If your house has been reduced to piles of used wrapping paper, plates of cookie crumbs and a dried-out greenery in the wake of the holidays, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2019.
As they say, “Out with the old; in with the new.”
Have you promised yourself this is the year you’ll get organized?
A few simple tips can make this the year you finally keep your resolution, experts say.
“The New Year is a great time to reassess,” said professional organizer and wellness coach Stacey Crew. “Set a few goals. Look around the house and ask yourself, ‘What would make me feel happy? What would make me feel relief if I got this off my list?’”
Getting organized isn’t easy, but it brings relief, Crew said.
“Have you ever organized a space and then you go back and look at it because you’re just so happy about it? It feels so good to have accomplished that, whether it’s a drawer or a room.”
Start with considering how much of your home has been given over to clutter. Many people have attics, spare rooms or garages that are overflowing with stuff they haven’t used in years.
Getting rid of it can lead to more happiness, Crew said.
“A lot of people live with memories, and that kind of keeps you stuck in the past a little bit,” she said. “You know, as opposed to structuring your life and your home and all that for what you’re doing today, it reflects what you did yesterday.”
She suggests assessing your situation and deciding if you’re truly happy with what you have and the way you live.
“I often tell people, ‘Pretend you’re moving. Would you actually box that up and take it with you?’” Crew said. “For people who are in the same house, clutter accumulates over the years, so really give some thought to how much space you want to give to something and if you wouldn’t move it, you might want to consider losing it.”
“Losing it” doesn’t have to mean dumping old clothes, books or trophies in the trash. It can also mean giving it away, selling it or donating it.
In the kitchen
"Ask yourself, ‘What could I do in my kitchen that would inspire me to want to be in there?’” Crew said.
As a certified wellness coach, Crew often concentrates on helping clients organize their kitchens so they can get in and out quickly and easily while also creating healthy meals.
Her strategy includes zoning, or creating particular spaces for specific activities.
“The key to organizing and making things efficient is to make things as uncomplicated as possible,” she said.
Most kitchens are designed with a “work triangle,” a traffic pattern between the stove, sink, and refrigerator. But Crew suggests you go a step beyond that and think of the kitchen as five zones: preparation, cooking, cleaning, serving and storage.
“I have people do a little diagram and then think about if things are where you need them,” she said. “If you find that you’re emptying your dishwasher and most of the time you’re walking all the way across the room, then you want to restructure your kitchen so that when you’re taking the plates and the cups out, you’re basically just turning around.”
Also, consider countertops to be prime real estate, she said.
“I’ve seen a lot of countertops so cluttered that people don’t even have the room to cook or to prepare food,” she said. “I would suggest use that space wisely. Covet that countertop space and keep it clear. If it’s not an appliance that you use on a daily basis, find a place for it and pull it out when you do use it.”
You may not even need all those appliances.
“I’ve got a couple of pots that I use, a frying pan, a cutting board, a good sharp knife and a rice cooker,” Crew said of her own kitchen.
The refrigerator is a “temporary container” and shouldn’t be crammed full to the point where you can’t find anything, she said.
“Here again, create space for leftovers, fresh vegetables, etc. Put the freshest stuff at eye level because that’s going to help you grab that first.”
If you have a busy family, organize food in the fridge by days and meals to make preparation easier, she suggested. For instance, put all the ingredients in together in a plastic container.
Keep zoning as you move to the pantry, where having the most-used items at eye level will save you time, she said.
Put like items together. For instance, Crew stores all her dry goods for baking in labeled mason jars.
“It keeps everything together and looks pretty, too,” she said.
In the bedroom
Like many experts, Crew suggests using your bedroom for only the activities for which it’s intended.
“The bedroom should be a sanctuary,” she said. “It should be where you can, at the end of the day, go to wind down, relax and not be distracted by things that need to get done, what’s happening in the world, all of those things.”
Remove anything that could cause stress or be a distraction.
“For instance, having a filing cabinet in the living room is not really going to make sense because that’s where you want to relax,” she said. “The same with the bedroom.”
Including the kids
“One of the biggest questions to ask when organizing your children's stuff is ‘Will they be able to maintain this without my help?’” said Jen Van Buskirk of The Neat Boutique.
For example, if your kids' coat hooks are too high for them to reach, guess who's stuck hanging up their coats every day? You are! So make sure you design systems that your kids can easily understand and participate in.
“I have clients with kids as young as 2 years old who set their own place at the table and put their clean dishes away right from the dishwasher, all because we designed a system where the child's kitchen items were accessible to them,” she said.
Make sure your kids understand what to do and what’s expected.
“Spend some time planning specific time blocks each week for your kids to straighten up their play areas, bedrooms and any other space you see fit,” Van Buskirk said. “Keep it short and sweet. I recommend between 5-10 minutes. And make this a consistent routine that you do at the same time every week.”
The kids will be happy to participate if you make organizing a game.
“Turn it into a competition with rules, point, and prizes for the winner,” she suggested. “You could even make it a race to see who can get all their toys put away the fastest: into the right bins, baskets or containers, of course. A little time spent coming up with a fun game will save you hours a week, and keep your home feeling calm and peaceful.”
Finally, she said, remember that you are the CEO of your household.
“With everything that's already on your plate, you can't be responsible for cleaning up after everyone, too,” she said. “Focus your energy on making it easy for them to keep their stuff in order on their own. Your role is to delegate, empower, encourage and lead by example so they develop great habits. Not only will you feel more relaxed in your space, but you'll be teaching your kids life skills they'll be using well into adulthood.”