A list of Professional Organizing Tips and Tricks that have been helpful to my clients over the years. Contact me to learn additional tips and tricks for your specific situation. Reach out an share your tips, too!
Place a wastebasket or recycling bin next to your front door. Immediately throw away junk mail, catalogs, etc. This will dramatically cut down on the mail you need to sort through.
Reduce the amount of junk mail coming into your home. Write to the Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008, and request that your name not be sold to any mailing list companies. This won’t entirely stop the junk mail, but it’s a great start.
We often punish ourselves for our clutter by creating a lot of not allowed hobbies: not being allowed to go to the mall, yard sales, etc. Instead of taking away things you like, try adding new hobbies or activities that won’t increase your clutter. For example, taking a walk, meeting a friend for lunch, having a massage, or relaxing at Starbuck’s with a good book are all treats you can give yourself without bringing more junk home with you.
When making your New Year’s resolutions, pick something small to change every day rather than a vague and huge goal. For example, rather than saying, I am going to declutter my entire house this year, make the decision to spend 10 minutes each day decluttering a specific area, to read your mail each day, or to put your dishes directly in the dishwasher. You are more likely to follow through on a smaller and clearer goal, and over time you will see big results.
Looking for a simple way to keep your gift wrap neat and organized? Use a basic, plastic rectangular trash can. You can stand up rolls of wrapping paper, and fold gift bags to sit right next to the rolls. For smaller items like bows, ribbon, scissors, and tape, buy a couple of lingerie laundry bags. These are mesh, see-through bags normally used to wash nylons and hand-washable items, found at any Target or Container Store. They work great to hold wrapping odds and ends, and can sit right on top of the trash can.
Sort by outfits
Put your children’s clothes away in outfits, rather than shirts in one drawer and pants in another. Now, even young kids can dress themselves!
A great way to reduce your clutter (and save your bank account) is to reduce impulse buying. When you see something that you want, put an x” one week ahead on your calendar. If that date arrives and you can remember what it was you wanted, and you still want it, consider returning to the store. You will be amazed at how often you won’t remember what the “x” is for!”
If you find that you have a hard time throwing things away (even things you know you don’t really need), try boxing up the items you are stuck on and dating the box for 6 months from now. If that date comes and you can’t name the items in the box, toss it!
Have a dish rack for drying dishes. Many people have done away with these now that they have dishwashers. There are always some dishes to wash by hand, though. Without a specific place to put them, your counter and sink quickly become cluttered.
Get kids involved in daily clean-up. Each evening, set a timer for 5 minutes. Everyone picks up as much as they can in that time. A job well done earns a star, and a week of stars earns a treat!
Rather than being swamped with cooking for the holidays, prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Pies will keep nicely for a couple of days. Sweet potato and squash dishes freeze well. Even stuffing and mashed potatoes can be made earlier in the day, and then simply reheated in the oven. This will help you avoid the chaos of trying to finish many dishes all at the last minute. Instead, relax and enjoy your family and friends.
Keep linens in the room where you use them, rather than in the hall closet. Each room should only have 2-3 sets of sheets. Keep a box labeled linens in each closet to hold them. No more searching for linens for the beds!
Keep as many appliances off of your counter as possible. Only things used multiple times EACH WEEK should be out.
If your closet is packed, but you can’t decide what to get rid of, try arranging your clothes by color. Items that don’t match anything else will immediately stand out. Get rid of them! Now that your clothing is grouped by color, it will also be much faster to locate items that go together, making getting dressed in the morning a snap.
Make a conscious decision about how much space to allocate for any one thing. For example, decide how many bookshelves you have room for, and then keep only the books that will fit. This approach is opposite to what most people do. I’ve filled up all my bookshelves. I guess I need to buy another one.” Doing so can quickly overwhelm your space. Be honest about how much space you have to spend and you will keep your clutter to a minimum.
Put a shoe rack in your hall closet. It will keep the floor of your closet neat, reduce the amount of dirt tracked through your house, and free up space in your bedroom closet.
