It’s still summer, but back to school has already hit the shelves at the stores, which means it’s time to get ready for back-to-school at home. Be a star-organizing student with these back-to-school tips & tricks. When it comes to starting the school year on the right foot it’s all about the organization. Thinking ahead and creating a space for everything that’s coming into your home is key but also purging that old stuff from last year is just as important, don’t skip the latter to get to the fun of the first. Always start by purging the old. Once you’ve done that, I’ve created three steps to follow to help you get organized for the school year. Doing these three steps will lessen stress and free up time, something we can all use more of!
The first step is creating a command center in your home.
This should be in a centrally located area of your home, like part of the kitchen or mudroom, for example. If you’re lucky enough to have a desk area off of your kitchen this is a great space to do this in. You’ll want to have key items that are essential to making your day go smoothly located here. For example, cell phone chargers are a good item to have on hand. A wall calendar outlining the week or month is an excellent addition. The new school schedule can be posted on a bulletin board or cork board. Important school papers (ones to be signed and returned, outlining upcoming events, etc.) can be either on display on the bulletin board/cork board, in a desktop document holder, or filed in a file folder holder on the counter or desk. It all depends on whether or not you’re a visual person as to where these documents should be kept. They’re either in sight or filed away, but either way, they shouldn’t get put into a permanent file drawer if they’re an action item as out of sight out of mind is a real thing. If you opt for the file folder option, you can give each child a folder.
PRO TIP: Make each child’s folder a different color to help those that are visual.
Keeping pens, pencils, and highlighters organized in this area is also helpful. Sticky notes, notepads, and even a lined journal will help keep you on track. If envelopes for cash or teacher notes are something you find yourself reaching for regularly, this is a great item to have in your command center. You’ll want to use drawer dividers if you’ve got drawers to store these items in or even create drawers if you’re using a cabinet by purchasing small acrylic drawers to stack in the cabinet. At the end of the day, everything that you need, love & use to make your day start on the right foot should be easily accessible in this area. Keep it clear of clutter and keep the command center organized for its purpose: to make your life run smoother.
The second step is creating a system for school papers.
We’ve already touched on where those important school papers should live: in your command center in your home. Those are the action-item school papers that need to be returned to school with a signature, that outline an upcoming event, or remind you of something important. Those can be on display, in a desktop document holder, or in a file folder holder. Everything should be labeled if it’s going into a folder; for example, the folder label could be each child’s name. Now what to do with the rest of the papers: the ones you want to keep long-term but don’t need in the command center? Those should be divided into two categories: memorabilia or administrative reference. If the paper is, for example, a completed A+ homework assignment or piece of artwork that you want to keep as a keepsake, that falls into the memorabilia category. I recommend having a clear plastic tote with a lid for each child labeled with their name and the word memorabilia on it to store these treasures in. You can organize the tote by grade if you like, although that’s not necessary for everyone. Keep the tote in the basement storage room on a shelf so that it’s out of the main living area but tucked away for safe-keeping to pull out for their high school open house or another fun event. If you'd like, you could create a memorabilia folder in your hanging file system in your home office to store items daily, and then weekly or monthly empty the folder into the memorabilia tote in the storage room. Often children end up with more than one memorabilia tote by the time they are teens, but if your space is limited you can always use the tote as a boundary and select items to purge once the tote is full. Your space should dictate how much memorabilia you keep. Space is maxed out? Limit it to one tote per child. Have a huge storage room? Have as many totes as you need. Now for the administrative reference paperwork: this is the paperwork you don’t need in your command center daily but that you need to store long-term in case you need to reference it later. For example, a list of classroom phone numbers or names. I recommend creating (if you don’t already have one) a hanging file system in your home office and creating a file for each child that holds these documents. At the end of each school year go through each child’s file and purge what needs to be removed and leave it fresh and as empty as possible for the following year. Be sure to alphabetize your file system as well. Don’t have a home office or file cabinet? No worries! You can get really cute hanging file holders that look great on bookshelves to create this space within your home. You don’t need a pile of papers cluttering up your command center, kitchen counter, or other surfaces because you might reference the paper in a couple of months. Instead give it a home to retire to until you need it, one that is tucked away but still easily accessible.
