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Now that you’ve stopped the giant influx of junk mail and other papers, it’s time to start purging!
The easiest paper products to start with are magazines, catalogs, and newspapers.
- Magazines – If you haven’t gone through them in the last 6 months, they belong in the recycling bin. You can hang on to the last 6 months’ worth of magazines as long as you can be good about the one in-one out rule. This means when a new magazine comes in, you recycle the oldest one.
- Catalogs – Recycle them. If you are hanging on to it because you might get around to buying something you want – why haven’t you done it yet? If you’re second guessing a purchase – even for price – you don’t need that item. Find the item on the catalog’s website and bookmark it if you really think you might buy it down the road.
- Newspapers – If you have kids, hang on to a couple days’ worth to serve as disposable glue or paint catchers. The rest should go in the recycling.
- Credit offers – Shred them
- Utility bills – if you can’t get them online, hang on to the last 3 and shred the rest. They can be useful when getting a mortgage or otherwise proving your residence.
- Bank and Loan statements – If you can get them online, shred the paper statements. If not, keep the last 3 and shred the rest.
- Receipts – Hang on to receipts needed for warranties, taxes, or proof of purchase. For the rest, shred them after you check against credit card transactions.
- Warranties – Hang on to until the warranty expires
Citigroup and Women & Co came up with a fantastic infographic describing what papers you should scan, shred, or store. It echos some of the information I mention here, and it talks about the tools you need to conquer that paper monster.
If you need help getting started, call or email Organized Logic!
Image courtesy of scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do you get a lot of junk mail? Are you still getting bills in the mail? The first thing you need to do is stop more papers from entering your home.
Stop junk mail.
- Stop unsolicited pre-screened offers for credit at OptOutPrescreen.com. Use the permanent option.
- Stop unsolicited commercial mail (magazines and catalogs) at DMAChoice.org
- Stop receiving catalogs and other unwanted mail from companies you have done business with at TrustedID (formerly CatalogChoice). This can also work for some charity mail that you receive.
Stop getting bills and statements in the mail. Here are just a few types of companies that offer a paperless option for billing and statements. Visit their websites and look for the paperless option or email/online-only.
- Credit cards
- Banks (checking and savings accounts)
How else do you accumulate papers? Can you stop them from coming in?
- Magazines. Do you actually read the magazines you buy? If so, be sure to toss them when you’re done. If not, cancel that subscription and save money and space!
- Newspapers. Do you read the paper or just get the paper for ads and/or coupons? Most of that information can be obtained online or in mobile apps.
- Flyers. Try to avoid picking up flyers. Or if you do, deal with the information immediately then toss the paper.
- Printed paper. Think twice before printing something. Can you just bookmark a website or flag that email? Can you use a smaller font and save paper and ink?
How else does paper get into your home? Think about how you can stop it. If you need help, send us an email and get us on your schedule!
This post is long overdue, and I already shared the website, Home Storage Solutions, on my Facebook page. In case you missed it, they came up with a fantastic organization calendar for FREE that helps you organize your home in small, manageable chunks. In just 15 minutes a day, you can have an organized home by the end of the year! But wait, there’s more!
I signed up for the email list, printed out the calendar, and started working on it to see just how manageable it is. I have found that many areas I could already cross off because I already keep them organized (my kitchen is already pretty well-organized). But there are still some places that need organizing in my own home. I admit that I cheated because I enjoy organizing, so I spent more than 15 minutes and crossed off a few more days off the calendar.
One thing that did strike me as odd was the suggestion to keep a pantry inventory. I disagree. If your pantry is organized in a way that you know where to find things, you don’t need to keep an inventory. When you run out of something (or come close to it), add it to your shopping list. I would find it more difficult to maintain an inventory – crossing things off as they’re used and adding as they’re purchased – than to just keep my pantry organized. But everyone is different; perhaps that will help you.
I am excited about weekly meal planning. If you read my other blog, Diet Slowly, you can see that meal planning is my biggest weakness. My husband and I are working through that, and I will likely try one of the websites mentioned in Week 8: Healthy Meal Planning to help keep us on plan. This week seems to be going well.
Have you printed out the organization calendar yet? How has it helped you? Is there anything I can help you work through?
I was recently asked by a friend, “How much kids’ clothing should I have?” My answer – it depends, and it doesn’t just apply to kids’ clothing! You need to ask yourself some questions and provide honest answers.
How much space do you have?
Are you cramming things in to the point other clothing falls on the ground when you try to pull something out. Have you given up trying to hang things? Are you pressing down on dresser drawers so that you can close them? If your answer is “yes” to any or all of these, chances are, you don’t have enough space for what you own. Instead of remodeling or moving, it might be time to get rid of a few things!
