Posts Tagged ‘clutter’

A Faster Way To Get Kids Organized

Contrary to popular belief children were not put on this planet to perpetuate chaos — hell-bent on undoing your housework and leaving piles of clutter trailing behind them. Kids actually thrive on order, but it's not something they can easily maintain until you teach them how — and children have short attention spans, so you can't expect a 6-year-old to stay focused as long as an adult might. You'll get a better response (and your children will experience a greater sense of achievement) if you ask your kids to complete just one small task at a time — something concrete and specific.  With the right action plan, there will be no misunderstanding about what you expect from your offspring, and your kids will soon be picking up after themselves without you even asking! Have your kids:

  • sit down with you to draw up a chore chart for the week
  • help prepare a week's worth of packed lunch “basics” (veggies, cookies, crackers, fruit, etc.)
  • collect up all their scattered pairs of shoes and coats to put away in their closets
  • go around the house, gathering their stray toys from each room into a basket
  • put away any games or toys as soon as play time is over
  • sort their dirty clothes into “whites,” “colors,” and “darks” on laundry day
  • put away their newly cleaned laundry
  • clean out all the broken crayons and used-up paint in their art supplies
  • go through their school supplies and clean out anything they no longer use in class
  • label each of their drawers with a picture of what's stored inside (shirts, pants, undies, socks, etc.)
  • sort their craft paraphernalia into separate tubs (for beads, glitter, markers, construction paper, etc.)
  • pull out any toys that are too childish for them to donate
  • try on last year's school clothes and get rid of what no longer fits
  • go through their art papers and pick only those favorites to hang or put in a scrapbook
  • go through their school papers and pick only those favorites to keep as memorabilia
  • choose their school outfits for the next week
  • gather up everything they need for school the next day and sit it by the front door
  • group their books together by author or type (coloring, picture, story, etc.)
  • put all their CDs, DVDs, and software discs back in the correct cases
  • sort their sports equipment into containers according to the game and label with pictures

See how easy that was? Wink

Calculate The Financial Cost

Disorganization is an insidious but often unnoticed drain on your wallet. The money leaks start as dribbles, but over time, become a flood that sweeps you away. You can't find your electric bill to pay it until a week after the due date — 20% finance charge. You throw your mail in a pile, unopened on the desk, and an early conference registration deadline passes you by — $50 late fee. You misplace a gift card from your birthday and don't find it until it has expired — $25 you could have saved. You shove your bank statements in a drawer without looking at them and overlook an error in your last deposit — $100 lost. It's a simple equation — the more organized you are, the more money you save.

Reclaim Your Wasted Space

How often do you acquire something that you really didn't want,  need, or care about? Could be a magazine, a brochure, a free giveaway at the store — you accepted it unconsciously, now it's taking up valuable space that could be used for some better purpose. The piles are squeezing us out of home and office, and without a good system for staying on top of it all (read that as “throwing away the 90% that is junk and keeping the 10% that matters”), we quickly find ourselves buried in clutter. It's become so bad that many people buy homes larger than they need to store stuff they've never even looked at — and pay the storage industry thousands of dollars a year to babysit unopened boxes of who-knows-what. This is a serious epidemic!

Plug Any Drains In Your Time

Clutter can also be found in your schedule — this type of disorganization is particularly irritating and frustrating, because it's eating up precious minutes of your life that you can never regain. You know you're experiencing time clutter when you seem to always be running late, no matter how hard you try to get out of the house on time — when you go 90 miles an hour every day, but can't manage to get caught up — when “time wasters” like procrastination and interruptions keep you from ever completing a project — when you're always putting out fires, functioning in “reactive” mode instead of “proactive” mode — and when you can't focus on your real priorities because your to-do list is always full of busy work. It's time to get off the treadmill!

Stop Wasting Emotional Energy

How often has the stress in your life been related to disorganization? Your mood is greatly affected by how smoothly your day goes — have you ever had your entire day spin out of control because spent 20 minutes searching for your car keys or misplaced a document or were late for a meeting? It's depressing to see nothing but piles and stacks around you — the mental toll is just as great as the more tangible costs of disorganization. But once you realize how much disorganization is costing you, you have a reason to want to change. The idea of cleaning out all the clutter, setting up storage systems, and revamping your schedule may seem overwhelming — but I guarantee you that getting organized is way less challenging than continuing to attempt to function in the middle of chaos.

