The Many Faces of Clutter

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As a professional organizer, you’re probably not surprised to learn that I spend a great deal of time occupied with clutter. I help people deal with clutter, take pictures of clutter, write about clutter, and talk about clutter. You might say it’s the bane of my existence. I have a love hate relationship with clutter. I despise clutter, but I LOVE taking a cluttered space and transforming it into an ordered one.

You might have an image in your mind right now that symbolizes your definition of clutter. That image might be similar to this photo of a garage that I recently helped declutter and organize. That’s how most people visualize clutter. But clutter is a much broader concept than just piles of stuff. I love Peter Walsh’s definition of clutter. Walsh, a well-known organizer and author, constantly challenges people to think differently about not only their possessions, but their lives. He defines clutter as “anything that gets between you and the life you want to be living”. According to Walsh, “If you focus on the stuff, you will never get organized because clutter is never about the stuff.” (http://lat.ms/1kG9rCV).

So if the problem isn’t the stuff, what is it? How do we get in this predicament in the first place? Why do we hold onto things we don’t need? There is so much psychology and emotion behind what we decide to keep and how we deal with our stuff. Fellow organizer and member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO)Yvonne Boyes of Sweetly Simplified Home Organizing constructed this list of different types of clutter:

  • Sentimental clutter: I would describe this as items that remind us of a special person or significant event in our lives. Examples might include your grown child’s baby clothes, trophies from your former days of competitive sports, or a love letter from a middle school sweetheart.  
  • Situational clutter: This could be defined as clutter that results because of a change in life events like a new baby or a home remodel.
  • Paper clutter: Those piles of junk mail, magazines, bills, and other stray papers can accumulate quickly.
  • Seasonal/life stage clutter: Examples could include a weight bench you haven’t used in years, old outdated electronics, or items left behind by grown children who have moved out of the house.
  • Obligation clutter: How about that decorative lamp that Aunt Rosalind gave you that you’ve never liked but are afraid to get rid of in case she comes to visit?
  • Aspiration clutter: Have you ever bought a bunch of supplies for a craft that you never even started? Yeah, me too.
  • Marketing/cultural influenced clutter: If you can’t bring yourself to get rid of those Precious Moments figurines you used to be really into, you understand this category.  
  • Practical clutter: Do you keep a lone sock or earring in case the mate magically appears? Or how about purchasing multiples of the same thing just in case you lose the first one or need an extra?
  • Impulse clutter: This could be any item that you bring home on a whim without fully considering whether you really need it or where it will “live” in your house.  

I mentioned earlier that clutter doesn’t always involve stuff. One very common type of clutter that you may not have even considered is schedule clutter. Take a look at the second photo accompanying this article for an illustration of this type of clutter. If your calendar is so crammed full of activities that you can’t find the time to devote to your closest friends and family, it’s time to let something (or a few somethings) go. No one has time for everything, and even if you did, you couldn’t do each of them justice.I love this quote from Forbes magazine: “When you say “Yes” to one thing, you’re saying “No” to something else. Time is a limited commodity, and each of us has only 24 hours per day.” (http://bit.ly/2mBFkj9) Clearly defining your priorities will help you decide what you might need to give up.

The New Year is a great time for reflection. Take an honest look at your possessions and how you spend your time. Compare them against your priorities and life goals. Do they match up? Or is there a lot of excess that you need to trim? Decluttering efforts are well worth the time and energy spent. In the next article, I will present a list of decluttering steps that you will be able to use in any area of the house as well as a simple 10 minute daily activity that can make a world of difference.  

 

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The Importance of Daily Routines in Organization

 

ziOCLC1yTj2Wyl7Q4b3dxQHappy New Year! The holiday season has come and gone, and whether you like it or not, you are most likely settled back into work, school, and your normal routine. Many of us have likely made some type of resolutions or goals for the New Year. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is a desire to get organized. This desire could stem from a frustration at the ever-increasing piles of clutter or just a general lack of order within the home or office. As an organizer, I definitely applaud this goal! I have seen first-hand the immense benefits of being organized, and I definitely believe that the benefits far outweigh the cost in terms of time and effort.

