I admit it. I am a compulsive organizer. No, my spice cabinet is not alphabetized (I’m not neurotic–I just like order). I like things neat and tidy. Even more, I like being able to find things when I need them and I can’t stand clutter; it impairs my creativity.
I’m also lazy. I don’t believe in making jobs harder than they have to be. See, lazy and organized actually fit together quite well. We lazy people don’t want to expend time and energy looking for things, so being organized fosters my laziness.
I like easy; I think organizing is pretty easy, though I’ve been told it’s not. Today I’m sharing with you six of my favorite tips for easy organizing just to show you that it isn’t as hard as the clutter wants you to believe.
- When purging that stuff you’re storing in the basement, garage or attic because “someday you might need it”, use the Moving Rule: Would you pay someone to move it across country so you could continue to store it? If the answer is no, it needs to go. (If you’ve priced movers lately, you’ll know why we use this rule–the cheapest quote we got to move our 1800 s.f. household from New Mexico to Colorado–with US packing and unpacking the boxes–was $10,000).
- Is your pantry scary? Do you have canned goods in there older than your children? It’s time to take it all out and set it on the counter. Sort through for the scary expired foods. Safety rule: any canned item that bulges or shows rust needs to go in the garbage. If it’s old and still good, figure out how to use it up this week. If it was a purchase mistake and no one is ever going to eat it, get rid of it. Those “expiration dates” on food don’t mean they’re not safe. In the interest of time, you can go here and here to find out more.
- Having trouble thinning out the closet? Hang everything backwards. When you wear something, turn the hanger back around. After your specified amount of time–3 months, 6 months–everything that still has the hanger turned backwards is something you haven’t worn and can probably be purged (there are a few exceptions). We do have seasonal clothing here, but we don’t keep everything in the closet all year, so that doesn’t become an issue.
- Being as we just passed the end of the school year here, that also means it’s time for the “school treasures” purge. Each of my kids has a Rubbermaid Rough Tote (14-gallon–I have my limits–and yes, I love Rubbermaid. If they saw my basement, they’d give me a job). The house rule is they can keep any “treasure” they can fit in the bin. That’s one bin per kid, NOT one per school year. So, each year at the end of school, we pull the bins out and they go through them. Some old things get purged, some new things get added. They get no feedback from me once they get past elementary school. The bins belong to my kids and get what’s important to them, not what I think should be important to them. If it’s something I really want and they don’t care about it, it goes into my storage–there’s not much there.
- If you don’t love it or don’t use it, let it go. You do not have to keep things because they are important to someone who doesn’t live at your house. Did you inherit great-grandma’s glove collection? Did you get the velvet Elvis that hung in Uncle Ralph’s den? Did a “dear friend” give you a door wreath that you would sooner die than display? So, why are you keeping them? Shop those priceless “heirlooms” around the family. If you don’t love them, someone else might. If no one loves them, you can safely get rid of them. After schlepping stuff through several moves I finally realized the folly of keeping “gifts” to avoid offending the givers. If it has some meaning to US (meaning the people who live in my house), if it has some use to us, we keep it. Otherwise, we do our best to find someone for whom it will have some use and meaning and save the space in our home for things that have use and meaning for us.
- Finally, lighten up. It’s only stuff. Choose and treasure the things that are most important to you and let the rest go. If everything is important, than nothing is so important. And remember, in the priority scheme of things, people and relationships are ALWAYS more important than stuff.
I’ll be elaborating on these tips over the next few weeks and sharing a few more of my strategies for clutter-busting (as well as why don’t want to be a packrat). In the meantime, I’d love to hear your favorite organizing tips or your biggest organizing challenges. Please feel free to share both in the comment section below.