7 Home Organizing Pro-Tips
Has clutter taken over your home? How would you like some home organizing pro-tips served to you on a shiny (clutter free) platter?
As a professional organizer, I’ve seen it all. Closets overflowing with clothes that will never again see the light of day to kitchen cabinets that have been completely overtaken by Tupperware lids. Not to mention those unruly piles of paper that just won’t quit.
Between all those surly stories best kept between my labeler and me, I’ve collected quite the assortment of pro-tips to conquer even the most disorganized of homes.
And there are generally certain areas that are more clutter prone than others. These are the areas I’m going to talk about today.
First, I’ll highlight these different areas. Then I’ll talk about why they’re usually problem areas in the first place. And then I’m going to give you some pro-tips from my own vault on how to not only get these areas organized but on how to keep them that way going forward.
Sound good? Then let’s get organized!
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A Few Things to Keep in Mind
First, when you are decluttering or organizing an area of your home follow these basic steps: reduce, arrange, maintain. Reduce the stuff, arrange and organize what you are going to keep, and then stay on top of it. And if you start to fall behind on maintaining it, take a little time to get your system back into place before it becomes a total mess again. You will save yourself a lot of time, trust me.
Second, keep in mind that you can become blind to your own clutter. So just because you don’t notice it, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. A rule to live by here is to only keep the stuff you have room for. And I don’t mean packed to the brim. I mean having a system in place where everything has a place to go.
I know, I know. I said that I was going to be talking about certain areas of your home, and my first section is pretty vague. But it really is an important one.
I want you to take a quick look around your house. Make a note of where everyone tends to dump their stuff. Is there a pile of shoes right inside the door? A chair with a bunch of coats thrown over the back? Or maybe an assortment of mail, keys, and loose change on your dining room table.
I’m not talking about a book or two on an end table. I’m talking about those places in your house where everyone, including you, leaves their stuff.
Now I want you to take a look at the different things that are in these piles. Most of the stuff that you see in these places is going to be different things that you and your family use regularly. So the task here isn’t necessarily to remove the stuff but to figure out a way to keep it organized.
Your solution to these piles is going to largely depend on what is in them, but it’s all going to be a matter of designating a set place for all this to go. Here are a couple examples to give you some ideas.
If everyone just dumps their shoes and coats when they come in, give them each a set area. A couple hooks for their coats. A rack for their shoes. You could even include a hook for backpacks, umbrellas, and a basket for hats and gloves.
If your husband or wife is always throwing their loose change or jewelry on a table, put a dish there for them to put it in instead.
If dirty clothes are constantly being left in the bathroom, just put a hamper in there.
One thing I want to stress, and that I’ll stress over and over again, is to keep it simple. The easier it is for someone to do, the more likely they will actually do it.
Don’t create a system where to check in their bags after school your kids have to sign a waiver and call Germany. Just hold them accountable to put their stuff where it goes.
And don’t make your spouse unlock a three-tiered glass shelf to put their watch down. It will just end up being put somewhere else.
Just decide on where these things are going to go and create a way to make it happen.
Pro Tip: Don’t go out and buy a bunch of stuff to organize your home with before you go through everything. This will result in you buying even more stuff that you don’t actually need, which will make your home even more cluttered. Have a game plan before you buy anything to store, divide, and organize your space.
Mail, Receipts, and Paper
A lot of what you find in your dump zones is going to be mail, receipts, and other paper. To prevent this stuff from accumulating, you have to put a system in place to manage it.
I don’t know if you’ve ever spent a weekend going through mountains of paperwork, but it sucks.
Pro Tip: Keep a shredder in your home so that you can stay on top of all the paper clutter. I encourage you to shred most of this stuff after creating a digital copy. If you think you need to keep a paper copy for whatever reason, go ahead do so. I just want you to think about the last time you have actually needed the paper copy. Would a digital copy have worked? If so, then think about moving this stuff into your computer and freeing up space for something else.
The first thing you need to do is set up a system to sort your mail. For the most part, this can be categorized into bills, junk mail, and personal mail.
For the bills that you still receive through the mail, can you go paperless? If you aren’t sure, go to their website and try to set up a paperless account. If you already pay online, you more than likely just need to check a box asking them not to mail you a paper bill.
If you are concerned about keeping a copy of the bill for your records, you can request a copy for any billing cycle from most companies. You can always check with them to make, sure, though. And once you get that confirmation, go ahead and get rid of all the paper records you have for that company. (Please note that this advice is in reference to household bills. If you are keeping them for business purposes, make sure you keep a copy, preferably on your computer.)
Now, for the bills you will continue to receive in the mail, you need to have a system in place. Create a place for these to go until they’re paid. If you don’t already have one, put a holder on your desk or, even better, in a family command center.
Once the bill is paid and you have confirmed that you can receive a copy of your statement at any time, shred it. Scan any copy that you need to into your computer.
Another thing that tends to build up quickly is receipts. Scan all business receipts and big item receipts into your computer immediately and then shred the paper copy. Any receipts that you log for budgetary purposes, shred them once you have them logged.
Don’t just throw all your receipts into a shred box to do later. It seriously takes two seconds to shred something, provided you have it all set up and ready to go. This is much better than taking hours of your weekend if you let it build up.