The third step is creating a homework zone or study space for your studious ones.
It can be hard to find a space to focus when a home is full of clutter so that’s why it’s so important to organize a space for homework ahead of time. The possibilities are endless. I’ve seen homework stations created in bedrooms, dining rooms, playrooms, and living rooms. The key is that there’s a place to sit, a desktop-like surface to hold their laptop, tablet, or books, and some storage for supplies. This is important because the child should be able to sit down and have everything they need for study time within arm's reach. Using a craft cart is always a good option for spaces lacking storage. The items you keep in this area are going to be different depending on the child’s age but some examples are pencils, erasers, and scissors. You’ll want to keep the desktop area clear of clutter, which is why storage is so important. Have a clock in this area too so they can check the time without looking at a device which can lead to distraction if their assignment is to read a book, for example. It’s also fun to let the children have some input on their study area. What colors do they love? Do they have some special items they’d like on the desk or hanging on the wall? Do they need noise-canceling headphones or music playing to focus better? The homework zone should be an oasis for peak studying and that will look different for each child.
If you create a command center, set up a system for school paperwork, and create a homework zone this year, you’ll find yourself with a lot more time and a lot less stress when the school year is in full swing. Not sure how to implement all of these suggestions? Utterly Uncluttered is here to help. We’re just a phone call away and can help you achieve all of this and more so that you’re organized and ready for the school year to begin. Remember to get rid of the old and start organizing what’s left, following these three steps to be a star organizing student!
Here’s to back to school time!
One of the top questions I’ve been asked since becoming a professional organizer is how do you organize your life’s schedule? My answer is always, I keep it simple but have key go-to apps and rituals that make my life organized. Here are the top 3 that I use, they’re either free or inexpensive and it’s easy.
Number One: A calendar
It’s amazing how many people don’t use a calendar. Whether it’s a planner or an app doesn’t much make a difference so long as you always have it with you and use it consistently and accurately. I’ve used both an actual planner and a digital calendar and find benefits to both. For those who are super visual, having an actual planner can give you a big-picture view of your week or month. Look for a planner that is large enough to write everything in it that you need, I prefer planners that have full letter-size pages. Currently, I use my Google Calendar on my phone to track everything from my work schedule to appointments to dates. Get-togethers with family go on there, weddings, showers, vacations, workouts, and tasks like dropping off donations. Anything that has a date and time associated with it goes on my calendar. The key is to have one calendar for everything whenever possible so that you have a big picture view of your life. It may make sense to have a work and personal calendar, especially digitally, but putting your work schedule blocked off on your personal calendar helps you stay realistic about how much time you actually have to get things done. You can even block off the time you allow for sleeping if it gives you better boundaries and a visual reminder that there are only so many hours in the day. The key is to update the calendar whenever something changes and to always make sure you add events in the first place. I always used a pencil and eraser when I used a physical planner so that I could easily make changes.
Number Two: The alarms on your phone
I use these alarms a lot to keep me on track and not just for waking up in the morning. The best part about the alarms app on your phone is that you can name the alarm with a label so it tells you what to do. I use this for things that I don’t want to muddy up my calendar with. For example, there’s an alarm for the following on my phone:
Number Three: To-Do Lists
I have two ways of planning my day and making to-do lists. The first is just simple paper and pen. I prefer lined paper and a nice pen. I use this for my personal tasks and planning my day with the finite things I don’t want on my calendar and that don’t have a set time that I can set an alarm. I always put the top priority items first that need to be done that day, then things that need to be done that week or month for if I get to them. I use the previous list to make the next list if I didn’t get everything done on the previous list.
My other method is the free Notes app on my phone. I am also a personal assistant in addition to being a professional organizer and I keep my To-Do list for this job on the Notes app so that it’s always with me and I can easily edit it. I have the list broken down into things I do daily and things I do weekly on specific days of the week. I also keep grocery lists on the Notes app both for myself and for my client for whom I’m a personal assistant. I love the checkmarks option for the grocery list, it makes it super easy to see what I’ve gotten and what’s left. I keep other lists as well on the Notes app, like books to read, books I’ve read, places to check out. All sorts of lists are handy to have with me at all times so that’s what I use this app for.
