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Home Organizing

As the former self proclaimed "Countess of Clutter" I can help you wade through your clutter and get a handle on a stress free, calmer, happier, healthier life. It is important to realize that clutter is not your friend. Clutter takes up valuable space in your life, takes time to wade through and induces stress. Clutter is also magical, it isn't important to you until it is time to get rid of it. I know, you are encountering something that you haven't noticed, used or cared about until now when you are ready to get rid of things. As you look at the item you wonder: What if I need this someday? Why did I buy this? Is it a rare artifact that is worth millions of dollars?

Some tips to help you get started:
  • Don't race out now and buy new containers to hold your sorted items, wait until you have gone through everything so you know what you will need.
  • Know that some of the items will have you waxing nostalgic, but keep moving forward.
  • Have realistic expectations. Organizing is a process, not a quick fix. Take each step and break it into smaller pieces. Inch by inch it's a cinch.
  • Have a target date on your calendar to get you started.
  • Make a generous deadline. You didn't collect all your items in an hour, don't expect your whole home to be decluttered in an hour. If you miss your deadline, don't worry. Look at what you have accomplished and keep moving forward.
  • Remove distractions. Farm out the children, don't answer the phone.
  • Keep things moving. Set up your boxes and trash bags for keep, sell/donate and throw.

Gather Supplies
The first step to getting control of your clutter is to gather supplies. (Yeah! An easy step!) I like three to four containers to start.
  • Trash bags or large trash can. This is for throwing things out!
  • Keep box.
  • Give Away and/or Sell box.
  • Repair or Store in a different location box. (This one is optional. Don't get trapped by putting things in it and then just moving your clutter.)

Pretend You Are Moving
This is an excellent opportunity to cleanse your home of things you don't need weighing you down. If you were uprooting and relocating, what would you take with you? Like most people, you are probably only really utilizing about 20% of what you own. A good guideline for this sort is to toss anything that you don't use, love or wear. If the item is a mystery to you like keys, receipts or entire boxes that haven't been unpacked since your lsat move, they should go. If the items are duplicates, get rid of the extras. Remember moving is costly, so you will want to pare down any possessions that aren't loved, used and worn.

Do you have lots of books? Sort through them pulling out the volumes that are a bit worn from use. Now look at the remaining books on the shelf. Those are great candidates for donating or selling on eBay. Ask yourself if you want to pay someone to haul those away because they were gifts or you felt motivated when you bought them.

Picture your house as a prospective buyer would. Uncluttered spaces make the best impressions. They are also much easier to keep clean and dust-free. If you need a bit more motivation, picture the pretend buyer (or worse, a friend or relative) going through your closets and drawers. What do you want to get rid of now?

Evaluate Your Space
Go through your home and write down what activities take place in what areas and the items associated with those activities. Once you have accomplished this, you will know the purpose of  each area. Now is the time to jot down what you want the spaces to be used for. Anything that doesn't relate to how you want to use your space should now be removed from the area. This is an excellent plan for keeping items organized into areas rather than strewn throughout your home. Start with one room, but envision your entire home as a functional, purposeful space. With multi-purpose rooms, designate smaller areas for particular activities. This will help you keep items in their proper place. Know your priorities for various spaces in your home. If you are constantly "tidying up" you are really only moving clutter from space to space in perpetual rearrangement.

Clean Out for a Worthy Cause
Lightening your load will be easier if you know someone else will benefit from your items. This is a much better approach than looking at everything you have purchased and possibly wasted money on. Choose an organization that you like and learn about them to be sure your items will be going to a good cause. On a similar note, only donate items that are in good condition. If they are junk, don't make someone else throw them out. Remember your discarded items will be worn, used and appreciated  more in someone else's hands than they would in your own.

When taking your items to be donated, don't leave them outside the building to be destroyed by the elements. Deliver them in person or find out if the organization has a pickup service that will come to your home. (The next time a charity calls or sends information about neighborhood pick-ups, tell them to stop by even if you haven't set anything aside yet. This will give you a deadline and an incentive to get rid of something.) Check to see if there are specific items the charity needs, this will make it easier to give up your items. Also check to see if there are items the charity doesn't want and find out if there is a group that will take those. This is a great opportunity to get your family involved in purging and will help your children know how good giving can feel. Another perk is earning a tax deduction for your donated goods. You are responsible for tracking your donations, determining their worth, and itemizing them on your taxes.

Edit Your Home
Start in the upper left hand corner and "read" from left to right, top to bottom. Edit out the extra "words" that are making your life more complicated, cluttered and unmanageable. Don't let yourself drift to other parts of the room, stick with the left to right, top to bottom theme. This dedication to the theme will help you get through the entire area without creating other messes and a constant clutter-o-rama. If you have a photo of how you would like your room to look, tape it up as a motivator. This method of sorting and organizing helps keep you focused and knowing what to tackle next. When you feel your dedication waning, look at what you have accomplished and feel good about the end results.

