If you’re like me (and I’m betting that you are), you would probably say that you could be a little more organized. And if you’re like me you have probably tried various planners, systems and colorful containers to get there. (I actually have a plastic “graveyard” with all of my previously used planners!) The problem with all of these methods is that they don’t address the real issue.
We have too much stuff!
We have too many activities scheduled, too many appliances on our counters and too many clothes in our closet. We are running around scattered and drained, just trying to keep up while our houses get messier and we get stressier (yes, I just created a word for you.). So what is the ONE thing that you have to do to get organized? SIMPLIFY!
The only way to be truly organized is to simplify your life. (Tweet This!)
And the only way to simplify is to streamline your life and your home by eliminating the unnecessary.
Media and information are moving faster than ever and we are constantly bombarded by noise and visual stimulation which adds stress to our lives and clutter to our brains. I solve this problem by doing a daily Brain Dump (read more here) first thing in the morning and creating a plan for my day using my weekly goal list (read more here). I also take time every day to go “unplugged” and get away from electronics and social media.
More and more opportunities are available to us and the social pressure to stay busy is almost irresistible, but we have to make time in our schedules to rest and refuel. It is imperative that you eliminate responsibilities and appointments from your schedule and eliminate tasks from your to-do lists. For help read my post “How to Say ‘No (and be nice about it).””
There is no doubt about it, Americans are materialists and consumers. We have so much stuff that many of us have not only filled our homes and garages, we have to purchase off-site storage as well. In order to simplify your life you need to clear items from your counters, cabinets and closets (and possibly your bedroom floor.) Give it away or throw it away – just get it out of your house.
Just to encourage you and show you that I am in this with you, take a look at some of my previous messes:
Pileup in the office.
Pileup in the bedroom.
Pileup on the counter.
You get the idea.
The way that I cleaned up these messes is not only by re-organizing items, but primarily by getting rid of those things we no longer used.
Here are some shots of some of our previous give away hauls when they were ready to head to the donation center:
Books, shoes and other stuff.
Household decor and clothes.
More clothes and toys.
And the hits just keep on coming…
It’s actually embarrassing that I have had that much extra stuff.
So if your house looks like mine does from time to time and you are ready to get truly organized, you need to stop moving stuff from one place to another and buying pretty containers to store it in. You need to get rid of it! The clutter is draining you emotionally, mentally and physically.
If you need a little help to get started, try my 3 step plan for decluttering success:
Start with ONE area.
It is super easy to become overwhelmed when we have let our homes be overrun with stuff. That feeling of being overwhelmed will be the one thing that keeps you from making progress though, so you have to break through it. The way that I break through is by focusing on one small area at a time like my nightstand, the entertainment center or one section of my closet. I don’t worry about the rest of the house because I know that I will eventually get to it and the progress I make in the one area I have chosen motivates me to keep going.
Create a Donation Station.
Once you start getting rid of the excess stuff in your life, you will need a place to put it until you can take it away. You can designate the floor of one of your closets, a box in your entry way or a bin in your garage. The key is to take the items away within a week WITHOUT LOOKING AT THEM AGAIN. Looking through the box will tempt you to take things out of it and you need to get rid of them, not find ways to keep them. 🙂
Schedule a regular decluttering time.
I prefer to do a 10 Minutes a Day Decluttering (see all my 10 Minutes a Day projects here) because it forms a habit which makes it easier to accomplish, but you can schedule a time every Saturday morning or on the 15th of each month. The key is to make a commitment, write it on your calendar and stick with it.
If you need a little extra motivation and help to declutter your home, my friend Dana from A Slob Comes Clean has two hilarious books to help you do just that.
Click here to read more.
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Sharon Hall Mooberry says
Oh jeez it looks like you took pictures in my home…ughh! Thanks for all the help…
The Peaceful Mom says
Ha! Glad to help. 🙂
I love this October idea!
