7 Magic Baskets That Help With Home Organization

In a way, baskets are a magical home organization tool. Why? Baskets are decorative items that hide mess right before your eyes (and those of your visitors). They’re your home organization magic wand–the one that makes disarray disappear in seconds.

Baskets are a perfect tool to use in organizing your home because they are often inexpensive, beautiful and functional items. And baskets are usually made of quite durable materials for the typical person’s usage. You can use them in every room of your home. Use them to organize and store everything from your kitchen utensils to your bathroom towels to your child’s toys.

Here are seven basket types that provide instant home cleaning and home organizing solutions.

1. Stair Basket – A stair basket is shaped like the letter ‘L’ upside down. Set one on your top step or your bottom step of your staircase. Fill the basket ongoing throughout the day with things that need to go up or down. That way you only make one trip. And whichever direction you go with it, up or down the stairs, leave it at the opposite end of the stairs once it’s empty. That way your next trip with the basket will include items that go to the opposite end of your home.

2. Bushel and Peck Baskets – These look like wide, round pails and usually have swinging metal handles. They’re deep baskets (that hold a bushel or a peck, for example). And unless you’re a farmer (or selling produce at a farmer’s market), you won’t want to fill them with dozens of tomatoes, apples or other fruits and vegetable (unless you have a lot of immediate family members to feed!). Instead fill them with your children’s miscellaneous toys divided into different categories for each basket (dolls, soldiers, rubber balls, etc.).

3. Wicker File Baskets – Wicker file storage baskets or boxes are becoming quite popular. You’ll find them in lots of mainstream stores or specialty organizing stores. They’re sort of square or rectangular shaped baskets (to accommodate hanging file folders or manila file folders). Usually the wicker file storage basket is made of rattan (because it’s quite sturdy and durable). And they’ll often have a lid and swinging handle so you can go mobile with the baskets from room-to-room. For instance, carry the file basket from your home office closet to the kitchen table to do your work. Just store the file basket on a shelf in your home office like you would a box. Or store the basket in the open; that’s okay because wicker file baskets are much more stylish to look at than a plain paper file storage box or traditional metal filing cabinet. A wicker file basket is part of your home decor.

4. Utensil Caddy – You’ve probably seen these at picnics. They’re a caddy or basket with dividers and a handle so you can tote it around. A picnic caddy might be used to separate the knives, forks, napkins, etc. The utensil caddy might be made of rattan or willow or something else even such as plastic. Use them in your kitchen to separate whatever you’d like (anything from straws and coffee filters to plastic forks and knives). These baskets work in the bathroom too for separating and toting toiletries.

5. Hanging Wall Pocket Baskets – These baskets, often wire or rattan, have a flat back so the basket hangs flat against the wall and a pocket opening. Stuff it with oven mitts in the kitchen. Or fill a ‘pot-bellied’ wall pocket basket with a decorative flower arrangement and hang it in the foyer.

6. Wicker Hamper – The best thing about a wicker hamper is it’s lightweight and durable. Fill it with guest pillows in storage or your child’s large collection of stuffed animals. You’ll find many sizes ranging from mini hampers to full-size hampers. Rattan is common in hampers. But look for rag basket/hampers too for ones that are more unique and stylish.

7. Wine Caddy – Store your bubbly in a vertical, cylindrical shaped wine caddy or tote it in one that has a top handle. A wicker wine caddy is an inexpensive way to jazz up a gift bottle of wine (and it’s classier than a paper gift bag.). Just line the caddy with some colorful tissue paper that starts at the inside basket base and fluffs up all the way around the wine bottle where you can see it. Then tie some curly, sparkling streams of ribbon to the handle. When your gift recipients are done with the wine, they can use the wine caddy basket to store tall utensils.

So where do you get all these nifty baskets?

From everywhere. Here are six places where you can purchase baskets (or perhaps even get them for free) that will help you in your home organization plan:

…from online stores that solely specialize in baskets
…from flea markets
…from yard sales
…from home decor bricks-and-mortar stores
…from home decor online retailers
…from friends who are discarding empty gift baskets (Ask them ahead of time to save them for you year-round.)

And don’t forget, even the plainest, ugliest basket (in your opinion) can be painted or adorned and decorated in many other ways. Don’t discard these functional, handmade works of art.

Making The Most Out Of Your Closet Organization

If it’s hard to find certain articles of clothing in your bedroom closet each morning, you probably need to work on your closet organization. There are a lot of tools and items that will make this task easier, whether it is a major overhaul or just a simple closet organization project.

For clothes that you don’t wear very often, consider purchasing a wicker 5-drawer storage tower from Target. The tower is designed to easily fit into your closet and is an easy place to store off-season clothes, socks, and undergarments.

