Vol.2, No.6

House and home organizing tips

This is a brief guide on how to get your home organized and keep it that way.

Basement clutter
Photo Credit: Luke Kallberg
Being the mother of 7 children has taught me one very important fact of life - if my house wasn't organized I would be totally lost, and completely behind in everything. The key to staying on top of your living situation is organization.

The first and most important step in creating order in your home is also very easy, although frequently looked over. It is the simple process of writing it all down.

Whatever method you decide to use in creating serenity out of chaos, the first step to take is to write down your game plan. Buy a couple of notebooks, and begin writing. What about your home is unorganized now? Is it messy with items scattered about because they have no place to call their own? Is it hectic because everyone needs to be in a different place at the same time and no one seemed to notice until everybody is already late? First figure out what your weaknesses are so you can build them into strengths instead.

You may begin with whatever you room are most comfortable with, however I suggest starting small as to not intimidate yourself too much. The bathroom or kitchen is generally a good place to begin, leaving bedrooms and studies or dens for last.

Get out your notebook and as you go through each room, notice and write down what the problem is - do you need more cupboards/storage space? Do you have empty space that is not being used but could? Is there a pile of "stuff" on your kitchen counter because people always dump it there because they don't know of any other place to put it?

Part of organizing means you are going to have to do a lot of cleaning out - throw away things you don't use anymore, or haven't used in so long you don't even remember what it was. A good cleaning can literally free up tons of space you didn't know you had.

After sorting and tossing, the next step is organizing - every single item you own should have a place to call "home" - one spot where it will always be. You may need to right this down too! If you always put your thermometer away in different spot, it's time to give it a home. Make up a list of where infrequently used items are put and post it on the door - when it comes to the bathroom, laminate the list first so shower steam doesn't ruin in it. Lists are an incredible help when organizing. I suggest using them as much as possible. Make the list up on your computer, add some clip art, and laminate them so it's not just a piece of torn out notebook paper taped to the door.

If you don't have enough room to store all the items you need, you will most likely need to buy some more storage space. Plastic shelves, drawers, and boxes are all available at low prices these days. Mount a storage area over your toilet, this is an area that frequently has no use, but can easily be turned into more storage space. Although cardboard boxes are an option, I do not recommend using them in the bathroom - when they get damp they take a long time to dry, will warp, and you could easily attract mold problems. Plastic is the best for bathrooms.

You need to go through each room (and closet) of your house and use this method:

1) Sort out what to get rid of

2) Give items their own home

3) Write down where items are located and make a complete list

4) Add more storage space as necessary.

Drawers can easily be marked with permanent marker or labels as to their contents.

Cardboard boxes are very inexpensive - and often free - you can decorate these boxes anyway you like to add to rooms needing more storage space. Plastic crates (such as milk carton crates) are also available. These can be stacked on their sides making "cubby hole" compartments.

Make sure there is ONE and only one area in your house where you keep all of your important papers. I recommend either a file box/cabinet, or for the most important papers - a fireproof safe.

In your file cabinet, keep a folder for each of your ongoing creditors, for example, phone bill, gas bill, electricity, mortgage/rent, break it down as much as possible, if you really can't come up with a category for something, put it under "Miscellaneous". Mark on the outside of the file cabinet what is kept in each drawer.

And what about that dumping ground area, the one spot in your house where things always get dropped off? Put a basket there, and items can be put into it throughout the day. Before bed, take the basket and deliver all of the items to their homes and put them away.

The easy part is over now. Everything is cleaned out, sorted, given a home, and inventoried of where it should be. Now the hard part comes, you must make sure that you, and everyone in your home, always puts items back into the spot where they belong. This may be very difficult at first, but after a couple of weeks of practice, it becomes second nature. Make more signs if you have to, you can even add tags to items that say, "Put me back in the left hand drawer when done using me."

Finally, the last piece of an organized home is the family calendar/agenda. Buy the BIGGEST wall calendar you can find and put it in the most frequented room of your house - this is usually the kitchen. Make sure ALL appointments and events get written down - you may want to use different colors for different family members.

Once a week the family should sit down to have a family meeting. This way items can be added to the calendar and rides can be figured out ahead of time if necessary - put this information down on the calendar too so there is no question about it later.

Getting organized, and keeping organized, can make the difference of a lifetime by giving us more free time and reducing levels of stress.