No matter how determined you are to accomplish this goal, the size and scope of the task may seem intimidating. How do you get started? If your whole house is disorganized, which room do you pick to start? Or should you try going category by category as Japanese organizer Marie Kondo suggests in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? What if you are so disorganized and overwhelmed that you don’t even know where to begin?

When I comes to being organized, I believe one of the most important concepts is establishing and maintaining effective routines for regular household tasks. If you focus on those routines and get them down to a science, you’re more likely to find the time for more extensive organizing projects. Let me explain how this works in a home environment. Let’s say you have a big goal of decluttering and organizing a large storage area such as your attic, garage, or basement. However, you can’t seem to ever catch up on your dishes and laundry, and you have piles of items covering most of your horizontal surfaces. Any free time you have for organizing tends to be spent on those three tasks, and you can’t imagine when you’ll ever have time to tackle that larger project. I strongly believe that the best use of your time is to get those daily tasks under control first by establishing a routine that works for you and can be maintained. Then you can work on finding a block of time to start organizing your storage area.  

In terms of daily tasks, I would recommend initially focusing on routines for dishes, laundry, and daily pickup. For each of these, you will have to figure out what works best for you and your schedule. It is more important to have a routine than it is to choose a particular routine. Just like anything in life, repetition creates habits, and after a certain point, habits become the new normal. Invariably there will occasionally be times when the routine can’t be kept up for some reason. But if you can back into the routine quickly, you’ll be back to the routine in no time.

When it comes to dishes, this principle applies whether or not you have a dishwasher. You need to choose the best daily time to load the dishwasher (or to wash the dishes in the sink) and to unload the dishwasher (or put up the hand-washed dishes). If you don’t do this on a daily basis and the dishes pile up, it takes so much longer to get them under control. I prefer to load the dishwasher and hand-wash the dishes that don’t go in the dishwasher at night and put them up in the morning, but this might not be the best schedule for you. Don’t make the mistake of using your dish drainer as a storage spot for clean dishes. Get in the habit of emptying it regularly just like the dishwasher. If every dish and utensil in your kitchen has a proper home, putting things away doesn’t take long.

As far as laundry, there are many different approaches. Some people like doing a load of laundry every day to keep it under control. Some have a regular laundry day where they stay at home and tackle it all at once. I tend to do laundry when the laundry basket gets up to a certain level, which usually happens about twice a week. I think the biggest mistake people make with laundry is that they don’t take the time to fold, hang up, and put up the clean laundry as soon as the clothes are finished drying. Before you know it, there is a small mountain taking up space on your bed or your couch, and you’re faced with wrinkled clothes requiring extra time above the normal routine. It takes much less time to take care of each load as it finishes up than it does to wait until you have multiple loads in a big pile. Here’s a trick I use often: if I can’t get the clean clothes out of the dryer immediately, I will do a “wrinkle release”. I remove all of the clothes from the dryer, then put any of the clothes that are wrinkled back in the dryer with a damp washcloth for about 15 minutes. If you get them out quickly, usually all of the wrinkles are gone, and you can put them up immediately.

Daily pickup is a critical routine. I am always amazed at how big a difference it makes to simply clean up after yourself on a regular basis. When you return from a shopping trip, put away your purchases immediately. After a trip, if at all possible, unpack immediately and get laundry going if necessary. You may be tired, but you will always be glad if you’ll just go ahead and get it done. If you get something out to use it, when you’re finished, take a moment and put it back. These simple steps can go a long way toward keeping you organized.

The whole family can get involved in daily pickup. Gather everyone together, set a timer for 5 minutes, and explain that during this time, everyone is going to look for anything they can find that isn’t in the correct place and put it back in its proper place. You can make it fun by playing upbeat music or introduce a little competition by seeing who can put up the most items during 5 minutes or seeing whose room has the least number of items out of place. The more frequently you conduct a 5 minute pickup, the more adept everyone will get in the practice.  

I hope that these tips are helpful, and that 2018 will be your most organized year ever!

 

Is 2018 the Year to Finally Get Organized?

 

fullsizeoutput_504fHappy New Year! The holiday season has come and gone, and whether you like it or not, you are most likely settled back into work, school, and your normal routine. Many of us have likely made some type of resolutions or goals for the New Year. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is a desire to get organized. This desire could stem from a frustration at the ever-increasing piles of clutter or just a general lack of order within the home or office. As an organizer, I definitely applaud this goal! I have seen first-hand the immense benefits of being organized, and I definitely believe that the benefits far outweigh the cost in terms of time and effort.

