Many say they need to become more organized, especially each January. Some will even call an Organizer. However, those unwilling to adopt new habits will always struggle with clutter. No matter how easy or difficult that initial push to get the home in top shape might be. That is just a start. Without maintenance, that initial organization is just a waste of time and money. Organizing is not a project; it is a lifestyle. So, here are 11 key habits of an organized lifestyle. These will make a big difference in your home and how you live.
1. Make The Bed Every Morning
Making your bed makes the room feel in order and makes you feel accomplishment from the time you get up. In addition, this action helps you face the date with a can-do attitude.
2. Keep A Donation Bag In Each Closet
Having a bag for things you no longer need or want allows you to make those decisions when you think about them. You will have a designated place for these items and won’t need to remember to gather them later. When the bag is full, schedule a donation run. The moment you put on a piece of clothing that you feel is no longer suitable or is ripped or screams dated, instead of hanging the clothing back (or God forbid, throw it on the bed or a chair), you will place that item in the bag.
3. Create A Home For Everything In Your House
You will decide where things should go based on their use pattern in the home. The important thing is to assign one specific place to each category of items, preferably. If using an item requires storing it in more than one space, formally set those spaces up. Also, labeling storage areas allows everyone to know where to put things back. Finally, remember that If anything can go anywhere, everything will go everywhere.
4. Put Things Back In Their Place
To maintain an organized home, everyone must put things back where they belong every time. Hence the importance of labeling spaces until everyone knows the proper place of things. “I will put this here for the moment” does not work. It never has. It never will.
The words “free,” “save,” and “discount” act like a drug on the brain. Please don’t fall for it. Before you buy, ask yourself if you need the item and have the space to store it. If not, please walk away. The less you own, the more living area you enjoy in your own home, and the less you have to take care of.
When bringing home bags or boxes, remove the contents and strip those items of outer packing as much as possible. That is making the stuff truly yours. It also makes the item(s) ready to be organized within your home. This process is a critical step we follow when organizing a space. You want to have everything as visible and ready to be used as possible. Removing all unnecessary packaging also saves lots of space and makes all items of the same kind look the same. The more homogeneous your collection, the more functional the system is and the prettier your areas look.
Entertained garbage makes up for most of the clutter in every household. If you commit to removing the packaging of what you bring home, then go the distance and trash the garbage instead of allowing all the extra packing to linger around your home until who knows when.
8. Process Mail Efficiently
Keep a recycle bin, a shredder, and a tray or sorter to process the mail. Preferably have your filing cabinet where you process the mail. Most of the mail you receive is junk. Throw it away before it can clutter your home. Also, be a knowledgeable shredder; only those documents with account numbers, social security numbers, medical information, or bank offers need to be shredded. Having a shredder right where you sort the mail allows you to take care of this immediately. Too often, I find boxes full of documents that need shredding cluttering my clients’ lives. Over concerns about safety compounds the problem. When we do not know what we should destroy, we accumulate more paper over time. Also, it is critical to have a mail sorting and filing system that works for you. This way, you process bills on time, and things needing filing won’t float around the home. Every piece of paper to keep needs a file.
9. Plan Ahead
Take a few minutes to prepare for the next day at the end of each day. Evaluate your “to do” list and set out everything you need to go through your planned errands the next day.
10. Practice Strategic Scheduling
Scheduling is logistics 101. College business programs include courses on administration and logistics, with algorithms to determine the optimal sequence of events to complete a project or the most efficient routes to get around. Of course, you don’t need to go to such an extent, but you can gain significant efficiency and add more time to each day with some planning ahead.
11. Clean Out Bags Daily
Whether it is your handbag, weekender, kids’ sports bags, or suitcases, emptying the contents of all bags allows you to assess what needs replacement, needs to be washed, trashed, or placed somewhere else. This practice is particularly beneficial in helping you plan for the following day or week. If you are a paper kind of person and love to write little reminders and notes to yourself throughout the day, emptying your bag consistently helps you remember that idea you wanted to pursue. Those reminders might be the start of more significant plans in the scope of your life.
