If you are anything like me, the concept of home organization is a journey, not a destination. Over the years, I have bought lots of books on the subject, some better than others.
(For the record, in my opinion the hands-down best, most life changing book on organization I have read thus far is The Organizing Sourcebook : Nine Strategies for Simplifying Your Life.I read it over a year ago and I still refer back to it almost every single day.)
I am an eternal optimist, so I can’t help believing that someday every closet, drawer, cupboard, file cabinet, box, vehicle, and any other imaginable space will be the model of efficiency, a picture-perfect, fully functional, zen-like haven of rest and organization.
Rest assured, I’m not there yet.
Not even close.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, for the most part, my house is very clean and tidy. I don’t like messes or clutter, and I tend to be a little psychotic about sanitizing every imaginable surface on a daily basis. I start every morning with my speed cleaning routine and I get a little frantic if my bed isn’t made. But as embarrassing as it is to admit, I would be lying if I told you that every room in my house was perfectly neat and organized.
My bedroom closet is currently a complete disaster.
We have pretty much given up hope of ever parking in our garage.
And I hope no one is planning to visit anytime soon because the the guest room needs some serious work.
Are you shocked?
But while I have pockets of chaos, there are also many ordered spaces in my home.
My stockpile, for instance.
My home office.
And my kids’ closet.
Those areas make me very happy. They give me hope for the future.
And this year, as I slowly & methodically work my way through my favorite book of the moment, Organize Now!: A Week-by-Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life, I hold out hope that by December I will have finally conquered many of those organization projects I always put off because they seemed too overwhelming.
But staying organized is not the same as getting organized, and for now, I am mostly working on maintaining order in the spaces I’ve already tackled.
Here are my 5 simple strategies for staying organized:
1. Label everything
I bought my Brother P-Touch Labeler when I was pregnant with Annie, one of those “nesting” things. (When I was pregnant with Maggie I took it upon myself to prepare and freeze enough individually portioned meals to last my husband Chuck and I almost a year. Crazy stuff!) I immediately began labeling everything in sight, and really haven’t been able to stop myself since. Chuck once made fun of me, saying, “Do you really need to label every drawer? Don’t you know where it goes?” I responded, “Of course I know where it goes. I am labeling it so that YOU know where it goes.” I find that once things have a labeled home, it is much easier for everyone to put them back where they belong.
2. Tidy every day
I am a morning person, so I try to start my day as early as possible, before anyone else is up. I sit down with my to-do list, enjoy a cup of coffee, and then I get started on my cleaning checklist. By the time the rest of the family is up, the house is neat and tidy and we are ready to start our day. By keeping up on it each day, I find that it really doesn’t take me all that long to get things back under control.
3. Purge frequently
It is easy to accumulate things that really should be thrown away or given to charity. If I find an area I’ve already tackled is becoming messy or cluttered, I try to figure out why. Did I add more to it? If so, what can I get rid of? Things are constantly coming in to our lives; it is important to make sure that the unnecessary things also leave.
4. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
The less work it takes to put things away, the more likely you will be to maintain your system of organization. This is key, especially with kids! (And husbands.) Use open baskets, boxes, or containers (as opposed to ones with lids) whenever possible because it is easier to put things away. Leave room to grow so that you don’t run out of space and have nowhere to put new items.
5. Give yourself a few “to-sort” spaces
I don’t always have time to put everything away, but I want my house to look and feel neat and tidy. Thus, I have resigned myself to allowing a few “to-sort” areas. These spaces can shift based on my current needs, but I generally keep a basket on my desk for ongoing projects, a basket for mail and bills that need to be sorted and paid, a folder for coupons, and a large laundry basket for stray toys. Sometimes the laundry room becomes a catch-all room; right now the guest room holds that role. As long as I can close the door and not have to look at it, I’m okay with that. Deep down, I know it is just temporary.
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UPDATE MAY 2015: It has been a few years since this post was originally published, and I’m happy to report that we’ve made some great strides in both organizing and decluttering our home! I think there will always be work to do, but we managed to turn our messy guest room into a family room. For a while it functioned as our homeschool room, and then we later converted it to the girls’ room and turned their old bedroom into a functional guest room. Finally tired of battling with a closet full of clothes that I didn’t love, I pared down my jam-packed closet to just 40 hangers, and then recently gave it a fun girly makeover.
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