No matter how determined you are to accomplish this goal, the size and scope of the task may seem intimidating. How do you get started? If your whole house is disorganized, which room do you pick to start? Or should you try going category by category as Japanese organizer Marie Kondo suggests in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? What if you are so disorganized and overwhelmed that you don’t even know where to begin?

When I comes to being organized, I believe one of the most important concepts is establishing and maintaining effective routines for regular household tasks. If you focus on those routines and get them down to a science, you’re more likely to find the time for more extensive organizing projects. Let me explain how this works in a home environment. Let’s say you have a big goal of decluttering and organizing a large storage area such as your attic, garage, or basement. However, you can’t seem to ever catch up on your dishes and laundry, and you have piles of items covering most of your horizontal surfaces. Any free time you have for organizing tends to be spent on those three tasks, and you can’t imagine when you’ll ever have time to tackle that larger project. I strongly believe that the best use of your time is to get those daily tasks under control first by establishing a routine that works for you and can be maintained. Then you can work on finding a block of time to start organizing your storage area.  

In terms of daily tasks, I would recommend initially focusing on routines for dishes, laundry, and daily pickup. For each of these, you will have to figure out what works best for you and your schedule. It is more important to have a routine than it is to choose a particular routine. Just like anything in life, repetition creates habits, and after a certain point, habits become the new normal. Invariably there will occasionally be times when the routine can’t be kept up for some reason. But if you can back into the routine quickly, you’ll be back to the routine in no time.

When it comes to dishes, this principle applies whether or not you have a dishwasher. You need to choose the best daily time to load the dishwasher (or to wash the dishes in the sink) and to unload the dishwasher (or put up the hand-washed dishes). If you don’t do this on a daily basis and the dishes pile up, it takes so much longer to get them under control. I prefer to load the dishwasher and hand-wash the dishes that don’t go in the dishwasher at night and put them up in the morning, but this might not be the best schedule for you. Don’t make the mistake of using your dish drainer as a storage spot for clean dishes. Get in the habit of emptying it regularly just like the dishwasher. If every dish and utensil in your kitchen has a proper home, putting things away doesn’t take long.

As far as laundry, there are many different approaches. Some people like doing a load of laundry every day to keep it under control. Some have a regular laundry day where they stay at home and tackle it all at once. I tend to do laundry when the laundry basket gets up to a certain level, which usually happens about twice a week. I think the biggest mistake people make with laundry is that they don’t take the time to fold, hang up, and put up the clean laundry as soon as the clothes are finished drying. Before you know it, there is a small mountain taking up space on your bed or your couch, and you’re faced with wrinkled clothes requiring extra time above the normal routine. It takes much less time to take care of each load as it finishes up than it does to wait until you have multiple loads in a big pile. Here’s a trick I use often: if I can’t get the clean clothes out of the dryer immediately, I will do a “wrinkle release”. I remove all of the clothes from the dryer, then put any of the clothes that are wrinkled back in the dryer with a damp washcloth for about 15 minutes. If you get them out quickly, usually all of the wrinkles are gone, and you can put them up immediately.

Daily pickup is a critical routine. I am always amazed at how big a difference it makes to simply clean up after yourself on a regular basis. When you return from a shopping trip, put away your purchases immediately. After a trip, if at all possible, unpack immediately and get laundry going if necessary. You may be tired, but you will always be glad if you’ll just go ahead and get it done. If you get something out to use it, when you’re finished, take a moment and put it back. These simple steps can go a long way toward keeping you organized.

The whole family can get involved in daily pickup. Gather everyone together, set a timer for 5 minutes, and explain that during this time, everyone is going to look for anything they can find that isn’t in the correct place and put it back in its proper place. You can make it fun by playing upbeat music or introduce a little competition by seeing who can put up the most items during 5 minutes or seeing whose room has the least number of items out of place. The more frequently you conduct a 5 minute pickup, the more adept everyone will get in the practice.  

I hope that these tips are helpful, and that 2018 will be your most organized year ever!