by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
If you feel protective of your books, you’re not alone. Many individuals consider their books a part of who they are and who they want to be. When it comes to organizing your books, consider not just the value of individual books but contemplate the space(s) you want to devote to storing and displaying them.
Chances are that you currently own:
Evaluate Your Space
Do all your books fit on the shelves you’ve dedicated to storing your library? If you have more books than bookshelves or if you cram books into every available space on your shelves, take this as a sign that you’ve exceeded capacity. Before you consider buying more shelves (do you really have space for that?), curate your library.
Gather All Your Books Together
Gather your books from everywhere in the house, including those you may have tucked onto your kids’ or spouse’s bookshelves (do not declutter or organize someone else’s books). You don’t have to gather cookbooks, but you will want to sort them at some point.
Sort Your Books by Type
Group your books by category/genre/topic/author. And then, break them into subcategories so you can really see what books you have on the same topic.
Avoid the temptation to start reading books while you’re supposed to be sorting them!
Consider What You’ll Do with Unread Books
The exception to grouping books by type are books that you’ve never read. Move these books to one shelf, like the top shelf of a shelving unit. As you add more unread books to this shelf, sort them into categories. Libraries and bookstores highlight new books by putting them in their own location to encourage that they get noticed and read.
Be honest with yourself, do you still plan on reading these books? Maybe you bought a book because it was popular (eight years ago) or someone recommended the book or gifted it to you. Maybe you thought a book would help you attain a goal.
Owning a book doesn’t imbue you with the information in it. Holding onto a book that you don’t read has no benefit. Personally, I discovered that the longer I held onto a book, the less interested I was in reading it. The excitement I had for the information existed when I first bought the book.
Organize Your Books
I’m a fan of grouping books by genre and author or topic, the way you find books organized in a bookstore or library. Over the past few years I’ve seen trends of organizing books by the color of the cover (or covering the book with colorful paper) or (incomprehensible to me), putting books on the shelf backwards so the spine is facing the back of the bookshelf and you end up with the white, ivory, and cream pages facing out.
Do people who decorate with their books in this way read these books? In any case, you can organize your books in a way that allows you to find them or to meet an aesthetic appeal.
Note – if you have no interest in reading a book again, consider why you feel compelled to hold onto the book. Maybe seeing the title prompts happy memories. Maybe it’s just a habit to hold onto it. Like any other item, you aren’t compelled to keep it. It’s okay to release books from past interests.
Create a Dedicated Library
Do you have a shelving unit where you keep your books? As you filled that space, did your books migrate to different locations in your home – a stack beside your bedside table or reading chair in the living room?
Decide to keep all your books in their home space. One exception is cookbooks. (Although, you will want to sort through them and keep only those you use all the time. If you are keeping a cookbook because of one or two recipes, copy them and donate the books.)
Another exception is coffee table books. However, be selective. Does the book really reflect an interest? To me, a coffee table book is flipped through by guests and serves as a conversation starter. You may have several coffee table books that you rotate through or stack as a decoration.
What Do You Want from Your Personal Library?
Why do you keep books in your home? Do the books reflect your current work and hobbies? Do the books suggest who you wish you were, the skills and knowledge you wish lived inside your head?
I love learning new things and deepening my knowledge of topics I’ve studied. At one point, I owned so many books, I was afraid the laden shelving unit was going to crash through the floor. Over the years, I’ve donated books, purchased new books, donated other books, and continue to work my way down to owning only books that I reread every couple of years and nature field guides.
What books and authors live on your shelves as permanent residents? Share in the comments below. (You’ll find mine listed there.)
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
Some people love doing laundry; they find folding freshly-washed clothes a soothing activity. Others pile their dried clothing on a chair and root around for something to wear from this pile as opposed to putting away their clothes.
Beyond hiring someone to do your laundry and put it away, one of the first things to do if you aren’t happy with your current laundry routine is to figure out where things aren’t working for you.
