5 Organizing Tips for Cluttered Homes
It's Get Organized Month! Remove what you don't need and bring balance—and a little hope—back into your life.
Some people find their calling in school, at work or on a mission trip. I discovered my calling in my cousin’s kitchen. Sheila was throwing a dinner party and I went to her house early to help with the food. We put the lemon chicken in the fridge to marinate, and Sheila got started on the Assyrian rice. “Can you grab some containers out of there?” she asked, pointing to a cabinet. I opened it and was greeted by a Tupperware avalanche. “Sheila,” I said, “let me straighten up here.” In a few minutes I had containers matched with their lids and stacked in the cabinet according to size, as if some super-organizing part of my brain had just taken over.
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“While you’re at it,” Sheila joked, “want to do the utensil drawer too?”
“Sure,” I said. The utensils took a bit longer, but I was on a roll. Next I tackled spices scattered on four shelves. Then her toddler’s plates, cups and spoons, jumbled in a heap. For two hours, till other guests arrived, I worked on my cousin’s kitchen. I had fun too.
“You could make a job of this,” she said at the end of the evening. That’s just what I did. I became a professional organizer. In the 10 years since that day in Sheila’s kitchen, I’ve helped all kinds of people—singles, couples, big families, empty-nesters, retirees—clear the clutter from their homes. They emerge not just better organized, but also lighter in spirit. It’s a lot easier to live a balanced life—a life focused on what matters to you—when you’re not weighed down by the stress of disorganization. Try these tips to tame the chaos. Come on, you’ve got nothing to lose but the clutter!
1. Start small.
I had a client who’d recently retired and finally had time to sort through all the possessions she’d accumulated over the years. “But I don’t know where to begin!” she cried.
“Pick one room,” I suggested. “Actually, a section of one room.” She chose her bedroom closet, which (barely) contained more than 100 pairs of shoes. We sat there and went through one pair after another. “When was the last time you wore these loafers?” I asked. She couldn’t remember so I set them in the “no” pile. “What about these? Do they even fit?” She shook her head. Bye bye, pumps. I held up some red sandals that had never been worn. “I love those,” she exclaimed. “I’ll wear them, I promise!” Okay, they were keepers. It took us the whole day, but we cut her shoe collection by more than half. By day’s end we had a bunch of shoes for charity, and my client was feeling unburdened of possessions that were beginning to possess her.
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Start with something small and simple. Like your sock drawer (if it doesn’t have a match, toss it). Next, your T-shirts. You’ll build momentum, and before you know it, your whole dresser will be organized. Just get started.
2. Use it or lose it.
Admit it. There are things you have that you never use, that you might have even forgotten about. That slow cooker (and those other duplicate wedding gifts) in the attic. The bikes your kids outgrew. Grandma’s bedroom set gathering dust in storage. Don’t feel obligated to hold on to something just because it was given to you. If you don’t love it or need it, why keep it? There’s probably someone who would like that slow cooker and more to the point, actually use it.
People waste thousands of dollars a year on storage spaces because they keep things they have no use for. “I might want it a few years from now,” they say. How about donating or selling those items and putting the money you would’ve spent on storage into your emergency fund? Then if rainy days come, you’ll have enough to cover your needs. (What good is Grandma’s bedroom set going to do when what you really need is cash to pay for car repairs?) This isn’t just a principle of organization. It’s good stewardship.