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Our living environment says a lot about who we are, but it also has the power to boost our mental and emotional state. When we live in a clean, well-organized space—whether it's a 400-square-foot apartment or a 7,000-square-foot mansion—we're more creative, more productive, and happier than when we're immersed in clutter and disarray. Organizing is a powerful way to show a commitment to ourselves—to announce we're worth the time and effort it takes to create a peaceful, positive place to inhabit. Here are seven strategies on how to get organized at home and, therefore, build a better life.
1. Watch the A&E Series "Hoarders"
While this may seem like an odd first stop to getting organized, it's an effective way to get motivated. Let's face it—cleaning and organizing is often grueling, tedious, and exhausting. There are so many other fun things to do. It's not that we don't know how to clean and organize; it's that cleaning and organizing is a drag.
By watching Hoarders, you're primed to purge any and all unnecessary possessions. In fact, it actually feels awesome to do so—liberating and empowering. Because the people featured on the show become possessed by their possessions, you see how important it is to keep your belongings in check—to put people first and not stuff. Repeat your new mantra: Less is more!
2. Make a Long-Range Plan of Attack
It took a long time to get disorganized so don't expect to change it in a day or two. Make a long-range plan that involves getting organized and staying organized. Think of it like a diet. Your goal is not to just lose weight; it's to permanently change your life and become healthier and happier.
Because it's a monumental job, break it down into do-able steps, accomplishing one task per week. For example, the first week may include emptying the pantry, throwing away items you don't use, lining the shelves, and then returning the items in a systemic way so they'll be easy to find. The second week might include straightening out the hallway closet: giving old coats and jackets to Goodwill, putting umbrellas in a stand, and hanging the hats on hooks. The third week could involve organizing the medicine cabinet in your bathroom: throwing away expired prescriptions, wiping down the shelves, and organizing everything so they're forward facing.
Remember to reward yourself when the job gets done by watching a favorite movie, taking a walk in nature, or reading a book. Be good to yourself. You deserve it!
3. Get the Entire Family Involved
Place two large receptacles—one labeled DONATIONS and the other GARBAGE—in your family room for all to see. Have each family member sort through her belongings, contributing to the collection. Kids will be happy to know their old stuffed animals, games, and clothes are going to those in need. If they're having a hard time parting with a favorite item, take a picture of them holding it to later place in their photo album. This gives them a healthy message: you don't have to keep an item to have the fond memories of it forever.
If you want to turn it into an entrepreneurial experience for your children, save the donated items for a garage sale. This teaches kids that old items can make them money and, perhaps, help them buy a larger item that they've wanted. Let them do as much as possible given their ages. Have them make signs to advertise the sale, compose an ad to run in the newspaper, set the prices, dicker with customers, and handle the money.
4. Shred Everything in the "Paper Drawer"
Important papers (or papers that seem important) are hard to throw away because we worry we might need them one day. It creates too much anxiety within ourselves to just toss them. That's why it's a great idea to have a designated “paper drawer” in your home where you put all your important documents. They stay safe there for a year. Then, when January 1st comes around and you still haven't needed them, shred them without fear. Looking ahead—try to make a digital archive of papers with the eventual goal of going paperless.
5. Get Rid of Clothes You Haven't Worn in the Past 6–12 Months, and Be Brutal
Many of us have difficulty getting rid of clothes. We fool ourselves into thinking we may return to a size 6 even though we haven't been there since high school. We convince ourselves these outdated styles will come back into vogue. We believe we'll pass that sweater or dress on to our daughter some day even though she's only three.
Getting rid of clothes is an activity that's best done with a trusted friend, spouse, or relative. Having someone there makes it more tolerable and even fun. If you can't fit in it, get rid of it. If you haven't worn it in the past 6–12 months, get rid of it. If you try it on and it's not flattering, get rid of it. If it no longer reflects your personal style, get rid of it.
Remove all clothes from your closet during the process. When putting them back, arrange them according to the seasons. Put up hooks in the closet for scarves, hats, and jewelry. That way getting dressed in the morning will be faster and you'll easily pull your look together.
6. Cleaning Bathrooms Is a Pain, So Make It as Easy as Possible by Having the Needed Supplies on Hand
There's nothing worse when you're finally ready to tackle the bathrooms and you don't have the needed supplies on hand. You either need to go to the store and buy them or run around the house collecting them. By the time you're done, you're too tired and frustrated to clean.
Buy a large tote or plastic bucket with a handle to store all your cleaning materials. Store it under the sink in one of your bathrooms and make sure it's always fully stocked. Some items to include are: toilet bowl cleaner with bleach, toilet brush, disinfecting wipes, glass cleanser, rags, sponges, and disinfectant spray.
There's no need to spend big money on cleaning supplies. The Dollar Store has many inexpensive products such as brushes, buckets, latex gloves, spray bottles, and sponges. Making your own cleaning products is good for your wallet and the environment:
Homemade Glass Cleaner for Bathroom Mirrors
Ingredients: 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, 2 cups water
Mix together in a spray bottle. Squirt on paper towels and wipe.
Homemade All-Purpose Bathroom Cleaner
Put equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Voila!
7. Keep an Organizing Journal
Journaling helps keep you motivated as your organize your house. Jot down the tasks you've accomplished and how you feel. Write down what's working and what's not. Include magazine articles with suggestions as well as tips from Pinterest. Take before and after photos of the clutter to inspire you. Ask a friend if she wants to organize her house as you do yours. This kind of camaraderie and support proves invaluable.
Getting organized at home is a daunting task, but keep it light and fun. Blast some groovy tunes from the stereo or listen to some podcasts on your iPod. Don't keep your organizing journey to yourself. Announce it to the world so you stay on task. Talk about it with family and friends so you get their support and encouragement. Most of all, don't get discouraged. You'll reach your goal—a positive, peaceful living environment—but it will take time and patience. Good luck!
If Watching "Hoarders" Doesn't Motivate You to Declutter, You're a Lost Cause!
Watching "Hoarders" is a powerful way to purge your possessions. It motivates you to get rid of stuff as a way to stay mentally and emotionally healthy. If you have an item that means a lot to you, take a photo of it to put in a frame or scrapbook. Don't become a slave to your stuff!
McKenna Meyers (author) on August 31, 2017:
Thanks, Paula. "Hoarders" is a fascinating show, isn't it? It's amazing how the hoarding is just a symptom of something much deeper and more serious. It also makes us realize how we don't really know the people around us. We could be working side-by-side with someone who goes home to such a situation. Thanks so much for your kind and encouraging words!
Suzie from Carson City on August 31, 2017:
Hello McKenna.....This is a really great article and one I need at this very moment. (I don't recall sending you a picture of my bedroom~~glad you found it useful)
OK, seriously, the truth is I'm very organized and most of the time, I may be like someone with part-time OCD. Everything has a place, a space, a label and a reason.
When I watch episodes of "Hoarders," I shake and break out in hives! LOL As informed and educated as I am, I simply cannot wrap my brain around the fact that those individuals find themselves literally buried and barricaded inside their homes, existing in unsafe, insanitary mountains of clutter, trash, animals & rotting food.
I would agree with you that watching an episode should absolutely "motivate" people. Unfortunately, for these hoarders, suffering with a form of mental,emotional disorder, as this program illustrates, none of them are eager to "allow" therapists, cleaners/movers & professional organizers to assist them. In fact, most often there is defensiveness, downright refusal, denial & believe it or not, indignation!
On the other hand, every time I watch an episode, I'm eager to find another closet, drawer or room to tear into. Go figure.
I must say your suggestions are fabulous. I truly enjoyed this article. Peace, Paula