This type of closet organization is helpful because it clears up some of your rod space, allowing you easier access to the clothing that you wear on a regular basis. Target also offers a shorter chest version of the same model and is available in a 3-drawer, 4-drawer, 5-drawer, or 6-drawer design.

This form of closet organization is useful because of its less exaggerated height, allowing you to store even more items on top of the unit.
There are closet organization solutions available for bulky or special garments as well.

The Space Bag is a revolutionary vacuum-sealed storage system that reduces volume and increases protection. At ContainerStore.com you can purchase hanging space bags that improve your storage space by up to 75%.

These bags are vacuum-sealed and are ideal for wedding dresses, occasional-use cocktail dresses, blankets, out-of-season suits, and sweaters. If you are running out of space on your closet rod, these bags are the perfect solution to your closet organization problem. Vacuum-sealed bags are easy to use and are guaranteed to keep your items dry and out of harm’s way.

Another way to improve your closet rod space is to purchase multi-tier hangers.

These types of hangers allow you to store multiple items of clothing on the same hanger and are available at ContainerStore.com. The Container Store offers multi-tier hangers for skirts, slacks, and shirts. Having enough space for all of your clothing items is a key element in closet organization, and these multi-tier hangers are perfect for smaller closets or for people that have a lot of clothing items

Another idea is to double your hanging space with a closet rod doubler, also available at The Container Store. If your closet organization project isn’t going as smoothly as you had hoped, this handy item is bound to give new life to your closet. The closet rod doubler adds an additional rod below your existing closet rod, giving your closet instant space with minimal effort.

We can’t talk about closet organization without mentioning how to organize things like ties, stockings, hats, and jewelry. A lot of people find that they have no idea how to store these items in an orderly fashion. The Container Store offers clear vinyl bags specifically for storing these types of accessories, and they are available in a few different sizes.

These bags hang on your closet rod and clear up your existing clutter. An important factor in closet organization is being able to see where your items are located, which is why clear storage bags are the perfect solution.

Just 4 Easy Steps to Clear Clutter at Home (That Anyone Can Do)

Most of us don’t want our homes to be a cluttered mess. We don’t consciously say ‘I like living in the midst of clutter, and it makes me happy’. And we certainly don’t enjoy spending an extra 15 minutes searching for our sunglasses and keys, that matching sock or the misplaced pile of bills that’s going to be late if we don’t pay them today. Where is the fun in any of that?

But while you may not plan to be disorganized or plan to have a home full of clutter, you certainly need a plan to organize your home and banish clutter from it. Here’s that plan…

STEP 1: MAKE A LIST List-making, especially to-do lists, can be a waste of time. But not this list. This list kicks off your home organization plan. It’s a list of problems that need solutions. Don’t list items or places you want to organize in your home or how you’d like your bedroom closet to resemble that million dollar mansion home decor photo in the most recent consumer magazine. Instead, list SPECIFIC problem dilemmas in your home that result from disorganization.

EXAMPLE: Don’t list organize bedroom chest drawers. Write missing sock pair matches. Write…paying bills late monthly and getting late fees. Late for work three days a week because can’t find keys. Tripping on piles of dirty laundry.
Remember, if it’s not an organizational problem, it doesn’t need fixing and shouldn’t be on this home organization list.

STEP 2: CHECK IT TWICE Go back through your list and prioritize the items in it. You can break items into three categories: ‘most important’, ‘needs to be done sometime’ and ‘least important’. Then take your ‘most important’ category and number items in numerical order with number one being your highest priority organizational matter. Each number gets used once. So if you have 10 items in the ‘most important’ category, you’ll use numbers one through 10 each once. Later you can do the same for the categories of ‘needs to be done sometime’ and ‘least important’.

STEP 3: SCHEDULE IT Write priority item number one in your planner or on your calendar. Schedule it for a 15 to 30 minute increment. If you prefer to spend a longer period of time on it (or it will take longer to complete regardless of how long you ‘want’ to spend doing it), schedule a longer period. Or schedule these shorter 15-30 minute increments but over several days during the week. Most of all, keep the organizational problem/task on the schedule as home organization priority number one until it gets done, even if it takes you a week to finally complete this organization task. Your goal is to finish it BEFORE you move onto home organization priority item number two.

By scheduling time to do this task (and visibly writing it in your planner), you’re really making it a concrete appointment. If you know you’ll need more accountability than making an appointment with yourself in your private planner, tell a friend. Then have them bug you periodically. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, prepare to run a marathon or organize toiletries in your bathroom, telling a buddy—one who will hold you accountable to your goal—is the way to go.

STEP 4: START If you do not yet have any ideas of how to solve this organizational dilemma, the first place to start is with research. Go on the internet and put your organizational dilemma search terms into your web browser.

