Organize Your Oasis
By Cheryl Alexander
Many New Year’s resolutions include the intent to get organized on some level, and since your home is your oasis, shouldn’t a decision to enhance your lives begin where you dwell? Oddly, many people who keep a clean desk or a clean car do not enjoy order at home, but the experts insist that organizing the home can be accomplished by following the same rules used to get your professional life in order. Unfortunately, since the house is not an office, a cubicle, a desk or a car, and since most homes come equipped with several rooms and family members who may not be down with the new game plan, sticking with this New Year’s resolution will definitely be a challenge.
First off, realize the house did not become a disaster overnight. Organization is a process. Julie Hibbs, Certified Professional Organizer and president at Squared Away (squaredaway.com) encourages clients to avoid starting with big projects that will take you weeks to complete, thus killing your momentum and motivation. “Start with a small project or area in your house that you can tackle fairly quickly and easily. A series of small successes will make you feel good and keep you motivated to do more.”
Lynn Buscher, General Manager of The Container Store in The Woodlands, agrees. She says, “Start in one place—maybe the area that gives you the biggest headache, or the area that guests to your home most easily see. Select one area and stick to it. When you complete one area, celebrate and then move on to the next.”
Begin by getting rid of the clutter. If something has not been used in six to 12 months, chances are it is not worth keeping (exceptions would include: seasonal clothing, holiday items, and mementos like a first pair of baby shoes, wedding dress, high school yearbooks, etc.).
SMALL DECISIONS, BIG RESULTS
Julie shares that most of the items in our homes creating clutter aren’t large, expensive items; that it is a series of $2.00 decisions that can be made easily and relatively risk-free. She explains, “The problem isn’t that you are struggling to get rid of the items, it’s just that these items have become such a part of the landscape of your home that you don’t see them anymore.” Some examples of these $2.00 items include:
- Cheap vases from the florist
- Expired, disposable cameras
- Your old camera that took film
- Broken coolers
- Cheap baskets from the gift baskets you got at the holidays
- Old paint in the garage from the previous homeowner
- Cables and cords to electronics you don’t own anymore
- Last year’s school work
- Plastic cutlery from your last take-out meal
If you run across items that are taking up space but are still in good condition, a trip to the consignment shop might even garner a few extra dollars to spend on a treat for all the hard work. Otherwise, the dumpster is a great place to deposit all the clutter.
Julie insists that purging must precede organization. “Before you go and spend a ton of money on organizing tools and products,” she says, “purge what you don’t need or want first, because until you know what you are going to get rid of and what you are going to keep — you won’t know how much or what kind of organizing tools you will need.”
The next step is to organize what remains. Lynn instructs customers, “After you’ve removed extraneous items, take a look at what remains. Does it belong here? Does it make sense to keep it here? Is there another place where you’ve got more room to keep it, or another area where it would be more easily accessible for its purpose? For example, take that professional-grade mixer that you’ve been keeping in the back of your closet and move it to the kitchen. When it’s time to tackle that area of the home, you can incorporate the mixer into the new storage plan for the kitchen.”
Julie agrees, “Your ultimate goal is to keep all like items together, so when you have purged what you don’t want and now know exactly how much of that item/category you have left — you will know how much space you will need to house all of that category together.”
MEASURE BEFORE YOU BUY
Once the perfect spot is selected, you will know what kind of organizing tools and products are best for that area. If you have fixed shelves in the cabinet and you are going to store things in boxes — you can now measure the space so that you can buy the right size boxes. And based on your inventory levels, you will know how many boxes you need.
Lynn also offers advice for placement. “Look for wasted space. If you’re in need of more storage space, think about additional areas you can put to work.” Some great examples include over doors and underneath beds. “Additionally, think vertical. If you don’t have a lot of room to work with, a surefire way to instantly create more space is to go ‘up.’” In the kitchen, place items all the way up to the ceiling to really maximize the vertical space, storing the things you need less frequently on the higher shelves.
Lynn encourages customers to think about dividing space. She informs, “By adding additional shelves to a single shelf, or by using containers that stack atop one another, you can divide the vertical space and make efficient use of the area you have to work with.”
And don’t rule out rolling clutter away. Lynn advises, “Consider storage options on wheels. Carts can hold an assortment of accessories in a small amount of space, and can be wheeled back into a closet or storage area when not in use.”
Julie uses three questions to help her clients with placement:
- Who will need access to it?
If the whole family uses it, then make sure everyone can easily get to it and everyone knows where it is.
- How often do you use it?
If it is something you only use once or twice a year, then it doesn’t need to take up prime real estate. Put these items in less convenient places so that the items you use daily are easily accessible.
- Where is it used?
If possible, you want to keep the item as close to the place it is used as possible. If you always sit at the dining room table to do your photo albums, then you DON’T want to store your supplies and albums on the third floor.
Remember, home is your oasis, your refuge. Without clutter, home can truly be an enjoyable place to be at the end of the day and a sanctuary for relieving stress. When your home is presentable and organized, then coming home becomes a joy and a source of empowerment.
To maintain the sense of zen, maintain your resolve and keep up the good work — almost nothing will depress you more than getting your home organized, only to see it in a shambles within a week or two. Once the house is orderly, make it a daily task to keep it that way. A little goes a long way, and by the time next year rolls around, you’ll be able to focus on another resolution.