How often do you do laundry?
How often do you travel and put off laundry for next week?
How often do things get dirty and need to change in the same day?
These are similar questions in that I assume that you’re not a supermom/superdad and get all the laundry done every single week. Which means you need more than 7 days’ worth of clothing , especially if you have kids that like to get dirty. Be practical about how much clothing you really need.
How many items of the same color do you really need?
When I find a style that I like and fits me well, I personally buy a few but in different colors. Is it necessary to have 5 blue shirts? Probably not, unless it’s a uniform you need to wear every day. The answer to this question will be a personal one on personal taste and necessity, but it can be a question to help you decide what clothing to donate or sell.
Does it get worn?
If you (or your kids) are not wearing it, why is it still in the closet or dresser? If you’re not sure, develop a system to find out. Turn all your clothing inside out and hang it back up/put it in the drawer. As you do laundry, put it away right-side-out. If after a season there are items that are still inside out, get rid of them.
How old is it?
Sometimes the easiest thing to do is to get rid of the oldest pieces of clothing. It’s given you a good run, now it’s time to let it go.
Does it fit?
If it doesn’t fit, get rid of it. Hand-me-downs are an exception, but those should be stored separately if you have the space.
Did you buy something new?
If you’re just starting to pare down, get rid of 2 items for every 1 new item you buy. If you’re already at a good amount, get rid of 1 item for every 1 new item.
Ultimately, you will get your closet back in order, and you may even be able to find your favorite outfit again!
Do you have a question about organizing? Use the Contact Me form, and your question might be featured here!
Congratulations on taking your first steps in making your space more livable and organized! Now you need to decide how to get rid of things without putting everything in a landfill. There are actually a few things you can do: Sell it, Give it away, Recycle it, Trash it.
You can sell some of your things for extra cash. It does take some extra effort and time to sell things, but it might be worth the time if you have things worth more than just a few dollars, or if you have a lot of things to get out of your house. Here are just a few things you can do to sell your excess things.
- Hold a Garage Sale! If you have enough things to sell, it might be worthwhile to hold a garage sale to get rid of things in a day or two. You won’t necessarily get rid of everything, but it can be faster than listing each item online.
- If you haven’t already tried out CraigsList, now might be a good time to start. You may have heard some bad press about people getting robbed, but those are extremely rare cases. In general, you can meet people at a public place (a personal favorite is Starbucks) and make the exchange (money for your stuff). Not sure how to price something? Do a search for your item first on CraigsList and price it competitively.
- eBay is another place you can list things for sale, but it does take an extra effort to ship the item once someone purchases it.
- Amazon.com – List all kinds of items, and pay a fee once the item sells
- eStarland – Takes video games at great prices! Opt to get store credit or cash.
Give it away
If you tried to sell things and they just didn’t sell (or perhaps you just want to get them out right away), you can give things away. The list below is by no means comprehensive, but they are a few places that I have used to get rid of my own excess stuff.
- Freecycle – give your items to other people in the local area.
- GoodDonor.org – Donate small items including clothing and books to a charity that will pick things up from your door. Charities include the Lupus Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Association, and the Vietnam Veterans Association.
- Habitat for Humanity ReStore – Donate home items, including some furniture. They will also pick up in some areas.
- Goodwill – Donate things, big and small. Contact your local Goodwill to find out what they will accept.
If your local trash company won’t take it as a recyclable item, you can’t sell it, and you can’t give it away, you might still be able to recycle it.
- Earth 911 has a great recycling search so you can find places to recycle things
If you can’t sell it, give it away or recycle it, consider trashing it. What is trash is not always obvious, and it can sometimes be difficult to admit something is just trash. But you will feel so much lighter and free of clutter if you can let go!
If you need help with any of these areas or decisions, consider hiring a professional. How else have you gotten rid of your excess stuff so you can get organized?
Over the years, I have heard a number of excuses for not getting organized. These are the five I have heard the most, and the ones that I think are easily solved.
- I don’t have time
How much time do you waste looking for something? How many things has the black hole in your house swallowed? Have you ever had to go buy something to replace something you thought you lost, only to come across it later? Investing the up front time to organize your space will be well worth it in the long term. Start out in 15 minutes increments per day. Tackle a drawer, not a room (unless you’re feeling great after that first drawer)!
- I’ll forget where I put things
The point of organization is not just to put things away and out of sight, it’s to put things in a place that makes sense to you. If you find yourself still looking for something after you put it away, it’s in the wrong place.