EXAMPLE: ‘organize pots and pans’, ‘lid storage ideas’, ‘bill organization’, and so forth. Try phrasing your organizational project different ways to get different results (and using different search engines like MSN.com and Ask.com; don’t just ‘Google’ everything.). Also set and use a kitchen timer. If you allotted 15-30 minutes per day to this task, don’t spend three hours perusing the Web. The Web can be very distracting. What you don’t find in 15-30 minutes on the Web, you probably won’t find in three hours.

Other research material that can give you ideas for organizing your home hot spots includes home organization books (buy online or borrow from library), television shows about home/personal organization and magazine articles you copy or tear out and save with articles or photos useful to your home organizing project.

Also, don’t overlook home organization stores. ‘Buy the wheel’ if it’s affordable. There is no reason to spend five hours re-creating a $7.99 home organization product that you see in a store that could help solve your organizational dilemma just because you can do so. That’s called arts and crafts. It’s a hobby. A hobby is what you’ll have time for AFTER you finish getting your house in order. Spend $7.99 for that organizational helper that will last you 15 years (and probably save you 15 hours of search time). That’s an expense of .53 cent a year (the price of a pack of gum).

Once your research provides you with a home organization solution for your specific task, start implementing the organizational solution. Test your organization solution for several weeks to a month. Then if it’s still not a solution, change it until you find a home organization solution that works for you.

Easy Housekeeping

Falling behind in household chores? Does it seem like you clean all the time, yet never finish? Let me ease your mind with some tips. With good home organization, you can free more of your time to spend with your family or friends.

My first advice to you is to organize everything. The easiest way to make sure that you are not constantly searching for things you know you saw just minutes ago, is to have a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. If you have a specific area to put each of your belongings, you can develop the habit of simply putting things in their place as soon as you’re done using them.

It is a good idea to keep the things you need the most in a handy spot and store the things you don’t need but would like to keep. We all have little belongings that we keep for sentimental value or ‘just in case.’ Put those things in a labeled box or tote and store them away. Which reminds me of another point: throw away the things you don’t really need or want. If it’s so old that you don’t recognize it, toss it! Also if things are broken, outdated, or haven’t been used in more than two years, get rid of them. This will free up space for you to organize those things that you and your family members use most often.

Once you decide what you want to keep in storage, you have to organize that, too. Here are some tips for organizing storage: You can keep like items together or you can alphabetize. You should label any boxes or totes, so if you need to find something it won’t take very long. Speaking of storage, are you wondering how to organize your garage? The same rules apply. If you set up a place for everything, and get rid of things you no longer need, a bi-monthly visit should be more than enough to keep it neat.

Now that we are passed the organization, let’s talk about the cleaning. View the house in sections, not as a whole. Each day of the week you can focus on one room or section of the house and fix it up just the way you like it. Using all in one cleaners like Lysol all purpose cleaner with bleach will keep things bright, stain free and sanitary. It is also a good idea to use disposable wipes or paper towels instead of sponges for table and counter tops. If you use sponges, you should replace them every two weeks. You should vacuum one room per day, if you have a lot of carpeted rooms. It is also helpful to have a good vacuum. If you find that you have to pass the same lint ball three times to get it up, you need a new vacuum. Also, change the bag in the vacuum as soon as it is near full, and use some form of carpet fresh.

Organizing your house will take time. Again, view the house in sections, rather than as a whole. It will help you feel a sense of accomplishment in knowing that you finished something! Remember that you can organize anything. The rule of thumb is ‘keep a place for everything and in its place!’

Winter Bedding Storage Tips

With the winter finally behind us, it is time to put that winter bedding away for yet another year. While flannel sheets and heavy comforters are perfect for those cold winter nights, most of us look forward to sleeping under light cotton sheets and lightweight throws.

With a little care and preparation, your winter bedding will be as fresh as a spring morning the next time you bring it out.

Be sure to give your winter bedding a proper cleaning before you put it away. While going to the laundromat is not the ideal way to spend an afternoon, it will save you loads of time when washing your winter bedding. Use one of the large-capacity washers to launder your blankets and comforters. If you have a good quality duvet, you may want to have it dry-cleaned to ensure that it is not damaged.

If you do decide to wash your duvet while you are at the laundromat, be sure to pay careful attention to the washing instructions. It would be an awful shame to ruin your expensive down duvet by ignoring the washing instructions. Contrary to popular ideas, a down duvet can be washed in a washing machine.

Just be sure to use a mild detergent, and throw a couple of tennis balls in the dryer with it. This will help distribute the down as it is being dried.

Be sure to use a mild detergent to preserve and extend the life of your bedding. As you are most likely aware, white sheets ought to be laundered separately. To keep your whites as white as can be, be sure to use oxygenated bleach. Chlorine bleach can be extremely harsh, and it tends to leave a residue that can be damaging to the material.

