Organizing tips for parents (and other busy people)

I attended an organization and clutter busting workshop last night. The content was geared specifically toward parents, but most of the organizing tips would be useful to any busy person. The presenter was Sarah Giller Nelson of Less is More Professional Organizing Services. The event was sponsored by The Parent Circle, an Evanston-based social and support network for parents. The workshop included a lot of useful organizing tips. Below are 7 things Ms. Nelson recommended doing every day. She calls them her “7 habits of highly organized people.”

  1. Give everything a home. Start by focusing on how you use prime real estate. That is, the shelves and drawers that are easiest to see and reach should be where you keep the items you use the most. Put things where you use them, and keep related items together (e.g. wrapping paper, scissors and tape). Label where everything goes because although where something goes may seem obvious to you it may not be obvious to the rest of your family.
  2. Put things back where they belong. Particularly with busy schedules and kids running around it may be difficult to put things away immediately after you are done with them. Instead, try doing a sweep of the house at night before bed. That avoids the accumulation of clutter, and lets you wake up to cleaner, calmer environment.
  3. Shop with intention. Everything in your house should either be something you use or something that brings you joy. This relates both to shopping and to deciding what clutter to purge. Before checking out at a store (*cough* Target *cough*) look at what you are buying and ask: Do I really truly need this? Does this make me happy? Is this exactly the thing I want? Do I know where I’ll put this? If you can’t answer yes to at least one of those questions don’t buy that thing.
  4. “Always be organizing.” That is, de-clutter as you go. If as you are looking for an important paper you see other papers you don’t need throw them away right then. If you decide not to wear a shirt because you don’t like how it fits throw it in a donation bag that you keep in your closet.
  5. Make lists. Carry your list wherever you go whether it be on your phone or in a small notebook. Write things down as soon as you think of them to alleviate the stress of being afraid you’ll forget. Parents may consider a “going out the door” list to remind them to bring everything they need before leaving the house. Also recommended is making tomorrow’s to do list the night before. If you are having trouble completing things on your list specify when you intend to do each item.
  6. Give yourself buffer time. To feel less frazzled allow yourself an extra ten minutes to get to appointments. If need be you can set your clocks ahead to get yourself moving a little earlier.
  7. Make your bed in the morning. The bed is the focal point of the room, so a neat bed will make your bedroom feel calmer even if there is other clutter around. Plus, if you do nothing else for the rest of the day at least you will have done this.

In addition to these we talked about cutting clutter. One tip was to avoid bringing paper clutter into your home at all by opting out of junk mail and catalogs and keeping a garbage can as near to the mailbox as possible. Rule number 3 from above helps with deciding what other clutter to purge. The Less is More Resources Page includes links for opting out of junk mail and catalogs and a list of organizations to which you can donate things you are getting rid of.

Because this was a roomful of parents we also talked about the clutter of children’s artwork. The key is to edit. “When everything is special, nothing is special.” She recommended keeping 3 physical pieces of art per year, which sounds extreme until you think about how many pieces of art you’ll end up in 10 years particularly if you have multiple kids. Creating an art gallery space and letting the child decide what to display teaches him how to curate.

I’m going to try to use these organizing tips to tackle some of the organization-related items on my 2013 uber list.

What are your favorite organizing tips?

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