No Clutter November : Everything In Its Place

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How is No Clutter November going for you thus far? I have been taking it slow with the No Clutter endeavor because with an already full schedule that is just how I have to do things. I have been purging like a mad woman, and putting items in a keep stack from my three selected areas. The donation pile is massive, but that is a great thing for me! That was all for phase one. Now if you are following along, we are ready for phase two which is the final step: finding a place for the things in our “keep” stacks. If you haven’t done phase one then go back and do that before starting this one, but if you are ready for this, let’s dive in!

Everything in Its Place

In the past this has been the most difficult part of the process for me. I would get rid of the things that I no longer wanted or needed and then I would have this remaining stack of stuff that I had no idea where to put. Inevitably, I would stall out right here and leave my keep stack in a pile in the corner of the room, it would accumulate more junk, and then I would do phase one again…. the whole vicious cycle would repeat every few months. I had a corner of my office in my old house where this happened for years. I finally figured out the secret to breaking through phase two and when I FINALLY cleaned up that corner it felt SO GOOD! Organizing is a weakness for some of us, and for others it comes naturally. I am one of those people who struggle with knowing where to put things, but pushing through this phase is the only way to kick the clutter for good!

{Phase Two}

Evaluate Your Space

Look at the space you are trying to declutter, what SHOULD be there? If it is a pile of stuff on the floor then perhaps you will answer with “nothing” ,and will need to shift to organizing the things which were there onto a shelf or into a closet. You may need to purchase a shelf or something to put the things on. Maybe it’s a counter top and you just want a coffee maker, a cutting board, and dish drying rack to be there; then you will need to think of a good place to put the other things that were once kept there such as in the cabinet or pantry or another room. I know that this seems obvious, but you HAVE to have some sort of game plan for where the things you want to keep will go and what you want the outcome to be. If you aren’t very good at this thing (like me) then ask for ideas from your organized friends or look at organization ideas on pinterest. Pinterest is ultimately what helped me most because I searched for specifics like “organize office” or “organize pantry”, I chose the idea that looked and sounded the best, and then I did it. One thing I have learned over the years is to quit trying to reinvent the wheel…. if a mom has figured out something that works for her big family, then it will probably work for mine too. This is true for organizing as well as many other areas of life. On that note, when I’m gathering ideas for myself, I choose bloggers of big families because their situation is going to be most similar to mine. Reach out to bloggers and other moms who are very similar to your circumstances and ask them how they do things. I recently emailed with a mom blogger of 8 kids inquiring how she did her daily schedule. It was so helpful! This could turn into a whole other blog post, but all of this to say, you don’t have to come up with everything on your own! So save time and do what someone else has come up with.

Putting Things in Their Place

Look in your keep stack and put the things you really want or need in your designated space first. With each putting away you should seek to put like items with like items. All the books together, and if there is a book series keep that together, all the art items together, etc… And remember to put the things used most in the easiest place to access and put away, preferably close to where you use them. For example: My homeschool shelves…. I put in the current curriculum and books we are using in an organized and accessible spot on a shelf close to our table where we do school. This will help the cleanup process which will keep your area uncluttered in the long run. Next, put away the things you really like and plan to use, but maybe you don’t use it every day. Put that stuff in a spot you can access but it will be out of the way of the things you do use every day. Back to my homeschool organizing example: I then put the curriculum, activities, books, and things we use sometimes or things I really love and want us to use in the near future in an organized, but not as accessible spot on a difew rent shelf. Like with like examples: in a kitchen keep all of your baking supplies together and all of your pots and pans together, and all the food together and place them close to the spot where you will use them. For example my baking supplies (mixer attachments, cup measures, baking pans, spices, flour, etc.. are all in different cabinets close together and close to the countertop which I use for baking prep. I also keep my Kitchenaid mixer on that counter. You may have to grab a pen a paper and make notes for your specific area and then put away things. After putting the important things away, evaluate your space again…. is it full? if not then keep putting things from your keep stack neatly in the space. By the way, things do not have to be beautiful to be organized. Remember that Pottery Barn bookshelves are staged to appeal to the senses in order to sell products: most people don’t live in a world where all the book bindings and color coordinated, fancy book ends are displayed, and there is plenty of extra shelf space for adorable little trinkets and potied plants. The reality is for most of us that simply isn’t reality. Don’t get discouraged or defeated trying to make it look like the cover of a magazine.