Consistency Is Key
These 11 steps might not seem like much, but when combined and executed consistently, they will show a big difference in your life.
Imagine a beautiful store window. But then you can’t focus on any particular item in it.
Think of a beautiful model home. And then clutter covers countertops, cabinets are packed to the brim, and there are boxes all over the place.
Visualize a hotel room with a closet full of empty wire hangers, every inch of the walls has some artwork or painting, blankets (with prints of all colors and different types) are folded on the bed, and bathroom cabinets are full of toiletries to last for three months (with daily use).
What if The Container Store showroom was full of mismatched hangers, many pieces of clothing on top of each other, and store supplies boxes under the clothes?
The above scenarios convey the following truths about clutter:
We can’t organize clutter
We can’t organize clutter
A cluttered place will never look elegant, inviting, organized, or appealing
Clutter will ruin the beauty in any space
Less is more when it comes to elegance
Clear space is to a home what a wide, white mat is to a work of art – It highlights the beauty of its surroundings
Why Can’t We Let Go
We often find it hard to let go of things we no longer need or want. This difficulty might come from the fear of not having something when we need it (if we ever need it). But we often don’t even know what we own and end up buying duplicates anyway!
Other times we think discarding some expensive item is throwing money away. But the money was spent when buying that thing, not when tossing it—keeping expensive things that we no longer want, will not bring the money back. And frequently, keeping those things costs us more money than letting those items go.
I invite you to take the plunge and free yourself of useless possessions. Re-evaluate your relationship with things. The less we own, the easier it is to keep up with what we have, and the more we start appreciating everything – material possessions or otherwise.
One of the hardest things about moving is achieving a balance between getting a head-start on the packing, having what you still need to live and function in the house before you move, and keeping a home worth showing.
As a Professional Organizer, I deal with packing for moving quite frequently. Many people find the packing and moving processes abhorrent and excruciating, making this one of the biggest stressors in anyone’s life. Thus, many times they rely on a Pro to deal with all that.
Here is some advice to ease the burden of the packing for the moving process. If there comes a time when you have to go through this, hopefully, being better informed and armed with some strategies will ease your pain.
Home Areas & Item Categories
Pay attention to the order, the how, and the what of your packing. The best thing to do when in the process of moving is to organize the home before you pack your move. Why is this? There are three main reasons:
(1) in organizing the home, you realize there is a lot you can let go of before moving (less effort and money to move)
(2) organizing the home prior to packing allows things that should be together, to be together. Then the packing happens logically, by categories. This makes the unpacking so much easier and home set up, faster
(3) no one likes seeing (or showing) a cluttered home for sale. Homes should be organized for showing. Shoving things in closets, cabinets, and drawers does not work. Visitors open these if they come with the house. If the contents in these spaces are disorganized, visitors immediately think the house lacks storage space. That is a big red flag in selling a home.
Note that if a moving company handles the move, they might have restrictions and limitations about how to pack and who does the packing. Due to insurance, they might need to do the packing instead of the client.
But whether you pack your move, or they do, following a particular order in the process and grouping items in a certain way for later packing will make everything easier.
The main thing to remember is that packing logically and per item category (not by room) is the name of the game. Therefore, although this article is divided by house areas, you will notice the crucial importance of item categories in the process.
Miscellaneous & Décor
Pack decorative and miscellaneous items first. Gather artwork, framed photos, Knick knacks, books, paintings throughout the whole house. Wrap frames and delicate items in bubble wrap. Place decorative pieces in medium-sized boxes so they aren’t too heavy. Also, pack so that the weight of the top pieces doesn’t crush the bottom items.