If you implement these 3 tools, calendar, alarms, and to-do lists, your life will become more organized and you’ll be carrying less around in your head which will decrease stress. We must use the tools we have to declutter our brains the same way we declutter our physical belongings. I hope that you start using these three tools today to see what a difference they make in staying on task, organized and to give yourself a big-picture vision of your schedule. It’s always important to know what lies ahead so we can plan.
Here’s to an organized you!
Are you feeling overwhelmed with the thought of moving because of all of your belongings? Is being at home stressful because your clutter is suffocating? Do you have a hard time finding items in your home? It may be time to consider the joy of living with less and lighten the load you’re carrying.
I’ve moved a lot in my lifetime and have always lived in small spaces. From a house that was less than 600 square feet to a studio apartment that was 400 square feet, I prided myself on being able to make small spaces warm and inviting yet organized and clutter-free. You don’t have to live in a small space though to live with less. You can do this in any size of home. What are the benefits of living with less?
It makes it easier to move. When the time comes to move you can easily pack your belongings knowing that you’re not moving things you haven’t used in 20 years that were never unpacked from previous moves. You can pack faster and smarter. The less you have the less you spend on movers. Stay away from storage units. They just become a place where your belongings go to die, often never used after being stored for a long time. Move what you Need, Use, and Love, and that alone will make your load so much lighter. When your home is organized your move is organized, you can pack things room by room and unpack the same way. No more mixed-up boxes of miscellaneous items all jumbled together. This brings joy into your life because it makes the moving process so much less stressful. Moving can be joyful when done in an organized way.
Another benefit is that it’s better for your mental health. I’ve worked with clients that don’t enjoy being in their homes because the clutter is suffocating, making it hard to focus, causing fights amongst family members, and all in all, being a joy killer. Living with less frees physical space so that you have the mental space to enjoy your home. A clutter-free space brings calm and peace into your life. It makes it so that you can enjoy your home, entertain in it easily, make dinner without having to clean first, get ready faster, the list goes on and on. “Outer order, inner calm” is one of my favorite sayings from author Gretchen Rubin. It’s so true, as the outer space comes together and you live with less it truly brings an inner calm to your mental state. It creates harmony amongst family members. And it saves money making stress go down as well. What’s more joyful than that?
Living with less also means that you’ll find your belongings when you need them. The Pixie Lost & Found survey finds the average American spends 2.5 days each year looking for lost items, collectively costing U.S. households $2.7 billion annually in replacement costs. This is a lot of time and money lost throughout the years of your life just because of disorganization. Living with less will save you time and money, and a whole lot of it in the end. Imagine having a place for your keys, your charger, and your purse. Everything that you use throughout the day has a home and you know not only where to find it but where to put it when it’s not in use. No more cleaning before the cleaning lady comes over. No more panic-stuffing items into clothes baskets and hiding them behind closed doors when company comes over. No more buying multiples of items you already own because you can’t find them. That is the joy of living with less.
I hope that this sparks some motivation for you to get moving towards living with less. A 400 square foot studio apartment may not be in your future but moving easily, feeling joy in your home, and finding what you need when you need it most definitely is. May you find joy in your home today by living with less!
It’s that time of year when we get a new beginning again. The weather is starting to warm up, the snow has thawed and we’re all itching to get outside. What’s the best way to celebrate Spring? With some spring cleaning! Get your house fresh and clean with these easy tips and you’ll spring into an organized home. Do these 3 steps one room at a time.
Step 1: Clear the Clutter
Start by evaluating what you Need, Use & Love. Donate, sell, recycle or throw away the rest. Just getting the trash out of your home will lighten your load. And yes, every home has some garbage they can get rid of. It’s amazing what you unearth when you go one item at a time. Think about moving out expired foods from your pantry, the old leftovers in the back of your fridge, the mittens that no longer fit your kiddos, the list goes on and on. Every room should get an organizer’s touch during spring cleaning. Leave no item untouched. As you clear items out, give cabinets and drawers a wipe down and sweep out those pantries and closets once you can see the floor you don’t normally see. Doing the cleaning during sorting & purging is the best feeling as you’re creating a clean fresh slate to launch into step 2.
