Clutter, Be Gone!

By: Heather Burke

Snowed under by the stuff of your winter hibernation? Bust out of the burrow, get your family life in order and see the light of spring! (You might actually find that extra set of car keys or the various missing socks.) Expert organizer Heather Burke tells you how to get a grip on household organization so that your living spaces—and your head—are cleared.

Please take heart. Even Steve Jobs had a home office filled with paperwork. Life happens. We get busy and keep rushing around and stuff just piles up. I know, as it happens to me too. But getting and staying organized can be as easy as tweaking the systems you already have in place. Creating “homes” for things where they naturally land makes things a little easier. “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Mrs. Isabella Beeton, 1857

I have an office outside the home or “world headquarters,” as my husband likes to call it, as well as a home office and yet my main office is the dining room table. Why, with all the other space I have, do I use the dining room table? Because we have an open concept home and it is in the hub of the home.

This happens to many people. Either the kitchen table or the dining room table is used for homework, family management, mail, eating, games, crafts and a home office. So why fight what works?

Home Headquarters
Use a portable file box for your papers and supplies and consider a drawer for office and homework supplies.

• Create a home for the items that you use in this space.
• You may want to add a bookcase with bins for some of the supplies.
• You can find space by looking at the items that are currently stored in that space. Which of those items are you not using on a weekly or monthly basis? Move those items to a new location.

Lighten the Paperwork Load
Paperwork is my personal nemesis and it might be yours too. Try to handle incoming and produced paperwork on a daily basis.

• File what you need to file; it may take around 15 minutes. Shred and recycle other paper.
• I keep my printer unplugged until I really need to print a document, eliminating extra paper produced that would need to be filed.
Consider doing the same. (Did I tell you that I don’t like paperwork?)
• Make filing easy; colour code and group by subject. Find what works for you. Don’t forget to do regular backups for your digital files and label flash drives.

Front Hall Clear-Out
The front hall or main entrance to a home can get cluttered really quickly, with shoes all over the floor, coats flung and backpacks dropped right inside the door. These are all prime tripping items. Choose what footwear you need in this zone and change it seasonally. Not all footwear needs to be in this closet.

• Shoe racks and shoe shelves can help reduce the floor clutter. You may want to hang a shoe organizer for mittens, gloves, sunscreen and other items.
• You may also want a bin for each person.
• Hooks are great for backpacks. For younger kids, a 3M hook might do the trick to hang them up.
• A closet rod hung at a lower height for the younger set encourages them to hang up their own coats too.
• You can also add an upper shelf in the closet by using a melamine shoe organizer on the top shelf.

Kitchen Smarts
• Create zones in your kitchen.
• Use the vertical space in your cupboards.
• If you do not have a built-in pantry, you can also use a book case.
• Designate a lunch shelf in the fridge so that family members can help make their own lunches.
• Dispose of any plastic containers that have lost their tops.
• Make sure there is a recycling bin in the kitchen so recyclables don’t end up being stored on a kitchen counter.

Bathroom Management
• Put a clock in the bathroom to keep an eye on the time.
• For those of you who do not have drawers in the bathroom, use stacking bins.
• This is a really easy one: Fold or roll your towels all the same way and put them together on the same shelf. This makes them look neat and tidy—and you find out how many towels you actually have.
• Towels can be put on hooks in the bathroom if that makes it easier for your family.

Bedroom Basics
• Put a laundry hamper in each bedroom so that dealing with dirty clothes is a simple task for kids (and there are no more parental fits over clothes on the floor).
• Hang up your clothes or use a sweater organizer so that you can put clothes away ASAP.
• In the bedroom closet, place hangers backwards until you have worn an item, then put the hanger the correct way around after the item has been worn. This is an easy way to see what you have worn and not worn at the end of a season.
• Use a second closet rod to double your space.
• Clothing can be chosen for the week by using a sweater sorter. (I like it because underwear and socks can go straight from the laundry basket into the sorter without ever having to hit the drawer—one less step for me). A sweater sorter also gives your child a variety of clothing from which to choose, but not too much time is spent in the morning deciding what to wear.
• Label toy bins or use pictures so that kids can put their own toys away.
• You can use under-the-bed space for toys or out of season clothing.

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