Living Room/Media Room/Game Room
Most likely, your movers will take care of large electronics and furniture in that room. However, before moving day, you should empty the cabinets and drawers and allocate their contents in the groups, boxes, according to the item categories in the space. Examples of items in these areas are board games, DVDs, board games, CDs, smaller A/V equipment, toys, blankets, smaller electronics related to games, etc. So, you want to go throughout the house and gather all items that belong to any of these categories, so these items are packed together.
Pro Tip 1: Use small boxes for CDs and other living room items. The weight adds up fast — pack heavier items toward the bottom of the box and lighter items toward the top. Don’t exceed 50 pounds per box to make moving easier.
When a game room, living room, or media room includes crafts items, if you will have a dedicated crafts space in the new home, box crafts stuff separately and mark them as such. These boxes should land in your new crafts space when you move. If the new home does not have a dedicated crafts area, you might want to merge all crafts material with office supplies. In this case, take all crafts items to the current home’s office area to pack these items with office things.
You might need many files and documents right until the day before the move. Set aside all documents you will need, and you can transfer the contents of your filing cabinet to banker’s boxes. Label these boxes. You will only need to add those files or documents to the boxes on moving day.
It is best to pack your desktop computer last unless you have the same access to information using your laptop or iPhone. Laptops can go with you in the car, so there’s no need to pack them in anything but their case.
If you have been diligent in keeping your paper files in order and have cleaned up your files every year, you are in the best shape possible in that area. If not, take care of that now. It’s in your best interest to avoid moving messy files that will need sorting later and would only make your move more expensive.
Linen & Coat Closets
Linen and coat closets usually contain lots of random things. Moving is the best time to see what we own, what we still want, and what won’t go with you. In the process, it is essential to consider the function of those items we keep.
The purpose of each item determines where that item should be stored. Now is the time to take each item where it should go, rather than pack everything in these closets together.
At the same time, determine if other items in the home should rather be in any of those closets. In that case, gather such things and merge them with the closet’s contents. Why? Because you want to pack together items serving the same purpose or belonging to a particular category. Packing this way leads to a faster and more logical unpacking process on the other end, as mentioned before.
The kitchen usually contains items that we accumulate for years and never use. Before packing, spend some time assessing what you use, need, and want. Get rid of duplicates and other things that are you do not use or want.
Pro Tip 2: Pack dishes, trays, cutting boards, and other flat items in boxes, vertically instead of flat. This way, they are less likely to crack. Use smaller boxes for dishes and utensils because these items are heavy. Place thin foam sheets between the plates. For china, use bubble packaging material. Cloth napkins, dish towels, and tablecloths are also helpful to cushion.
Pro Tip 3: Avoid newspaper, though. Newspaper leaves ink marks, and you do not want to have to wash every dish in your new home when you move in.
Most bedroom items can be packed well in advance of the move, except for the sheets and blankets on the bed and outfits you wear regularly.
There are many things we keep in our bedrooms that fall into the “miscellaneous” category. Examine those items. If anything belongs somewhere else, take that item or group of items to where they belong so they can be with their logical groups before packing. If you no longer need or want something, this is the time to let it go.
Go through every toiletry product in your cabinets and discard unwanted or expired ones. Identify all hygiene and beauty products you will need until moving day and those in a box or bin, so they remain available for your use but are easy to grab and go on moving day.
Pro Tip 4: After this process, pack the rest of your toiletries in small boxes lined with plastic garbage bags, as toiletries can easily leak.
Pack all towels and linens that are not in use with other towels and linens found throughout the house, in one single category. This can also be packed in advance.
Pro tip 5: Keep a laundry bag handy for the few dirty clothes and towels used until the last minute.
Do not wait until the last minute to pack your closet. Unfortunately, closets become storage spaces for all kinds of things, and we forget about them because these items hide behind clothes.
Start organizing your closet ahead of time before your move so you can decide about those items that don’t belong in the space. Place those things with related stuff and where they should have been in the home. Then, once in the new house, find the logical, permanent place for those items (do not place them back in the closet!).