Step 2: Put Systems Into Place
The organization you do in your home should work for you, not against you. Everything should be placed as close as possible to where you use the item. Set up bins in your pantry, for example, categorizing food into salty snacks, sweets, canned goods, dinner, breakfast, grab-and-go, and so on. Closets should be organized by type of clothing, so all pants together, all long-sleeved tops get grouped, tanks and short sleeves, and so on. Within those categories organize in rainbow order or ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) with browns, blacks, greys, and whites at the tail-end. If space allows, mudrooms should get bins or baskets for hats, gloves, scarves, coats, and shoes organized by person. Have a spot to drop unopened mail with a wall-hanging organizer. Put kids' items down low so they can reach them and help to put things away. Each room should get systems like this put into place at this point. And last but not least label; label everything so that anyone that can read knows where to put everything.
Step 3: Show It Off
Walk your entire family through the organization that you’ve done. Talk about how the organized space makes you feel and how you hope it makes them feel. Ask them how it feels to be in an organized space. Explain the placement of everything and show them the labels. Explain that this is an all-hands-on-deck situation and that everyone needs to maintain this spring clean-up and overhaul all year long.
Not only will this freshen up your space, but it allows you to drop the unwanted items from your life without bringing them into future seasons. The systems you set up should carry you throughout the year and will do the thinking for you. It’s time to spring into action and organize your home!
A lot of people feel as though they just don’t know how to organize or that their brains don’t work that way. They feel as though they don’t have the "organizer gene". But can you learn to be organized? The answer is yes, you can! It takes hard work and a lot of focus but you can learn to get and stay organized. Here’s how:
Take a look around and be honest with yourself about what you need, use & love in your home. It’s important to start with decluttering your space because it doesn’t make sense to organize things that should be donated, recycled, or thrown away. Learning to throw trash away right away, for example, is a key step to getting and staying organized. That tag on those new jeans you bought that you’re keeping? It’s trash. The TJ Maxx receipt in your wallet from 3 months ago? Trash. The box from three cell phones ago that’s just chilling in your basement? Time to go. Often people say things like, “I don’t have any trash in my home,” but when it comes time to sort & purge they start filling trash bags. Learning to let go of this stuff faster and sooner is the way to go. Throw trash away right away.
You have to also learn to organize every day. Organizing is something that needs to become a habit where you pick up as you go during your daily tasks. It should become as much of a habit as brushing your teeth or eating healthy. Instead of leaving your makeup out after you’re done or the kitchen torn apart from cooking dinner pick up as you go and put things back into their homes right away. This will significantly decrease the amount of time you have to spend cleaning up during your free time. Why wait until later when you can put things away in just a few minutes or less right after you’re done using them? Not sure where things go? Then it’s time to create homes for everything you’ve kept.
Learn to organize like with like. This means categorizing your entire home. Create a space for each item by storing it with similar items. Remember the "Sesame Street" segment about one of these things does not belong? Find the items that don’t belong with the others and move them out. Help them find their families. When you look into your kitchen cabinet, there shouldn’t be 8 different categories jumbled together. Pasta shouldn’t be spread amongst 5 cabinets. There should be a categorized pasta section within the food portion of your pantry. From the basement to the attic your home should be a map for where things live just based on where like-items are. It should make so much sense that everyone in your family can follow the organizational system set up. Think about how stores or libraries are categorized. Not sure what room to store an item in? Choose the room where you use the items you’ve kept. Use it in multiple rooms? Choose the room where you use it the majority of the time.
If you can learn to throw trash away immediately, pick it up as you go, and store everything like-with-like, then you have learned how to organize. When you get in the flow of doing these three things every day it becomes meditative. Your space will begin to support you instead of work against you. Best of all if everyone in your entire family does these three things every day your home will stay organized. It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation and it takes everyone to be committed to the end goal of an organized home to get there. So yes, everyone in your family can learn these three things too, even the little ones. Learn how to get and stay organized today and have a more peaceful, clutter-free tomorrow; you can do it!