You forget the clothing in the washing machine, so you have to wash the load a second time before drying it … Set a timer to remind you; don’t just rely on the washing machine buzzer to prompt you toward the next step. If you leave the house while clothes are washing, set a reminder on your phone to go off when you plan to get home. Or, leave a big note someplace obvious.
You have so many loads of laundry waiting to be washed, you don’t know when you’ll be able to do it all … Either hire one-time help or plan to do it yourself. If you have a dozen loads to wash, fitting in one might not seem like much help, but it means you won’t be adding that load to your to-do list. Keep at it because you’re making new dirty clothes every day. Remember, you can do something else while the clothes are washing and drying.
Also, and this may sound counterintuitive – own less clothing so you do laundry more often. Having a lot of clothing means that you have a lot of clean clothing to wear so the dirty stuff can pile up to intimidating proportions. Then, you have to put away all that clean clothing and you may not have space to put it all (because you’ve gotten used to having big piles of dirty laundry, you have more clothing than will fit in your closet and drawers).
You can’t motivate yourself to put away your clothing … First, what’s your expectation? If you think that you have to fold clothing, but you hate folding clothing, then hang everything that you can and toss the rest in a drawer. Professional organizers who like fold clothing will tell people to fold their clothing. Those organizers who find hanging clothing easier, will recommend that. So, whatever advice you hear, go with what works for you.
Do you have space near your dryer where you can put up a clothing rack and hang things as they come out of the dryer? That way, you move clothing, on their hangers, right into your closet. Then, you remove the empty hangers from the closet and put them in your laundry room.
No space to hang clothes as they come out of the dryer? (Me either.) Unfortunately, you just have to choose to hang and put away your clothing. Set a timer, try to finish within the space of two or three songs, make it a game.
You wish everyone in your house would put away their clothing … Announce that things are changing. If you’ve always put away everyone’s clothing, don’t assume that they’ll know how to do it based on your example. You may need to teach skills such as putting clothing on a hanger and how to keep similar items together so it will be easier to make clothing selections.
Will things be messier than how you did them? Likely. You can offer help a few times so to demonstrate how to do the task. And then, step back. Is your 12-year-old mortified that they have to wear a wrinkled shirt to school? That’s a logical consequence of not hanging up clothing and leaving it in a pile.
You wish you had a laundry routine, but you don’t know where to start … Figure out how many loads of laundry you do each week, including things like towels and sheets. Weeks may differ but try to estimate the average loads you do.
Next, consider if you have time to do two loads of laundry in a day or if you’d prefer to do one load. Divide your loads of laundry by days to figure out how often you need to do laundry, so the work doesn’t back up.
Then, decide if you’ll do laundry in the morning or the evening (or wash in the morning and dry in the evening). If you live in an apartment, you may end up choosing the time that works around other people’s schedules.
Make the decision to stick with this routine. Give yourself a little treat for doing the laundry – you watch a half-hour sitcom while folding clothes, you get to sit down with a cup of tea and a magazine for ten minutes, you talk on the phone while putting away laundry. The goal of the treat is to make the chore a bit more pleasant.
How have you streamlined your laundry routine? Share your tip in the comment section below.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
Maybe you bring up the topic of downsizing, or a parent or grandparent does. Perhaps one of your parents or grandparents has died or has received a dementia diagnosis, leaving their partner alone in a house that is much too big for them to care for.
While decluttering your belongings is a challenge, talking to a parent about decluttering is really a challenge. You and your parent are dealing not just with the thoughts and emotions clinging to items but you’re dealing with your personal relationship as well. (Oh, and your siblings and your parent’s friends and extended family.)
My parents hoarded items in their 800-square-foot ranch-style house and refused to declutter, even when my mother ended up in a wheelchair that was squeezing past boxes filled with items they didn’t use. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything in the house until my mother had died and my father went into assisted living. My hope is that you don’t end up in the same situation and can help your relatives improve the quality of their lives.
What Are Your Specific Concerns?