The use of wardrobe boxes makes packing clothes easier — transfer the clothes from the closet to the box, hanging them on the bar. There is no need to remove hangers, which facilitates unpacking your wardrobe later.
Pro Tip 6: Protect folded clothes by placing them in a large plastic bag before boxing. Then, if the boxes get wet in transit, the plastic will protect your clothes.
Before you cringe, let me say that you can tackle the garage with ease and grace.
Start by trashing everything that you can discard. There is usually a lot of trash in garages. That will make the process easier. Then, take all paints and chemicals to a specialized recycling facility. If paint cans have lived in the garage for years, they are no longer in good shape. Also, paint is specific to the house- you won’t need it in your new place. One idea is to take pictures of each can lid, so you keep a record of paint formulas and brands for the new homeowner.
Moving companies don’t transport chemicals and paints, but you’ll be better off buying new products, so you start in your with a clean, fresh, new garage area and supplies. Also, these items are heavy, and moving companies charge by weight. So probably it is less expensive to buy new garage products.
For this same reason, you want to clean up your tool chest or toolbox to keep what you need and use. Repair and building equipment are bulky and heavy and will substantially increase moving costs. You will be amazed at the many things you can let go, sell, and even donate to places like Habitat for Humanity during this purging process.
Now is the ideal time to take inventory of your holiday decoration. We usually store holiday decor in a garage or attic. So, see what works or not, what will fit your new place, and what can be donated or trashed.
Organize all items to keep in plastic, labeled bins with lids. Those bins will probably go inside moving boxes for the move, but the totes will protect their contents. Once at the new place, you will remove the boxes and place the containers in your garage shelving system, attic, or storage unit.
Treat any other things you keep in your garage the same as the holiday décor category (organized, relevant contents, in well-labeled plastic bins). You will see how manageable the garage is when you tackle it methodically.
Some pet items such as grooming supplies and extra toys and additional dishes can all be packed in advance. Ensure to leave out anything needed for your pets until moving day and during the moving process, such as kennels accessories, special toy(s), treats, etc. Ensure your pets are safe during moving day, including keeping them locked away when movers are in and out of the house to prevent them from running away.
Important Things To Remember
In summary, here are some things to remember for packing each space of the home:
Before starting the packing process, it would make sense to organize the home – during the organization process, items find their logical homes, and things of the same kind come together, making it easier to pack logically.
Purge as you go.
Get all items of the same category or use throughout the house and pack them together.
Pack item categories with your new home in mind – think about where the things will go.
Label each box with the name of the room where they will go in your new home (not where they came from).
Using a box number system, create a contents inventory for each box in a master file.
Creating a plan and starting the process ahead of time are crucial elements in making the packing process less stressful for you and your family. The less stress you face in this phase means a more enjoyable transition to your new home.
Enjoying the holiday season this year might be simpler than you think. But, if we can take care of a few essential things first, this is possible.
It Starts with Halloween
Let’s see. It’s Halloween, and you have precisely the stuff you need to create the theme you are going for this year. You know this because you have that neat area in your garage dedicated to holiday décor where every box is labeled. So decorating will be a breeze!
This year you are dressing up and having fun with the neighbors on Halloween!
You are enjoying it even more because you know how easy it is to put everything away (and while your kids are at school, you can eat all their candy!).
Then Thanksgiving Arrives
While putting all the Halloween décor away, you want to take out all the Thanksgiving stuff. Easy! It is all well-organized. What used to be a grumpy task is now an enjoyable thing to do.
And just like that, Thanksgiving has officially started in your home. Time to think of the menu, the guests, football, and all that comes with it. But guess what? You do have the time and capacity to think about all that now.
Your home is decorated, organized, clean, and ready for holiday guests because after that initial effort and investment last year (when we worked together in managing your home and all the storage), you have maintained the place.
On Thanksgiving Day, you can eat all you want and blissfully go into a food coma while watching football.
