If you haven't read my post on decluttering, yet – do that. Then, try to implement that habit for awhile. If you focus on the habit of decluttering for 15 minutes per day, you'll find that getting organized doesn't seem so overwhelming, since you'll have way less stuff to deal with.
I originally was going to break all of this content up into a series of blog posts, but I realized that it might be more useful to have it all in one place for you to refer to as needed.If, however, you're ready to get going with organizing your home, your time, and basically streamline you life in general, this monster of a blog post should help you get started!
There are all sorts of organizational tools you can buy, but I'm big fan of not doing that. Sometimes, it makes sense, but we should all try to use what we already have around. When you're trying to get organized, the answer is very, very seldom to buy more stuff.
So, repurpose things you have already. Make garbage cute with paint, paper, etc. For example, you can hang onto:
Plastic containers (like for sour cream, cottage cheese, etc.)
Glass bottles and jars
And then make them cute by covering them with stuff like:
But DO NOT – I repeat, DO NOT – hold on to every last cardboard box you get in the mail or sour cream container and tell yourself you're going to upcycle it “someday.” Be honest with yourself. It's okay to put some stuff in the recycling bin and let the professionals handle it. I promise you will buy more sour cream in your lifetime. (Okay maybe not, I do have some vegan readers. You get the idea.)
If you do have to buy things, I recommend focusing on the things you would have a hard time making yourself, like maybe shelves. Even then, try to go green & buy used!
Managing Paper Clutter
Paper is the WORST. Here are some tips for keeping it under control:
Go through your mail at the post office and don't bring anything out that you don't need to actually deal with. Be generous to the recycling bin at the post office. (If your PO doesn't have a recycling bin, holler at them. Or sweetly bring it to their attention.)
Set up automatic bill paying for everything and turn off paper statements for all your accounts. Pretty much every company and bank offers this now, so take advantage of it.
If you get magazines, consider subscribing to digital versions instead. If that's a no-go, don't hang on to them forever, telling yourself “Oh but there's a recipe I want to clip!” or whatever. The internet has all the recipes, friend. Get rid of magazines. You can donate them!
Don't keep your kids' artwork. Not all of it, anyway. They aren't going to care. Seriously – are you mad at your mom for not keeping your toddler scribbles? Take pictures of the good stuff and call it good.
Clear out all of the clutter and remove everything but the machines and large furniture.
Locate a good sorting area. If you do not have one, make one! Use light and dark pillowcases attached to the wall or side of a cabinet with a bracket. Use curtain clips to hold the pillowcase in place. The pillowcases are a smart sorting method when taking laundry to a laundry mat, too.
Use up empty wall space over the machines. Install wire shelving. Install a bar for hanging clothes as they come out of the dryer.
Store your necessities in attractive canisters and decorative jars.
Place the ironing board off the floor. Hang it closer to your machines for convenience.
Where you have extra space, place a wheeled cart between your machines for added storage. To make your own, use four 1 x 6′ pieces of lumber, cut to the length of your machines, some trip pieces, screws, wheels and a little paint. Screw the front and back panels to the bottom and middle shelves. Next, nail trip to the sides and around the top. Attach wheels and paint.
Voila! You have a new laundry room made to order!
Organizing in the Kitchen
The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is a gathering place, a special place. From your kitchen come sights, scents and sounds that signal the appetite. It is the most memorable place in your home.
Your kitchen might come complete with plenty of cabinets, cupboards and drawers, and some may not. Whatever your unique situation, it's how you utilize the space you have and how you discover ways to add more storage solutions (as needed) that makes a difference.
Use the cupboards and drawers in the kitchen to contain items that are grouped together.
For example, place your dishes in a cupboard that is either near the eating table or near the sink area. Food should be gathered with like-items together, and not spread out into different cabinets that contain unrelated items (or having the same type food item put in two places).
To start with, it might be best to empty out the cabinets, one section at a time, and rearrange the items back into cabinets that best suit “the flow” of how you work in your kitchen. Keep things near where you use them. Spice rack near the stove, for instance, rather than on the opposite wall! Take your time for this takes some thought.
When you decide you organize you will have a place for everything and everything in its place. To accomplish this you will need organizing “tools” in which to store items. You can browse through catalogs or department stores for ideas on what to buy.
Get away from cluttering the counters with too many appliances. If you use the appliance often enough, keep it out. If not, keep it stored away where it cannot be seen. Consider building a shelf above the counter to hold appliances. This will free up your counter space to work on.