Although it can be tempting to start a downsizing conversation with, “do you really need all this stuff?” (or, worse, “you don’t need all this stuff) this can put another person on the defensive. (How would you feel if someone walked into your home and told you to get rid of 80 percent of your belongings in the coming months?)
When speaking with concerned family members or your parent, focus on safety concerns. Lugging laundry to the washing machine in the basement. Climbing stairs to the bedroom. Rooms that may be difficult to move around because of excess furniture, storage bins, or things stored on the floor. The challenge of dealing with lawn care or snow removal.
Consider who you could talk to before bringing up the idea of downsizing with your parent. I’m not suggesting that you and your siblings should gang up on mom and tell her that she has to sell her house and move in six months. However, talk to other members of your family to get their perspective on your parent’s or grandparent’s living situation.
Some individuals (including your parent or grandparent) may suggest that the current situation is fine. This isn’t a matter of ignoring concerns (or believing your concerns are invalid), but confusion or overwhelm about what the next step is or what the future changes will look like.
Aging in place might be another option – remaining in the house, which could include doing upgrades (putting in a walk-in shower instead of a tub, bringing the laundry room to the main floor, closing off upstairs rooms and bringing the bedroom onto the main floor) and arranging services for lawncare, laundry, driving to appointments, etc.
Starting to Declutter
Whether your parents or grandparents choose to age in place, or they decide that they will start decluttering now to get ready for a future move, focus on eliminating tripping hazards and excessive items in the beginning.
If family members are interested in specific items, have them note the things they want as opposed to stripping the house that grandma will be living in for the next 6-to-12-months. Leave it to your parent or grandparent to decide when and to whom they will give some of their possessions.
Does your relative want help decluttering, or will they do what they can on their own? Would it be helpful to bring in a professional organizer who will have no emotional connection to the items or your relative?
Do not(!) start with photographs, knickknacks, or sentimental items. This is the last category of items to review. Set up a room or corner of a room where you can set memorabilia.
You don’t have to start this process knowing exactly where or when your relative will move. However, knowing this information will guide the decluttering and decision-making process. Peter Walsh’s book, Let It Go, is wonderful in that it addresses dealing with personalities of the multiple relatives who’ll have a say in any downsizing efforts – as well as how to deal with possessions.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. However, Let It Go is a book I’ve given as a gift to individuals trying to downsize a relative (it also helps you downsize your own home).
Are there specific areas of downsizing with older adults that I can cover in future articles? Leave a comment below or email me at Susan@ALessClutteredLife.com.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
When I met the man who would become my husband he had left a 10-year relationship and had gone back to live in his mother’s house. Before that he had lived in his former girlfriend’s home. So, I knew, when we decided to move in together, that he wasn’t bringing much furniture or other home necessities to our apartment.
So, I was surprised when every day, for weeks, he’d show up at our new apartment with a few boxes of stuff that he’d been storing in his closet and his mother’s garage. While I was pleased that I was consistently reducing the things I no longer needed, I found myself living with someone who felt flat surfaces were meant to be covered with knickknacks.
Fast forward a few years to our first house. He bought things to make the house look interesting and felt my more minimalistic approach was boring. (He’d been buying things for me to create collections, something he, apparently, felt I lacked. My small collection of frogs expanded to include a shelf of cat-themed items, another of dragons, and a dresser-top+ of squirrels.)
I’ve brought up the idea of decluttering some knickknacks in favor of the model cars, trucks, planes, and ships that he builds. A couple of times, I’ve pointed out that if he got rid of (or moved) three shelves of DVDs, he’d have space to display some of his recent model builds. I think he may be softening to the idea (first mentioned three or four months ago). Fingers crossed.
Get Some Perspective
Despite decluttering “rules,” such as getting rid of things that haven’t been used in a year (or six months), eliminating duplicates, or limiting quantities, these things don’t have to be tossed. In fact, decluttering is a choice and someone’s choice may be to keep what they have.