Flannel bedding ought to be washed and dried separately from your other bedding. Flannel sheets tend to leave a lot of lint in the dryer, and it can cause a real mess if you mix them with your other bedding. In our experience, we have found that the best way to dry flannel sheets is to hang them outside to air dry. This will help keep your bedding in good shape and ensure that you can enjoy them for many winters to come.

How to Be Organized

If disorganization is congesting your life and you’re feeling scattered and frustrated as a result, then it’s time to get organized. But before you can be organized, you need to make a monumental effort to rearrange your stuff, your priorities, and most importantly, your habits.

Organize your space. Whether it’s your home, kitchen, office, computer, closet, desk, or locker, you need to see what’s in there, throw away what you don’t often use (or put it efficiently in storage) and give everything else a convenient and clearly designated space.

Clean out your belongings before you think about organizing (organizational tools, furniture, etc.). Don’t do it the other way around. You can only really accurately know what space you have when you’ve cleaned up. If you don’t really take a hard look at what you’re stuffing in your spaces, you’ll waste time and money organizing stuff you don’t need anyway.

Observe how you use your things and work out how to use your space efficiently. If it’s inconvenient to get to things (or to put them away), your organization system is more likely to fail. Make it easy to get to and put away the things you need most often.

Do you have items in your house that just take up space? Be sure to de-clutter regularly. Good questions to ask yourself in deciding: Do I need this? Will I need this in a year? Do I really love it? Is there someone else who could use this more? Do I have more than I could reasonably use in foreseeable future? Will I miss this if I don’t have it?

Know what ‘organized’ looks and feels like. Organized spaces are simple to use. They have enough room for the items there. It makes sense. Every item in your home has a location. Organized spaces also feel calm, open, and welcoming.

Use timers. Set a timer for how long you think a cleaning organizing task should take then work like crazy to get it done in the allotted time.

Have a spot for all bills. Open all mail immediately and dispose of the outer envelope with the junk mail. Keep only the bill in a prominent location.

Put it back. Right now. Once you establish where everything belongs, you need to get in the habit of putting it back there as soon as you’re finished using it. Don’t put it on the kitchen table or on the couch and move onto something else, thinking to yourself that you’ll put it away later. That’s a big no-no.

Always put your keys in the same place. Always put your cell phone in the same place. Have a cell phone charging station set up.

Use a calendar. Get a calendar and put it in a place where you see it every day, preferably in the morning. For most people, that’s on the refrigerator, on their desk, or even on their desktop. Wherever you put it, make it part of your routine to refer to it every day. For example, you can put it on the inside of the bathroom cabinet where you get your toothpaste. Every morning, while you’re brushing your teeth with one hand, touch today’s date on the calendar with the other, and look to see what’s marked for today and for the upcoming week.
Use a planner. A planner is especially useful if you have a lot of appointments and your days are so varied that you have trouble keeping track of your schedule. For example, if you travel a lot or attend classes at various times of day, it’s much easier to carry a planner with you to consult frequently–you can’t do that with a calendar. You can also usually fit more information in a planner.

Combine similar activities. Make all your phone calls at one time. Do all your errands at the same time. Pay all your bills at the same time. Do all shopping in one trip

Write it down! Anything and everything you need to remember should be written down. Even if your memory is great, nobody’s perfect and it doesn’t hurt to put it on paper, just in case. Record phone numbers, appointments, birthdays, shopping lists, and things to do.

Make to-do lists. Make a to-do list for your day. Your list should never be more than 5 items long, or else you’re taking on too much and setting yourself up for failure. Mark one or two of those items as things you absolutely must get done that day, and pursue those tasks relentlessly until you get them done.

Make a to-do list for the week. Appropriate items here would be: Grocery shopping, fix air conditioner, etc. Draw from this list to make your daily to-do list. A white board or board with erasable markers can help to remember all one has to do every day, or long term goals.

Make a to-do list for the month. This list would have more general tasks like: Birthday gift to Jill, get car serviced, dentist appointment. Draw from this list to make your weekly to-do list.

Make a to-do list for your life. Drastic, yes, but why not use this time to rethink your life and where it’s going? Getting organized is all about priorities, and it never hurts to get your ducks in a row.

Delegate responsibilities. Make sure the person you appoint to do the task has all the tools necessary to do the task. It’s hard to be organized if you insist on doing everything yourself.

Multi-task. Organize a drawer while talking on the phone. Fold towels while watching television. Listen to books on tape while driving, etc.

Follow through. There’s no point in making a to-do list if you don’t discipline yourself to complete the tasks you’ve assigned yourself. There are many ways to stick to your to-do list. Stop procrastinating, remove or ignore distractions, and hop to it!

