Get Organized in Go Month
Top resolutions for the new year include weight loss and getting organized. Both can be very difficult for people, yet very easy if approached the right way. When looking to lose weight, you don’t stop eating. And you don’t lose fifty pounds the first month. That’s because you start small. You ease back on your eating. You start an easy exercise routine, gradually building up to what you can physically handle. And you watch the scale every week for those one or two pounds that will ultimately lead to your goal of fifty.
Organizing is much the same. While you CAN lose fifty pounds of clutter in one day, you don’t have to. You can approach it slowly, tackling one pile at a time, one bin at a time. Then, after three or four months, your whole basement or garage is done!
Here are some techniques that will help you get organized in a pace and method that works for you. There aren’t any rules, just guidelines, so you can use what works, and not use what doesn’t.
- What do you want to accomplish in your home?—Are
there areas that really bother you? For one of my clients, the
laundry room off the attached garage was so cluttered, she began
walking around and using the front door instead. Her foyer was
tidy and welcoming, and that’s how she wanted to feel walking
through the door at the end of the day. Look around your home,
and select those areas which would make you feel the best if
they were de-cluttered and organized.
- What can you expect to reasonably complete?—Just as in losing weight, you know you can’t lose all the weight you want overnight. You can’t expect to be organized in a day, either. Or even a month. You have other commitments in life that take up your time, such as work, children and family. So look at your goals. What do you think you are most likely able to accomplish? Select those areas as your focus.
- For every goal—For every goal you made, write it down. Be specific. Did you want to just de-clutter the basement, or did you want to buy storage units for it also? Did you want to just go through the stacks of paper in your office, or set up a file system also? By writing it down and looking at it every day, you will be accountable to the person who matters most—yourself.
- For every room—For every room you want to tackle, write down your goals and tasks for that room. If it’s the kitchen, it might be cleaning out the pantry, getting rid of extra serving pieces and organizing that junk drawer. Whatever it is, write down what you want to do. You’ll have that daily reminder to yourself. Then even if you have only a few minutes, or if you’re stuck on the phone with someone, use that time to start one of those tasks.
HELPFUL HINTS AROUND THE HOUSE
There are so many ways to make yourself more organized. Here are just a few tips that will get you started if you’re not sure where to start. Your home or lifestyle may not be conducive to these changes, but that’s okay. There’s a solution out there for everyone. You just may have to look harder.
- The entry/foyer—This is the place people see first
when they walk in your home. Make it welcoming by removing the
clutter and brightening the space. Put in as bright a light as
possible, and use a mirror to make the space look larger.
Greenery or flowers are always a nice touch.
- The living room—This is usually a formal room, rather
than a gathering place. But don’t be tempted to let it be the
place to show off your collectibles. Keep displays to a minimum.
Keep books and magazines off the floor, and weed out some of
those knick-knacks you keep getting as gifts. Colorful pillows
can add a splash of color.
- The dining room—This is a place to dine, not collect
the week’s (or month’s) mail. Don’t use your dining room table
as a file cabinet. If you must use the space to work or pay
bills, set up a file cabinet or portable storage so everything
doesn’t collect on the table. Set the table with china and a
large centerpiece so you won’t be tempted to drop paperwork onto
- The kitchen—This room can have health hazards
associated with it, if not maintained. Even if the space is not
organized, you should at the least start the new year with a
thorough cleaning of the pantry, fridge, freezer and cabinets.
Throw away all expired food. Sort items by category, then
re-stock your pantry and cabinets with like items together.
Place older foods in front, and rotate boxes and cans as you
shop so you don’t keep pushing old food to the back where it
will expire while you’re using the newer food up front. This
should be done every six months to eliminate the possibility of
consuming old food.
- The family room—This is the place everyone gathers to watch television, movies, etc. But is the space ready for you? Are all the children’s movies accessible down low for little hands to reach easily? Are mom and dad’s movies up high where only they can reach them? Are movies sorted by title or genre so you can find one when looking for it? Have a basket for the remotes, and make sure the family cooperates in returning the remotes to the basket when done. Just as they should put away movies when they are done. Finally, extra blankets and pillows are always nice—but a storage ottoman that can serve as both table and storage for these items.
- The home office/den—Whether or not you work from
home, the files in this area should be neat and organized. Keep
family and personal records separate from work records. Use a
filing system that works for you. Use label names that you will
remember. Color code different broad categories, like family vs.
legal vs. business. A tickler files will help you keep track of
upcoming tasks and bills. Finally, a must for every office--a
recycling bin and shredder for that junk mail.
- The bedrooms—Bedrooms are for sleeping and relaxing.
You can’t relax if you are stepping over clothes to get to the
closet. Look through your closets. You wear 20% of what you own
80% of the time. Get rid of half your clothes. You won’t miss
them. You’re not wearing them now, are you? The same goes for
dresser drawers and jewelry.
- The bathrooms—Another task you should do every six
months is clean out your medicine cabinet. Pull out expired
medicines, and set them aside for your next hazardous waste
collection. Replace any basic items such as pain relievers and
first aid treatments. Old prescription medications should be
disposed of properly also. Refills on prescription meds are good
for only one year from the original fill date (less if a
controlled substance). So check dates on those also. You may
want to call in a refill even if you don’t need it yet if the
original prescription is expiring soon.
- The basement—When you store anything in your
basement, clearly mark the date on the outside of the box. Store
your boxes/bins on shelves, rather than stacking them on top of
each other. You will be able to access them more easily.
Periodically go through your boxes, starting with the oldest
dates, and purge unused and old items. This is a good way to
manage toys with children. Pack away the extras and date the
box. If they don’t ask for anything in that box within the next
six months, it’s safe to donate the toys to charity.
- The garage—Keep zones in mind when storing in the garage. Store like items together (auto, gardening, sports, etc.). Use shelves, slatwall or bins for storage. Keep heavy boxes down low, and lighter boxes higher up. Always keep cardboard boxes off the floor. Plastic bins are best for the garage where critters tend to migrate.
ORGANIZING YOUR TIME
- Buy a planner—Every year should start with a new planner. Buy one several weeks before the new year, because you’re probably already planning things for the next year. Transfer data from your old one into the new one, as well as any appointments you may have recorded. Use pencil in your planner so you can change times or locations as necessary. Also, post-it notes and paper clips are always helpful to have on hand.
- Edit contacts—Take an hour or two to glance through your contacts. Do you still do business with everyone listed? Have any families moved? Have any divorced and are now living separately? Have children moved out or gone off to college? Has your dentist retired? Of course, the best way to maintain your contacts is to update them as you get new information.
- Plan ahead—By looking ahead for a few weeks (or months), you can see what is coming up that you may need to plan for. If you have a classmate’s birthday party coming up, make a note to buy the gift the week before the party. However, if you are hosting a baby shower, you will need to start planning invitations and decorations well ahead of the date. By keeping on top of things, you won’t fall behind or forget.
- Set limitations--Only you know what you are capable of, and what you can accomplish in a day. If someone asks something of you that will seriously infringe on that time, say no. The more you accept, the more they seem to ask. Someone else will eventually step up and take over. Don’t be that person all the time.
Being organized is more than having a place for everything. It is a lifestyle to learn. It isn’t just about creating space for everything. It is also about putting things away and changing buying habits. By following these guidelines, you will see the benefits of an organized home, and change will come naturally.
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