Give gifts that don’t add to anyone’s clutter. Consumable gifts, like homemade goodies, teas, and coffees, are always nice. Experiences, like tickets to a play or concert, or babysitting coupons for people with young children, are also appreciated. That way, your gift will result in a fond memory, not just another thing to dust.
Remember: it takes 3 or 4 weeks to develop a new habit. When you commit to getting organized in one area of your life (the mail, the laundry, etc.), give yourself time to get used to the new routine. It’s normal for it to seem new and strange for some time. Keep at it, though. Over time, it will become a natural part of your daily life.
Clean and Clear
Decide to keep the largest object in each room clean and clear. For example, make sure the bed is made each day and keep the dining room table free of clutter. Because of their size, these objects grab the attention of anyone walking into the room. Keeping them clutter-free will help create the illusion of organization until you can tackle the piles hiding in the corners.
Be careful not to undermine your own decluttering goals by trying to do too much all at once. Instead, choose one daily habit that you would like to develop and practice it EACH DAY for a month. Write a reminder in your planner or calendar, post a note to yourself on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror; whatever will help you remember your task daily. After a month, reward yourself with something nice (NOT clutter!). One new habit each month equals twelve new habits in a year. That’s quite a year!
Invest in a scanner. Scan documents that you need to keep rather than holding onto so much paper.
Clutter isn’t just about stuff. You can have clutter in your schedule, your finances, or your relationships. Pick an area that seems ripe for reflection and spend a few moments sitting quietly and thinking. What do you spend time on that you don’t enjoy, doesn’t fulfill you, or is taking up time you would rather spend elsewhere? Ask similar questions about money and relationships. Now commit to changing one thing that you became aware of. Time to renew, recharge, and declutter your life!
Newspapers are meant to tell you about CURRENT events. If it is more than a week old, it is not current. Recycle it!
To cut down on the amount of mail, and time spent paying bills, consider signing up for automatic payments. Many banks offer automatic, recurring payments that you can manage online. Most utilities and other services will either set up a direct debit to your bank account or a direct charge to a credit card. Your bill or statement should list information about signing up for these services. Either way, you will receive fewer bills in the mail, and you won’t accidentally pay anything late.
Clutter is just a deferred decision. Start making decisions in the moment. The next time that you pick something up, think about if you need or want it, if it works, and where it should live. Then follow through immediately. Over time, this will become a habit.
Get kids into the habit of decluttering early. After they have received some new things: after a birthday, holiday, or start of a school year — help them get rid of some old items they no longer use. Together, choose a charity to donate the items to, or have a small yard sale and give your children the profits.
Kids schoolwork and art projects can quickly take over your home. To control the paper, buy a large plastic bin for each child and limit the collection to only what will fit. As the bin gets full, you (or your child) will have to make some choices about what to keep. Remember, the idea is to have some memories of this time in their lives. A selection of papers is just as effective as having everything. Plus, you will be instilling good stuff-management skills in your children!
Having some support can be incredibly valuable when you are trying to tackle your clutter. Consider enlisting a friend who also struggles with organization. Take turns going to each other’s homes to help sort and dispose of items. Don’t know anyone like that? Try posting a notice on community bulletin boards, at your place of worship, or at work.
Many people store their shoes in shoeboxes. Take photos of each shoe and attach to the end of the box. Now you can easily see what is in each box, and you don’t have to invest in expensive clear plastic shoe storage boxes. No more guessing which box you are looking for! No more pulling multiple boxes down!
No more catalogs
Reduce your clutter, and help your bank account, by throwing out ALL catalogs for a month. If you absolutely can’t part with them, rip off the cover to remind you of the store or website, and throw out the rest of the catalog. Create one file to house all the catalog covers.
Holiday decorations can take up a lot of storage space. Make a date with yourself to go through your decorations, keeping only those that you really use and love. Pack decorations into large plastic tubs by season (one tub for spring, Easter, etc., one for fall, harvest, and Halloween, and so on) and label them. Only one tub per season! Now you’ll have a manageable amount of decor, and you’ll know right where to find things.
Walk around your house imagining that you are house hunting. What would you change? What would you get rid of? Sometimes we get so attached to the things that we need to find a way to look at them with fresh eyes, with objectivity. Now start making the changes you envisioned!