Once the junk is gone, the rest will very likely be easier to act on. As you clean out, you will undoubtedly find things that don’t belong
in that particular storage spot. For example, did you find coloring books in the bathroom cabinet? Or a baking dish in the bedroom closet? Take it out and put it away where it belongs. If you can’t put it away where it belongs because the proper area is presently too cluttered, then designate a temporary storage spot.
In our bathroom cupboard we found a cup from the kitchen, medicine that belongs in the master bathroom closet, a rubber duck for the box of baby toys, and a few things for the garage sale box. We temporarily piled these in the hall.
Look at what remains. Is there too much of it? Do you really need that much? It’s most likely time to pare down what you think you need. Start by getting rid of your least favorite whatever-it-is, then the next least favorite, and the next, until you have the right amount: both in terms of what you need, and in terms of what will fit in the allotted space.
Some of the toiletries that fall in the category of “too much”. All these things are perfectly fine, but there are too many for the size of the storage area.
How much is enough? The answer is different for every family. But I keep only two sets of sheets per bed and two sets of towels per person in the family. I limit the number of clothes in our closets to about eight changes of everyday clothes. I also limit my cleaning supplies to the basics. I have a large pantry, so I can keep more than someone with only standard kitchen cupboards can keep. My pantry is full, but only with food items we eat. Food we end up not liking gets donated or tossed. I have casserole dishes of varying sizes because we entertain, and I keep a dozen place settings of tableware because we have a large extended family. But I have made purposeful decisions about what our needs are.
A method that works for me, once I have reached my limit of any type of item, is I tell myself that when I buy a new one, such as a sweater, book, or Christmas decoration, I must get rid of an old sweater, book or Christmas decoration. That usually keeps my accumulation tendency in check.
Every storage space in your home needs to be assigned a job to do. And everything you own needs a home. Some things are obvious: clothes in the dresser drawers and hanging from the closet rods, envelopes in the desk drawer. Other things are less obvious, especially things seldom used, such as Christmas ornaments. Seldom-used items could be stored in boxes in the attic, or boxes on shelves in the garage. Or, lacking those storage areas, they could be tucked on the high shelves in closets, or even under the bed. Just be careful that you don’t make decisions by default. “That’s where it is, so that’s where it stays” is not a good way to decide.
Here are two rules of thumb that help me in deciding where to store things, especially in the kitchen:
- Store similar objects together.
- Store supplies near where they are used.
For example, I store all my table dishes in the cupboard nearest the dining table, my saucepans in the cupboard nearest the stove, and my pitchers in the cupboard over the sink. I keep all my crafts and sewing supplies in drawers and pretty boxes in my project room, where I have a table to work on. Gift wrap is kept together in boxes in a closet off the back hall. It is kept together, and it’s kept somewhat near where it is used, since I usually wrap gifts on the kitchen table.
Kitchen and bathroom counters should be bare. You already have a lot to clean in these rooms; why make your job harder by adding clutter? Find a home in the cupboards for the toaster, mixer, food processor, hair spray, and hot rollers. Pull them out when you need to use them, then put them away again. Besides cleanliness, it’s also more visually appealing to look at a bare counter.
You probably also have things sitting out on counters and furniture because you previously had nowhere to put them. But now you will be freeing up space to store those things that you really want and need to keep. So things sitting out can now go in (into drawers, closets, cupboards, boxes, shelves). If you can’t find it a home, you probably still have too much. Keep paring down and paring down until it all has a home.
When you organize a child’s room, involve him in the process as much as possible. Children need to be trained to clean up after themselves. Once his room is organized, teach him where each of his possessions goes, and expect him to tidy his room regularly. You can rotate toys in and out of the primary and most accessible storage area. Toys seem new to children when they have been out of circulation for a time.
Some people have a very hard time getting rid of stuff, just like I did. Then I found a quote some years ago that really resonated with me, and it still helps me if I’m hesitating over some particular item. I wish I knew where it came from so that I could attribute it to the author, but I don’t. (Please let me know if you know who the author is.) Here it is: “Material goods sitting in your home unused are just going through the decomposition process. Pass them on now so that others can get some good from them before they are good for nothing but the trash.” So I pass on, and I’ve almost never missed that item later. In fact, I forget all about nearly everything I donate or sell.
Before you finish for the day, make sure you have taken care of all the “store-somewhere-else” items. Box up all of your pared down items and get them out of your house ASAP. Donate them, sell them, or give them away. Then, please come back tomorrow for Part 3.
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