriate. According to latest research, Millennials don’t want their parents stuff or their childhood mementos. So save time and space by holding the memory in your heart, but ditching the souvenirs.
5. Have Limits. A lot of the time, the size of our home is what restricts us to having a limit on the amount of stuff we have. But, homes today are about 1,000 square feet larger than homes 50 years ago, so sometimes it’s better not to fill every possible space end to end. Once you’ve determined how much of a certain item is reasonable for your lifestyle, stick to an “in one, out one” policy. Saw a new pair of shoes you couldn’t live without? Pick a pair that’s ready to go in the donate box.
6. Create a Landing Pad. Having a landing pad for your keys, mail, and bag, close to the entrance of your house is an essential component to living an organized life. First, it makes it easy to locate those necessities on your way out the door. Secondly, it gives important papers and reminders a place to start. If you still can’t seem to find your keys or glasses, try putting a bluetooth tracker on them. These items connect to your phone using bluetooth technology, so you’ll never have to wonder, “Where did I put those darn things, again?”
If you need help getting your clutter in order, contact me. DeclutterBugCo@gmail.com
You’re finally feeling organized. But, maybe you feel like it’s inevitable that you’ll slip back into a state of chaos and clutter. Or, maybe you haven’t met all your organization goals, but you don’t want to pile on the clutter while trying to tackle the big projects. How do those organized people do it? Here are 6 habits of organized people that anyone can follow, even when life gets crazy...
1. Have a Donation Bin in Your Home. You’re cooking in the kitchen, trying to find a certain gadget to whip up the perfect meal when you encounter an item that you never use anymore. Maybe it’s been replaced by a new model, or maybe it just doesn’t suite your needs anymore. Either way, it needs a new home. Or, you’re getting dressed when you realize your blouse really isn’t as flattering as you thought it was. It’s time to move on. So, where does it go? The donation box! Then, when the box gets full, call a tax-deductible, charitable organization to come pick it up. My go-to is the VVA. Then, document your donations using my handy calculator so you’re ready when tax time comes around.
2. Never Let It Touch the Ground. For clothing, the choices here are simple. If it’s dirty, it goes in the hamper. If it’s clean, it goes in your closet or dresser. Or, if it’s seasonal, like a pull-over or coat, it hangs. If it’s never put on the floor, it’ll never have to be picked up. If your clothing isn’t finding its proper place, perhaps your storage solutions aren’t accessible. Think about moving your hamper to the place you normally change, or adding hooks close to your entryway. And the same is true for other items, like unsorted mail. If you open and sort your mail immediately when you get it, you’ll save yourself from developing an overwhelming pile of paper. Having a place for coupons, bills, things to shred, etc. right on your landing pad helps to avoid the chaos of lingering paper clutter.
3. Have Consistent Routines. My husband and I were getting frustrated with our morning routine. We always ended up yelling at the children to get dressed while we made a mad dash to get to school and work on time. So, we reconvened and revamped our routine. Now, we lay out the kids’ clothing and prepare lunches the night before. Then, I wake up with the kids while my husband gets himself ready. Next, my husband feeds the kids breakfast while I get myself ready. And, finally, we all work together for that final push out the door. I can’t promise that there aren’t days that we still tell our kids to put on their shoes ten times (seriously, ten times), but our routine is working much better. The little things also need a routine. Maybe it’s that you put in a load of laundry when you first wake up, so it’s ready to switch to the drier before you leave for work. Or, you have one day a week that is your day to spend 15 minutes shredding and filing. Or, you have the kids tidy up their toys every evening right after dinner. Having routines is of utmost importance when trying to remain organized.
4. Keep To-Do Lists. Putting things on paper (whether real or electronic) helps you to plan ahead and prioritize. For most people, creating a to-do list gives them relief, because the task has now been transferred from the depths of their mind to paper, where it can be assigned a time and place. But, for others, seeing everything they have to do can feel overwhelming. If that’s you, think about prioritizing your to-do list. You can rate each task using one of four designations: urgent and important, just urgent, just important, or neither urgent nor important. Then, urgent and important tasks can take precedence.
5. … and a Calendar/Planner. Most people use a calendar for big events, like holidays, birthdays and vacations. But, using a weekly planner to designate tasks can be a helpful way to visualize your week and plan ahead. From your to-do list, assign each upcoming task a time slot on your weekly calendar, leaving some flexibility in case the tasks take you longer than expected. Make it a habit to visit your planner every Sunday, and communicate with your partner about any upcoming inconsistencies (like having to depart early for or stay late at work). Then, check-in frequently throughout your week to make sure you’re on track.
