By Sonya D. Lavett
Drowning in clutter is no way to start 2016, yet disorder can be overwhelming to tackle. The clutter in our lives is two-fold. Not only does it jumble up our environments, consuming clear space, it also steals our sanity, making it difficult to think clearly. For example, if you constantly misplace your keys or any other important items, you understand how clutter creates even more issues and stress in your life. Arriving late to work because you lost your keys (again) can have a negative impact on your morning, if not throw a monkey wrench in your whole day.
There are a million areas to work on decluttering, such as a garage, kitchen pantry or clothes closet, but let us first deal with the areas that seem to cause the most pain for everyone: that which is visible.
- Create a central space for your keys, wallet, phone/charger, sunglasses, gum, flashlight, toll bridge pass, and anything else you need when you walk out the door each day. Use a basket, a bowl, or a tray to keep all of these items housed in the same spot so you never need to guess where you dropped them after a busy day. Then, make it a decree that this is the spot you will use every single day for all of these items.
- Hooks are helpful to hang keys, pet leashes, jackets, umbrellas, lunch bags and backpacks near a door or central location without taking up valuable real estate on your counters. Not everyone has the luxury of a mudroom, but you can definitely claim a space in your home that acts in the same way.
- If you have children, you know how school items, schedules and field trip forms can overtake your kitchen counters. Get a binder (one for each child) for these items. File these and check the binder daily for items that need your signature, money, or attention. Print out a calendar of dates important to you and your family and keep it in the binder. One folder inside can be labeled “Now” or “Attention,” rather than “Urgent.” These are items that need to be handled within 12-24 hours.
- Keep a separate binder for any hard copies of your financial documents. Pencil pouches that kids have are also great to keep important receipts, like tax deductions, product warranty info, and even small but important items, like duplicate IDs, insurance cards, thumb drives, and extra keys. All of these things should then be stored in a weather-proof safe.
- Keep a bin for electronics and chargers only. If you have multiple family members with electronics, give each family member a specific bin with his or her name on it and then each individual can decide what goes in the bin. You will always know what is in your own bin, and if someone has misplaced their stuff, they should have placed it in their bin. Either way, you are covered.
- The letter desk organizers can be helpful, but little things can get lost at the bottom. You can get creative and instead of placing these on a counter or desk, turn them sideways with the openings facing out and hang them on the wall. Then opt for clear storage containers for smaller items like paperclips, stamps and other supplies.
- It may seem a little obsessive compulsive to label everything, but if you have ever walked into a kindergarten class and been blown away at the highly organized space the teacher designed, you understand how much the prep work will save you in the end. Everything has a home and everyone using the item knows where the item lives. (Good job!)
- OHIO – It is easy to pick up an item, not know what to do with it, and place it in a pile to try and decide what to do with it later. This is called avoidance. Unfortunately, indecision will only create more piles and create more indecision. Everything will end up in your miscellaneous pile, which is not actually the goal. Adopt the OHIO habit instead, which is an acronym for Only Handle It Once. If you pick up an item, deal with it right then and there. File it, store it, trash it, recycle it, give it away or sell it. Just do something with it. (By the way, you can adopt the OHIO method for your emails, as well!)
- Mail and other documents can pile up very quickly, especially if each member of your family is bringing something in daily and dropping it on the kitchen counter. If you let this accumulate even for a few days, you will soon be avalanched by paper piles. One trick is to not bring mail into your home until you have sorted it. Sort it in the car or while you are standing in the driveway and throw away everything that you consider to be junk- don’t bring the junk into your home! You can also store a shredder in the garage for junk that make have sensitive information.
- Paperless billing will save you mail, clutter, hassle, and the environment! This is a good security measure and cuts down on paper usage. It is more efficient to retrieve a document from a folder on my desktop than to try and find the hard copy some time down the road, but you can still print documents as needed and pay everything else right from your computer or smartphone.
Getting started on decluttering can be the most difficult task of all. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming. The best thing to do is start with one small area or task at a time, letting your imagination grow from there.
Designate a notebook so you can jot down any ideas as they come to you, keep measurements, goals, and even drawings of what you hope to create with your newly organized space. Write down your reasons to declutter so you can revisit them as time goes on. Then pick a spot, a corner, a drawer, your stack of mail or even one shelf- just start somewhere that needs attention. Once you get your momentum going, you will continue moving forward and on to bigger and better things.
Your best bet for decluttering success is to avoid the “all or nothing” approach. Think of this as an ongoing process, not a one-time event. If time is limited, commit to a goal of just 15-20 minutes each evening working on a smaller space and save the more detailed, larger projects for the weekend. Try not to stress over it. Your actions are going to make your life easier and you will find that once you eliminate the clutter, your mind, like your environment, is going to function in a much more orderly manner.