Kimberlee Stokes says
I emptied out the kitchen utensils and part of the junk/’scary’ drawer into a box. I wrote the date on the box and after a year I donated the rest. Throughout the year as I needed things I would take that item out of the box. I also keep two utensil croks in my kitchen. One with things for by the stove (turners, wooden and slotted spoons, spaghetti server, etc) and one by where I do my baking (spatulas, whisks, pie server, etc).
In my closet I have a yellow hanger (no idea where it came from) and it is labeled October. Everything I own goes to the left of the hanger. As I wear something and return it to the closet it goes on the right side of the hanger. In October I take everything on the left and donate it. I figure if I have nto worn it for a year (all seasons have passed), I don’t need it. October happens to be the month I decided to start so you could easily have a May or June hanger.
(Also in my closet, since I tend to wear something more than once before I wash it, I hang clothes on hangers and hang the hanger backwards. That way I know if it is unworn or worn once. If the hanger is backwards I know to throw that item in the wash that night. It helps keep things off my floor but yet I don’t have to try to remember what I wore.)
Kimberlee Stokes says
Ooh, I love these ideas Emilie!
A few weeks ago I collected 8 boxes and bags of STUFF and set them out for Purple Heart. I was so happy to get rid of all those unused useless-to-me items but you can hardly tell I got rid of anything! Miles to go still!
Kimberlee Stokes says
Don’t be discouraged Kaelyn – that is AWESOME! Keep up the good work!
I have a friend who does the trash bag technique for getting rid of things. She puts the items in a black trash bag, leaving the bag in the attic or garage for about a month. If anyone asks for the item, there it is, but if they don’t ask, out it goes.
Kimberlee Stokes says
That is an awesome idea – thanks Beth!
How do you get your kids involved in the decluttering process? My two oldest absolutely hate to part with anything? Toys, clothes, sports equipment and souvenirs etc.. I feel like we are drowning in toys and clothes around here. I am able to box up some things while they are at school but then I wonder if it was really a “treasured” item and second guess myself. Any suggestions?
Kimberlee Stokes says
Hi Karen! I have a couple of ideas for you. I definitely think it is better to help kids make decisions about their own stuff rather than clearing out their rooms on your own. One idea is to give each child a “keepsake box” in which they may keep items to “save for their children” or for the future. When the box is full they have to decide if they are going to take something out or leave the new item out.
You can also have contests during which you time them and give them the challenge to find ten things to give away. Everyone who gets ten items within the time limit (5 – 10 minutes) wins a prize (ice cream date with mom or something that is not a physical item) or you can award points and when they reach a certain number they receive the prize. Once you have those items take them to a donation center as quickly as possible so they don’t retrieve them. You can also help them decide if an item will be treasured later. Will their future grand kids think it’s cool? Just a couple of thoughts. Hope that helps.
I used several different techniques to get my son to pare down his belongings.
1. A few weeks before my son’s birthday or Christmas I would tell him that he was going to get new presents soon and that if he wanted to have room to play with the new things then we had to clear away the old broken stuff.
2. I tried to show my kids that giving stuff away feels really good. It’s a win-win situation where everybody benefits: he’ll have a nice tidy space for his new toys, the recipient receives something they need; the recipient’s mom saves money; I’ll be proud of my generous boy and he will feel happy about making other people happy. What’s not to love?
3. I’d let my child make the decisions about when and if he was ready to give things away. My theory was that if my child felt secure in his ownership of an item, he would feel freer to give it away. I didn’t want to threaten to take his stuff (“If you don’t pick up your toys I’m going to throw them in the garbage”), shame him into giving up things he still wanted (“You still use that? It’s for babies.”) or sneak around and throw his stuff away when he wasn’t looking because I felt he would feel undermined and insecure about owning his things and then cling harder to them (we all know that things become dearer to us when someone else tries to take them away). I’d say things like, “Your cousin thinks your red shirt was really cool and likes the dragons on it. You’ve outgrown it. Do you think he’d appreciate it?” If he said “Yes”, then we’d give it away. If he said he wasn’t ready I’d say, “Okay, we’ll put it in this “Too Smalls” box on top of your closet and maybe next time you’ll feel ready.” It seemed to work because my son is now 16 and is the most unmaterialistic person I’ve ever known. Belongings simply don’t matter to him unless it’s his computer or his cell phone.