Keep the vision of a clutter-free and chaos-free life in front of you for motivation as you move forward with your organizing efforts. And just recognize that this is going to be a process (possibly a slow one) — it's not going to happen overnight. But if you commit to your goals and stick with it, just another small change every day, you will see progress. It's never too late to get organized!

A Faster Way To Clean Out

Cleaning out is often exhausting work — especially for those who haven't done it in a while. It's easy to walk into a room filled with clutter and become completely overloaded by the task at hand. You try to empty the whole space at once, don't even come close to finishing it all, and end up feeling like a failure  — will you ever be able to see the floor again? Rather than overdoing it (and subsequently paralyzing yourself with frustration and despair), why not set yourself up for success — by tackling just one small pile at a time? If you simply make use of those odd free moments (say, two or three times a day, every day for a week) — you will make a bigger dent in the mess than if you devoted your entire Saturday to sifting and sorting and cleaning out!

  • start a box of items to donate — every time you find something you don't need, toss it in
  • check your desk for dried up pens and markers and throw them out
  • sort through your Tupperware and remove any bowl or lid that's missing it's mate
  • try on clothes you haven't worn in the past year and get rid of anything that doesn't fit
  • gather up a pile of library books / rented videos and return them from whence they came
  • look through your shelves and pull books you'll never read again to donate to the library
  • clean the trash out of your junk drawer
  • remove the extra empty hangers out of your closet and take them to your dry cleaner
  • get rid of old or yucky makeup in your cosmetic drawer
  • put all those purchases you've been meaning to return in a box and schedule an errand day
  • pull out any torn / worn underwear and socks — either turn into rags or discard
  • toss empty bottles of household cleaners, car care items, and gardening chemicals in the garage
  • go through your magazines / catalogs and toss all but the most recent issue
  • throw out expired food from your refrigerator and pantry
  • sort through your recipes and toss those you're never going to get around to making
  • when you unpack your holiday decorations, discard broken ornaments, lights, candles, etc.
  • create a pile of borrowed items to give back to your friends and family
  • clean out batteries and light bulbs that no longer work
  • toss expired items, empty bottles, and used-up grooming supplies in your medicine cabinet
  • put all your “donates” in the car and drive them to the nearest charity drop-off point — now!

See how easy that was? Wink

Starting Without A Plan

Imagine taking a trip to a new city without a map, a GPS, or even directions to your final destination. How would you ever get there? That's what organizing without a plan is like — you can make as much forward progress as you like, but you have no idea if you're even headed the right way (in fact, you might just be going in the exact opposite direction of where you would like to end up!)

Before beginning any organizing project, think about what you want to accomplish — what your life will look like when you're done. From there, you can figure out the steps you will need to take, and your timeline for each phase. But knowing where you are going prior to starting out is the only guaranteed way to reach your destination.

Not Cleaning Out Before You Organize

Organizing involves more than just moving your stuff around. Decluttering is about devoting your space to those objects that you actually use and love — and being willing to let go of the rest. If you want your organizing experience to be a successful one, expect to make some hard decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of.

Before you start worrying about organizing supplies and storage containers, begin with a full-scale purge. Go through your stacks and piles, and pull out anything that you don't use, need, or want anymore — functional items in the “donate” bin, the rest in the recycle or the trash. If you clear out the excess first, you'll have less to organize and the rest of the process will be a snap.

Using Opaque Storage Containers With No Labels

All the space in the world won't do you a bit of good if you can't see what you're storing. Many people waste as much time searching for items that they have “organized” (read as “hidden out-of-sight and out-of-mind”) — as they did when it was all just heaped together in a pile! You should never have to guess where you have put something away.

Your best choice is a clear container that allows you to see what's inside. You're less likely to lose things when you can tell a box's contents without ever having to remove the lid. If you must use an opaque tub, be sure to clearly label it — and be specific! That means going a step farther with your descriptions — not just “Christmas decorations,” but “Christmas lights” or “holiday candles” or “tree ornaments.”

Saying “I'll Put It Here For Now”

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with your storage is creating “in-between” spots for your belongings. The minute you say, “I'll deal with it away later” — you've not only created extra work for yourself later (two steps instead of one), but you have also diminished your chances of actually putting the damned thing away at all!

Rather than sitting something down in the first place you see, make sure you have a set home for each item and a logical reason for putting it there. Cleaning up is quick and easy when you know that your iron lives on the shelf above the washing machine,  and your whisk belongs in the third drawer from the stove. Not to mention the fact that you will actually be able to find that item again when you next need it.

