If you’re frustrated by the clutter in your home, or can’t find a pile of spatulas and AA batteries, you know how tiring it can be to live in a cluttered space. No home is perfect. Clutter is the hallmark of a familiar space, but it’s worth taking the time and effort to organize it. The organization is not just about making your home cleaner and more efficient. It’s also much more pleasant (not to mention relaxing) to live in a purposeful space.
However, even if the results are positive, organizing can be a complex process, and depending on the conditions in your home, it can be hard to know where to start.
Need advice on how to organize your home? Here are the golden rules of the organization that any project should follow, according to two experts who help people keep their homes clean and in good living conditions:
Organization Rule 1: Be Realistic
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the state of your basement or kitchen pantry, it’s natural to expect to take some time to sort it out and turn around. It takes time to put things back together. Before embarking on a project, Ben Soreff of H2H Organizing recommends being as realistic as possible about how much time you can commit to a project so you don’t feel overwhelmed when you start. Also, idealizing how much you can get done in a given amount of time (or expecting the perfect end result) will only lead to frustration and less motivation to get what you started.
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Organization Rule 2: Break It Down
One way to stay motivated throughout the process is to not try to clean up the house over the weekend, but instead, break it down into little pieces. “If you take everything out of the closet and put it back quickly when your phone rings due to a work emergency, it’s no worse than if you didn’t ‘clean’,” Soreff said.
Start by making a list of everything you want to do, and then break that master list down into smaller tasks. Soloff recommends setting a timer on your smartphone and focusing on 15-minute sessions focused on specific goals, like taking care of a trash drawer or one shelf in a pantry.
Organization Rule 3: Declutter First
While it’s tempting to get out and splurge on every tray in the sun, Solomon says it’s important to clean up the clutter before investing in wipes. “Clutter perpetuates the cycle of unorganized space, preventing us from appreciating the objects we truly love and appreciate,” she says.
It’s time to toss out dry markers, sell unfinished books after college, and donate mismatched jeans. Once organized, you can evaluate which storage solution is right for your space (measure the dimensions first).
Organization Rule 4: Trust Your Own Organizing Style
Just because open kitchen shelving and minimalist countertops are trendy doesn’t mean they’re for you. Everyone has their own organizational style. Solomon says it’s important to consider your style before taking on an organizational project. For example, if you often lose items without seeing them in their entirety, don’t store them in opaque bins. It is recommended to create a concealed system to provide access (e.g. store the KitchenAid Mixer in a container rather than directly on the counter).
“Keep in mind that your organizational style can vary from room to room. A little clutter on the kitchen countertop may be normal, but a pile of sweaters in the closet can be dazzling.” it works for you, even if it means reversing the trend.
Organization Rule 5: Get in the Zone
It may seem very boring, but Solomon says that the key to organizing your space is to create zones for your things. The same goes for elastic bands in the trash drawer and jeans in the closet. Group similar items together and give each category a container or label. If you’re disciplined enough or want to ditch labels and containers altogether, just make a commitment to return items to where they were delivered.
This way, you are less likely to forget an item you own, repurchase it, or buy it unnecessarily. “Recently, I was cleaning out a woman’s closet and was amazed to see how many white T-shirts she had,” Solomon said. “She’s been buying more and more T-shirts, assuming they’re out of stock.”
Organization Rule 6: Balance Pretty With Practical
If your system isn’t easy to maintain, your Pinterest-worthy pantry and closet will collapse before your eyes. Storing sweaters in wicker baskets, for example, may look beautiful on a closet shelf, but it’s impractical to reach for the entire basket every time you need a sweater. Solomon says it’s best to store sweaters in a shelf divider or front sweater drawer. On the other hand, it is important not to skimp on style. Otherwise, you will lose the desire to keep the space in order. “If your system is the perfect combination of form and function, then you are the best,” Solomon said.
Organization Rule 7: Leave Guilt at the Front Door
Whether it’s an expensive purchase you no longer use, a gift from your best friend, or a dusty closet, don’t let guilt get in the way of cleanliness and order. Not only do they take up physical space, but they also take up a lot of headroom. Solomon said, “When you stare too long at something you don’t like, it affects the subconscious level.” When it comes to gifts, as they say, thoughts matter.
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