Other paperwork that can build up is generally school forms, daycare physical forms, and any government forms. Most of these haven’t gone paperless, or provide paper copies because a lot of people haven’t gone completely paperless. If you need to keep any of this, either scan it into your computer or file it immediately. If not, shred it. Also, see if there is a way to go paperless with any of them.
The next major problem area for organizing your home is your closets. It is so easy to hide stuff away in here—out of sight, out of mind. But this is seriously the worst thing you can do. I want you to know what is in each of your closets and to be able to locate it immediately. And if your closets are packed full, you’re going to need to give yourself a solid chunk of time to organize them.
So the first thing we are going to do here is to take stock of everything you currently have in your closets. To help you out, I’ve created a freebie for this post. This worksheet will help you log everything that you have, and then decide what you’re going to do with it.
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Use this worksheet to take stock of everything you are currently storing and decide what you're going to keep! Decluttering is the first step to an organized home!
Okay, now that you have your worksheet, go ahead and get started on your closets. For now, just take stock of everything you have in there. You can either do one closet at a time or take stock of them all at the same time so you can consolidate like items. Doing it the second way will require you to have a pretty substantial amount of time to dedicate to this project, so plan accordingly. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed or freak out because your closets have literally exploded all over your home.
Once you have everything in your closets logged, take a look at what all you have in there. On the worksheet, there is a line to categorize what it is (i.e., Christmas sweaters). Then there are three boxes: keep, move, and ditch. If those sweaters are in the bedroom closet, it would make sense for them to stay there. If they were in the bathroom closet, I would want to move them. And if they are three sizes too small and from 1994, you may just want to ditch those.
The point here is to make sure that whatever is in the closet makes sense to the area of the house it’s in. Yes, there may be some overlap, and the larger the space you have, the more leeway you have here. Which leads me to the second point: you only want to keep the stuff that you have room for. Don’t pack the closet full. If you have too much stuff, it’s time to downsize, plain and simple.
Pro Tip: When you are taking stock of everything stored in certain places, keep a log of it in a spreadsheet on your computer. This makes it even easier to stay on top of everything going forward. If you ever add anything, all you have to do is just add it to the spreadsheet quick. Having everything logged will also help with setting up your homeowners insurance, or with any claims you may have to make.
Another problem area for organizing your home is your drawers. And I’m not just talking about your junk drawer either. Any drawer in your house that doesn’t have an organizational system currently in place is likely to become cluttered.
Again, we are going to want to take stock of everything that you are storing in your drawers. Use your worksheet for this and try to sort through and downsize as much as possible here. Check all expiration dates on things like makeup and creams. Toss mismatched socks. This is the perfect time to get rid of anything you don’t need. And remember, make sure everything you decide to keep has a place to go. If there isn’t room for everything, you are keeping too much.
Once you have it all logged and have a general idea of where things are going to be put away at, look at the different items that are going to be stored in each of the drawers. What type of drawer dividers would best suit these items? This is the time to look into getting different drawer dividers to keep these areas neat and organized.
Pro Tip: Before you go out and buy drawer dividers, look at what you already have that could work. Use different bins, baskets, and cups to separate the items and keep them neat. One of my favorite things to use in drawers are my son’s empty shoe boxes. They are small enough to arrange in different ways and sturdy enough to hold up to everyday wear and tear.
Another problem area for keeping your home organized is in your kids’ bedrooms. Particularly their closets and dressers. Your kids are going to outgrow their clothes at an amazing rate. You need to keep up with this or it will get out of hand.
I try to make it habit of going through my son’s dresser every other month and removing stuff that no longer fits him. Most of this stuff is in pretty good condition, though, so you need to decide what to do with it. If you are going to keep it for a younger sibling, then store it away in the closet. If not, then find a place to donate it or take it to a neighborhood clothing swap.
Pro Tip: Make sure you label all bins of clothing that you store in the closets. This way you know exactly what is in every storage bin and can easily locate everything.
Kids’ toys are also usually an issue in any home. They keep accumulating toys faster than they can get tired of them. And faster than you can get rid of them.
So make it a habit of going through your kids’ toys regularly. Make note of the toys that they don’t play with and come up with a way that works for your family to donate them, sell them, or give them away.
Pro Tip: Let friends and family know what to get your kids for their birthdays and holidays. My step-brother and sister-in-law do this for their son, and it’s brilliant. This will ensure that your kids are getting only those things that they actually want and will play with or use.
The last areas that I want to touch on are your bookshelves and other shelves around your house. How full are they? Do you have every collectible you own on display?
Look, this one is tough for me. I have a ridiculous love for books and own far more than I care to admit. I don’t have them all on display in my living room, though. I actually have them split between four different shelves. A little here and a little there. This is pretty much due to necessity living in a small apartment, but something I highly suggest regardless of how much room you have.
First of all, clutter creates overwhelm. While you may be used to it, it’s more than likely causing you stress and anxiety that you don’t even realize.
Secondly, the more stuff you have on your shelves, the more stuff you have to clean regularly. This is kind of a no-brainer but is easily brushed aside.
Pro Tip: Move picture frames you have on shelves onto your walls. Vertical space is usually ignored and creating a gallery wall or display can add a new element to your room.
Okay, so there you have it. We went through 7 different areas in your home that can easily become cluttered, and I gave you some awesome pro-tips on how to address them!
I would love to know what you think! Have you tried any of these ideas? Let me know in the comments or via email.
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