Every year more stuff seems to accumulate. The closets, drawers, and cubbies become cluttered. Things are not as organized as they once were, and spaces just feel overwhelmed with stuff.
Deciding what to keep and what to reduce is difficult. Here are a few skills that I have learned when it comes to organizing, and reducing my household clutter for the New Year.
Reduce What You Own
The Magic Questions
- Have you used it in 6 months?
- Does it have a place (a spot on the shelf, in a drawer, or other storage area)?
- Is it a specialty item with a specific use that is hard to replace?
These are a few questions I have learned to ask when contemplating getting rid of an item. They really do help with decision making. Usually I never miss the item if it answers the first two questions with a “No”. The third question can be a bit tricky if it is a specialty item.
When going through clothing, I inspect it for holes, and make sure it still fits comfortably. Is it something you would buy if you were shopping in a store right this minute? I keep this question in mind when I try it on. If it isn’t then I purge it. I also have the kids try on their clothes and decide if they still love certain outfits. I find that they have their favorite outfits, and other pieces just sit in their draws.
Do you have electronics or tools that do the same job? In the kitchen I found that I had a few gadgets that did the same job. Some tasks I didn’t mind doing the old fashioned way, so by reducing my gadgets I cut back on counter clutter.
Books and Media
Everything is going digital these days. I still keep a nice selection of hardback books, but I try to buy digital instead of paperback. Sometimes I will rent a digital book (especially my college books) or check it out at the library. The same for media such as DVDs or CDs. Another plus is that most digital media is stored on a cloud drive which is accessible through many devices.
I try to keep everything in digital form when I can. If I can’t then I try to go through, and sort it out at least once a week. The kids’ homework piles up quickly, so I have them go through it and make two stacks. One to keep, and one to toss. When they finish I go through both piles just to make sure that nothing got miss filed. I keep the important papers in file box. The kids’ treasures such as artwork goes into a special box designated for them. This way all the memories are kept in one spot, and do not overtake my office space.
One way I keep a handle on toys is that everything must have a place. If it doesn’t fit in their room or a designated space then we contemplate purging it. Also if they want to buy a new toy, I sometimes have them donate one of their old ones. I rarely face any resistance with this technique.
Pantry and Freezer
As preppers, I find that our dry storage and freezer get crowded sometimes. Every 6 months I make it a point to go through and reorganize these spaces. I check the packaging to make sure it is still air tight, and the expiration dates. If I overstocked Items we donate them to the food bank. If I have some items that are about to expire we try to work them into our meal planning for the week.
Organizing what we own
Containment makes organizing simple. I evaluate an area and make sure that everything in that space has a place. If it doesn’t then I make it a space usually by incorporating baskets, bins, or re-purpose food storage containers.
I have found that the new designer duct tape is a friend in re-purposing food storage containers. I will wrap duct tape around empty oatmeal canisters or smaller boxes, and use them to organize toys and craft supplies. I can easily color code containers, and it makes the container sturdier.
Labeling is a sanity saver. It stops the seemingly never ending question about where things are. When my children were too young to read I incorporated pictures next to the words to help them find the right bin.
What To Do With All That Stuff
Some ways to earn a little cash for your stuff is having a garage sale. Another option is selling on Ebay especially if it is a specialty item. Items such as clothes and toys also do well on Ebay. Check out a local consignment shop too. There are many children and women’s shops that will give you cash or store credit for name brand clothing and toys. Amazon is great for selling your used books, or look for a bookstore that accepts used books for store credit, such as Half Priced Books.
There are many places that you can donate your stuff, too, as well, and they will give you a receipt that you can use for a tax write-off. Also check with your local shelter, food bank or senior center to see if they accept donations as well.
Making sure that everything has its own place is the key to organizing. Don’t be afraid of becoming more minimalistic, and letting things go. Honestly, all the things I have parted with over the years, and through several moves, including overseas, I have not missed (ok, I’ll admit maybe a few specialty items). Tackling organizing and reducing as a family makes the job easier, and offers a fresh start to the New Year.