Tips It’s a good idea to carry a notepad and pen with you at all times so you can write things down as they come to you (which is usually at the most inconvenient times–that’s why it’s so promptly forgotten).

If you’re worried about fitting a notepad in your pants pocket, don’t be. Check bookstores like Barnes and Noble to find a notepad slim enough for any pocket. Of course, if your planner is compact enough, it can serve this purpose as well.

Another idea would be to have a PDA, Blackberry or palm Pilot. Some cell phones have notification or note-taking menus. If you are using one of those, they may be practical too. As a last resort, call your own phone number and leave yourself a voice mail.

When running errands, map out the best path so you get the most done and keep chit chat to a minimum. Don’t get side tracked. Target what you need to do. If something else comes to your mind, write it in your notebook to do at a later date.

Post-it notes are your friend. Put them in nifty spots as reminders. For example, if you know you need to wash your car, then put a post-it note on your steering wheel so that next time you get in your car, you remember to get it done. Other good spots for post-it notes are doorknobs, mirrors, and PC monitors (the borders, not the actual screen).

Start your phone conversations with ‘I only have —- minutes to talk.’ Then stick with it. When calling for appointments, make sure you have all information you will need and write down any questions in advance.

If you know that you’re not naturally inclined to be organized, you can change that by starting with one small area of your living space and focusing on keeping that small area organized. Keeping a small area organized over time is easier to do, and it will help you build a new habit.

After about 2-3 months of keeping one corner organized, you will naturally tend to expand your new-found organizing instincts to other areas.

Don’t expect to get organized overnight.

Don’t expect your family and friends to instantly jump on the organization bandwagon. Expect some resistance. But stick with it. In the long run, you will be glad you did.

Don’t worry if you’re not ‘perfectly’ organized, as long as your area is safe, sanitary, and reasonably efficient. One person might want her sock drawer sorted by color, while another could care less.

Do your guests stay too long..? How to boot them out nicely!

Having guests overstay their welcome is never a pleasant thing. Here’s what to do, when guests just don’t get the hint and go home!

Set boundaries. Prevention is the key. Before anyone actually lands on your doorstep, let them know how long you’re willing to have them stay in your home. Decide as a family and then be clear and direct in your communication.

You might say ‘Sure, we’d love to see you. We’re available tomorrow until 6 p.m.’ Or, if it’s an overnight guest, say ‘Yes, please come and stay with us, we’d love to have you for two days.’ That way, everyone knows the parameters.
Appreciate your guests when they are behaving well.

If they help with the dishes or offer to watch your kids, thank them. Successful relationships have a 5 to 1 ratio of appreciations to criticisms and yes, that includes your relationship with your mother-in-law!

She might be a beast, but the more you can find to appreciate about her, the easier it will be for you to be in the same room together.

Hold your ground. It’s so easy once someone is actually planted on your couch for them to stay longer than you planned. If they try to stay longer than you agreed, kindly let them know it’s time to go. You might say ‘It’s been a great visit and our time together is already up. Thanks so much for being a great guest and keeping to our schedule. See you next year.’

Expect huffy displays of ‘Who do you think you are!’ Lots of people expect others to forego their own wishes to make them happy. But only you can create your own happiness and you must. People who want to push the boundaries of others often get upset and create drama. In this way, they feel they have power in their lives. By creating clear boundaries and sticking to them, you are demonstrating real power, a skill they may not have, which can feel threatening to them. They may feel hurt or they may feel scared. Let them have their feelings without trying to rescue them.

Choose to honor yourself and your family for creating exactly what you all wanted. Find a way to celebrate after the guest has gone. Share with each other the things that felt hard or scary and those that were wonderful and empowering.

Tips When individuals within a family have differing wishes for the length of stay, it’s best to go with the lowest number of days. For example, if the wife’s mother is coming and the wife says ‘Oh she can stay for a week’ but the husband says, ‘Uh, I think I could only handle two days.’ Go with the lowest number of days and find ways for the wife and her mother to get together outside of the home, during the additional days. Maybe the mother stays with other family or in a hotel and she and her daughter go shopping.

Do your best to keep your sense of humor. When drunk Uncle Bert starts slobbering and telling dirty jokes in front of the kids, find a way to laugh as you escort him out the door or at least out to the garage.

Speaking of Uncle Bert, list the house rules and post them: no smoking, no drinking to the point of slobbering, no peeing on the front bushes, anyone who criticizes has to do the dishes AND say five appreciations of the person they criticized, Anyone who asks Jane why she isn’t married yet has to sing an entire love song! When someone breaks the rules, just point to your list and smile.

Clearing That Clutter

I devised this exercise after I was incapacitated by a pulmonary embolism following a fall. I hadn’t realised it was that easy to die and I was in shock for some time afterwards, unable to do anything useful except write.

