Organization action plan: get an organized kitchen with shoeboxes and wicker
De-cluttering your home isn’t as hard as you might think. You just need a system.
How many times have you promised yourself you'd get organized, only to go out and buy a bunch of storage tubs and then forget all about them? Or perhaps you've gotten started millions of times before but you just can't keep it up? I won't recommend fancy products for organizing your clutter, but I will teach you how to get started and stay on track. The good news: it doesn't take a lot of time or effort but it does come down to a simple four-step process. Follow this plan and you'll get organized!
Before you take the plunge and get started with your project, you first need to create an action plan. Take the time to get a realistic view of your clutter. Zoom in on one area of your most cluttered space, and let's begin your organizational journey there.
Whether you use a spreadsheet, write ideas in a spiral notebook, or jot down random thoughts in a journal, it's crucial to make notes and track your progress on a regular basis.
First, list your biggest organizational nightmare in your planning notes, focusing on just one area for now.
My Biggest Organizational Nightmare is:
Next, write down the biggest clutter-free dream you have for your newly organized space:
My #1 Clutter-Free Dream:
Your action plan notes might look something like this:
Nightmare: My messy kitchen. I can't see the countertops for all the clutter, and most of it's not even mine!
Dream: Clear off countertops with space for cooking, making lunches, and a file rack for our family's files.
Second, if you want to take it further, create a master plan for success by listing all the rooms in your home on a large sheet of paper. Choose the one that you would like to begin with and put the number “1” beside it. Find the second biggest organizing challenge and place a “2” beside it, etc.
Continue this prioritizing process until you have assigned a number to each of the areas that you have selected. Don't be too overwhelmed by all the items on your list. Remember, we're only tackling one trouble spot, so we'll just concentrate on that one for now.
Finally, set a realistic due date to organize your trouble spot and then mark that date on your planning sheet. Don't just guess -- grab a calendar and make a real effort to reach that deadline. Mark off each room as it is completed and include that date in your notes. This will serve as a realistic guideline for future projects as well as a reminder that you can really do this!
With your action plan under your belt, now it's time to start sorting through the clutter. Be sure to take a good look at your plan and tackle only one area at a time. (Don't worry, the rest of the clutter will still be there when you're ready to conquer it later!) Take these steps:
- Create the following sorting labels on 8.5 x 11” inch paper: Trash, Keep, Sell, and Undecided. Set up sturdy and easy-to-use sorting boxes for your project. Tape the labels onto your boxes so you can easily remove and save them for other organizing projects.
- Sort the items one at a time working around the area in an orderly fashion. You can go in a clockwise, counterclockwise or zigzag pattern – whatever feels the most natural to you. Focus on sorting first, then worry about the storage later. Remember not to get too attached to anything you touch during this step. Later, during your break, you can take the time to travel down memory lane while flipping through Junior's baby book. Right now it's time for action!
- Get the kids to help you or invite a friend to join in. Listen to upbeat music to keep you moving and on track. Try not to leave your sorting area to put things away – this will inevitably sidetrack you and you'll forget to return to where you first began.
- Take the Trash box outside to your garbage can, dumpster, or curb so you don't have to deal with it taking up valuable space.
- Take the Sell box to your car or van to be dropped off at your local resell shop. (Or, delegate this job to your spouse or teenager.) Once that's done, take the time to go through your Undecided box again. When you're this far in the process, it's much easier to be ruthless and toss out things that you would normally hoard. After sorting through it, if anything is left over, move it to the hallway for now.
- Address the Keep box, which is the only box you'll actually be organizing. Search your closets for any shoeboxes, plastic crates and wicker baskets you've held onto throughout the years. Remember that it's the process, not the product, that works best for your new system, so don't feel you have to go out and buy new organizing tubs and containers if you can make do with what you already own. (Besides, using what you have means you're taking care of even more clutter. And you didn't have to take out a home improvement loan to do it, either!)
If you've done your homework properly, and didn't skip ahead, your organizing job will be much simpler than you thought. You need to assign a home for your treasured items, and then return to after they've been used.
- Create zones or centers, like in a kindergarten classroom, to keep track of your household objects. Take a moment and close your eyes, picturing yourself or your family using these household items. Mentally walk through a typical day, thinking how and where you would use these items. Or if you're a hands-on learner and need to write things down to make better sense of your thoughts, use your action plan to take notes. By thinking about where those items will be used and putting them there, you are assigning a home and establishing a good habit for the future.
- Store things where they'll be used instead of wherever you have room for them. There's no fast rule for organizing your things; common sense will play a big role here. Store tools in the basement or garage, arts & crafts supplies in the hobby room or kitchen, and extra paper towels in the kitchen pantry. Don't be afraid to do some rearranging or moving to keep things where they belong. You can always come back and make adjustments later to improve your new organizing system.
- Use storage containers creatively to contain clutter you've already sorted, keeping in mind that the most-used items should be the most accessible. In other words, things you use every day should be in plain sight or in a main cabinet, while those items you only use once a month or less can be stored in a closet, on a shelf, or in a sturdy tub. Wicker baskets, shoeboxes and plastic crates make wonderful containers for books, photos and cookie cutters.
- Remember the four basic principles of storage solutions:
1) Hang it up
2) Put it in a drawer
3) Store it on the floor
4) Shelve it
If you use these four simple strategies you can easily contain the clutter in a closet, garage, basement, bathroom, or playroom. The concepts are the same despite the area to be de-cluttered. You can hang a bathroom towel on a peg rack from the dollar store, for example, or invest in an expensive over-the-door rack from an upscale home decor catalog – it all depends on your budget and the style you have in mind.
Maintain, maintain, maintain. For most people this is the most challenging (and overlooked) step in organizing. It's fairly easy to start a system, but how do you keep it intact? Remember all those creative ideas you came up with during the organizing step of your project: using file boxes, baskets, and storage boxes to store your clutter? Those created a home for your papers and knick-knacks, and so that's where you should continue to place incoming items on a regular basis. Don't let this step overwhelm you – it's simply a matter of cleaning as you go, and then making an endeavor to put things back where they belong.
Try these specific tips to get you started:
- Clean out your junk drawer once a month
- File important papers once a week
- Purge your pantry and cabinets monthly
- Archive papers every year to make room for current ones
Take the 15-minute challenge, everyday. Grab a laundry basket, set the timer, make it a game with your family and go get that clutter! Tackle a different room each day and you'll keep things tidy on an ongoing basis. What's more, you won't have to scramble to find lost items or try to tidy the living room before company comes.
Create a long-term plan. Make room for activities such as baking, crafting, bill-paying, studying, and playing. The bill-paying zone, for example, will probably be in your kitchen rather than an office if you're like most busy moms. You may have an arts & crafts zone set up in your home office for the children to use as they work alongside you during the day, or perhaps it's neatly stored in a portable tote in the kitchen.