And Before You Know It
When recovered, it will be time to decorate for the major holiday of the year and put all Thanksgiving stuff away.
Everyone wonders how this process became so easy this time – everything is organized, accessible, and clean. You are in a jolly mood. It is a beautiful atmosphere.
You do have time to go shopping or tackle all your gift shopping online in a couple of hours.
Since your home looks, smells, and feels like the holidays, you have fun gift wrapping. But, of course, it helps that you have a fantastic gift-wrapping station stocked with everything you need for this purpose.
Probably It’s Not You (Yet)
Okay, this is probably not your case. You need to contact My Space Reclaimed now. Let’s start planning and organizing now, so the picture described above gets to be your story.
People go frantic during the holidays. They have to clean and get the home ready for guests, decorate, plan special activities, shop for gifts, gift-wrap, mail cards, and cook.
But with a neglected house, seasonal decor shoved everywhere, and disorganization, it is hard to feel at ease or properly decorate, shop, gift-wrap, cook, or do any coherent planning. That does not sound much like the jolly spirit.
Shining A Light on Your Home
No other time of the year shines a light on our home and family life as the holidays. Our home is where we cozy up with friends and family to celebrate, cook, eat and drink while cold outside. So make your home an inviting nest that genuinely speaks of love, gatherings, family, and joy.
All these holiday-related activities can be joyful if we first take care of the fundamentals. Things like the physical organization of the home and developing systems that help us every step of the way is how we create the foundation for a joyful holiday season.
So be proactive this year! Start analyzing which home processes can be more efficient, what changes your home needs to feel and look its best, and what home areas need reorganization.
The holidays are around the corner, and we would love to ease your burden during this time. Contact My Space Reclaimed and see how we can help you.
In the minds of most, cleaning and organizing are two activities that go together. We think of a messy place and we imagine it both disorganized and dirty. For the same reason, Organizers get asked over and over if we clean, too. When asked this question, I politely smile and say, “Well, I clean my house, of course!” So, you talk dirty to me and I will tell you some cleaning secrets now.
I do have to say that most Organizers, myself included, refuse to place items neatly organized in dirty spaces. Therefore, we do our best to clean some or engage the client in doing the cleaning, so the project ends at its best. But I am the first one to tell the client to please postpone any special cleaning project until the home is organized – for best results on the cleaning.
So Many (Unused) Products!
As an Organizer, I admit I am impressed by the number of cleaning products I find in every household, especially those that need the most cleaning. There is often a plethora of products for every purpose imaginable, as well as multiples of the same products and cleaning tools.
Another factor that confounds me is the presence of dirty cleaning tools. It does not make sense to clean with dirty tools. It would make sense to clean those tools when we finish cleaning, so we keep the clean tools in our newly clean space.
But since it seems like this rarely happens, I feel free to suggest to my clients a handful of multipurpose products and tools that accomplish many cleaning jobs and eliminate most of the extra work.
What You Need
In my opinion, these are the only products and tools you need. Don’t overcomplicate your life and save space in your cabinets and laundry area.
NOTE: These cleaning alternatives might not be preferred options for the environment since they are chemicals and disposable items. Some are not the most cost-effective either. But these products get the job well done with a minimum of effort, which is what most people need. They keep the tasks simple and are a less expensive alternative than engaging a professional cleaning company. You can also research natural alternatives to the chemicals, especially recipes created with Young Living essential oils, baking soda, and vinegar.
5) Clorox Ultra Clean Disinfecting Wipes (1 container per bathroom and 1 in the kitchen)
6) Clorox Free & Clear Multi-Surface Cleaner
7) Scotch-Brite Multi-Purpose Scrub Sponge (4-6) – these are the best sponges, even for doing the dishes manually
8) Ajax All-Purpose Powder Cleaner with Bleach or Comet Cleanser (one or the other, but just one) – for when additional scrubbing power with bleach is needed.