- I don’t have anywhere to put things
Be creative. You don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of storage bins and label them (although I personally like to label things). If you’re a pack rat, you might need to part with those old magazines or catalogs to make room for things that really matter. Ask a buddy to help you work through it or hire a professional. Sometimes just talking through it will help you figure out where your things really belong.
- I can’t get rid of it, I might need it later
Ask yourself a few questions. When was the last time you used it? Where is it being kept now? Did you miss it or realize you even had it before you just came across it? Will you use it in the next month? If it’s a holiday item, will you use it this holiday season?
If the answer to the first question is “more than a year ago,” consider getting rid of it. If it’s been a box and you haven’t used it, and it’s not the answer to a problem you’ve been trying to solve, it’s time to part with it. If you’re still struggling with it, put it in a box of “might donate/sell” and write a date on it. If you don’t go looking for it in the next year, get rid of it!
- I can’t afford it
Your view of professional organization might be based on an organizing television show. They completely redo a couple of rooms over the course of 2 days to a week, and many times, they have the budget to buy lots of storage, repaint the room, and even have a carpenter build custom storage solutions. You don’t need all that to get organized! You can use things that exist in your home – even paper grocery bags and shoe boxes – to keep things in order. If you do need help, hiring a professional organizer may be more affordable than you think.
Legos are a great way to let kids be creative, learn to follow directions, and learn about architecture and engineering. However, if you don’t have a place to store them, they can take over a room or even a house! That’s why there’s no “before” picture on this post. Legos were everywhere. My client found an empty plastic bin, and then we got started.
A pile of Christmas presents was still on the family room floor, which included several Lego boxes. Those were put into the bin first, with the caveat that when the boxes are opened, the pieces will get stored in zipper bags with the correct instructions. Then we focused on the Legos in the boys’ room.
Tip: When storing Lego kits, keep the pieces together in a single zipper bag along with the instructions. The boxes take up more room than necessary and are not resealable.
As we searched for Legos, we cleared other clutter from book cases, the top of the dresser, and the floor. Open Lego kits were placed in zipper bags with their instructions, and loose Lego pieces were placed in the blue bin that’s pictured. Two assembled kits that were moved for display on top of book cases (not pictured here), and many other things were relocated to their proper place in the house.
How much was trashed?
- One full paper grocery bag for recycling
- Half a kitchen trash bag for trash
- One full paper grocery bag contained things that belonged elsewhere
How much needed to be purchased?
Nothing. We only used what we had on hand to store and reorganize.
How long did it take?
This area took 1.5 hours to complete.
Notice: We are not affiliated with LEGO®, nor do we receive any compensation for mentioning them in this post. The company, product and service names used in this web site are for identification purposes only. All trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners.
One of my clients struggled with finding a place for all the arts and crafts that took up this space. Boxes and papers were thrown together in random piles, coloring books and school work were intermingled, and many things were randomly piled on top while other things were spilling onto the floor and onto a table (not pictured). This could certainly overwhelm anyone to the point that it just gets ignored – and then it gets worse. “I don’t even know where to start!” was the feeling in the house.
We started at the beginning. Like reading a book, we started from the top left cubby and worked our way across and down. Common themes of the arts and crafts started to emerge, and we were able to categorize – one area each for coloring and stamping, two cubbies each for learning and activities, and three cubbies for crafts. Labeling each of these appropriately will also make it easy to find things.
After the cubbies were in order, we cleaned up the floor and the table and used only the cubbies as an acceptable place for storage (although some things did belong in other rooms). The top of the storage unit, the wardrobe, and the storage drawers were fairly easy because there was already some organized thought put into these areas. The bins on the top are virtually empty now, with room for each child to store an active project until they are ready to complete it.
Now the kids (and adults) can find arts and crafts without stumbling and wondering where things are, and they can even use the table to complete their craft!
How much was trashed?
One full recycling bin and one full kitchen trash bag were trashed, and one full paper grocery bag contained things that belonged elsewhere. Many of the things that were trashed were unusable in their current condition, broken, or unwanted. There were only a couple of difficult decisions that needed to be made in order to make the space usable.
How much needed to be purchased?
Nothing. We only used what we had on hand to store and reorganize.
How long did it take?
This area took 4.5 hours to complete, broken across two days.
My name is Jennifer Lieberman, and I’m a married mother of 2 with a passion for organizing. I love the feeling of relaxation and ease when I know where everything is, and I know you will too. My ultimate goal is to get you to the point that you don’t need me anymore, because you will have the tools you need to do it on your own.