6. Take Your Shoes Off at the Door. Studies have shown that the bottom of your shoes contain more bacteria than a public toilet seat and can bring nasty chemicals into your home, like those contained in snow melt and fertilizers. But, in addition to keeping your home free of toxins and germs, having your shoes next to the door eliminates the need to look for where you left them when it’s time to leave. Place a decorative basket or shoe organizer close to the entrance to your house, so taking off your shoes becomes a habit. You can also keep a decorative basket with house slippers in it, so guests with un-manicured feet don’t feel self-conscious about having their bare toes out.
Want more techniques to stay organized? Stay tuned for next week’s blog, Six More Ways to Stay Organized. Need help conquering your clutter in the meantime? Contact me for your FREE consultation DeclutterBugCo@gmail.com
It's a new year, and with a new year comes New Years resolutions. Many of you will spend the early months of 2017 hitting the gym, dieting, or making another change to influence your personal health. And, while an increased commitment to your personal health is important, a commitment to maintaining your environment can be just as impactful on your mental well-being. But, where do you start if you're overwhelmed with the amount of clutter in your environment or you're short on time? Try implementing one of these decluttering activities each week for the next five weeks to reset for the new year. For more accountability, write them on your calendar and communicate your intentions with your spouse, partner, or a friend.
Week 1: Create a Home Landing Pad (Time: Approximately 1 hour, Supplies: 1 desktop organizer) When you first arrive home, your landing pad is where you drop your keys, wallet, mail, cellphone, and any other daily items. This area can easily become cluttered, leaving you with overdue bills, missing work, and lost necessities. Create an area that’s easily managed with a clearly identified place for: 1) unopened mail, 2) things to take action on, 3) things to shred, and 4) things to file. Also have a place to drop your daily items, like your keys and cellphone, so they always end up in the same place. Then, make it part of your nightly (or morning) routine to spend 5 minutes tidying your landing pad. And, finally, make it part of your weekly routine to transfer items from your landing pad to your more permanent filing system.
Week 2: Declutter Your Bedroom Closet (Time: 2-5 hours, Supplies: 1 large donation bin) According to a Wall Street Journal article, most people only wear 20% of the clothing in their wardrobe. But, don’t fret if you aren’t ready to part with 80% of your closet’s belongings. Aim to reduce your clothing by just 25%. First, start by taking everything (yes, EVERYTHING) out of your closet and laying it on the bedroom floor or bed. Then, start the purging process by repeating: Keep, Keep, Keep, Lose. That is, for every three items kept, place one in the donate pile. You may need to try-on clothing during this time to see which pair of those dusty jeans fits well. Fight the inclination to keep several pairs of multiple sizes “just in case”. If you do lose weight, it’s likely that you’ll want to treat yourself to a new pair that’s in style. And, larger sizes should be folded and put in a box that doesn’t take up prime closet space. Once you’ve paired down your belongings, organize your clothing by type and color. In other words, pair together all short sleeved shirts that are red, and move through the rainbow and into your neutral colors. Doing so will make items easier to locate and give you a visual representation of what fashions you own. One client realized that the majority of her wardrobe was beige, even though she preferred wearing brighter colors. Once she had that in mind, she knew not to make impulse purchases on any more beige clothing!
Week 3: Declutter Your Pantry (Time: 1-2 hours, Supplies: about 5 six-quart plastic bins & labels) Having a well-stocked pantry is essential for busy families that may need a last minute ingredient to whip up dinner. But, having a well-stocked pantry may also mean you end up with expired items that were pushed into the back. Start your pantry declutter similarly to how you began your closet, by taking everything out and placing it on your kitchen table. Then, throw away all expired items. Next, start categorizing items, placing smaller like-items into plastic bins that you can easily slide off the shelf. Doing so will decrease the amount of items that become inaccessible and, then, forgotten about.
Week 4: Organize Your Files from 2016 (Time: 2-5 hours, Supplies: File folders, cross-cut paper shredder) You may have a stack of papers and receipts from 2016 that need to be organized in preparation for tax season. Start by going through your papers and placing them into keep and shred piles. Keep in mind, you don’t need all of your statements, just your year-end one, for tax-purposes. (Source: Kiplinger) What else will you need to hold onto? Don’t forget to keep receipts for tax-deductible contributions and receipts for items that may have a warranty; then, file them accordingly. Make sure to shred all documents you won’t need with a cross-cut paper shredder to avoid being a victim of fraud.
Week 5: Create a Filing System for 2017 (Time: 1-3 hours, Supplies: Internet access, file folders or accordion file) While you do need access to your bank statements, earning statements, and some receipts for tax-purposes, keep in mind, many of those things can be accessed online. So, start the new year by going paperless. Setup automatic payments on your major bills, and have receipts emailed to you. Then, as you receive emails, move these items to a digital file for 2017 taxes/receipts. Make sure to have a physical file for other paper receipts that you may encounter throughout the year. An accordion file works well to separate receipts for different purposes.
If you need help completing these decluttering activities, contact me: The Declutter Bug for a FREE consultation.