A Step-by-Step Guide to Organizing Your Home
Cliché as it may sound, spring cleaning is a wonderful way to push the reset button. As the cold weather surrenders to sunny days and milder temperatures, you can get energized to bring a renewed sense of order to your space. There is something in us that loves that fresh, clean, organized feeling of accomplishment we can get by going through our home and preparing it for the new season. Wouldn’t it be great if your home could feel as peaceful and welcoming as it does after a good reorganization all year long?
Essentials Maintenance: How to Get Your Home Organized
To keep that lovely feeling going year-round, we’d like to offer some of our favorite tips for establishing and maintaining a tidy space through the spring and beyond.
STEP 1: Make a comprehensive inventory of problem spots.
Everyone’s home has a couple default places that become catch-all clutter spots. They evolve over time as we settle into a lifestyle with routines and habits that create typical traps for clutter and mess. You may have a favorite end table where mail settles—and never leaves. Or a big arm chair that makes a perfect laundry basket for the clean clothes. Maybe you have a bulging junk drawer that’s home to 8 incomplete decks of cards, some almost-dead batteries, a couple coupons for frozen yogurt, and broken Christmas ornaments awaiting emergency hot glue surgery. You get the idea. You know where those weak spots are in your home—hunt them down and put them on your Organizational Hit List: STAT.
Grab yourself a notebook or legal pad. Go room by room, observing the places where family members tend to toss mail, backpacks or briefcases, socks and shoes, etc. Record those places on a page for each room, leaving space to write your organizational plan on the rest of the page. We’ll get to solutions shortly.
STEP 2: Design a plan of action and start small.
Rome was not built in a day, and your organization system won’t be either, especially if you are starting from Ground Zero. You can’t tackle everything at once. If you try, you are likely to get overwhelmed and give up. When we set small, reasonable goals with a step-by-step plan of attack, we set ourselves up for success and are more inclined to cross the finish line.
After identifying your trouble spots, prioritize your project by room. You might start with the room that feels the most in need of a rescue operation. Another approach is to start with the spaces more visible to company. It’s also not a bad idea to start with an easy, smaller space so that you have an immediate sense of accomplishment to get you energized for the project at large. What we’re saying is, there’s no wrong place to start. The main thing is to see it through so that you can start reaping the benefits and extra time afforded by living in an organized space.
STEP 3: Mark your calendar!
Now that you have a tentative list of priorities (don’t forget you are allowed to be flexible and change it up as needed), set a time to tackle that first space. Be realistic about the projected time commitment. For example, if you’ve decided to start with the home office or garage, you should set aside a solid weekend when you don’t have other commitments. These are big, intense, often densely packed spaces that will need a healthy chunk of time. By contrast, the living room or a linen closet may only take a few hours of your morning. The takeaway here is that if you start a project that you can’t finish and then have to shelve it for a week or two, you risk losing momentum and not getting the job done.
STEP 4: Clear the space.
Go ahead, give yourself the greenlight to let the mudroom explode into the dining room. Don’t worry what your neighbors think when you fill your driveway with rusty wheelbarrows, your college field hockey stick, your preteens’ old strollers, those power tools you haven’t quite learned to use. Just get it all out.
Before you can hunker down and get a space in shape, you need to completely empty it. This is a critical step in visualizing how you want it to look and feel. If you try to maneuver around the stuff, you’ll never get it quite how you want it. So clear it out—and then give it a good deep clean. Chances are, once you get your newly-organized belongings back in there, it could be a long time before you deep clean again, so make this a must-do part of the process.
STEP 5: Throw it away! Give it away! Keep it! Put it away!
With all your treasures out in the open, you are ready to make some decisions (some harder than others). We suggest four piles for the things you’ve just pulled out of the target space. Get started with a throw away pile. This one will be the easiest to deal with. Be brave. It’s ok to throw-away things that are of no use to you or anyone else. And then, don’t let it linger. Get it in the trash can or to the local dump ASAP before it weasels its way back into the mix.
Next, set aside things that are of no use to you, but are great for someone else. Don’t let buyer’s remorse guilt you into keeping something that you’ve never used. There is a cost to cluttering up your life with unneeded stuff.Think of it as adding value to someone else’s life. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Designate an appropriate charity or donation center for those items and haul them off!
Now you are down to the keepers. Separate these goodies into things you want to ultimately return to the space you are organizing versus things that need a home elsewhere in the house. Make yourself put those items that don’t belong in their proper place, immediately. Don’t procrastinate lest you find them right back where they started from.
Finally, you’re down to the nitty gritty. The stuff that will call that mudroom or garage a permanent home! And we’re ready to put it all back, but better this time.
STEP 6: Keep it attractive and user friendly.
We are much more likely to maintain the system we’ve just worked so hard to create if it is pleasing to our sense of taste and style. A laundry room with a fun theme and cute decorative touches and easy-to-use bins or baskets is much less likely to turn back into a vortex of mismatched socks and stinky soccer uniforms a few short months later. So with that in mind, think about colors you like and what kinds of storage containers appeal to you. This is a great time to make a Pinterest board to conceptualize the final product. Your options are limitless. Everything from Mason Jars to wicker baskets to stainless steel, no-nonsense shelves can add substance and style to your organizational project. The world is your organizational oyster!