How To Organize Your Mudroom
The mudroom is often the first space after your garage that you see in your home. It can fill with clutter at lightning speed, especially when you have multiple children, a spouse, a pet, mail, after-school activities, and a pandemic going on. So how do you organize this often-tiny, important space? Where do all the shoes go? And how about the masks?
If your family is like most, this space is a drop-spot, but also often doesn’t have a door on it that you can close to block out the clutter from the next room, which is likely the much-used kitchen. Here’s the key: make it organized so you don’t have to worry about blocking out the clutter!
Sort & purge:
Start by going through the entire space from top to bottom. Sort & purge using the method of keeping only what each person needs, uses, and loves. Move items that are used in a different room to that room so that you’re only left with what belongs in the mudroom. If possible, keep only the shoes currently being used that week in this space. Create space in each bedroom closet for the rest of the shoes to live. Move donations, trash, and recycling out. Make sure that coat pockets are empty, gloves have mates, and everything still fits everyone. Be sure to sort and categorize the items you're keeping and separate them by person if space allows.
Put space back together:
Once everything is sorted and purged, begin putting the space together again:
Once everything is reorganized, it’s time to label, the most important step! Use bin clips to organize those cubes or baskets, label shelves, and make sure that the categories make sense. Labels are a map - and if someone can read, they can read the map and get to the organized destination. Do a walk-through with your family to show them the organized space, explain the changes you made, why you made them, and ask each of them to be responsible for putting their things away in their home.
I hope this helps you reclaim your mudroom so you can come home to Zen instead of clutter!
One of my favorite achievements as a Professional Organizer is when kids see their freshly organized space for the first time. Whether it's in their bedroom, playroom, or another area in the house, their reaction is almost always a precious testimonial to the power of organization. They notice the organization, feel the shift in the space and appreciate the work that was done to get there. So, if kids notice the change once a space is organized, does that mean they pick up on your clutter habits? The answer is absolutely.
Kids are affected by clutter the same way adults are. Clutter increases stress, lowers the ability to focus and makes it hard to make decisions about what to wear, play with, or eat. If a child sees their parents leaving stuff out on the counter for days, weeks or months they can see that putting things away is not important to their parent and therefore why should they put away their things? If they see paperwork piled up and dishes on the counter, it’s sending them the message that their toys and clothes on the floor isn’t an issue and can often be confused when parents erupt in frustration over a messy room. Why is their clutter an issue but their parent’s clutter isn’t?
Children are expected to put things away at school. I’ve seen kids as young as two years old in a Montessori classroom pick up after themselves without being prompted. The expectation is clear; pick up is a part of play. When given the right prompts and patience, kids can put away their belongings. It’s just like eating vegetables, if they don’t see their parents doing it why would they want to? Something key to changing clutter habits is seeing organizing as part of self-care and respect. If a child wants to keep an item then the expectation should be that they take care of that item with respect for it, the money it took to purchase it and out of respect for themselves. If they’re expected to brush their teeth before bedtime then part of that should be putting away the toothbrush and toothpaste as part of their self-care. If they don’t see their parents putting away their toothbrush and toothpaste why would they?
Something else that children pick up on is when a parent struggles to let go of unused and unwanted things. Learning to let go of clutter and donating gently used items can help a child learn not only to declutter but also to help others by donating to a good cause. Seeing a parent do this with ease makes an impact on children that will last a lifetime. Sometimes growing up in a cluttered home can make it hard for children to declutter as adults. They develop a fear of letting things go because of a “what if” scenario they learned as children. What if I need it later? What if I remember what this piece of plastic is for? What if I regret getting rid of it? Teaching children how to make good and honest decisions about what to keep and get rid of will help them for the rest of their lives. Learning to let go healthily at a young age will help them stay organized in the future. It is a gift that lasts a lifetime.
So if you’re struggling to find the motivation to get organized for yourself (which is the best reason) think about your kiddos. Are they living in a cluttered environment? Is their sleep being affected by the chaos in their room? Are they often bored in an overflowing playroom? They are a great reason to get and stay organized. They are watching your every move and learning from you every day. Do you want them to live controlled by stuff or by the freedom organizing brings? See their faces light up in an organized space. I’ve seen it countless times now and I know that the power of organizing is not lost on the little ones, the pre-teens or the teens. They feel the difference and notice the change just as much as the adults. It’s worth doing it for them.
