AT reader and organizing specialist Denise Foley of Denise De-Clutter Bug sent us this wonderfully useful top ten tips list of ways to start off 2009 with less of a mess and a whole lot more room (and order) within the walls of your home. Check out some tips of how to wrangle in your files, photos, junk drawers, closets, cables and more below...
Denise De-Clutter Bug's Top Ten Hot Tips List:
These tips are not quick or easy to set up but once you take these actions, your access to living your life will be quick, easy and functional!
Functional Filing Cabinets: Every adult (18+) MUST have and use a functionally operating filing cabinet. Starting this process at or before age 18 (or now if you haven't done so already), use hanging files, arrange alphabetical tabs in addition to important categories (ie. medical, insurance, car, etc.). Then use manila file folders to further clarify categories and store inside the hanging folders (ie. A-airlines, B- banks, C- cats, etc.). Keep all your files current, holding onto important bills and documents for up to 7 years, implementing a clearing out/ shredding process every 2-3 years.
Photographs: All photos are to be arranged by event, people, time period, etc in photos albums (vs. a bunch of miscellaneous photos thrown randomly in drawers, boxes, scattered about, etc.). First, collect all photos to one location, separate and divide into said categories. If the category is finite (ie. summer camp, high school, etc.), second, throw away any unwanted shots and put pix into some sort of order (chronological is a good standard). Third, count the photos for that category, purchase an album to house them accordingly and finally, name/ label it. With ongoing categories (ie. family holiday shots, etc.), use the same process, purchasing a bigger album with room to grow or label (ie. 1,2,3… or I, II, III… etc.).
Functionalize all junk drawers: If you don't need it, throw, donate or give it away. House like items in their own spot (ie. Office Supplies: staples, paperclips, pens markers; Restaurant delivery/ to go menus can be housed in file cabinet or its own drawer; Kitchen Silverware and Cuttlery can be sorted thru and organized into trays, as well as plasticware, straws (ketchup, mustard, hot sauce packets too-either decline them when getting fast food, throw them away if you don't use them or organize them if you are keeping them for later). Drawer organizers can be found at Office Depot, Staples, The Container Store or check online for other possibilities.
Hang and House Items Up and Off the Floor: It makes your space feel light vs. bottom heavy. Utilities can be hung up (Osh, Home Depot and The Container Store all sell racks to hold brooms, mops, etc.) in your cabinet, closet or even on the wall (rather than tossed on the bottom with other items piling on top). Make all items convenient to reach and easy to see/ find. Use heavy duty hooks in your garage for active wear and supplies (ie. bikes, helmits, surfboards, etc). Get it all up, easy to grab, yet out of your way.
Closets: Figure out what the closet is being used for (ie. clothing, lines, utilities, etc.), then organize it accordingly. Customize your closet to fit and house your needs by adding extra shelving between shelves (lots of shelves have too much space to the ceiling or in between one another). Store infrequently used items (ie. empty shoe/ boot boxes, kitty/ doggie crates, empty suitcases, etc) on top shelves and just like Mommy Dearest says, "no more wire hangers ever", throw those away kids (or give them back to your local dry cleaner). Purchase matching hangers (ie. wooden, plastic, same color/ style, etc.), it makes a big visual difference. Purge (donate, give or throw away if its not in useable condition) all clothes you don't wear (guideline: if you haven't worn it in over a year, if it doesn't fit or if you don't feel/ look amazing wearing it then, what the heck? PURGE IT). Figure out a system for hanging clothes and stick with it. For example, make categories (ie. suits, long sleeves, blouses, sweatshirts, short sleeves, sleeveless, skirts, etc.) then arrange by color or season, etc. Make sure you also have functional shoe racks and laundry baskets in your closets (vs. throwing/ piling items on floor), try to maintain a clean, empty floor space.
Cables, Wires, Extension Cords: Keep all extras neatly wrapped and stored all together in one location for easy access.
Tool Boxes/ Crafts/ Hobbies/ Make-Up Cases, Etc: Store all like items in a neat and orderly fashion using small container units to house (ie. screws, nuts, bolts, beads, sewing items, thread, nail files, etc).
Jewelry: Hang and separate all necklaces on hooks for easy access and easy wear (vs. in a pile where they are tangle-prone and unwearable in a quick pinch). Arrange rings in display cases and hang earrings on netting. That way everything is seen at a glace and prêt-à-porter (ready to wear). Fancy jewelry cabinets can be custom made, smaller ones can be bought and never fear, you can be organized on little to no budget and still be cute and functional by counting all items to be hung, then hammering in nails or hooks on a wall (behind a door or inside a closet). There are lots of choices and variations in between to make your jewelry look beautiful, accessible and functional.
Moving/ Storage/ Packing/ Unpacking: Please people, AVOID storage units- they end up costing so much money but if you have to use one make sure to throw or give away as much as you can . Do not hold onto things thinking that you will "deal with it later" if you don't want to deal with it now, chances are good that you're not going to want to deal with it later either. So think of now as later and pack responsibly: put like items together and label boxes with stickers or thick permanent markers on ALL 4 SIDES of the box. On the label/ sticker, list the room (ie. bed room, bath, kitchen, etc.) then list all the rest of the contents inside the box (ie. CDs, toiletries, dishes, pots, pans, specific appliances, etc). That way at least you know, in one quick glance, what you've got and where it belongs. Lastly, PLEASE, once moved, unpack ALL boxes with in the first weekend (dragging it out into a month or longer is just that, a drag because we all know that the longer items sit, the harder it is to want to unpack them) and certainly do not just keep unpacked boxes sitting on some shelf for years looking ugly and taking up space, like these…
Furniture and Space Arrangement: Make spaces clear to identify at a glance (ie "oh, that's an office, bedroom, dining room, kids play area, etc). Do not block windows or behind doorways with furniture or stuff. Also keep in mind that furniture, rooms and space are often born to live in specific ways, so try to accommodate them. You can be flexible and innovative in this area but there is a difference between creativity and junkie.