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commandments of staying organized

The 5 Commandments of Staying Organized

How many times have you called a family weekend together where all-hands-on-deck were assigned to go through their belongings, get rid of the clutter, and organize their corner of the house? Most families engage in this ritual at least once or twice each year.

These events can be huge and extremely time consuming, depending on how much clutter you've built up. They can range from a major garage organization plan involving trips to Goodwill with unwanted items, the purchase and labeling of storage bins, and the installation of garage shelving to decluttering and organizing those "junk drawers" and piles of papers, magazines and coupons you "might need someday".  We never mean for the clutter to get out of hand, but somehow, like a slow leak, it seems to go unnoticed until one day we look around and realize it's happened again!

So, how do we avoid these yearly organization parties? Wouldn't we much rather enjoy a family barbeque or a weekend at the lake than a declutter, organization event? If you are nodding your head in agreement, but aren't quite sure how to make it happen, I've got good news. The buildup of clutter is a habit, and just like any habit, it can be broken. It will take some purposeful effort (and family cooperation) at first, but after a few short weeks, you can actually live clutter free. No more garage organization parties, no more under the bed clean-outs...Doesn't that sound like heaven?

Here's the 5 tried and true rules of staying organized, -- and they really work if you put them into practice. You'll have to be diligent, but it will be worth it. First, of course, you'll need to start with a clutter-free, organized home. This involves a bit of brutal discipline. Get rid of the clothes, hobby items, and gadgets you haven't used in the last 12 months. Once you are decluttered, follow these commandments:

  1. Don't store items on your counters, table tops, or on the floor of your garage. Everything should have a place, unless it is a decoration.  Even in your kitchen, don't store items that are rarely used on your counter. Your blender, bread maker, and coffee cups should all have a place inside the cupboards. This makes everything easy to wipe down and keep clean.
  2. When going from one room to another, look around and see what can be taken with you. Coming out of the bathroom? Empty the trash. Coming in from the garage? Pick up those shoes someone left by the door. Always have something in your hand. This causes "constant" tidying and saves time.
  3. Avoid making piles at all costs. When you open the bills, don't lay them on the corner of the counter. In a couple of days they will have friends. Suddenly the bills will be accompanied by a page of coupons, a magazine, a shopping list, the receipt for the shoes you might get the picture. Have a designated place for everything and keep it there. No piles!
  4. Clean your yard tools and other items in your garage as you use them. When you are done with your weekly lawn maintenance and washing the vehicles, put everything away. It's so easy to leave the hose, the bucket, cleaners, hedge trimmers, and other items right there at the front of the garage on the floor. You'll get them later, right? Falling into this habit is how your garage became as unorganized as it did in the first place. Do it now. Make clean-up just a part of the process, not something that can be put off until later.
  5. Plan a weekly trip to Goodwill for items you decide to donate. Allowing bags and boxes to pile up in the garage of things you intend to donate is just another form of organization sabotage. You'll end up with 10 garbage bags and 4 boxes of clutter in the garage, other things will get mixed in, and before you know it, there it is....a corner of the garage filled with junk you'll need to go through. Don't let it happen!

Yes, it's going to take a watchful eye and maybe a bit of slightly obsessive behavior in the beginning. But it's up to you to guard against clutter and the accumulation of "stuff." Once you get in the declutter habit, you'll find that you have much more time for other, more fun activities! Let's face it, a garage organization party once a year doesn't sound like a good time.


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