Organize your refrigerator in the same way as you would any other cabinet: group like-items together. Try to avoid keeping leftover foods in containers that sit in the back of the shelves, as they often go bad and smell up your fridge. It's a good idea to clean out the refrigerator weekly to be rid of foods that have “expired.”
Here are good ways to add new space to your kitchen:
Install smaller wall shelves to hold canisters and small appliances.
Store away (or give away) appliances or kitchenware that is no longer being used.
Put shelf organizers inside cabinets with high shelf space.
Put a pegboard on walls to hang light or smaller items.
Use plastic drawer organizers under your kitchen sink to make better use of wasted space.
Meal planning is a good way to stay organized in the kitchen, too!
Design your kid’s room so that they can keep it up themselves. Show your kids how to maintain their own rooms and reward them on their achievement in doing so. Give them their own household responsibilities and chores and then offer them a form of allowance. This will teach them to be organized.
Labels are the best way to teach your children what to put where. Whether or not your child can read yet, a combination of pictures and words are a great way to label bins, drawers, and shelves inside a closet. If you have some of those upcycled containers ready to go in the closet you might use one for toy cars and label it with a picture of a car and the word “CARS” underneath.
Organizing a child’s closet can get a little tricky, you are not just dealing with clothes here – chances are a fair amount of toys are going to have to be dealt with too. I like to hang up the clothes – it takes up the least space, and then you can use the floor space and shelves for everything else.
If you have multiple children, especially of the same gender, just hang everything up and sort it by size. If you're not expecting, you can then just put away clothes that your smallest child doesn't fit any more as he or she grows out of them, labeling the container “Boy – newborn” or whatever. This makes it easy to pull those clothes back out for your next kid or borrow/give them to a friend if you want.
Organizing Your Time
Budgeting your time is like budgeting your finances. You need to allocate a certain amount of time to certain things. I think we all know what happens when one does not budget their money. We end up without any money (eventually), or we have to scrape up money from somewhere else to make ends meet.
That is what occurs when you do not budget your time. You will end up without any time to do the things you want. You run out of time to accomplish the things you really must do, (….like organize. Ugh! What a mess!)
The number one thing you need to do is prioritize. Focus on important things first, no matter what. It really is as simple as that. Don't mistake things that are urgent for those that are important. A phone call, for example, is urgent. The phone is ringing! It needs to be dealt with! Most phone calls are not important though. So turn your ringer off and get important stuff done. They'll leave a voice mail if it is, in fact, important. And sometimes when it's not.
Apply this concept to everything you can and try to get the most important priorities done as early as possible. (Psst.. taking care of yourself should be one of your priorities. Just saying.)
I'm a big fan of multitasking.
Some people say that when you multitask, you're actually wasting more time because it takes longer to do things or you don't do a very good job. I think that can be true in some cases, but multitasking is still great for chores that don't require a ton of brain juice, if you know what I mean:
You can easily save time by combining some activities such as:
exercise and watching TV
doing dishes while talking on the telephone
catching up on paperwork while waiting for an appointment
I also “write” while doing chores… not on paper, but I think about what I'm going to write and even grammatically put the sentences together in my head. A lot more sticks than you'd think!
Have you ever stopped to imagine what your home and family life would be like if you ran it like a business?
Take up methodical and organized procedures that help you run your family like an organization. Your household will run smoothly if you also involve other family members in sharing responsibilities. Engage everyone according to their abilities.
What is involved in running your family and home like a business?
Each job assigned must be clearly defined. Depending on your child’s age and skills, they will be proud to contribute, and they will learn responsibility in the process. Children will even begin to take care of their rooms better when they are in charge of it. This may not happen overnight, but it will happen in time.
One tool I'd like to recommend for keeping the family organized is Cozi – the ultimate “family calendar.” One account for the whole family, but everybody is their own user. (Does that make sense? I hope so.) You can add appointments, shopping lists, to-do lists, and more. There is a smartphone app for it, so everyone can access it on the go, and there's also SMS functions for if texting is more your style.
The to-do list function let's you have a separate to-do list for each user as well as a “Shared To-Do.” Crafty Garden Mama talks about this tool and some other good ones for getting organized as a family too.
Kylie Wiser is an herbalist specializing in skincare and women's health. She shares recipes and resources on Everblossom to help others live a more holistic lifestyle. She lives in Fargo, ND with her huge family and lots of houseplants.