Failing To Subdivide Big Open Spaces

A lot of storage spaces are so big that they become almost impractical. Just dumping your stuff into a huge gaping closet or cabinet doesn't make you organized — in fact, this sort of arrangement can actually encourage clutter. Sometimes it's better to break large spaces up into smaller components.

When dealing with oversized storage, try to find some way to compartmentalize collections of small items. Desk drawers just beg for dividers, your kitchen pantry becomes more manageable with a few shelves, the tools in the garage can be hung on racks, and the extra toiletries in your bathroom closet are less messy when placed in containers.

Ignoring Your Dead Space

Most people wish for expanded storage, but you actually have more room than you think — if you look in the right places. Glance around and see if you've been overlooking spots that contain unrealized organizational possibilities. Taking advantage of underutilized “dead space” can sometimes double or triple your available storage.

Don't forget about the areas under beds, on the backs of doors, near the ceiling, and on the floor.  Hang tools and sports equipment in the garage, hats and belts in the closet, and kid's school bags in your mud room or entryway. Less accessible spots in the basement, garage, and attic are particularly good for storing items you don't get at very often — like holiday decorations and memorabilia.

Failing To Make Adjustments

Remember that your storage is a dynamic system — it should continue to evolve as your interests and lifestyle change. The system you set up today may serve your every need right now, but will it still work for you in a year or two? Organization is a journey, not a destination. And while you can certainly clear up your clutter worries, it takes regular maintenance and revision of your systems to keep it that way.

The key to lasting organization is flexibility — don't be afraid to make changes to your systems when necessary. Keep an eye out for systems that need a little tweaking. If you're experiencing frustrations, can't find what you're looking for, or seem to have run out of space, it's time for an overhaul.

Filling Your Storage To Capacity

Do you ever plan to buy anything new ever again? Even those of us who are committed minimalists are going to eventually bring home a new acquisition — it's unavoidable! But if you stuff your storage spaces to overflowing, where will you put your purchases?

As you organize, think about leaving some free space — room to grow. The general rule of thumb is that you should always have about 15% of your storage unoccupied — that way, when you do go shopping, you won't have to worry about “making” a spot for the newcomers. But if you can't manage that, institute a “one-in/one-out” rule — every time you bring something into your house, something else has to go away. With a little discipline, you'll never run out of room again!

Storing Items Too Far Away

It may seem like common sense, but we don't always think to put things nearest the point where we use them. A poor choice  of storage location makes daily life vastly more complicated than it needs to be! The most direct route to “efficient” is via “convenient,” so keep your storage close to where that activity occurs.

Make an effort to look at your storage with a critical eye — asking yourself if a simple shift in geography would relieve some of your stress. Then feel free to move objects around if your current system doesn't make sense. You don't want to have to walk across your office every time you need something off of the printer — and your child is less likely to put his dirty towel in the hamper if it's in the other room.

Skipping The Yearly Purge

Don't think that once you have set up your storage spaces, you can simply sit back and rest on your laurels. You may be “done” for now, but your system is going to need a little annual TLC if you expect it to keep the clutter at bey. Sure, if you set up an organized space and then never touched it, things would remain in good order — but daily use, changing needs, and the addition of new “stuff” will kill good organization if you aren't careful!

You need to take some time at least once a year to sort through your belongings — pulling out anything that is broken, hasn't been used in the past 12 months, or has become obsolete. The best time for this is during a natural point of transition like a change in the seasons — spring cleaning, back to school, or the New Year.

A Not-So-Fine Line

This is what Nate had to say — “Here's the difference between a collector, which I consider myself, and a hoarder: A collector has no shame involved. It doesn't keep you from having people over. It doesn't impede anything in your life. In fact, it enhances it, because it's so fun to keep looking for the collection.”

My response is “maybe.” My mother considered herself a “collector,” but that didn't make my life any easier when I had to clean out her house after she died. Perhaps the difference has less to do with shame and more to do with focus.