The Random Leftover Stuff

Now you have come so far, don’t stop here! We all know the random things left at the end of a declutter project, right? Something like… a hairbow, a spatula, curriculum for fourth grade when we are on in second (but it was free so we took it), an extra phone charger, a canvas you plan to use for that pinterest project one day, kid art and completed worksheets, puzzles, a few dimes and pennies…. you know, the really random stuff. These things will now need to go to one of 4 places:
-to a specific spot where that kind of thing belongs in another room or area
-to the purge pile
-into the space being organized (but perhaps the back top shelf or somewhere very out of the way.
-to a “probation area” which is the place for the “I’m going to fix this” or “I’m going to diy this” items.

Let me explain the Probation Area

Place the item that you will fix or diy in a specified area. Give the item a 30 or 90 day probation time, and if you have not done with it what you planned by that time then purge it. This stuff needs to be kept in a logical and organized place that you see often so that you do not forget about it,but out of the way as well. Keep post-it notes on the items with their purge date written in large letters you can read from far away. When you see this it will prompt you to not procrastinate. It’s good to have a project day each week (mine is Saturdays) to work on things of this sort.

The Trash Bag Method:

There is another alternative for the people who struggle with this final step in the declutter process. If the final step seems too difficult (too many random things and you don’t know where to put them and you feel stressed and overwhelmed by it all), get anything very valuable out and put the rest in a black trash bag. Put the whole trash bag in a probation area and label the date; if you haven’t put the things away or needed anything out in 30 days then throw the whole bag away (don’t look inside! Just take it out to the trash can and forget about it.)

A word about sentimental items:

This is an area that can really mess people up when it comes to decluttering. I know some take a more minimalist view and say to toss it all, but I see some value in holding onto a select few things as long as they have a good place to be kept. I have one medium sized rubbermade tote that holds mine and my husband’s childhood sentimentals. Each of my children have a large binder; and I only keep my VERY favorite schoolwork and art in there as well as their tests and reports. (I call this their portfolio). We will likely end up with more than one binder per child: I think one elementary and one for middle and high school might work. Again these are VERY favorite which makes me seriously selective. I also keep some very special cards that some of my closest sisters in Christ have written and some from my family and husband; they are filled with Scriptures and encouragement, I keep them in a drawer by my bed. These mean a lot to me and I reread them from time to time. I keep a basket at the top of a closet which holds embroidered shirts my children wore for their birthdays and special occasions; one day when all my kids are grown out of the embroidery phase, I plan to pay someone to quilt them for me. I also keep photo albums and scrapbooks. Bottom line is, figure out what is very important to you and a find a box or folder to keep that kind of stuff in. Don’t keep too much! Remember that you can’t keep everything; and you should not feel guilty for throwing away birthday cards, kid school work, and other items like these. I have seen some great ideas for these things on pinterest. If you have a major surplus you just can’t part with: take pictures of children’s art and keep online or in a photo album on the computer. Some use scrap books and smash books, but be careful that you actually do the project and don’t just think about it. If you plan to do this, but those sentimental items in the probation stack.

Time to finish!

In the end, all of your things have been placed in their correct spot whether that is the trash can, donation, another room with like items, in the space, or in probation. See each part of this through completely! Finally, to celebrate, consider buying or making something lovely to add to that space. Perhaps a little mason jar with fresh flowers or a small piece of art…. it’s like the icing on the cake.

To keep clutter from recurring you will need to be diligent to put things away daily, to not pile things in your newly cleaned place that do not belong. If your family does this, consider buying each person a basket and gathering the stuff they sit in the area and deliver it to their rooms for them to put away. If they need help finding a place for these things then offer some tips. If it’s the hubby, don’t nag, but do offer ideas if it’s welcomed by him. Stay on top of the clutter zones in your house. And periodically go back through already organized shelves, cabinets, and closets to purge items that have never or rarely been used. Take it from a girl who use to really struggle with this, it does get easier the more you do it! We have to choose to live with intention and not out of habit; make it a point to do things differently and stick to it. You will be so happy that you did, and it will probably bless your husband and children too!

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Happy Uncluttered Day!
-S

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