The thing uppermost in my mind was the thought that, had I indeed breathed my last, it would have been up to my sons to sort through everything I’d left behind — and that wasn’t a comfortable feeling.

How could I do that to anyone, leave them to deal with a large house full of stuff that might have been vitally important to me but to them would have been just a vast pile of stuff to sort and bin or recycle.

You’re going to need a large sheet of paper — preferably flip chart sized, if you have it — a pencil or pen and some blu-tac.

But, in the interests of having as much fun as possible, why not get yourself a lovely set of colourful pens and get in touch with your creativity?

You’re also going to need at least 30 uninterrupted minutes to begin with — it’s up to you how you work through this planning stage, whether in one blast or broken down into bite-sized pieces. Done conscientiously, this exercise is going to change your life, forever, so you’re going to need to pace yourself to deal not only with the practicalities but also with the emotional stuff that it brings up.

If you’ve been living in chaos for any length of time you’re going to have to do some hard work to turn things around. But it’s going to be hard work that’s hugely rewarding, I promise you.

Stage 1 Sit down somewhere comfortable and start to picture in your mind each room in your home. Start with the easy ones — bedrooms, living room, kitchen — but don’t miss out those areas that don’t quite fit anywhere else — porch, under the stairs — and don’t forget the attic, cellar, garage and garden shed.

Now take your piece of paper and draw a shape for each separate area, roughly in proportion to the contents, leaving the minimum possible space between each so you’re utilising the whole page.

Be creative — don’t just draw boring boxes. How about a fluffy cloud for each? Or a flower? A different colour for every room? You can start with a rough draft if you like until you’re satisfied with the lay-out. This master plan is going to live with you for a while to come so make it as beautiful as you can.

When you’re satisfied you’ve put down every individual area and named it give yourself a pat on the back. If you want you can stop for now and come back to it later, safe in the knowledge that you’ve started the process. In the meantime take your embryonic plan and stick it up somewhere where you can see it — on a wall, a door, anywhere where it won’t get forgotten, where you’ll pass it several times a day so your subconscious mind will be starting to work for you on the process of de-cluttering your life.

And put a note in your diary or on your calendar for when you’re going to resume work on your project.

Stage 2 Sit down somewhere comfortable again and picture in your mind’s eye, one by one, each room you’ve drafted out on your sheet. Let’s start with a bedroom. What furniture is in it? A wardrobe? A chest of drawers?

Write them down as headings. Now break down each of these in effect into their constituent parts so, for example, with the wardrobe you might note down ‘hanging area’, ‘top shelf’, ‘bottom shelf’ (or space), or you might choose to write ‘shelf 1, 2, 3’ etc.
You may have a bedside cabinet with two shelves — note them down.

A chair piled high with clothes? The aim is to itemise shelves and drawers that hold ‘stuff’ rather than pieces of furniture but how about you start to change your ways right now and put the clothes you’ve worn into the wash basket and the clean ones where they belong — and you could even devise a mantra for yourself, an affirmation such as ‘I am a tidy and organised person.’ Repeat it as often as you can — at least 20 times a day — and once more your subconscious mind will go to work and that will have a big impact on the process.

Once you’ve noted down every individual area containing ‘stuff’ — and don’t forget surfaces like ‘dressing table top’ — you might want physically to go to the relevant room and check you haven’t missed anything.

Planning is crucial to bringing about change and once you’ve completed your plan you’re well on the way — in fact I would recommend at this stage that you give yourself a treat, to reward yourself for your hard work. And it is hard work.

By now you have completed something much greater than simply devising your plan, something absolutely vital — you have confronted the reality of what you’re trying to achieve and that can be hugely challenging. But take heart. The rewards are enormous.

Stage 3 Now you’re ready for the next stage — actually sorting through things. Again, try to do this in a way that works for you. You can start logically from the top left hand corner of your plan or you can select something at random, as the spirit moves you. But to start with select one small shelf or drawer.

Take everything off it or out of it and examine it piece by piece. Is it something you use often? If it’s a book, do you refer to it, will you read it again? A tape or CD? When did you last play it? An item of clothing? Does it fit? Do you wear it? Are you hanging onto it in the hope that one day you’ll drop a couple of dress sizes — might it not be out of fashion by then?

If it’s a piece of kitchen equipment when did you last use it? Are you keeping it because you all might get together one day for a huge family christening, even though the children are barely out of nappies? If it’s an old bill or a guarantee are you confident you won’t need it again? With each item ask yourself ‘is it relevant to my life now, does it support who I am and who I want to be?’
Now do you see why you have to do this in bite-sized pieces?

