Homemaking

storage-boxesOrganizing comes naturally to me. I hate clutter and crave space and order. I don’t become attached to stuff and I have weaned myself off the habit of recreational online shopping, so I don’t need to deal with finding places for the items I own. The result: I live in a fairly clutter free home.

I’m far from being perfect, of course. One could argue that my intense need for order, combined with a difficult-to-shake tendency towards perfectionism, prevent me from ever truly relaxing, and shift too much of my energy towards maintaining the order. But if you’re looking for organizing tips (as opposed to relaxation tips), you have certainly come to the right place.

The following organizing tips have worked for me ever since I can remember myself. I hope they work for you too.

 

1. Don’t accumulate stuff in the first place

This is the best advice I can give you. The less stuff you have, the less clutter, and the less time you’ll need to spend organizing your possessions. Your goal is to create a state of mind where *things* do not make you happy, where you see an item in a store and instead of admiring its beauty you think of it as more clutter to deal with.

 

2. Don’t allow mess to build up: clean as you go and put things away right after you use them

This is another important organizing tip. Get in the habit of cleaning up after yourself right away. For example, when you’re preparing a meal, clean as you go. Put things back where they belong after you’re done using them, and wash the dishes (or put them in the dishwasher) immediately after you’re done eating. This way, you’re not allowing the sink to fill up with dirty dishes, and your counters are not becoming cluttered. Same goes for your mail: go through it right away, throw junk mail into the recycle bin, and take care of what needs to be taken care of – including paying bills and filing – right away.

The idea is that it’s much easier to handle small amounts of mess than it is to handle a huge mess, such as a sink full of dirty dishes or a huge pile of unopened mail.

 

3. Minimize paper clutter by using a scanner

It’s important to have a good filing system on your computer, of course. I simply create folders and sub-folders and save relevant documents where they belong. By the way, in many cases you don’t even need to scan – more and more financial institutions, for example, offer paperless statements these days. Do remember to buy an external hard drive for your computer and backup everything once a month.

 

4. Minimize kids’ clutter

Kids add a lot of happiness to your life. They also add a lot of clutter. The best organizing tip I can give you as far as kids are concerned: relax your standards :). But after relaxing your standards, you should create a kid-specific organizing system which consists of two main things:

(1) Storing their stuff in labeled bins, baskets and cubbies.

(2) Getting them used to periodically going through their stuff and getting rid of the things they don’t use anymore, donating what they can and throwing out the rest.

Speaking of kids, birthdays are often a source of an endless parade of cheap, unnecessary gifts. Instead, do a book exchange. Ask each child to bring a wrapped book. The kids exchange the books, so that every child leaves the party with a gift. This will NOT scar your child for life, I promise

 

5. Find easy solutions for storing annoying items

For example, store charging cables and small accessories for cell phones, iPod, digital camera etc. in labeled Ziploc bags inside a designated drawer. This prevents cables from tangling, and makes it very easy to find what you’re looking for.

 

6. Find a designated place for everything

Each item you own needs to have its own place. This is one of the best ways to avoid clutter. When things don’t have a place, or when their designated place is inconvenient (such as requiring you to climb a flight of stairs to get to your home’s second floor), the result is often clutter. Look around: what are the items that create clutter? Do they have a designated place? Is the place convenient?

 

7. Perform a MONTHLY session of spring cleaning

Even if you adhere to the rule of cleaning as you go and picking up after yourself, some clutter is inevitable. To avoid this clutter from building up and becoming overwhelming, I find that it’s helpful to perform a general cleaning and de-cluttering session once a month instead of once a year. The benefit: instead of taking me several days, these mini-cleanings take just a couple of hours.

Do you have any additional organizing tips that you would like to share?

Image credit: The Container Store


Loved this comment: “I always think decluttering’s like drinking water. You can’t drink one glass, praise yourself and then leave it at that. It has to become a healthy, every day habit that you feel the benefits of with every ’sip’.” Janice of Sharing the Journey.

I’m a minimalist.

You can tell from my blog, I think.

I hate clutter more than anything. I certainly hate clutter more than I love buying stuff.

Which makes the entire dilemma very easy for me: yes, I live in a consumerist society. I am surrounded by media and advertising messages that promise me the world if only I buy their product, whether it’s a wrinkle cream, a shampoo, or a new mattress.

I prefer not to buy their stuff. I used to enjoy shopping. But over the years I came to realize that shopping results in stuff, and that stuff takes place and creates clutter, and that clutter upsets me. So I would buy things, but then after a few months I would donate them, because they were cluttering my house.

So I stopped buying things.

I make a real effort these days to only buy things that I really need. Of course, “need” is often “want,” and even if it’s a real “need,” it’s still a need that reflects American standards of living. So I could probably get rid of at least half of what I own, and I would still have a lot.

Still, by those same American standards, my house is clutter free. I like it this way, because clutter stresses me out while a clean, clutter-free house calms me down. My cleaning person loves it too, because it makes cleaning the house a breeze.

Almost every visitor to our house comments on two things: the modern design and the lack of clutter. They all want advice on how to maintain a clutter free house, especially in a household with kids. Here’s what I tell them.

Six Tips For Creating A Clutter-Free Home

1. Don’t buy things unless you need them. Once you stop the habit of recreational shopping, half the problem is gone.

2. Everything has its designated place. Look at the kids’ playroom: it’s certainly the room in our house that contains the most stuff relative to its size, but everything there has its place. They have cubbies and baskets and containers and bulletin boards to hold everything, and once in a while we go over their things and decide what needs to be tossed and what can be donated.

playroom

3. I straighten up the house every day, several times each day. I don’t wait for clutter to build up – as I walk through the house, if I see something out of its normal place, I immediately put it back where it belongs.

4. We never just put stuff on surfaces. The kitchen counter is clutter free, because there’s no reason to put anything there – everything has its designated place, including drawers and cupboards and a basket for mail.

kitchen island

The dining table is clutter free, because there’s absolutely no need to put items on it when everything in the house has its place.

dining-table

5. I donate stuff twice a year. I use the “2-year” rule, which says that if you haven’t worn or used an item for two years, you must get rid of it. I apply this rule to everything – even pots and pans – not just to clothes.

6. I never store anything in the garage long-term, and certainly not at a rented storage space. If you can allow something to sit at a remote storage space, then you don’t need it. Stop wasting your money on storage and donate or sell it. As for the garage, it has the 2-year rule as well. So yes, my garage is clutter-free too, although it’s certainly more cluttered than the main house.

My house is clutter-free, but it’s not completely bare. That would be boring! I do have art on the walls, and a few items that I love as decorations.

The reading area has a small table that holds a few beloved items:

Reading Area

And I really like the large bowl on my dining room table:

bowl

Since the table is otherwise clutter-free, the bowl stands out even more.


In the interest of full disclosure:Yes, I straightened up the house right before taking these photos. 🙂