Some people like having stuff, others, not so much. For some, a lot of stuff is creatively stimulating; for others, anxiety-provoking.
If the individual is holding onto things (in vast quantities) that most people view as trash (say, used pizza boxes), that’s a problem. If it’s impossible to cook on the stove, sit on a chair, sleep in the bed, or shower because these areas are piled with stuff, then an appointment with a psychologist who works with people who hoard may be in order.
If your partner likes a ‘full’ look, then you can do what you can and hope that they become inspired by your example.
Be the Example
If you’re significant other agrees to the idea of decluttering, then, go for it.
On the other hand, if your partner doesn’t want to declutter …
You may grate your teeth at this piece of advice, but you need to start with your stuff. Your partner can see what you’re doing and maybe they’ll ask some questions about how you’re making decisions.
Then, move onto areas of your home where you normally make the decisions – the kitchen if you do all the cooking, the laundry room if you do the cleaning and straightening here, the home office/craft room.
Introduce Some “Rules”
As you move your decluttering efforts into some rooms, you’ll encounter spaces used by your significant other. Maybe your partner enters the house and drops mail, stuff from their pockets, and other things onto the kitchen table. Others at home (including you) have followed this example and now it’s impossible to eat a meal at the table.
Bring up in conversation that you want to start eating meals at the kitchen table without the need to push things to the side. You want the table cleared all the time. Emphasize the benefits of being able to sit down with a cup of coffee or breakfast in a clear, peaceful space.
Because the stuff on the table has probably lived there for a while, the table is now that stuff’s ‘home.’ If you want the stuff off the table, then you’ll need to figure out where all that stuff belongs. Work with your spouse through the process so they aren’t complaining later that you’ve moved stuff on them. Help them determine the logical place for paperwork, extra pens, vitamins, receipts, etc. Don’t think it’s obvious, because it isn’t, or the stuff wouldn’t be piled on the table.
Working through the process with them helps them make decisions about where stuff goes.
Have you had success decluttering with your spouse or partner? Were they ready or reluctant and did you feel that you were able to help? Leave a comment below.
Add in a Dose of Humor
You know how in some documents you’ll encounter a page with the words, “This page intentionally left blank,” which is ironic because those words negative their message?
Maybe you make a sign that you put on your newly cleared table after dinner that says, “This table intentionally left empty,” perhaps with an emoji of a smiley face with its tongue sticking out to emphasize the humor. Each night, after dinner, you post this sign as a reminder.
Create a Consequence
What will you do if you find items left in an area that’s been decluttered? Discuss this when you’re planning to declutter the space. You aren’t agreeing to put things away for them. You also don’t want to move things to another location where the items may stay instead of being put away.
Point out that it will be easier to put away two or three things today than two or three dozen items this weekend (as evidenced by the clutter that the two of you will be clearing). Ask your partner to decide when they will do this task – before sitting down to dinner? Before watching television? A reward for doing the task could be that you won’t be reminding them multiple times to clear the table when they are watching a favorite show.
Perhaps if they succeed for a few days, they know that you’ll purchase ice cream for dessert, or you’ll make a favorite dinner, or take a bike ride with them. (And give yourself a treat for your efforts – a cup of coffee, time to read a book, etc.). You’re helping them to develop a new habit; it won’t happen overnight. Also, you want to help them succeed in this area so they discover that they can declutter and maintain the clear space.
Continue to a New Location
You can’t make another person declutter (or do anything, really). However, if they feel successful decluttering small spaces, they may continue to other locations on their own.
And if that doesn’t happen? Create cluttered zones as well as clutter-free zones – or even entire rooms. Give your significant other spaces where you won’t try to declutter or organize in exchange for locations where clutter must be cleared away.
It’s an odd sort of balancing act where nothing will really feel, or be, balanced, but it can create clearer spaces in your home.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
Have you ever watched kids in daycare or preschool put away their toys? It gets done. (Okay, there’s even slacker-preschoolers who let other kids put away most of the toys while they put away the one that they continue to play with during clean-up time.)