Cheers to good decluttering habits!
A year end relfection...
Take time to reflect on the past year and all of the accomplishments that you have made.
If you didn't start the things you set out to accomplish at the beginning of 2021, you would never have achieved the success you did! Did you set goals and intentions for yourself last year?
When I look at the last few years, I am honestly in disbelief of what I have accomplished.
My 2019 Story
In 2019, I left the corporate world and started Utterly Uncluttered. I made a simple business plan, taught myself how to find clients, got insurance, learned that using QuickBooks was much better than using Excel to manage my books (the cost is well worth it), marketed myself on social media, regularly attended networking events, and navigated managing hundreds of work/personal tasks I had acquired. I heavily relied on family, friends, clients, friends-of-friends, and podcasts for support and help. I was even featured on the local news and radio several times, which was SO exciting, especially during my first year in business. I picked up a side job as a fitness instructor job at a local gym to make some extra money (maybe you came and worked out with me)! For a period of time I would wake up Thursday mornings at 4:30 am so I could shower and teach a 5:30am class then go to work for a full day organizing afterwards. It was a busy and humbling year filled with lots of change.
Trying and failing at new things is not easy. It can be downright discouraging; however, I was driven by knowing that I was helping others and making a positive change in their lives. Seeing the "before and after" progress of the work I did was so satisfying, and when clients express the weight they feel lifted off their shoulders - it makes all the hard work worth it.
My 2020 Story
In 2020, faced with the pandemic, I was forced to figure out how to pivot and just keep going. March was filled with many sleepless nights. Would my business run out of cash before I was able to go back to working in homes? I had worked so hard and I felt scared and unsure of what was going to come next. I started organizing virtually more often, which was a drastically different experience than working in homes. Though it was different, it was really amazing to see the progress my virtual clients were able to make with a plan and my guidance. During this time period, I also began hosting more online organizing workshops. I made time to understand how my business finances work, and our financial advisor recommended I read the book "Profit First" by Mike Michalowicz. I read it, and I would read it again. If you own your own business, I highly recommend you look it up and read it, too. I have never read a book that I felt impacted my financial knowledge and security as much as this one did, and it empowered me to feel in control of my business.
2020 threw us all NOTHING BUT CURVEBALLS. If I can take one big lesson away from 2020, it's that being in good health, both mentally and physically, is not something that should ever be taken for granted.
My 2021 Story
In 2021, my husband and I found out we would be having our first child in early 2022, and that our sweet pup Peaches would soon be a big sister to a baby boy! Through all of the excitement, panic ensued when I came to the realization that I couldn’t continue working at the same speed I had been for the past 2 years, all by myself.
This is the only picture that exists of the 3 of us, though my camera roll is filled with about 1,000 photos of just her, of course.
Anyways, I digress.
There simply aren't enough hours in the day to do it all, how was I going to get everything done?
There is a certain culture that is present in entrepreneurship/business ownership/whatever you want to call it that encourages you to hustle non-stop. That might work for some people, but if I wanted to run a successful business and also be a present partner to my husband and mother to my child, there was with 100% certainty no way I, personally, could continue going at the speed that I have been. I was already stretched thin. Most days, I work until I go to bed in order to simply get everything done, and because I work so late, I often have insomnia and give up on sleeping around 4am; so I will get up and keep working to "put my mind at ease." It's not sustainable.
I needed to figure out how to keep my business going, despite the inevitable physical, emotional and life-changes that were coming. After working through procrastination and accepting everything that I knew needed to be accomplished over the next year, I created trainings and processes, hired my first employees, navigated the pain-staking world of HR/Payroll, and continued wearing all the hats, but ultimately learned how to give up some control and ask other people for help. I now have 2 employees and am in the process of hiring more. It's the best decision I ever could have made for myself and my business, and I was SO scared to do it. I would likely have never accomplished all of these things without the motivation of “limited-time” ahead of me. My desire to be a present wife, mother, daughter, friend, and now boss, are my WHY for accomplishing my goals in 2021, 2022 and beyond.