Some decisions will be really easy, as in ‘Why on earth did I hang onto a book that I never read in the first place because it was so boring?’ But others are going to be hard. You’re going to have to be really courageous and occasionally you may put something back because, though in your heart of hearts you know you should part with it, you simply can’t bear to. That’s fine. This isn’t meant to be torture. Put it back until the next time and move on

A word of warning: DON’T go through your home like a tornado, throwing stuff out here, there and everywhere — only to bitterly regret what you’ve done once it’s all gone. (And of course it goes without saying that it’s not okay to get rid of anyone else’s stuff without their say so.) This exercise takes time and thought and patience. It may take a year to complete and that’s fine — the results are going to benefit you for the rest of your life.

Years ago when I left my marriage I carted loads of stuff around the countryside with me for three house moves before I finally let go of it all. In the end I realised it was more to do with some vague sense of security than anything to do with the things themselves. Gradually, as my confidence grew, I realised I didn’t need that stuff any more.

These days, having devised the exercise and actually practised it myself, I find it really easy not to accumulate things in the first place and I welcome the charity bags put through my letter box because there’s always a few things on their way out. But I wasn’t always like that. I simply discovered how liberating it is to be free of all that extraneous stuff that just needs to be dusted, or insured or moved when you decorate or someone comes to stay. And to be free of the anxiety of who would be left to deal with it.

So, now you’ve finished with that first shelf or drawer you can go to your plan, take a fat coloured pen and cross it off the list or put a big tick beside it. It’s done and when you feel ready you can move on to the next task, until gradually the whole plan will be a mass of ticks or crossings out — and won’t you feel fantastic then?

So what are you going to do with the stuff you’re going to get rid of? These days there are so many opportunities. There’s the aforementioned charity bags — though we can’t feel as smug about recycling clothes as we might once have done, now it emerges that the clothing trade in developing countries is being badly damaged by the West dumping our waste on them.

So I guess worn clothes have to go in the bin, or be turned into dusters, but good, saleable ones can be offered to clothing agencies or charity shops or sold on e-Bay, as can a whole host of other items. Freecycle, if there’s a group near you, is another opportunity that’s gathering momentum where you can give away useable items you no longer want. In my home town of Lancaster we have Furniture Matters, a local authority sponsored charity that recycles suitable furniture and white goods and, in addition, trains young people in furniture renovation and refurbishing skills. Recycling is seriously in vogue now so there’s never been a better time to be really creative about getting rid of your unwanted stuff.

Stage 4 You’ve sorted your home from top to bottom and become positively minimalist in the process. Now how are you going to guard against ever slipping back to how things were?
The best way is to have a regular review. It could be annual or it could be more frequent. Decide what works best for you and put it in your diary or on your calendar.

That way you don’t have to bother remembering — it’ll be there, factored into your life. I used to have an annual review of how my life was going though I’ve now amended that to a quarterly one, timetabled into my diary. But in fact this exercise has actually become a way of life for me. These days I sort and chuck with hardly a thought — and I’m confident that, should that double-decker bus catch up with me any day soon, there’ll be a lot less clutter to be dealt with afterwards.

This exercise isn’t an instant cure-all, a swift one-off — it’s more along the lines of painting the Forth Bridge, an on-going process to incorporate into your life so it becomes second nature, a way of ensuring you never again feel overwhelmed by your clutter.

How to Organize Your Home

Is clutter driving you crazy? An organized lifestyle can mean efficiency in your day and a more relaxing time while at home. Use the following tips to get some organization in your home.

Have three boxes or large bags labeled ‘KEEP’, ‘DONATE’, and ‘TRASH’. As you pull each item off the shelves, from dusty corners, from under beds and couches, or wherever, put it in one of these boxes/bags.

In general, if you haven’t used an item in a year or more, it is probably safe to throw/give it away.

Dispose of the ‘TRASH’ box/bag immediately and give away your ‘DONATE’ box/bag as soon as possible to a local charity like a church, Goodwill, or the Salvation Army.

Assess your KEEP box/bag. You should ask yourself if these items belong in this section and how often you use each of them.

If an item belongs elsewhere in your home, put it there. If you don’t use an item frequently, consider how you can store it so it is out of the way of the items you use more often.

Work throughout your living space weeding out all of the extra ‘stuff’ and placing everything else where it belongs.
Assess your KEEP box/bag. You should ask yourself if these items belong in this section and how often you use each of them.

If an item belongs elsewhere in your home, put it there. If you don’t use an item frequently, consider how you can store it so it is out of the way of the items you use more often.

Work throughout your living space weeding out all of the extra ‘stuff’ and placing everything else where it belongs.
Now that your possessions are organized, maintain this state by ensuring that items belonging in a particular area stay there.

If you use something, put it back where you found it when you’re finished.