I don’t have kids, but I’ve taught ages 3-to-14 for 26-years, so I’m using that experience and set of observations for this article. (Plus the information I’ve read or gathered from parents.)
Explain What “Clean Your Room” Means
Kids don’t necessarily understand what it means when you tell them to “go clean your room.” You may think that they will put things back the way you had them, but chances are they don’t have that image in their mind. You can help them by putting things away, taking pictures of the room, and posting those pictures for easy comparison. This gives kids a tangible point of reference.
Show them how to do a task (say, put tee shirts into a drawer) and then have them do the action and even talk through what they are doing. This covers multiple learning styles by looking, doing, touching, and speaking/hearing their way through the process.
Demonstrate the Desired Behaviors
If you walk in the house, dump the mail into an overflowing basket and drop your coat over the back of a chair, it’s going to be more difficult to convince your kids that they can’t drop their stuff in a pile by the door.
If kids see you decluttering, organizing, and tidying, they’ll better learn that telling them to hang up their coat or pick up their toys isn’t tortuous busywork given to kids but part of the process that keeps their home a pleasant space.
Establish Zones of Activity and Storage
Kids’ rooms can get messy because a lot goes on in the space – sleeping, clothing and shoe storage, toy storage, book storage, storage of sports equipment, display of art projects and awards, homework, craft projects, playing with toys, reading, practicing music.
If kids’ stuff ends up everywhere in the house, consider where you want different activities, display, and storage to occur. Just in their room? Different activities in different locations? Keep things simple. If kids have a table or desk in their room that’s to be used for homework and for craft projects, then the table or desk should be kept clear (except for maybe a lamp) and supplies associated with homework or crafts should be stored nearby. (This could be a set of shelves or a rolling cart set next to the table or desk.)
Think about a kindergarten classroom – the tables and chairs get used for all sorts of activities and after each activity, they get cleared off. This eliminates distractions during projects. Also, by clearing the space, it’s easy to see what has been left in the wrong place.
And, for other areas of the house – exactly where do you want backpacks or coats hung or outdoor toys stored? Eliminate vagueness – do you want outdoor toys in the garage or in the big blue bin next to the door?
Give Everything a Home
If you are a minimalist family, you may be able to get away with a single toy box; otherwise, you want multiple bins with single-functions so toys stay sorted by type. Why? If a child has to root around in a single toy box for what they want to play with, chances are that they will also pull out toys that were in their way.
Because they didn’t play with a toy, some kids won’t put away things that got pulled out in the process of looking for something else because, as they see it, they didn’t play with it, so they aren’t responsible for putting it away. (If you haven’t experienced this, I’m not joking, I’ve encountered this attitude several times.)
As I mentioned with the previous tip, eliminate vagueness. Books go on this shelf, puzzles on that shelf; play food belongs in the red bin, dishes in the blue bin, cars in the green bin.
This means that when new toys are added, they will be fit into the designated home. If there isn’t space, then have your kids decide what they can donate to others.
Skip the Covered Bins
Covers on bins can get in the way of some kids’ play. Either they don’t see the toys in a covered bin or feel that they can’t open it and remove the contents. Also, if a cover goes on a bin, then a wayward toy that didn’t get into the bin might not make it because the child doesn’t open the bin.
You can also signify that play time or arts and craft time is over by putting the bin covers in place after things have been put away.
Consider (or Ask) Why a Task Isn’t Being Done
A child might not hang up their clothing because they can’t reach the rod the hangers are on. Or, the hangers have a grippy texture that makes it difficult to slide the clothing on. Or, the hangers are sized for adult clothing. Or, a series of hooks would be easier than clothes hangers.
If your child forgets about things that go into drawers, they may need open storage. A set of open bins in the closet could be easier for storing underwear, socks, hats, gloves, etc. You may have to establish routines and organizing systems different from those that work for you.
