Fall has arrived, everyone! Things are apple and vanilla scented, stores are boasting everything from frozen turkey to Christmas trees, and neighborhood porches are encrusted with maniacally grinning orange gourds. It’s also getting chilly, which signals the beginning of the Great Winter Couch Potato Race! Rather than save your cleaning for spring, why not get some of it done now? Make some room for those holiday gifts, and decluttering will make the house much more bearable during those dark winter months. I promise.
1. Set it up the night before.
I know this sounds simple, and I know it’s something that a lot of people do. But taking it to an extreme is easier at night, and leads to a MUCH simpler morning. Need your morning cup of go juice? Preset your coffee maker. Kids scrambling in the morning to find their backpack stuffers?
Suck up the extra energy it takes to find all the homework and permission slips, and get it all in there the night before. Do the kids eat at home in the morning? Set out bowls, spoons, oatmeal packets, etc. For kids that can’t pick out their own clothes and get dressed (or for kids that will come downstairs in a tutu and cowboy boots if left to their own devices), set aside a drawer or use a cloth hanging organizer in the closet. Then, when folding the mountains of cartoon underwear and t shirts, set aside a week’s worth of outfits. Slide them into the drawer or organizer; and you’re set for the week!
2. Look at your coat closet.
Seriously. Open it up, tilt your head, and squint one eye. Pretend you aren’t you, but a neighbor/friend/family member. Okay, maybe not friend, because it is a cardinal rule in female friendship that you may not judge another Mom’s coat closet. Anyway, take a gander at it. How many coats are hanging? How many shoes are scattered around? Backpacks? Purses? Crayons, kites, neighbor children? Figure out what you need in that closet, and set it aside. What else is in there? Set aside the items that should be put away in other places. Be honest, we don’t need seven pairs of shoes per person in the coat closet. Or, if you do (and you have the type of door that permits it) buy a plastic shoe organizer and hang it on the door. Presto –change-o, floor space! Next, are there extra coats that are in there, but don’t get used? Perhaps they have been outgrown, or one of the munchkins decided they hate purple now. If you can use them again, pack them away. Now, I understand that letting go of things is hard. We love our children, and many times have emotional attachment to the memories that happened in the clothing. Repeat after me: “Getting rid of a BLANK does not make me a bad parent, and does not take away my memories!” Now pack that purple jacket in the donation box mentioned in the next tip, and move on!
3. Boxes, boxes everywhere….
Got some boxes? Cardboard, plastic totes, or footlockers? (We Military folk move a lot, so we all know about the empty boxes hidden away.) Grab a few empties, and designate some general purposes for them. Now that many of the Armed Services require members to arrive hauling every green and tan piece of equipment known to man, it is likely that there are many oddball pieces floating around. And, if you are like me, the stray pieces left after deployment packing were shoved into a closet. Unfortunately, out of sight, out of mind doesn’t work when the stuff ends up teetering precariously on a shelf of an often-used closet. Empty footlockers? Start by putting the equipment in there. If you’re feeling particularly froggy, you can separate the equipment from the clothing, separate it by seasonal use, and even label them with the contents. Voila, packing for the field no longer requires a prayer and a 10 digit grid coordinate!
4. Storage is a Mom’s Best Friend.
Plastic bins are great for seasonal decorations, crafts, and clothing that aren’t immediately necessary. If you don’t have plastic totes with lids, I suggest acquiring some. They aren’t super cheap, but they are worth their weight in organizational gold when you’re getting your life streamlined. They can be found at any Wal Mart or Target, and occasionally on places like Craigslist and Freecycle. Keep your eyes open, and opportunities for these sweet, stackable babies will cross your path.
5. Donate, Donate, Donate!
Big cardboard boxes (like those left over from household goods shipments) are great for donations. Toys, clothes, jackets and shoes are always appreciated this time of year, as are decorations that no longer fit your home and costumes that no longer fit your ankle biters. Drop them off at any ARC, Salvation Army, or Goodwill, and they will be thrilled to have them. Or, if you are busy and selfish about your free time (like I am), the Yahoo group Freecycle allows you to create a free local account. Then you post your offerings, and people will come pick them up. Not at home when they’re coming, or don’t want strangers in your house? Close the box, slap a note on top and let them know it will be a porch or curb pick up. Easy peasy!
6. Dress your closets for success.
I l I liked the snappy title of this, but it by no means applies only to closets. This is also for dressers, bureaus, and overflowing laundry baskets. We all have our “skinny” jeans, the shirts we don’t wear anymore, and the holey granny-panties. Start by going through and pulling out things you just don’t wear. I don’t care how much your BFF swore you’d be able to wear that mint-green bridesmaid dress again, she was wrong. Reach down and grab the inner seething you endured when you had to buy it, and set it free. Shoes that fit before you had your kids? I don’t care how much weight you lose, your feet aren’t going to shrink. Let your foot misfortune bring joy to someone else, and donate them. Purses from yesteryear? If they are too small to hold everything you need and aren’t dedicated to a specific outing (clutches for dress up occasions, for example) lose ‘em. After all that is gone, take out the things that you don’t wear often, and put them into a storage container, and put the storage container away from your closet. Wait thirty days. After thirty days, keep only the clothes you had to retrieve during the month and actually wore. If you didn't need anything, donate the box. Don’t open it, don’t double check. If you didn't get it out for a month, you don’t use it.
Okay, we’ve gone through a lot of information. And just thinking about organizing everything in your life can be exhausting, let alone actually doing it. Take it a bit at a time, or get on a roll! However you choose to streamline your life, remember that your hard work will pay off!