If you need to relocate an item to a cluttered area, re-assess why each item is there so you can make room for everything you need. Buy or re-use organizers to store items that would otherwise look cluttered if left out in the open.

For important files (i.e. insurance documents, automobile information, receipts, instruction manuals), purchase a filing cabinet or look for one in a local garage sale.

Designate a counter top as a ‘landing pad’ for your keys, purse, cell phone, and other items to be put away at the end of the day.

Keep one drawer in your desk for supplies such as pens, paper clips, and sticky notes so they are not roaming around the house. Always looking for a pen? Now you will always know where you can find one.

Buy a planner. Write in designated times to maintain your newly organized space. Color-code your planner so you can easily pick out meeting times, due dates, and appointments.
If you continuously maintain your space, you will have less clutter building up.

Tips When choosing which area of your living space to begin organizing, try starting with the area that you use the most, such as your study area, if you are a student, or the kitchen.

A good way to store infrequently-used items is to invest in good quality organizers, such as CD holders, bookcases, and under-the-bed containers. If you have a birthday coming up or Christmas is around the corner, try asking relatives for gift certificates to the Container Store, Bed, Bath & Beyond, IKEA, Target, or Wal-Mart.

American culture is avid about organizing. Therefore, you can usually find organizers that are trendy and fashionable, so you won’t have to worry about hiding items away that you store.

Find ways to reuse your existing organizers. For example, if you have a candle holder but no candles, you can use it to hold pencils instead.

Warnings Keep in mind fire hazards while you are organizing. Some safety hazards include overloading a wall outlet with extension cords, storing huge stacks of newspapers, or not putting away shoes and other articles that block your exit path in an emergency.

Be careful when moving furniture. Lift with your legs, not your back, and ask a friend to help you.

Home Organization Strategies – Sort Now, Handle Later

Home organization tactics include sorting items now, or ongoing, to save you time later on tedious chores and mundane tasks. Here are three items you can sort in your home as you lay them down or put them away along with the home organizational details of how to do so.

SORT LAUNDRY – Speed up your laundry chores by pre-sorting your dirty clothes. Use a three-compartment laundry sorter for this method (although you could substitute laundry baskets or bins too). These laundry sorters are usually comprised of a lightweight metal frame that holds a three-compartment mesh or canvas laundry bag. Many online and walk-in retail stores sell them. Designate a compartment for 1) whites, 2) gentle wash and 3) regular color fabric washes.

When you put clothes into the laundry sorter or hamper, immediately put them into one of those three designated compartments. If you gently compress the dirty laundry in each compartment, then when full it averages about a single full washing machine load. So you can easily see when it’s time to drop a laundry load into your washing machine. And it takes just seconds since you’ve pre-sorted the laundry ongoing. You can use a separate laundry hamper to hold dirty towels and linens.

SORT COINS – If you’re tired of finding loose coins in the washing machine and you’re tired of sucking them up accidentally with the vacuum, give family members their own own piggy bank. But not just any piggy bank. You need to give everyone the grown up version of the piggy bank which is called a ‘Coin Sorting Machine’. It’s a miniature version of what you see in some banks where you drop coins into the hopper and the machine sorts it all out.
The at-home version is the ‘coin sorting machine’ gadget. One version seen in stores is a coin sorter that allows you to dump up to 20 coins at a time into the hopper, push a button and it sorts and counts them into wrappers that you place inside the tubes. You’re ready to take them to the bank now—the real bank.

SORT MAIL – In the old days, professional organizers suggested sorting your mail over a trash can. In today’s world, you’d be more secure making that ‘sort your mail over a trash can that’s beneath your cross-cut shredder.’ That’ll prevent strangers up to no good from searching through your trash to find credit card applications pre-filled with your name and mail order catalog pre-approved credit order forms (especially around the holidays when you get more of these).

When you find an invoice or bill, put it in a ‘daily organizer’. A daily organizer is a small rectangular box style gadget stores sell. It has 31 slots to hold your bills, appointment slips, timely notes, greeting cards to mail—whatever you need to do or know on that day of the month. Put each bill as it arrives into a slot that’s a week before its due date. Check this 31-day bill organizer daily to see what’s due to send that day. Some of these pre-made bill organizers also contain drawers at the bottom to hold pens and stamps. If you don’t want to buy a 31-day bill organizer, consider using 31 manila folders. Label one for each day of the month. Hang them in your home office drawer using some green hanging folders or put them in a portable file box and store it somewhere convenient.

See how sorting items now can save you time later? You can apply this home organization technique to other items that need organizing in your home too. For instance, a little time spent setting up a system to pre-sort hand tools and hardware in the garage or sewing items in your home will benefit you when you get ready to enjoy a project using these items. Look around your home and you may find other areas that you can apply this home organization method to.