I tell you all of this because I think many of us spend a lot of time and effort focusing on frilly goals that aren't really important in the grand scheme of our lives. Those goals often fail because the busyness of our lives takes over, and we don't have a true reason to stay motivated all year, after the initial thrill of "new years resolutions" wears off.
If you envision your life three, six, twelve months from today, where do you see yourself? Who is surrounding you? What are you doing? How will you get there? Write it down, work backwards, and then set your intentions & goals.
What is your “why” going into 2022?
New Year, New You: Prepping for a New Year, unloading holiday gifts, and putting away holiday decorations.
It’s time for a New Year and a New You! Organizing your home is a great way to start the New Year out on the right foot and it is work worth doing. The best way to prep for a New Year is to start by sorting and purging unwanted items from your home. Work through each room throughout your home to get the space you’ve dreamt of.
Not sure where to begin?
Ask yourself this: What room is causing you the most stress on a day-to-day basis or which area are you the least likely to tackle on your own? Whichever space in your home you thought of first is where you should begin. From there, work on the room next door to it until that entire floor of the house is organized then move on to the next floor, working through each level to get Utterly Uncluttered.
Now, how to do it! Prepping for the New Year, unloading holiday gifts, and putting away holiday decorations can all be accomplished through this 3 Phase Process. It’s repeatable and the same way you’ll maintain the space too.
Phase 1: Sort & Purge
You’ll be making a lot of decisions in this phase and you’ll want to remember to keep only what you Need, Use, or Love. Start on the floor of the room you’re working in closest to the door. Work your way around the room going one item at a time deciding what to keep and what to get rid of until the floor is clear. The things you want to keep you’ll need to decide do they belong in this room or another room in the house. If you stay in this room sort it like-with-like (so, by category), and if you move to another room in the house, create a redistribution container to put that stuff away later. I recommend having a redistribution container for each floor of your home. If it's full of items that you want to get rid of, decide to donate, recycle, throw away or give to someone you know (but only if they want it!). Create a container for each category. Decide where the donations are headed and schedule yourself to drop them off. Once the floor is clear, go through everything around the perimeter of the room and then anything in the center of the room (an island in the kitchen, a desk in an office, etc). Empty every drawer, every cabinet, every nook, and cranny. Make a decision on each item sorting the things you’re keeping, like-with-like as you go. You may also come across things you want to keep but that involves an errand, for example, dry cleaning. You’ll create a container for that as well as calendaring yourself to take care of it. After "Phase 1" is complete every item should have been touched and had a decision made. Sometimes it’s helpful to sort the items into a nearby hallway or room, other times it makes sense to sort within the room, it just depends on the space.
Phase 2: Reorganization
Once everything is sorted and purged this is where you put the space back together again. You will want to organize like items together, so all pens together, all pencils together, for example. The frequency of use will also determine where items belong. Use something daily? It needs to be in an easy-to-grab location. Use it once a month? Can go in a harder-to-reach spot in a cabinet. If a space in the room doesn’t hold all of one category you’ll want to regroup and either purge more or choose a different location in the room for that category. Remember, if the space is maxed out it’s time to get rid of more. Categorizing often takes up more space than just cramming stuff together in a disorganized fashion does so be diligent about keeping only what you Need, Use, or Love. If you do this in an honest way you just might end up with "empty" space, what a gift! Remember to bring in the new gifts you’ve received this holiday season. Putting away holiday décor should happen in your basement storage room so it’s key to make sure the space is organized so you can put them away.
Phase 3: The Walk-Through
This is when you show everyone in your family where everything ended up. A lot of people complain that their families don’t put things away but also haven’t taken the time to show them where things go. Be clear and logical as you explain why things are where they are (like-with-like, frequency of use, volume, and size) to help the system stick in their memories. Now it’s time to label! This is a must for any space, especially one being used by more than one person. Avoid using "miscellaneous" and "assorted" as labels and categories as much as possible. Get specific and make sure you’ve categorized when you were sorting, purging, and reorganizing.