Give Kids a Place to Donate Items
If your child puts on a shirt that’s too short, do they know that they can take it off and put it in a “to donate” box. The same box could also be used for toys the child is no longer interested in. You still have final say over the items, but if there is a box in the corner of the closet, it will help kids understand that they can declutter when necessary.
Get Kids Involved
Although it’s easier to step in and do something for a child, then they forever rely on you to do the task because they feel no ownership over completing the job on their own. Have them help decide what they want to keep and what they can donate to others. Even toddlers and preschoolers can be asked to pick out their favorite toys. A lot of parents discover that their kids play more creatively when they have fewer toys.
While you may feel comfortable taking your donations immediately to the drop-off center, with kids, you may need to hold onto boxes of toys and books for a few months to be certain they’ve moved past those items.
Check out my Organizing Kids board on Pinterest which includes a bunch of curated articles for decluttering and organizing with kids, toddler through preteen. Share your tips in the comment section below.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
Storage spaces include attics, basements, garages, sheds, and that extra room that was supposed to be the home office or guest bedroom, but you gave up years ago thinking of it that way – now, you call it “the junk room.”
You don’t move into a house or apartment thinking, “this will be a great space to fill with all my crap.” The creep of stuff was more insidious. “I’ll just leave this here until I decide what to do with it.” Unfortunately, the only “decision” you made was to put more stuff in limbo until you find yourself facing a wall of stuff.
The consequences are varied: You go out an buy a new screwdriver because you can’t reach your tool box. You notice the box of handmade quilts you took from your grandmother’s home has water or rodent damage which bothers you, but at the same time, you never really knew what to do with them.
Storage spaces are filled with delayed decisions. It’s not just the stuff that holds us back from tackling a task, it’s the thoughts and emotions attached to these items.
Before You Start Decluttering Your Most Stuff-Filled Spaces
Before you break out the trash bags or hire a Dumpster, take a deep breath and ask yourself (and other invested adults), “How do I want to use this space? What do I want from this space?”
Get clear on your vision for the space. Do you want to park your car in the garage? Store only holiday decorations in the attic? Keep the guestroom open for frequent visits from the grandkids?
The answers to these questions not only serve as motivation, they are important to clarify your intentions so you can make honest decisions about the items in this space.
How to Start Decluttering a Wall of Stuff
Chances are that you can’t easily move around this room. Work with what you can see and excavate as you go, carving your way into the space. Although it may be tempting to think that you should drag everything out of the space and start fresh, unless you have a crew of people helping you and you’ll be tossing most of the stuff without debate, leave everything where it is and deal with what’s in your hands.
This technique limits the decisions you have to make. Pull everything out of your garage and you’ll have to deal with neighbors stopping by to see what you’re doing, people asking if you’re having a yard sale, and your own brain yelling at you to get the project done before nightfall. Too many thoughts, too many decisions.
Instead, look at what’s immediately in front of you and ask, “Is this trash or recycling?” Toss what you can. (Don’t reach or climb over stuff, deal with what’s at arm’s reach.)
Next, go through the same area and ask, “Who can I give this to?” Can you donate the item to a charity? Give it to a friend or relative? Sell it? Give it to the person who actually owns the item? Pop the stuff into well-labeled boxes.
If you’re considering keeping an item, ask, “Does this item help support my vision for this space?” If you want to park your car in the garage, can you keep the treadmill and comfortably fit the car in the garage? If you want a space for yoga and meditation, is it helpful to have a wall of boxes filled with paperwork from your previous career?
What to Do with “Useful” Stuff
You may find potentially useful items like jars, boxes, old tee shirts (for rags), etc. that you’ve held onto because the item seemed like something that could find a new use. Group like items together. (For example, put all those glass jars near one another.) This will allow you to see how many you’ve collected.
Now, consider how many you use in the course of a month. If you feel that you should hold onto some of these items, define a space to hold the items and only keep that number. For example, you can keep a single box of jars or the fifteen that fit on a shelf. No more than that. If you use an item, you can replenish your stock, if you don’t go beyond your designated space.
