10 ways to get started
Making a house a home can take years of painting, refurbishing, collecting and decorating—and there will still always be something more to do. But, the main goal should be to make your home a sanctuary, and that means a clean, mess-free, stress-free place to live.
Organizing the house should not be an eternal goal but, instead, an every day chore that will declutter your house step by step. According to organizing expert Jill Pollack, doing these simple tasks will save you from taking on too much at once and might even make you feel differently about maintaining order.
Make Your Bed
“Making your bed every day will prevent the area from becoming a magnet for books, clothes and other tossable items,” said Pollack. “Get into a routine and it will become second nature like brushing your teeth.”
Swapping out comforters and bedspreads seasonally will also give the bedroom a fresh look.
Open Your Doorway
Creating order in the foyer is important, since it’s the first place you see as you enter and last place you see as you leave. “It’s a place for your keys, wallet, a coat that is easy to access, so create that system,” said Pollack, adding that double hooks for hats, bags and backpacks are a great idea.
Your entryway should also be inviting. A mirror or picture with a table and a few candles or a woven basket allows the hallway to become a room of its own. Half circle tables are practical against a wall as they don’t take up too much space and are useful for a bowl to hold keys, a light snack and anything else you need before heading out the door.
Get Your Drawers In Order
“Create a life-surgery drawer,” said Pollack of organizing the junk drawer. “You know you need paper clips, hair bands, a section for gum or mints. When you need it, you need it.”
Using a flatware organizer or making your own system with colored plastic trays will come in handy when needing access to a glue stick or rubber band.
Sort Your Mail
The first step to sorting your junk mail is to unsubscribe. To avoid clutter in the mailbox area, Pollack recommends stopping as much mail as you can before it gets to your door. You can also set up an organizer box, which can be found in any home-goods store, that has different slots and compartments for magazines, bills and coupons.
Clean Out Your Closet
“If you didn’t wear something last spring or summer, chances are you’re not going to wear it, so get rid of it,” said Pollack, who recommends investing in felt covered hangers so nothing slips off. “The linen closet is one of the most non-emotional places to do. You need two sets of sheets for every bed, not five. Get rid of old or excess towels and washcloths—have a nice set of everything and upgrade once in a while—and donate [extras] to animal shelters and homeless shelters.”
Invest in a shoe rack or hanging bag with slots so each flip flop and ballet flat has a place that’s not on the floor.
For scarves and ties, nifty multipurpose hangers with holes and hooks keep everything in one place.
Toss Old Files
Pollack recommends going through old files and tossing anything out of date that you don’t think you’ll need.
“Receipts for purchases or anything that pertains to the school year for the kids or any of their activities, ballet schedules and baseball games, permission slips, all of that should be kept until the year is over,” said Pollack. “Files should be really simple. Always shred personal information and bank information.”
Keep these important papers in labeled folders in a file cabinet or drawer in a home office or workspace. Color coordinate by month, subject or importance of what you’ll need to access. For example, put the kids’ ever-changing weekly sports schedules up front and receipts for home purchases towards the back.
Declutter Your Refrigerator and Pantry
When cleaning out the fridge, look for expiration dates, check for freshness, clean the shelves and start fresh.
“The kitchen is the stomach of the house. Anything you don’t need, but is still good, donate,” said Pollack. “Keep the cheeses, meats, dairy, and fruit and vegetables in a designated spot for easy access and to know where everything is.”
Keep a magnetic notepad on your refrigerator, so you can keep a running shopping list. In addition to keeping track of what you need, it will prevent you from buying too much, which will help you save money.
Stack Up Your Garbage Bags
Pollack notes that putting a roll or stack of clean garbage bags at the bottom of the bin will avoid the Jenga routine of piling garbage. And, a new bag is waiting after you remove the old one. Designate an area in your kitchen or hall cabinet for a mop, paper towels, dust pan and disinfecting wipes in case the garbage bag tears or leaks. That way you can wipe up a spill right away without having to wash the entire can.
Manage Your Time
Don’t wait until spring cleaning to purge. Pollack recommends doing your cleaning early so, when the weather gets warmer, you don’t waste a beautiful day.
If you’re donating to local charities like the Salvation Army or Big Brothers and Big Sisters, keep clothes and toys that you don’t need in one bin and keep filling it. When the bin is full, donate and start over.
Know Your Storage Options
“Bed Bath and Beyond has everything. It’s a one-stop shop and they also give you coupons all the time,” said Pollack of where to buy storage and organizing items. “The Container Store is a little fancier, but Target, Home Depot and Lowes work as well.”
Pollack noted that teacups can be used as jewelry holders and colanders can be used to scoop up kids’ bath toys, so finding a use for an accessory you already have will save you some money and allow you to get creative.
“There are so many organization hacks, so assess what your needs are before you buy a bunch of supplies,” she said, emphasizing sturdy and strong for storage devices. “You can measure dimensions so you know what will fit and what you need before you go looking for it and don’t waste time.”