By doing this 3-Phase process in every room and closet in your home you’ll be Utterly Uncluttered and will achieve a New You this New Year. Imagine your space as a blank slate just waiting to have exactly what you Need, Use or Love in it. It is worth doing at the start of the year so you can head into the following months organized, clutter-free, and with the peace of mind that you know exactly what’s in your home. Having new gifts to unload can be daunting but the key to enjoying the gifts is that we must have a good home for them. You’ll thank yourself next holiday season for putting away the holiday decorations in this fashion too. When in doubt, dig deep and be honest with yourself about whether or not the item you’re stuck on is truly benefiting your life. If you have room for a thousand pairs of shoes then keep a thousand, but if you only have room for 10 pairs then keep 10.
The space we have determines the amount of stuff we can keep.
As you journey into this New Year, remember to be Utterly Uncluttered every step of the way!
Cheers to the New Year and the New You!
Before purchasing a gift for someone this holiday season, ask yourself this very important question:
"Does this gift add value to the receiver’s life or will it be clutter they can’t discard because they feel guilty?"
Gifts are tough for people to let go of. The guilt of letting go of something a loved one has given you is real. People feel as though they’ll hurt that person’s feelings, they’re letting go of the person, not the thing, or that it will cause an argument. This was not the original intention of the gift being given but too often is the result. Don’t let your gifts become clutter, and start making the gift-giving about the recipient, not the giver. Here’s how:
Ask Questions: Before you go shopping ask each person the following questions: What’s on your wish list? What don’t you want more of? This allows them to give you suggestions they’d love to get and things that they are just overwhelmed by. This doesn’t take all of the fun out of surprising the person. They might say "candles are something I’d love to get, but home décor isn’t something I need." Now you get to surprise them with their favorite brand and scent of candle they love. Or if they give you 2 to 3 ideas, they won’t know which one you’re going to pick. If the person isn’t sure what to suggest ask them, what do you Need, Use, or Love?
This usually gets them thinking in a more specific way. If they say they don’t need anything respect that. People don’t always need a physical gift to know you love them.
Respect: Respect the person’s answers. Don’t disregard what they request or try to talk them into something. If they don’t want anything then you can give them the gift of time together doing something you both enjoy like going to a movie, a weekend where you do an Aunt weekend with your nieces and nephews (a twofold gift, one for the kids & one for the parents), or even a gift card to a nice restaurant you know they love.
Memberships to museums, money for grad school or to put toward a vacation are all excellent gifts that respect the “I don’t need anything response.”
Give Gift Receipts: Whenever possible give a gift receipt with every gift purchased. When they open the gift point out the gift receipt and tell them that if they want to return or exchange it to do so guilt-free, you’d rather see them with something they love than to put your gift in the back of a closet never to see the light of day until a Professional Organizer shows up.
Start Early: Start your holiday shopping early so you’re not stressed about finding everything on people’s wish lists. If you’re rushing to buy gifts you will likely be less thoughtful about what you’re buying and instead just buying stuff to have something to give. Be intentional, start early and give yourself enough time to shop thoughtfully and with love.
Take Notes: Make notes of what you bought for each person so that you know the following years what you got them. Make note throughout the year of ideas you come up with based on conversations you have with the person and things they mention – these notes come in super handy when asking for a wish list as you can suggest some items to them to see if they’re interested. Make note of what they don’t like as well, it narrows down the list for the next time you make a purchase. My favorite way to make these notes and lists is in my Notes app on my phone. That way it’s always with me when I’m shopping.
Don’t Take it Personally: If you don’t see your gift in the person’s house after you’ve given it don’t take it personally. Remember, gift-giving isn’t about the giver it’s about the receiver. If that person is overwhelmed with clutter or changes their mind later about a gift it isn’t about you, it’s about their well-being.
The stress caused by clutter is real and you wouldn’t want your gift to cause stress, would you?
These are the best ways to make sure your gifts don’t turn into clutter: ask questions, respect the answers, give gift receipts, take notes, and don’t take it personally.
Enjoy the time spent with loved ones above all else and remember, the holiday season isn’t about the stuff it’s about the people! Here’s to making memories and warm moments.
Shop with love,
Helping feed your urge to purge clutter from your life!
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