4. I worked in a library and brought home books every day so my children were used to the idea of communal sharing. They learned: they didn’t have to own something to enjoy it; that if everyone shared, everyone benefitted; and that everyone takes a turn and returns it when they’re done. I think this idea of sharing made it easier for them to let go of stuff they didn’t use because they knew it was someone else’s turn.
5. Confession time: I hate clutter. I was always a tidy person, but working in a library has honed that tidiness into a conviction that everything has to be sorted properly and put away in it’s designated spot or else CHAOS WILL REIGN! My kids didn’t accumulate a lot of clutter because I kept on top of it.
6. I tried to teach my children that ownership can be a burden. Once you own something, this means you are responsible for cleaning, maintaining and storing that item or risk it being ruined. Ironically, my ex husband helped reinforce this lesson by being the complete opposite of me in terms of housekeeping. His home was filthy and untidy and my son’s things were ruined, broken, misplaced or lost when he stayed with his dad. My son didn’t like that.
7. When my son was small I encouraged him to ride his bike and play in the park with his friends. Maybe he learned to associate fun with people and experiences rather than material things. It’s easy to let go of stuff that isn’t important to you.
Whoa! I didn’t mean to write so much. I got a little carried away. Full-disclosure: I haven’t always been able to clear clutter from my children’s rooms. My daughter has always loved “stuff” and when she was young I had to work to keep on top of it. She had asthma and the specialist told us we had to eliminate sources of dust in her room. This meant no clutter, nothing stored under her bed, washing her bedding often in hot water, minimal stuffed animals in her room and none in her bed, getting rid of her curtains and replacing her carpet with hardwood (which we couldn’t do because we were in a rental, so I vacuumed her room often instead). All this tidiness changed when she became a teenager and no one was allowed in her room because she wanted her privacy. One night I came home after dropping my children off with their father and my home had been robbed. They ransacked my bedroom, dumped out my drawers and closet and stole all my jewelry. When the police came one of the officers was walking with me checking out the damage and when we came to my daughter’s room the officer said, “Her room got trashed too. What a mess Will you be able to tell what was taken?” I looked around the room and had to say, “Nope….she keeps it this way.” I still laugh when I think about it.
Her “stuff” piled up until it was strewn across her bed, desk, shelves and floor. One night I was walking from her bedroom doorway to her bed to kiss her goodnight and I stepped on and broke a wall mirror than was lying on the floor underneath several layers of stuff. I made up a new rule for her bedroom. For the sake of safety in case of a fire, she had to have a clear pathway from her bed to the door at all times. I was also quite adamant that I didn’t want her eating in her room because she’d leave the dishes up there to mold.
Kimberlee Stokes says
Thanks so much for all your terrific ideas K.!
I laughed out loud when you mentioned “too many appliances on the counter.” I was just telling my husband that having so many gadget-y things makes me NOT want to cook! We don’t have a pantry, so all our cupboards are used for food, dishes, appliances, glasses, etc. It is like playing Tetris just to get the appliances back into their home. We have 2 Crockpots (we don’t have kids, so having two is a little ridiculous!), a food processor, a blender, a Magic Bullet, a big griddle thing, a George Foreman, and a small Crockpot for dips. Oy. That doesn’t include the Kitchen Aid mixer on the counter, and the hand mixer in another location. I think it might be time to purge (at least a Crockpot, right? LOL)
Kimberlee Stokes says
I totally get the no pantry thing. We had that issue in our last house and I had to get creative with our storage. If there are any of those items that you don’t use I would definitely get rid of them. Anything you use infrequently can be stored in another area so you can have your counter space back — and maybe even your desire to cook, but I can’t promise anything! 🙂