STEP 7: Create some breathing room in your system. Differentiate public from private space in your home.
If you’re lucky, your friends don’t go much beyond your foyer or living room without invitation. If so, then you’re safe to have designated private spots in your home where you can “let down your hair” and not worry about a little mess.
Make it a goal to keep the rooms where you most often intercept visitors as public zones, rooms that you try to keep guest-ready at all times. And when then are not guest ready, they are never more than five or 8 minutes from shining like the top of the Chrysler Building. With this practice in place, you can rest easy knowing you are always prepared for an unexpected drop-in from a neighbor or friend.
On the other hand, you can designate a couple of specific zones as private—off limits to everyone outside of family and besties. The breakfast nook, mudroom, laundry room, playroom are great for this. These are the spaces where dirty socks, backpacks, today’s mail, groceries, dog paraphernalia, etc. are fair game for dumping when you don’t have time to put them away as you walk in the door. We all need those places to catch the overspill and detritus of our lives.
A few final specific home organizational strategies:
If you are a natural at organizing, you probably have plenty of great ideas. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by where to begin, consider some of our favorite strategies.
- Use transparent plastic storage boxes and drawers: these are great for closet shelves and under beds. They keep things separated and tidy while also allowing you to see the contents without having to guess and pull everything out.
- Keep warranties and user manuals in a binder: We all have a stack of these. They collect over the years. Toss all of the manuals and warranties you no longer need. Then slide those remaining into plastic sleeves and tuck them into a three-ring binder that you store on a shelf. This makes them easy to find and reduces clogging in your file cabinet or junk drawer.
- If detailed organizational systems are too much for you, just use open bins and baskets for general categories like mail, magazines, kids’ toys, remotes, etc. There are all types to choose from and can be a nice added touch to your home décor.
- We love the sock basket! Instead of friendless socks floating around for days or weeks until they are reunited with their partners, throw them in a designated basket as a holding place. Eventually they’ll find their mate—it’ll all come out in the wash! And if you’ve got kiddos, sock matching is an excellent kid-friendly chore.
- Speaking of children, use a reachable shelf for a big snack bin. Fill it with healthy snacks like granola bars, squeezable applesauces, crackers, raisins, etc. This makes for an easy way for your kids to grab a snack without having to ask for help or rummage through all the cabinets.
- If you have a tiny little clothes shopping habit that makes it a challenge to fit everything in your closet at once, store off season clothes in see-through bins and totes. Better yet, ask your personal concierge to help you rotate your closet, storing unneeded items in the garage or attic.
How to Maintain Your Orderly Home in 6 Easy Steps
Congratulations! Your home is organized and neat as a pin. Now comes the tricky part: keeping it that way. You’ll need to revisit and regroup these areas you’ve just whipped into shape a time or two throughout the year. In the meantime, we encourage you to impose on yourself a few non-negotiable daily chores that will go a long way toward keeping your house only moments away from guest ready at any time. You may have a few faves of your own that you’d like to add to our list, be we think the following six tasks will keep most homes in good shape year-round. Be relentless—hold yourself accountable to the following daily tasks:
- Go to bed with an empty sink. Develop a habit of handling dirty dishes right after dinner so you can relax and then wake up to a clean kitchen.
- Put away clean clothes and send dirty clothes to the hamper or laundry room before bed each day. Do not let them pile up in a stinky corner. This is great training for your children.
- Make those beds! A good day is made even better by a made bed. Not to mention that bed time seems so much more inviting when your bed is waiting for you all neat and straight.
- Empty the trash. It may be impractical to empty large kitchen trash can daily, but don’t let it overflow. Stay on top of it.
- Only touch mail once! In other words, either designate an inbox for all mail and deal with it on the same day each month or commit to dealing with a piece of mail when it first comes into your hands. Read. File it. Throw it away. Pay it. Whatever. Just don’t let it get stuck to the coffee table or mantle!
- Lastly, always have an emergency clean up basket on hand. We love this idea. That inevitable call is going to come when Aunt Vera is in town unexpectedly and is calling from two blocks away to let you know she’d like to drop by in four minutes. She’s no match for you. Your space is organized. You have designated the public spaces that stay pretty neat. You’re on top of your daily chores. Now, grab that basket and toss the few items lying around out of place. You’ll fill it before she is on your sidewalk. Tuck the basket in the laundry room and deal with it when she leaves.
Helping folks get organized is one of our specialties at Monogram Concierge. Whether you’re looking for help because you are overwhelmed and do not know where to begin, or because you simply do not have enough time and can use the extra hands, we’re here for you.
We will walk with you through as many of the above steps as you’d like, helping make your home a relaxing, orderly place you look forward to spending your precious time enjoying. We’d love to help you get started today. Give us a call, and let’s get those bins and baskets ready!