I think true collectors focus in on one or two things they love to accumulate, while hoarders keep lots of everything — collectors seem to have more of a plan or a goal when they acquire something, while hoarders do not — collectors also care about what will happen to their collections (passing them on to someone who will value them), and hoarders definitely don't. It seems as though everyone in the organizing community has a different take on hoarding. There's even talk of making it an officially classifiable mental illness. Check out the proposed DSM-5 criteria:

  • persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions (this difficulty is due to strong urges to save items and/or distress associated with discarding)
  • the symptoms result in the accumulation of a large number of possessions that fill up and clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible — if all living areas are uncluttered, it is only because of the interventions of third parties (e.g., family members, cleaners, authorities)
  • the symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others)
  • the hoarding symptoms are not due to a general medical condition (e.g., brain injury, cerebrovascular disease)
  • the hoarding symptoms are not restricted to the symptoms of another mental disorder (e.g., hoarding due to obsessions in obsessive-compulsive disorder, decreased energy in major depressive disorder, delusions in schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, cognitive deficits in dementia, restricted interests in autism spectrum disorder, food storing in Prader-Willi syndrome)
  • specify if “with excessive acquisition” if symptoms are accompanied by excessive collecting or buying or stealing of items that are not needed or for which there is no available space

That defines the behavior, but it doesn't look at the reasons behind it. So I asked my colleagues to share their thoughts about where hoarding came from — I've summarized and paraphrased their responses:

  • “hoarders tend to define themselves by the objects they own, while collectors do not”
  • “collectors tend to keep their collection in a way that keeps themselves and those items 'safe,' while hoarders do not take safety into account”
  • “hoarding is just collecting that has gotten out of control”
  • “collections are confined and contained, while hoarding occurs in random piles that eventually end up taking over”
  • “collections are organized — hoarding is when there is so much that it can not be located”
  • “collectors see the world as full of abundance and celebrate that — hoarders experienced lack in their life and feel they need to keep everything because they might need it someday”
  • “hoarders feel they are less of a person without their things — collector keep themselves separate from their things”
  • “hoarders accumulate items to boost their self-esteem, while collectors create something that can be admired and possibly have financial value”
  • “collectors have a healthy emotional attachment to their stuff (it makes them feel good), but hoarders have an unhealthy attachment (it makes them feel bad”
  • “collecting improves quality of life, but hoarding deteriorates quality of life (income, relationships, peace of mind)”
  • “collectors choose one or two categories of items to collect (carousel horses, hummels, first editions, etc.), while hoarders keep anything and everything”
  • “collectors become attached to things of value — hoarders become attached to what is essentially trash (newspapers, recyclables, string, used aluminum foil, butter tubs, spoiled food, etc.)”
  • “collectors accumulate out of love, hoarders accumulate out of fear”
  • “collectors choose to collect, while hoarders are driven by compulsion”
  • “hoarders often hide their accumulations away, while collectors display theirs with pride”
  • “collectors look for unique additions to their collection, but hoarders will accumulate numerous identical or duplicate items”
  • “collectors enjoy sharing their collections with others — hoarders find that eventually their obsession with 'stuff' alienates their friends and family”
  • “collectors get a positive sense of satisfaction when they add to their collection — hoarders are simply trying to alleviate negative feelings (anxiety, inadequacy, worry, pain, etc.)”
  • “collectors recognize when their collections have become unmanageable and do something about it — hoarders live in denial”
  • “collectors still insist on a functional living and working space, while hoarders are willing to sacrifice this for their 'stuff'”
  • “collectors only add new items when they feel it will enhance the collection — hoarders can't resist the urge to constantly acquire more”
  • “hoarders refuse to part with anything they own, while collectors are often willing to sell portions of their collection if the right price/buyer comes along”
  • “hoarders can't tell the difference between what is valuable and what is not — collectors understand very clearly the value of the items they own”
  • “collectors honor their collections, while hoarders have a less respectful relationship with their 'stuff'”
  •  “collectors will stop collecting when they feel they have enough, but hoarders never feel they have enough”
  • “collectors will get rid of a collection if they tire of it — hoarders feel compelled to continue accumulating even when doing so loses its joy”
  • “collectors can draw healthy boundaries around their collecting activities, while hoarders are obsessed”
  • “collectors create conscious themes with their collections, while hoarders experience an uncontrollable pile-up of random things”
  • “hoarders value things over relationships, while collectors keep their things in perspective as secondary to the people in their lives”
  • “collectors can trade or sell their collectibles — the things hoarders accumulate are only valuable to them”
  • “collectors pay very close attention to their collections, while hoarders often allow their 'stuff' to languish unused and serving no purpose for years”
  • “collectors take very good care of their things — hoarders let their belongings rot and decay and go bad”
  • “collectors take into account their space restraints and are constantly making room for new items, while hoarders just pile more on top of what is already there”

What do you think — where should we draw the line between collecting and hoarding?