Examining the Possessions that You Want to Keep
Remind yourself of your vision for what you want from the space you’ve been decluttering. How do you really want to use the space?
Look at the items you feel you should keep and ask:
Continue Working through the Storage Space
Whether you can give the space 20-minutes a day or 20-hours over a long weekend, continue decluttering the space until you feel that it holds the things you use, want, and love. It may take a few rounds though the space before you feel comfortable releasing some things, and that’s okay.
Sometimes, repeat viewings of an item helps you realize that you have no reason for holding onto it.
So, although storage spaces are overwhelming to declutter, it is possible to carve away at the clutter and free the space.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
Your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry are some of the most straightforward locations in your home to declutter and organize. So, why might you avoid decluttering these areas? You may find yourself facing good intentions that fell to the wayside – food for the diet you were going to follow, the healthier meals you were going to prepare, the attempts to be more adventuresome.
And, while many other items around the house may tempt us into saying, “I might use this,” food has an expiration date that prevents us from holding onto it indefinitely. So, how can you psychologically deal with the embarrassment or disappointment of purchases that end up in the trash?
Instead of flipping the item into a trash bag as quickly as you can so to hide the evidence, hold the item for a moment and consider what you got from making this purchase. Was it the thrill of finding a bargain? Was it the feeling that you were making positive changes in your diet? You got that feeling by buying the items, not using them; so, in a way, the items served a purpose.
That thought probably doesn’t improve the frustration you feel from wasting money or resources by buying food that you didn’t eat. Use this knowledge. In the future, allow yourself no more than a single new- or unusual-for-you food item a week and make yourself use the item within a week (before it has a chance to slide to the back of the pantry).
How to Clean Your Refrigerator, Freezer, Pantry, or Spice Rack
Before you start, you’ll want a few things on hand. Grab a cleanser and cleaning cloths. Have a trash barrel (and a back-up trash bag) handy. If you wear reading glasses, have them or a magnifying glass on hand so you can see expiration dates.
Note what types of food you threw away. If fresh fruit and vegetables spoil before they get used, consider purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables, purchasing smaller quantities, or only buying these items when you’ve planned a meal.
Create Your Own Systems and Tricks
Half of my shopping list includes items that get purchased every week so when I return home from one shopping trip, I immediately start the next week’s list. Then, when I take something from the pantry, it is immediately added to my shopping list.
I limit myself to keeping one or two of different boxed or canned goods on hand. I know I don’t serve pasta more than once a week, so I don’t feel the need to keep more than two boxes on hand. The same with things like diced tomatoes, I keep one can.
Every two or three months, I shop at BJ’s Wholesale for proteins that get packed into my refrigerator freezer. When the freezer is empty, it’s time to shop again. To keep track of these items, I make a list because, otherwise, I’ll forget the chicken wings pushed to the back of the freezer.
These systems work in my home – my husband and I eat at home six days a week and our adult nephew irregularly joins us for meals. Notice how you actually plan and eat your meals at home (as opposed to focusing on an ideal that you don’t follow) and you’ll likely see less waste and lower grocery bills.
What's your favorite way to reduce food waste and keep your kitchen organized? Leave a comment below.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
You’ve made the time to declutter – your desk, your closet, maybe even a big project, like your garage. You’ve sorted your papers into piles. You have bags of clothing to donate stacked in the corner of your bedroom. Your driveway is littered with items that you want to trash, donate, and bring back into the garage.
But, oops, you need to jump in the shower and get ready for your evening out or it’s time to get to that appointment, or make dinner, or go to work, or get ready for bed. The problem is, you aren’t finished with your decluttering task.
You’re frustrated that you didn’t work quickly enough. Maybe you got distracted. Maybe the task was more involved than you expected. None of that matters as much as this forgotten step – you didn’t plan time to clean up.
