Get organized this spring with pro tips for de-cluttering your home
So, maybe you don’t exactly qualify for a spot on “Hoarders,” but if clutter is prevalent in your home—from overflowing stacks of paperwork in the office to piles of toys littering the living room to a kitchen drawer that will barely open thanks to all the stuff crammed in it—a little spring cleaning may be in order.
“Having a clear space leads to having a clear mind,” says Denver professional organizer Julie Gutman, owner of Simplify Me. “Once your space is clutter-free, you can focus on all the other things that are important.”
But getting there isn’t always easy. Some people lack clear systems when it comes to managing the flow of things, while others use their garages, basements and spare rooms as dumping grounds—causing these areas to get out of control.
Whatever your organizational dilemma, heeding a few tips from the pros will help you on your next cleaning sweep. Here are some ways to get things in order:
GUTMAN’S GENERAL TIPS
• Practice the one-minute rule. Put away anything you can store in one minute or less so you won’t have a huge stack of one-minute projects all piled up at the end of the week. It’s easier to tackle organization in small bites.
• Take inventory of what you use. Turn all hangers to face backward, and, when you wear an item, rehang it facing forward. Items still facing backward after six months should be donated. Similarly, put all your extra kitchen utensils in a plastic bin in a cupboard. Anything you don’t take out in six months is just clutter.
• Always have a donation bag. Add to it regularly, and, when it’s full, immediately donate the bag.
• Cycle out toys every few months. This reduces clutter, helps toys retain their novelty and makes it easier to notice what isn’t being played with and what to get rid of, Gutman says.
• Schedule family clean-up time. For 10 minutes at the end of every day, everyone cleans up their own stuff. Reward the kids with something non-material, such as 10 more minutes of book-reading or the chance to stay up 10 minutes later, the organizer suggests.
• Start small. To prevent feeling overwhelmed, pick a corner and move around the space clockwise. Examine each item, Gutman advises, and ask: “Do I like it? Do I need it?” If not, get rid of it.
• Designate one memorabilia bin per person. Inevitably, you will have some things you don’t need but want to keep for sentimental reasons. Give each person one labeled bin to fill. “This is where you can put all the kids’ art, gifts from family members and photos,” Gutman says. “When you want to have a walk down memory lane, you can look through your bucket.”
• Reduce paper clutter. Take photos of your kids’ artwork or compile it into a book.
• Store smartly. Keep ornaments in bins with dividers and it will make decorating easier next year. If you have décor you didn’t use this year, ask why you are still keeping it.
• Create a re-gifting bin. Don’t feel obligated to keep gifts you don’t want or need, Gutman says. Save them to re-gift later—but make sure you label who gave it to you.
• Give experiences rather than things. In the future, give gift cards, meals, lottery tickets and consumable goods, instead of stuff.
• Use door space. Hang clear pockets over the doors and use the compartments to organize smaller items sorted by type, Gutman says.
• Keep a list. Note things you run out of on a whiteboard. When you head to the grocery store, snap a photo of the list and avoid paper altogether.
• Get rid of surplus. You only need two sheet sets per bedroom and a few extra pillowcases and blankets for guests, says Autumn Leopold, a professional organizer in Windsor, who is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Donate the rest to an animal shelter, she says. Same goes for towels. You only need four to six towels, two washcloths and two hand towels per bathroom, she says. Store a few extra towels (in a closet or bin) near the entry of your house to handle mud and snow in the winter. For table linens, Leopold says one table set per season is enough.
• Group toiletries. Organize “like with like” (such as all lotions together), Leopold adds, using gallon zip-lock bags or labeled shoe boxes, so you can see your inventory and easily access replacements when needed.
• Keep things off the floor. Install wall hooks and hanging cabinets to make pressure-washing the floor a breeze, Leopold says.
• Organize in zones. Compile items in bulk storage, tools, lawn or athletic gear. Anything that doesn’t belong in one of the predetermined zones does not belong in the garage, Leopold says.
BRING IN THE PROS
Too much clutter to tackle on your own? Contained Home, an in-home organization service from The Container Store, sends pros to you for guidance on everything from re-purposing spaces to staging homes for sale to downsizing for empty-nesters to preparing a baby’s nursery ($75 per hour).