9) Assortment of brushes with and w/o handle and different kinds of bristles
10) Gloves (you need to protect those hands!)
11) Arm & Hammer Clean Shower Daily Shower Cleaner (1 bottle per shower or tub) – this product is truly a miracle. Tilex has its own version as well.
12) Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Sponges (tough stains, marks on walls, even cleaning the tub w/o bleach)
13) Microfiber rags (4-5) – Use dry with Windex for stainless steel, glass, and mirror. Use it to dry off washed surfaces. Use wet with the multipurpose cleaner to clean all surfaces.
14) Clorox toilet wand kit (one per toilet) – The kit leaves in the bathroom by the toilet. The sponge is single-use, disposable. The sponge contains the cleaning agent, so there’s no need to have an additional product. Do not flush the sponge. Dispose of it in the trash.
15) Windex (regular kind – just 1 bottle)
16) Pledge Multi Surface Antibacterial Everyday Cleaner – If you have special surfaces such as wood, use this product instead of Clorox Multipurpose. Use with a dry microfiber rag.
17) Cleaning caddy – Keep all your products in the caddy, so they can be moved around your house. Only one set of products is needed. You want a caddy that is rectangular, with straight angles, and not overly divided.
18) Trash bags in sizes according to trashcans in the home (very important to always line your trashcans. To avoid ruining the look a nice-looking trashcan, use transparent bags. Pro tip: knot the rim of the bag to make it fit the border of the trashcan. Hide the excess bag between the trashcan rim and the bag rim.
19) If you have dogs/cats, you will want these two things:
a) Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium-Ion Cordless Hand Vacuum
b) Evercare Pet Extreme Stick Plus 100 Sheet Lint Roller (and extra rollers) Or some other product with this purpose. Pro-tip to use lint rollers: do not dispose of the cover. After using the product, peel off the used sheet and leave the new sheet ready to use protected with the original cover.
Follow A Process
Assign a day to wash towels and bedsheets. A good idea to simplify your life: have only one complete set of towels per person, per bathroom, and one set of sheets per bed that truly complement the décor. When it is laundry day, wash, dry, and place them back in use. No need for storage space. No need to fold.
Wash bathroom rugs at least once a month.
Assign a day for each household person to do their laundry (from start to finish on that day). That way, family members take turns and there are no loads of clothing waiting around for washing.
Accumulate all dirty dishes and utensils inside the dishwasher. At night, run the dishwasher. Empty the dishwasher completely and put everything away, first thing in the morning (or before bed). There is no need to keep that strainer or piles of dirty dishes around the kitchen day after day.
If you have dogs or cats, it’s probably a good idea to vacuum once a day or at least once every other day. With the cordless vacuum, this is truly therapy.
Keeping disinfecting wipes in the kitchen and bathroom makes it easy to wipe off surfaces as often as needed.
At least once a week, clean the inside of toilets with the toilet wand and the outside with the Clorox wipes. Clean all surfaces with wipes and clean the mirrors with Windex.
Keeping a bottle of Clean Shower in your shower or tub helps you use this product daily. When you do this, this product virtually eliminates the need to clean the shower! Probably once a month you’ll want to scrub the tiles and all other areas with Ajax or a Mr. Clean Eraser sponge.
Dust all that you can see with the duster. It is so easy to work with this product, that you’ll get in the dusting mood quite fast. When finished, just trash the duster.
Always clean top to bottom and left to right so you can keep track of what has been done. Also, dirt falls on the floor and you want to leave the floor for last.
Finally, use your vacuum all over, go over the floor with the dry Swiffer if desired, and finally, use the wet Swiffer to clean the floors.
Don’t forget to dress your beds, re-place bathroom towels, and change all trashcan liners at the end.
Get yourself a wonderful glass of wine and take a bubble bath in your clean tub!
All this is exponentially easier if your house is uncluttered and organized. If it is not, let’s start with that, shall we? Then you’ll see how easy it is to maintain your home clean.