Find A Clutter Buddy
Recruit your friends who support your organizing mission and who have decluttering needs of their own and take turns organizing your spaces. The beauties of a Clutter Buddy are: the lack of attachment to your items; barn raising mentality makes organizing go faster; it's fun to have someone listen to the story of why you are so emotionally attached to the broken dish before you put it in the toss pile. (If you can't find a friend to help, consider hiring a professional organizer.)

You will need some basic ground rules for this mission:
  • Everyone should get along well and know the difference between encouragement and coercion.
  • The owner of the item should have the final say on whether or not to pass the treasure on, throw the treasure out or keep it.
  • Have a team celebration when a goal is reached. When the kitchen is done, go out to eat or order in a pizza.

Closet Shopping Spree
Are you a budding clothes horse? Do you have plenty of clothes in your closet, but still find yourself in dressing rooms? Try "shopping" in your own closet. Grab an arm load of clothes (this way you only have to deal with a limited number of items at a time)  that you haven't worn in ages and try them on in front of a full length mirror. If there are some you would buy again, put them back into your closet as long as they fit, are still in style and don't need any major alterations or repairs. Any that don't fit the criteria to go back into the closet should go directly into the donation bin. Don't let the price you paid for something guilt you into keeping it. Your closet is prime space and realistically you probably only wear 20% of what is in there anyway. If your weight has fluctuated (and who's hasn't) this method will let you determine what fits now and get rid of the memories of your body size history. This approach may also help you to unearth a buried treasure, or at the very least a Halloween costume.

Can't bear to weed through the clothes even a little at a time? Try one of these methods to truly know what you will and will not wear:
  • Take all your hanging clothes and hang them the opposite way on the rack. When you wear an item, it can be rehung with the hanger facing the "correct" direction. If they haven't been worn in six months, donate them. (This method is adaptable for winter and summer clothes too. Just hang the clothes that match the season and give them a six month window.)
  • Hang all your clothes inside out and the hanger. When you wear the item, hang it right side out. Anything that is still inside out after six months goes into the donation box.
  • If you still can't bear to part with the some of the items that are still the "wrong" way in your closet, pack them into a box and postdate them for 6-months from now. If you haven't opened the box to retrieve them before that date, you know you don't need them. The big bonus is they are all ready packed and ready to leave your home.

Keep Like Items Together
To help you know what you have, group all like items together. Your silverware drawer is a great example of this. Your spoons, forks and knives all have their own location and you probably know about how many of each item is in the drawer. You probably don't know this about the remainder of your cooking utensils. Put all your like utensils into piles, spatulas with spatulas, wooden spoons with wooden spoons, and so on. Take the ones you don't need and put them in the donation or toss bins. Group the remaining related items and give them their own space. Every shelf and drawer should have a specific theme, just like your silver drawer or sock drawer. Don't limit this search to one room, look all over the house for scissors, stamps, batteries, staplers and put them in one place. If you have two items that serve the same purpose, keep the better or newer one and donate or toss the remainder. As you are starting this project, clean the drawer, cabinet or surface then only put back the things that you use.

Once everything is categorized, you can quickly determine what you have and what you have too much of. This will help you know what you have and where it is so you don't end up buying unnecessary duplicates. If your items resists being categorized, it will be easier to deem it unworthy to remain in your home.

Time Savers

Grocery Shopping
Peak shopping times are from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Stay out of the store then and save about an hour of your valuable time. While you are shopping, listen to the overhead music being piped in. The stores play different music to cater to different shopper demographics.

If you have the space, buy in when deals are hot. Some of the "hot" items are paper towels, toilet paper, soaps, and canned goods.

Want to check out more quickly? Place your heavy items on the line first. Your cashier will appreciate it and it will cut down on your time in line.

Bag your items in categories to help you put them away more quickly once you get home.

Are you a weekend marathoner? Try doing your laundry throughout the week rather than all at once. If you do one load at a time, it should only take you about 30-minutes and will free up most of your weekend for better things.

Don't try to clean your entire house in one fell swoop. Instead do one room at a time. Get a bin from your local discount store to carry your cleaners, rags, paper towels and sponges around with you.

Work your way around the room in a top to bottom and left to right pattern. This method will help you keep on track and save time.

Plan your route before you go and make a circular loop. If you can do errands with someone else, you'll be able to double team and save more time. Another option is using web based services so you don't need to run out at all. Photos can be printed by Photoworks  or Shutterfly  and you can get movies through a service like Netflix 

Just because your phone rings doesn't mean you have to answer it. Use caller I.D. and your answering machine to screen calls. If you are really busy, set a timer to remind you to get back on track. You can also return calls while you are waiting somewhere. If you feel you must talk while driving, please get an ear piece so you keep both hands on the wheel.

E-Mail and Computer Time
Check your emails twice a day and answer them all at once. If you get sucked into the computer void, set your timer to remind you that there are other activities that may be more beneficial.

Are you watching programs that you love or just watching television because you have become addicted to it? If you find yourself saying there is nothing on, turn off the boob tube and do something more productive. If you have On Demand or TiVo, you can watch your favorite shows on your schedule and free up lots of nonproductive television time.

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