If you had or ever worked with kids, you know all about giving kids a warning about an upcoming switch in focus. “Ten more minutes to play, then you need to clean up so we can go to the movies.” Too often, as adults, we try to maximize our time by working up to the last moment. If you can step away from a project as it is, then this doesn’t cause any problems.
However, if you return home from date night and find your bed covered with the contents of your closet because you ran out of time to put everything back – well, that’s a problem.
When Decluttering, Remember to Do This
The solution isn’t difficult, but you may feel resistant to it because it doesn’t seem as important as the task you are working on. Still, plan time to clean up from the task.
In most cases, we think cleaning up from a task will take less time than it usually does. If you’ve given yourself two hours to clean your closet, then, after 90-minutes, you may want to switch into clean-up mode. Even smaller tasks require a minute or two to wrap-up your efforts.
This is your time to
Cleaning up from a decluttering task and wrapping up any additional activities leaves you feeling more positive about the work you did because you’re not leaving any loose ends to bother you. Whether you cleaned out a cabinet or an entire room, you know the task is done.
What Should You Do With Your Stuff after You've Decluttered?
6 Ways to Make the Most of Your Decluttering Time
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
March - Spring Cleaning
One of the challenges with decluttering is just getting started. Or, starting again. Starting means that you’re committing to making a lot of decisions about what you’ll do with your stuff.
This quick-start guide streamlines your decision-making process by focusing you on a different task each day. It takes a lot less time to walk through a room and grab items you’ve identified as ‘trash’ than to stand in the middle of a room wondering where to start and what to do with everything.
This method is intended for clearing some of the stuff piled on countertops, tables, furniture, and the floor. This isn’t the time to delve into drawers, cabinets, closets, or storage boxes.
Prepare to Declutter
Walk through your home and take some ‘before’ picture. Really. In a week, you may be so focused on the work you still have to do that you’ll downplay what you’ve already accomplished.
Depending on the size of your home, and your schedule, plan at least 15-minutes a day for each activity but no more than 60-minutes. You want to do something every day. Avoid going into storage spaces (garage, “guest bedroom”) and instead stick with the rooms you use every day.
Seven-Day Quick Start Decluttering Guide
Day One – Walk around your home with a bin and toss anything that can be recycled. If you want to save things like glass bottles, shoeboxes, or other items for upcycled crafts, gather these items to a single location so you can better assess how many of these items you’ve been keeping and how many you’ll really use. (Keep cardboard boxes large enough for packing items to be donated.)
Day Two – Walk through your home with a trash bag and toss anything to be thrown away.
Day Three – Grab a laundry basket or a bin and gather items that belong in other rooms. As you move to another room, put away what belongs in that space. Don’t get caught up trying to find the perfect spot for each item. Go for good enough. Remember, this process helps you to get started.
Day Four – Collect items that you’d like to give to specific people. If the item is too bulky for a box, make a note of the item. Next, call, text, or email the individuals whom you’d like to give these items. Point out that they don’t have to take items they aren’t interested in. Schedule how and when you’ll get items to their new owners.
Day Five – With a box in hand, collect items that you want to sell. How will you do this? Consignment shop, online auction, auction house, yard sale? Hop online and research some options for these items.
Day Six – Move through each room, grabbing items for donation and packing them into boxes or bags. Can’t decide? Move on. You’ll come back to this room in the future. Deliver items to a donation center or schedule a pick up at your home.
Day Seven – Consider if you’ll benefit from repeating this process next week or if you want to go deeper by focusing on a single room.
This is a rough outline. If you don’t want to fuss with selling things, then skip that activity and move on to the next. Stay focused on living spaces over storage spaces. Remember, this process is meant to get you started decluttering by moving through overwhelm and procrastination.
Please share this article with someone who's been talking about decluttering. You can offer one another support and accountability.
How to Declutter Your House in Three Steps
Declutter Your Home in 15 Minutes a Day
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm a professional organizer-coach with 26 years' experience as a teacher. I believe that an organized home isn't your destination but a step on the path toward the life you want to create. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; and speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.