Admit it! You’ve never even read those stockpiled catalogs piled on your coffee table, and probably have a broken CD player somewhere. Do you need even more incentives to purge? It’ll literally make you feel lighter and happier. We got rid of about 50% of the junk we had, and we’ve kept what’s really important to us. And when we get a house, we’ll be able to really invest in a good set of pots, pans and plates instead of buying throw-away $20 sets. Make a few small changes each week and you can cut your housework by as much as 40% (less to dust, clean and move!). Plus it makes you feel better, when you come back from a busy stressed out day and you look at how orderly your house is.
BEGIN WITH THE BASICS
Be kind to yourself: Many people struggle with their things because they attach sentimental value to them, or we think we might need them some day. You have to give yourself permission to get rid of anything cluttering your life, no matter what it is. It helps you regain control of what says and goes, rather than giving that power to that clutter. If you haven’t used it or seen it in about a year (my range is 2-3 years actually), then you won’t miss it.
Do good: Find a person or an organization that will cherish your items as much as you do. It’s a lot easier to let go of things if you know someone else will use it. Try Craig’s list to get rid of washers and dryers, or other electronics you think people might use, like TVs, or old CD players. The only thing is just getting the items to the charity shop, so designate a corner of the house or apartment as the “charity shop” pile, and get rid of it all at once when you make that one trip down there to offload the items. Even think about getting rid of unused furniture that’s just housing more junk in its crevices.
Take inventory: Start with a small section of your living room like the pantry, or laundry room and make a list of the items you need, and what you have duplicates of. I for example, have 7 different detergents and dryer sheets because of the travelling I do. You’d be surprised to find that you have the same sorts of half-filled collections like I do. So here’s what to do: combine or give away your extras, and keep your need-to-buy list handy for your next shopping trip. Look in your bathroom too or your vanity. In the bathroom, you may have half filled shampoo, conditioner or facial cleanser bottles, or fifteen different eyeshadows that need to be pared down to the two that you use on a regular basis.
File your piles: If you have more garments tossed over your bedroom chair than your closet, use three canvas-lined baskets to sort the items you’re not ready to put away. Designate one for clean clothes that need to be hung, another for dry cleaning or tailoring, and the third for dirty laundry. Just make sure you clear the canvas bags before it overflows. You can even pick out cute dark-coloured wicker baskets so that they look really cute in the corner of your laundry room.
Keep even-heeled: There’s no such thing as too many shoes if they’re organized and in good shape. Divide them into the following piles: Off season, Special Occasion and Everyday. Store the off-season shoes under the bed in a flat storage box, or put your Special Occasion shoes in clear plastic boxes at the top of your closet. For your Everyday shoes, hang them on a rack for easy access.
Dangle the jewels: This is a great way to stop delicate necklaces from tangling, especially if you don’t have a jewellery box, or in my case, a box big enough to hold all of them. Hang necklaces on clear tacks on a small bulletin board in your bedroom, or use those cheap bead or tackle boxes to separate out earrings into their own little sections.
CONQUER THE KITCHEN
Stash munchies better: Transfer snacks like cookies, crackers and chips (or even cereal) into clear plastic containers that have a silicone seal so they don’t go stale. You’ll also be able to see when you need to go shopping to refill the containers.
Rack it up: Install wire shelving in your pantry or cupboard. This makes items easier to see, allows air to circulate which cuts down on dust. Consider using sliding wire baskets to utilize the free space under your sink. It’ll make it easier to see the items at the very back when you’re able to pull out the shelves.
Make a running list: Post a pad on the fridge and have your family write down every food item as it is used up. It’ll save you from having to do an inventory list every week. You can also try writing down a set grocery list of items that you know you’ll always run out of or need to buy every week, especially if you have planned meals weeks ahead of time. Then you can take that sheet of paper, get it laminated, or put it in a clear plastic protector, and use a dry erase marker to check off items that need to be repurchased that week, and/or check off the list as you’re shopping in the store, and just clean it off when you get home to reuse for the next week.
That brings me to my other minor point. Try planning meals 2-3 weeks ahead of time, so you can reuse items. For example, if you buy a large chunk of cheese, and only use it once for your fabulous Cheese Potato dish, it’s a waste because the cheese will go hard, stale, or be inedible. Think about buying that block of cheese, and using it for Cheese Potatoes, Chili Cheese Hotdogs, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Casseroles, etc.
MIND YOUR MEDIA
Get in tune with your music: Remove the liner notes from CDs (the booklet inside the CD jewel case) and toss the bulky case. Use it to organize your CD in CD binders. Or even better, just download the iTunes tune for $0.99 each time.
Clear out your inbox: Use your email program to create a set of folders for your correspondence with labels such as kid’s activities and monthly bills. (Try File > Folder > New). Then go through each message and read it, and action it. You either file it and/or delete it immediately and/or make a note if required (like if an event is coming up, file the email just in case, and make a note in your calendar immediately), but move it out of your inbox immediately so that when new mail comes in, you can deal with that.
Store your snapshots: Organize your photos into albums, and try doing them chronologically in acid-free photo storage boxes if you’re lazy and don’t want to slot them into the albums. I went out and purchased gorgeous silk albums and I am going to fill them with choice selections from certain events in my life. I’ll get rid of duplicates, photos I don’t like, and photos that are too similar to one another.
HOME OFFICE HELPERS
Play it safe: Once a year, ask everyone to empty their wallets, and make colour photocopies of their licenses, credit cards and other pieces of ID. Add the copies to folders, and file them away into a safe place, like a locked filing cabinet.
Have backup: Few things are more devastating than spilling coffee on your laptop and losing your work. Back it up on the dance floor, and back it up at home! Save them to an external hard drive (Western Digital is great. You can drop it, and it’ll STILL work. Stay away from the cheap drives. Your data is worth it. Trust me.) Or you can try burning it to a CD (holds 700MB of data) or a DVD (holds 4GB of data) or on online servers like iomega.com. But I’m an old-fashioned girl, I’d like the items physically saved, in a personal device or item, because you never know who can hack into what server online and steal all your data.
Avoid pile-ups: Business cards can amass in your home office. Ask yourself each time you collect a card, if you will ever use it again. If you can’t imagine talking to that person for a year, then toss it, or put it into a business card rotating folder.. or even better (if you have time), scan it into your computer, and keep a digital copy of it. (You can also do the same for recipes you want to keep, but always seem to lose that scrap of magazine paper you’ve stuffed in your purse all this time). I am a HUGE fan of scanning items into the computer, and of course, keeping a backup copy on a digital drive.