Don’t Buy those Containers (Yet)!

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I LOVE containers! I love the variety of shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and materials. I love the basic ones that can be used to store most anything as well as the very specific ones custom made for one specific need. When I am lucky enough to be visiting a city that has a Container Store, I always find a way to spend some time there. It’s an organizer’s dream! I walk around practically salivating at the seemingly endless selection of products. Did you notice that containers are usually on sale around the first of the year?  Since getting organized is a very common New Year’s resolution, stores tend to capitalize on this by placing their containers at the front of the store and marking them down. So it’s the perfect time to buy them, right? What could be wrong with that?

The problem with buying new containers at the onset is that if we do that first, we’ve missed the crucial first step of any organizing project. The first step should always be reducing or decluttering.  No matter what part of your house or business you’re organizing, your first step should always be taking a good look at everything in that category and determining if you need to get rid of any of it before finding the appropriate container for storing it.

Why is it so important to reduce first? The simple fact is that vast majority of us are simply drowning in our stuff. Take a look at these statistics:

  • There are 300,000 items in the average American home.
  • 25% of people with 2-car garages can’t park both of their cars in them.
  • In our life, we spend 153 days looking for lost items.
  • Organizing is an $8 billion home organization industry that has more than doubled since the early 2000’s.

I could go on, but you get the picture. We simply have too much stuff! So if we just buy new containers for all our stuff, all we’re doing is shuffling it around. We’re not addressing the root problem, and we’ll never effect lasting change. When we own too much, our possessions end up owning us, rather than the other way around.

So if you’re all fired up and ready to get organized (which I happen to think is a truly admirable goal), begin at the beginning. Resolve to reduce first. Then you can go take advantage of those sales.

Happy organizing!

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A Neater New Year

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There’s just something about a New Year that inspires hope. We look forward to the chance to start anew, get a fresh start, try again, correct our mistakes. Some of us set goals, make resolutions, or choose one word to help us focus during the year. Whether your goals are lofty ones or something simple and practical, we start the New Year thinking positively.

Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by all of the things we want to change. We have a hard time getting started on our goals because they seem almost impossible. However, big changes are often the result of changing just a few simple habits.

I wanted to share a few words from one of my favorite authors and bloggers, Dana White. Dana’s story is different from most people who write about organizing their home. Dana fully admits that she is by nature a slob. In fact, she titles her blog “A Slob Comes Clean: Reality Based Cleaning and Organizing”. The reason I like Dana is that she offers hope for people for whom cleaning and organizing do not come naturally. Dana shares practical advice from her years of struggling to regain control of her home (she titles it her “deslobification process”). In her blogs, podcasts, and her book How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind, her sense of humor and her willingness to share her real life stories are entertaining and inspiring. I particularly enjoyed one of her latest blogs, “10 Easy Ways to Have a Neater Home in the New Year”. Here is Dana’s list with a few remarks of my own.

  1. Do Your Dishes. This is pretty simple, right? But keeping up with this one daily tasks goes a long way toward keeping order. When things get overwhelming, Dana advises us to just start here. There may be a huge list of other things that need to be done, but if the dishes are in control, it makes the whole house seem more in control.
  2. Reduce the flow of paper coming into your home. Many of the items we get in the mail on a regular basis can be delivered digitally instead. Take the time to check on this and convert to digital delivery.
  3. Declutter your dishes until they all fit inside your cabinets. At the same time. This may seem like a no-brainer, but this simple concept can be extremely helpful. Define a particular amount of space for any item type. If there isn’t enough room in that space, you probably have too many of that item. Pick your favorites, and dispose of the rest.
  4.  Store your food containers with the lids on. Does this sound counter-intuitive? Won’t more food containers fit in a space if they are nested inside each other and the lids stored in a different place? Well, yes they will. However, before you know it, you’ll have containers with no matching lid (or vice versa) or 57 containers with lids when you really only need about 20 or so.
  5.  Create a Donate Spot. I only implemented this one recently, but it’s one of my favorites. I have an empty bin where I keep items to be donated. When that bin is full, I put it in the car, and while I’m out running errands, I drop by a donation center.
  6. Fold clothes straight out of the dryer. This can make a HUGE difference! Although it is tempting to put the newly clean and dry clothes aside and just go ahead and get the next load of laundry going, invariably you’ll get distracted. That pile of laundry will just continue to grow. It really doesn’t take that long to go ahead and fold and put the clothes away as soon as they’re finished.
  7. Hang instead of fold. The more clothes you hang, the less time you’ll spend on ironing. Who likes to iron anyway?
  8. Whenever you think of it, do a 5 Minute Pickup. This is a great one to include the whole family. Set a timer, put on some upbeat music, and get everyone involved. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish in 5 minutes.
  9. Buy a soap-in-the-handle dish scrubber, mark it “BATHROOM ONLY” with a permanent marker, and hang it on a hook or over the door in your shower. I haven’t tried this one, but it seems like a pretty good idea.
  10. Throw away (or recycle if you have an available and established recycling routine) pens that don’t work. I think this could be expanded to many more objects. As soon as you realize something doesn’t work, is broken, doesn’t fit, isn’t needed, etc., get rid of it! Don’t just set it aside for another time. Take care of it now!

I’d love to hear your reactions to this list, especially if start using the suggestions! If any of you have read Dana White, let me know what you think of her writing.

Here’s to a Happy and Neater New Year!