Over the years, your living space naturally accumulates a whole lot of things you don’t even know you have: a collection of ancient Halloween costumes you only wore once, a hundred different coffee mugs, postcards from your ex-boyfriend — the list goes on. Eventually, you may find that everything in your house feels disorganized. And to no real surprise, this physical chaos can lead to emotional and mental disarray as well. If you’re starting to find that you don’t feel at home in your house, it’s probably time for a dreaded “spring cleaning.” Here are some organization tips to help you get started.
- It begins with the Kids. If you’ve got children, chances are there are toy cars and Legos in every nook and cranny of your home. Make a playroom, and set some ground rules to keep all dolls and puzzles within that contained space. If possible, make drawers for various items: one cabinet for crafts, one for stuffed animals, another for games, etc. At the end of every day, make it a chore that the kiddos must clean up their messes and put things away. It may seem too simple to make much of a difference, but without this mandatory effort, even just two days of playtime can take over the house. The last thing you need is melted Crayons on the kitchen counter.
- Cut the clothes. It’s time to dig through the T-shirt-stuffed closet of yours and play the game of elimination. Start with setting some guidelines: no more than 10 T-shirts, 5 pairs of shoes, and 6 pairs of pants, for example. Pick your favorites, and donate the rest. It may be hard to part ways with some of your nostalgic high school blouses and 1990s Halloween costumes, but it’s time to say goodbye. Trust us, you’ll feel better once you do.
- Don’t buy storage containers until you’ve purged. You might be tempted to buy storage bins and throw whatever misplaced items you can inside of them. Trust us — bad idea! Big plastic bins will only make things feel more daunting if you haven’t already taken the time to curate your clothes, kitchen supplies, shoes, games, and movies. The task of curating might seem overwhelming, so take it room by room, door by door. Once you’re done, you’ll be shocked by how much stuff you have at home that you don’t need or want. Only then should you make a run to Target for the oversized baskets and portable shelves.
- Have a designated junk drawer. We all have stuff we don’t know what to do with. And when we don’t have a spot for these questionable items, they end up everywhere — or they go missing altogether. Keeping a junk drawer or pile might sound unorganized and sloppy, but it actually helps keep everything else tidy. Just remember to sort through it and clean it out at least once a week (or month, depending on how much stuff you accumulate on a daily basis).
- Think small and go big. When you’re able to curate the stuff in your life, everything around you starts to feel much more spacious. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get rid of the material goodies — rather, put it away. Have a cluttered desk? Organize the crowded papers into filing cabinets, put the erasers in a drawer, and consider donating at least one of the four different staplers you’ve got in the top left corner. Have a messy closet? Fold the pants, hang up the shirts, and put all scarves in a winter clothes bin for next year.
- Organize your photos. If you’ve got thousands of 4x6 pics featuring family vacations, school dances and high school reunions, it might be time to take a day for scrapbooking, trashing or digitizing. Are Polaroids fading with sun spots? We’ll make sure they’re preserved forever. Once you’ve digitized everything, you may find it’s easier to throw away some of the hard copies.
- VHS Party. It’s time to bid farewell to your VHS collection. This doesn’t mean you’ve got to delete all the content. Instead, digitize it, so you can free up that attic space. If you’re adamant about keeping the VHS tapes, at least organize them with color coding or shelves. After all, if they’re piled up in a basement closet, chances are they’ll be destroyed soon if they aren’t already.
- Use drawers wisely. If every drawer in your kitchen is jam-packed with miscellaneous utensils, mugs and dishes, it’s time for a redo. Similarly, if the desk is crowded with random papers, office supplies and letters, it’s probably a sign you need a filing cabinet, binders and a separate area for mail.
These may sound like no-brainers, but each step will drastically improve your living space — and therefore your mental and emotional wellbeing.
As you get started with decluttering and re-organizing, try to create a house that makes you feel at home. And keep in mind the words from Marie Kondo’s famed book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: “The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”