Organize Your Home Before Winter is Over!
Our family of 5 lives in a 1000 sq ft., 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom townhouse with no yard, and an unfinished basement. In order to live here comfortably, we need to be organized and purge often to reduce clutter. These are some of the common problem areas and the solutions that I have found helpful for our family in our cozy home. It is nice to do this organizing before or leading up to spring, so that when it warms up, we can spend more time outdoors rather than organizing our house.
I always put this at the very top of the list because it is the most obvious, most obtrusive clutter in my opinion. I am always tired of so many toys being out, and always seem to be harping about them needing to be cleaned up- or so it feels. This is why it is number one. Christmas happened. The kids most likely got some new toys (or maybe a mountain of new toys). I have noticed so far that the more toys that are out and available to my children, the most likely they are to dump them all over and then claim to be bored. Once I went through them and got rid of 3 big diaper boxes full and then sorted the rest, I noticed that their focused play increased considerably. I sorted the toys into categories in buckets that go on a shelf. This sounds tedious, but it is so worth it if you want your kids occupied for longer periods of time. It is also easier to clean up when they only take 1 or two buckets out at a time, rather than dumping a whole toy box. I do this purge every year after Christmas. I will write a post in the future about what I kept, and what I decided my boys didn’t really need.
- Papers/ Files
This is an obvious one, yet most time consuming and clutter causing. Most people have a surface that papers seem to naturally accumulate. No matter how many times you move them, they still accumulate there. For our family it is the kitchen counter closest to our living space. No matter how much I move the papers, they still magically appear. It has taken some serious habit forming and a secondary convenient location to keep the papers out of sight and organized, instead of returning to the counter. For me, I found what worked was having 2 box file folders in our enclosed stationary pantry. One that says ‘File’ for papers that need to be filed, and the other that says ‘Keep’ for ones that I know I will need in the next week, or that I need handy at my fingertips. This helps because it causes me to throw opened envelopes and other papers that don’t fit into these categories, away. We don’t have an office in out townhouse, so our filing cabinet is located downstairs by the storage. Once the ‘File’ folder is full, I file the papers. Every winter I go through the filing cabinet and purge the papers that no longer apply or are old. There are many good resources to look up how long you need to keep your files.
- Stationary/ Art and Craft Supplies
I enjoy doing crafts with my children and having supplies on hand for gift wrapping and other crafting. Over time, as I purchase supplies for different projects, the amount I have in my house builds up and often becomes disorganized. What worked for me was that I now have them all in 2 locations. All of the stationary, art supplies, binders, extra paper, home school curriculum that isn’t used yet, and anything else in this category goes in a pantry cupboard that is locked (I have 3 curious boys and really don’t want to walk in the room to find paint all over the carpet). The second location is under my bed. I have all of my gift wrapping supplies stored neatly in a bedding bag and tags, tape, ribbons, and wrapping paper in a flat bin. For me this works nicely because I usually do all gift wrapping in my room away from the kids’ eyes. I have seen other people use an available closet, and I like this idea too, I just don’t have the space in our 3 bedroom townhouse. I like the idea of having all stationary together because I can see how much I have, and it is easier to purge when I can see all that I have. It also needs to be able to fit in the pantry, so I can’t accumulate more than the space I have available. This way it also is convenient to use and put away, and isn’t strewn all over the house.
- Food/ Pantry
It is good to go through all of the food in your house at least twice a year. We have a small kitchen/dining space, and a lot of mouths to feed. It is easy to stick something back in the pantry that is half open, and by a series of events it moves to the back of the pantry. Throw out expired or stale open food. Donate any food that has been in there that you have not used recently. I like to take everything out so that I can wipe the shelves down and organize it into categories when I put it back in. I also use plastic file folders for canned goods because they fit perfectly and it saves space.
- Bathroom Hygiene Items
Take everything out and put it in one spot, it helps to see everything you have. All makeup, hair stuff, soaps, creams, etc. Throw out anything that you will not use again or is old. Use up any half used bottles, that for some reason got stuffed under the sink. This used to happen in our house and now I don’t buy any new products until the old are completely used up. Wipe out the cupboards and return the items in an organized way. For us, with only 1 bathroom, I put makeup, behind the mirror in stand up containers, all the brushes and other hair things in a drawer, and the other hygiene products under the sink in labeled bins. A behind the toiler shelf also helps for extra storage for facecloths, hand towels, and specialty bath supplies.
I don’t need to say a lot here. Again, take them out and put them all in one place. Throw out expired medicine. Put them away all in one place. I like using see through labeled bins, and small plastic drawers with labels.
