I have walked into people’s homes and seriously thought to myself I could probably not eat here if asked to. If there is clutter and stuff and things everywhere out of place, my brain just automatically thinks that cleanliness isn’t an issue. How many of you can sympathize with that statement and how many of you have a house that resembles it? If you have stuff everywhere, don’t stress, it’s not too late and you can change it around and have a neat, organized environment! Even if you are ‘prone’ to be messy!

I have been asked my many people to help them organize their homes. I’ll walk into a home and typically it’s the same scenario. Disorder starts with small things and builds from hectic lives with no time to ‘put something away.’ People rush out in the morning and come home at night with chores and children and dinner and there doesn’t seem to be the amount of time necessary to keep order. I try to help people first change the way they think and hopefully realize that it takes a lot less time to put things away one by one than when you have 50 things that got piled up and now you have a full blown chaotic mess.

Getting your house in order and reducing the confusion gives you more control over your life. Personal organization some how releases or frees you to operate more effectively. Larry King

How do we start? If every room in the house has a little clutter, sometimes it can be overwhelming and a starting point escapes you. I have simple rules to follow when I am organizing someone’s home. A starting point needs to be thought of as something small. You can’t walk into someone’s house and instantly think ‘I’ll tear this whole place apart and slowly rebuild.’ If that’s the case, no one would ever want me around!

1) Start with something small & manageable. The most popular rooms in the house that people want me to organize are kitchens & closets. Clearly both of these rooms get constant use. With constant use comes room for mess and time to clutter. I will usually start with kitchen drawers and work my way around one at a time.

We all have that ‘junk’ kitchen drawer that somehow seems to collect everything. I think that one drawer is always a great starting point. Much of what we find in that drawer will be trash, the rest typically needs to be ‘put away.’ Mail, cards, pens, school papers, they all seem to be collected in this kitchen drawer. Once that drawer is done, the other cabinets and drawers are typically much easier and quicker. The pantry is next. That is sometimes a bigger project and takes a little time. The key is to tackle a small area at a time. If you only have time for 15 minutes, do something small. Every little bit counts.

2) The second key to remember that is so important, everything must have a ‘place.’ If there is no designated home for something, then maybe you don’t need it. Countertops and laundry rooms should not be the gathering place for extra papers and items that you simply don’t know what else to do with. If it’s file-able, then file it. If it’s trash, pitch it! This brings us to the next huge key.

3) Do NOT be afraid to pitch! Don’t be a hoarder. If a paper has value, then by all means, file it. If it doesn’t, pitch. We do not need to save every single thing from every one of our children. We do not need to keep every card and every magazine. We do not need to keep broken tupperware and items that have missing parts. We do not need to keep junk around that serves no purpose. Throw it away or give it away.

4) Schedule time to organize. With our busy lives, and with our homes that become cluttered due to lack of time, it is important to take a little bit of time and organize every day or week. Even 5 minutes does a lot. I can easily organize a bathroom in 5 or 10 minutes. Typically it’s put away brushes, toothpaste, hair items, hang towels, etc. It only takes a few minutes at a time to totally change a room and make a difference.

5) Start putting things away right away instead of piling up somewhere ‘to be put away later.’ As organized as I am, I have a hard time with putting away laundry. I love to wash it, dry it, and fold it, but hate putting away. I will pile it up all neatly folded on top of the dryer until it begs to topple over because it’s so full. I have tried to discipline myself and put away each load as it comes out of the dryer. I have found that when I do this, it becomes much more manageable and much less stressful.

6) Go through closets on a regular basis. This is true of growing children the most. I have gotten into the habit of going through my daughters room literally once a month. She is growing so fast, and truly every time I find some things that she has outgrown. If you are saving clothes for hand-me-downs, at least put them in bags and store away. Cluttered children’s rooms are the worst. They tend to mess up quite a bit themselves, so if you can alleviate some of the extra items, it makes it easier for them to put things in their proper place. With adult closets, maybe it isn’t necessary to go through that often, but still a great idea to get into the habit of going through and getting rid of items that aren’t needed or wanted any more. I have a friend who will literally get rid of items that haven’t been worn in 3 months! That might be a bit drastic, but it’s her way of staying organized.

7) Bathrooms. If you are like me, you like to keep all the little sample items that come with purchased toiletries. You pile up different scents of lotions and shampoos, and before you know it, cabinets are cluttered and stuffed, and so are the shelves. I recently helped one couple organize their home and when I first walked into the bathroom, I noticed that the countertops were as if she had a makeup store! It was ridiculous. No room for anything else on those tops…just loads and loads of makeup. First of all, maybe we can try to justsayno to an over-abundance of makeup. If that isn’t possible and you feel the need to pile it on, then at least find a way to put away. Make a drawer for it or a basket can work well. Leaving on the countertop is just clutter and messy. It doesn’t allow cleaning and we know how water is constantly getting all over not to mention toothpaste, hair spray, etc. Not a good idea, keep countertops clean.

8) Refrigerators are a great place to store items. We’ve all done it. Any leftover is thrown in, all extra packets of sauce find a drawer, and multiple items get forgotten since they remain odor-free and hidden at times in these large ice-boxes. Take the time to purge every week, if it hasn’t been eaten, it probably won’t be.

9) Women, if you are like me, you will change purses according to outfits and activity. How many times we’ve heard and said ‘I don’t have any because I just switched purses.’ I used to become so frustrated with this process because it meant you were always left without something you wanted. I decided to streamline my purse for this reason. I organized my regular wallet, and made a second small ‘wallet’ that holds extras not always needed. Things like bonus cards, gift cards, business cards etc. I will only grab my regular wallet when I know I’m just going out for the evening and will not need the other items. Then I streamlined my makeup bag. Only those items truly needed. Sometimes we carry around so many unnecessary items and we just need to say NO. The other items whether toiletries, wipes, pens, etc., can typically go in a side pocket. All organized and easy for a switch off when necessary. Clean those purses ladies!

10) The last item that is very beneficial to completing your new organized life is the car. I know, this one is good. With children, commutes, work, and play, we tend to stuff items in our cars just in case. Then we realize that we never really need these items. Go through your car once a month. Clean out the center console of all the junk that piles up, clean out the trunk. I keep one basket in mine for all items that I feel are necessary. When my daughter was younger, I always had a small change of clothes, underwear, etc. Today I have my bed bath & beyond coupons, bag of bug spray and sunscreen, hats, and an old towel just in case. I still clean it often though because somehow things just multiply in that basket.

Follow these simple guidelines and you will find yourself saying NO to clutter and YES to an organized life!

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