How To Organize and Get Rid of Clutter
The new year is a great time to tackle the clutter in your home. Here are some easy (and thrifty) ways to clean house
The number one New Year’s resolution for 2014 was to lose weight (no surprise there). Number two? Getting organized, according to the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology. Number three was to spend less and save more. There’s probably no big correlation between getting your home in order and weight loss (sorry), but you can definitely practice resolution efficiency by combining good old-fashioned Yankee thriftiness and organization.
As the New Year rings in and the closet is bursting with the latest layer of gifts and gadgets, professional organizers agree that there is a systematic way to reduce clutter without breaking the bank. After all that de-cluttering, there’s no guarantee you’ll have burned off those extra slices of pie, but it’s a good bet that your mental state will feel much lighter.
Lorraine Falcone of Naturally Organized says the first step is purging, or getting rid of things you know you don’t need. One rule of thumb, advises Falcone, is to keep this mantra in mind: “Function always has to come first.” This is especially important in the kitchen, she adds. Falcone suggests that you pay attention to gadgets and appliances that serve only one function.
“People make purchases and realize they don’t have a place to put it, which leads to more frustration to own it rather than pleasure,” Falcone says. That fancy avocado pitter might save you a few seconds once in a while, but try to assess whether that moment of slight convenience is worth storing the item.
It’s also about realizing that material things are not always the key to happiness.
Manchester’s Katie George of Kicking Clutter advises getting rid of anything you’re not truly attached to. “I would recommend only keeping things that you love and that provide value to your daily life,” she says. “Remember that things don’t make you happy, but the things that you do decide to keep, you should enjoy having.”
It’s all too easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed when you step into a cluttered space and can’t even figure out where to begin. Lisa Brylczyk, owner of Organizing Czyk, has a decade of professional organization experience. She advises that you should start by putting like things together. “I think that the key to this is understanding where things belong and setting up areas. And typically I think that when we have too much of something, then it spills over onto the countertops, onto areas where we don’t store in normally. When we start the process of organizing, you want to start by organizing things together,” she says.
The ultimate benefit of forcing yourself to organize, says Falcone, is making your life a little easier each day. When you know what you own and where to find it when you need it, you can reduce a lot of small daily frustrations.
Though, as with most rules, there are a few exceptions — reading glasses, scissors, pens and pencils, among other everyday items — often don’t have just one home. Falcone laughs, “I have reading glasses in every room!”
George, Falcone and Brylczyk all recommend clear plastic boxes for storage. Brylczyk says it’s easier to keep like-things together when using clear containers. “Organizing is all about retrieval. If we didn’t need to find it, we wouldn’t need to know where it was.”
For George, the size of the container matters too. “One of my favorite products to use are plastic shoe boxes. They are the perfect size to organize most items in any room. I typically use them for similar sized items that need to be grouped together; for example, kids’ craft supplies.”
Though these types boxes are great inexpensive organization tools, they’re not required for a more organized home. As you throw things away, you’ll make more room for the things you care about. “You can make great progress getting organized without spending anything but time,” Falcone says.
One instance where you may want to invest is when organizing a garage or basement, Falcone says. Shelving and racks help to keep the place organized and keep things from being stacked on the floor, which also prevents potential damage like mold. Labels are also useful and will help everyone else you share a space with to know where things are and what kind of system you have for storage.
The only way you’ll get started in the first place is if you start small. The most common comments Falcone gets are, “I’m overwhelmed” and “I don’t know where to start.” Brylczyk says that it’s always a matter of taking what you’ve accomplished and using it to motivate you to do more. “Start anywhere,” Falcone says. “As long as you start somewhere — that’s the thing.”