My family lives with my mother in the house where I grew up. When you've lived in the same place for over forty years, things tend to pile up. I've developed some organization principles over the years to help keep our home available for hospitality. They may not be profound, but it seems as I repeat them to my family that they aren't obvious to everyone.
Warning: Before you start cleaning up a space that hasn't been touched in a little while, take allergy medicine or wear a mask! There will be some serious dust disturbed in the reclaiming of your home!
1 - Make a Space Plan
When you start any organization project, you should take time to make a plan for your space. Even though it seems like it would be best to just jump in, taking stock of what you have and how you want to use your space is very rewarding.
One of our most recent organization projects was my husband's garage. He loves woodworking, so we never park cars in there. However, his space was frustrating his productivity.
We looked at the space, his materials, and what would offer him the best workflow and then made a plan. This gave us time to be creative and find the best place for the things in his garage, not simply a place to shove them that was good enough.
2 - Your Closet Shouldn't Be Cleaner than Your Room
A couple of years ago, my husband built a shed to store extra materials, and things he didn't want in his work space. Every time I would suggest moving something to his shed to get it out of his garage, he would say that his shed was full. He was very picky about what he kept in his shed.
So I called in reinforcements - our daughter and son. Together they puzzled out the space for maximum efficiency and made room to fit many of the items that were cluttering up the garage. Sometimes you have to rework your closet in order to make your space manageable.
What if you don't have room in your closet? Purge. Find what you can get rid of, consolidate, or give away and enjoy the freedom of a clutter free home.
3 - Use See Through Storage
While we were cleaning out the garage, we found several corrugated boxes holding the same thing. He forgot he had it because he couldn't see it. Moving these items to see through storage allows him to quickly assess what he has, and also to know where to put things when he's done.
This works great in kids' closets too. Toy collections can be easily located when you can see them quickly.
If you need to store things out in the open, cute labels can help keep your room from looking messy while still allowing you to easily access your things.
4 - A Pile of Things Attracts Other Things
After the great success in the garage, we moved into my girls room. They've been struggling to maintain their room, and I wanted to help them find success in this area. We cleaned up their closet and then worked around the room to declutter every surface possible.
The guiding organization principle for their room was that a pile of things attracts other things. If you have one random item hiding behind your door, others will join it. As we worked around the room, my daughters started to realize that if the things they were trying to stuff in their space didn't have a purpose, it would work against them.
We would either find a place for that item to live in their closet, or give it away. This is challenging, but it will allow you to quickly assess whether your room is truly clean if you don't allow for piles to form. Make the clean up quick and easy, and you won't mind doing it!
5 - Use Your Prime Real Estate for Daily Storage
One reason that my girls had every surface covered in their room was that they weren't using their drawers to store things that needed daily access. By shifting where some of those items that were only used occasionally to be stored in their closet, this opened up their prime real estate to clear off their surfaces.
With clean surfaces, you can actually use your space and not just survive it. You know how treacherous it can be when you're trying not to knock your curling iron off of the edge of the counter?!
6 - Be Selectively Sentimental
We struggle with keeping things that hold special memories for us. When you've lived in one place for over forty years, you'd be engulfed with stuff if you kept every precious item.
That doesn't mean you need to throw everything away. Being selectively sentimental means to decide in advance to only keep the best of the best. We love to make little memory boxes with keepsakes from our trips. My kids also have one box up in their closets for important things from their childhoods.
It's not about throwing everything away, but about using your home to its fullest potential by not being strapped down with stuff. If you're spending hours of time maintaining your memories, you won't have time to make new ones. Here are some other ideas for consolidating memories:
- Scan your children's artwork (or snap a picture)
- Make a t-shirt quilt from treasured clothes
- Keep special letters in a small box - keep only the best
7 - Give Your Room Limited Purposes
Our bedroom was a great example of this. Since we primarily use the master bedroom for relaxation, we didn't need it to be also the home office/storage space for all unwanted furniture in the house.
Our room wasn't a true master because my mom still uses that bedroom. So our closets were small, reach-in spaces that didn't offer much serenity. We added a curtain along the wall with the closets to make a larger, walk-in closet.
Even though this took some square footage away, it allowed us to hide away all of the storage elements, and create a peaceful retreat in our home. It has been one of the best changes we've made.
Organization Principles Help You Maintain Your Home
While my space is not spotless all the time, these organization principles are like teammates helping me maintain it. Our house is consistently full of visitors and it would be harder to host if it took more time to clean every time. Managing a few simple organization principles will go a long way to helping you not have to reclaim your space every other week. Because the reality is, it is way too easy to just let everything slide!
What are some of your organization principles?
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.