- Your Clothing
For me, I found that I really need to undertake this when I was having a good day. Be honest with yourself. Don’t hold on to clothing that you ‘think you might wear some day eventually’. If you haven’t worn it in awhile, it is probably for a reason. Look over how many of each item you have to see if you have way too many of one type (t-shirts, tanks, sweats, shorts, sweaters, jeans, etc.) If you have too many, get rid o your least favorite. I used to be bad for holding on to things I didn’t really care to wear ‘just in case we couldn’t afford it in the future’. God convicted me on this, and I have assurance from His word that He will dress me well at all times. Plus, if I wasn’t enjoying wearing it the, I probably wouldn’t wear it even if I was running low. I would just wear my regular wardrobe more often.
- Electronics/ Cords
Bring them from all over our house and spread them out in one location. Then you can see that you actually have 5 of the same cord that you aren’t even currently using (I am guilty of this). Give away, sell or throw out anything that you don’t need, don’t use, or is broken.
- CD’s/ DVD’s
If you are like me and prefer hard copies of CD’s and DVD’s, instead of digital copies, this is a big area of clutter. Set them all out and get rid of ones that you haven’t listened to, don’t watch, or feel led to because of the content not being edifying. I like to put CD’s in a binder and get rid of the cases to save space. I have 2 small cupboards in my TV stand for kids movies (we don’t have cable or netflix), and my movies. I can’t exceed this space for movies and have to purge when they get full. It also a convenient location for taking them out and putting them away.
This one is better to do as winter is nearing an end. Go through all of your winter coats, boots, shoes toques, mitts, and scarves. Purge ones that don’t have matches, are too small, or were not worn in the past winter. Pack the winter stuff all away in one place when it is time. We have a bin in our storage that has summer outdoor apparel in it in the winter, and winter apparel in it during the summer. It works really well to cycle it out this way.
- Basement Storage
If it is in the basement storage, it usually means it is items or stuff that is used significantly less often. It is good to really go through it once or twice a year and purge those items that got stuck down in storage ‘in case we maybe use them some time in the future’. It is one thing to know that you will use it in the future, but it is different to think that maybe you will use it in the future. I like to only keep things that I know I will use in the future to avoid excess clutter. For example, a cradle that my dad hand crafted, baby items because we will have more children, a bed in a bag for guests, a folding table and chairs for guests, and because we don’t have a yard, our camping and outdoor stuff is down there as well. I like to have smaller items organized in bins, and I use height and shelves to my advantage to save space when I put it back away.
- Puzzles and Other Kids Activities
We also have a cupboard for puzzles, coloring, and home school curriculum and supplies. I like to have it all in one place, so that it doesn’t end up all around the house. It is easiest to purge when it is all together because you can see just how many crayons, puzzles, or coloring books have accumulated and purge accordingly. For these activities, I keep them put away and take them out when I need a few minutes, or my kids need something to do. It is a lot easier to keep clean and organized when I don’t have puzzle pieces, crayons, and coloring papers strewn around the house and it is exciting for kids because they only get to play with it when I bring it out. For me, it also all needs to fit in that one location, so I can’t accumulate more than that shelf.
I love to read, so this one has often been a struggle for me. As with most of the categories above, it is easiest to purge and keep organized when all of my husband’s and my books are away in one place. Once they don’t fit anymore, then I have to go through and either donate ones that I have already read but weren’t worth keeping to read again, or donate ones that I thought I would be interested in, but lost interest. If you don’t already have a spot for books, I really encourage you to find one spot to keep them, rather than all over. It is so much easier to see the amount you have that way.
- Your Vehicle
I know that this isn’t technically in your house, but I do know that the clutter that happens in your vehicle will make its way into your home when you remove it from the vehicle. Only keep the necessary items in you vehicle. For me, with three children and cold winter weather, I keep a warm blanket, some extra mitts and hats, a couple diapers, wipes, the stroller, reuseable bags, water bottles, kleenex, coupons, and CD’s to listen to. I have a small, durable cloth bin that holds all most of these items neatly. I find that I need to do the vehicle purge at least 3 times a year because things from the house just naturally accumulate there.
Surfaces and rooms can become really cluttered if there are too many ornaments covering surfaces and shelves. The last thing to do to freshen up your home is to purge the ornaments that don’t bring you joy or have significant sentimental value to you. If they are there simply to fill space or because it was on a good deal, it would a good idea to sell or donate them. It isn’t necessary for every surface to function as a display for ornaments. In our house this is easier, because I can only have ornaments higher up or out of the way because of small children. However, when I first had kids, I had to go through the process of purging ornaments that I had, and it was a good thing. I had too many and my house was cluttered. Now I have it down to a small wall shelf in my living room, a decorative (dual purpose) wax warmer, and some sentimental ornaments in my master bedroom. I also take advantage of wall space to display things that are important to me or look nice.
If you organize these things in your home before spring, you will have a relaxing, refreshing home to start off the sunny, warm season. It will also be easier to keep it organized in the future.