7 ways to move through your clutter from the inside out

Woman in painWhen it comes to clutter, many people think it is just being messy. You can hear them while watching an episode of Hoarders: ” why can’t they just tidy up and throw things out?”

In many cases it is a lot more complicated than this and it has to do with the mental and emotional road blocks which the person in question is facing, resulting in the clutter being a by-product rather than the underlying problem.

A recent article on the website Houzz gave some great tips to move through some of these road blocks:

Our relationship with our home, and the things in it, is charged with emotion — it’s not so easy to let go of things when something as simple as a rusted tackle box or a worn photograph can bring memories flooding back.

Below, find eight ways to move through your own mental and emotional roadblocks to work through your clutter, from the inside out.

 1. Come to terms with whether you’re naturally organized or not. Glossy magazine spreads featuring perfectly organized spaces with nary a stray paper or lone shoe out of place may be fun to look at, but they are not right for everyone. The fact is, some folks are more inclined to be neat and orderly, while others feel more comfortable with a lot of stuff around. Instead of fighting against your nature, learn from it and work with it.

2. Face your fears. This is what stands between you and the refreshingly clean and neat home you wish you had: fear of making a bad choice, fear of tossing out something and regretting it later or fear that a family member will make you feel guilty for getting rid of something. We are all experts at coming up with excuses for keeping things we really don’t want anymore. Confront your fears, and you may find it easier to let go of possessions that have become a burden to you.

3. Tackle your top problem area. What’s the one thing in your home you find it hard to even consider decluttering? Think about starting there. For some it may be books; for others, china or clothes. Find the one thing that would make the biggest impact if you could streamline it, and start your work there. Use tip number three (face your fears) and dig in.

4. Get and stay motivated. Find your motivation by imagining what a clutter-free home would feel like. What would it allow you to do? Why do you want this? Keep your answers in mind as you start decluttering. Once you have gotten the ball rolling, stop yourself from backsliding by developing a few key habits: for every new item you purchase, get rid of a similar item, and when you see something that needs to be cleaned, put away or returned, just do it.

5. A special note for parents. Having kids in the house, as any parent will tell you, can ramp up the chaos in even the most (formerly) orderly homes. Luckily, as parents, we do have control over a great deal of the stuff that enters our homes, including toys. For starters, rethink how many toys and games your child needs — an overabundance of playthings is less appreciated, harder to clean up and more likely to get broken or wasted. To get a crazy-cluttered family home back in shape takes some work; there is no doubt about that. But the habits you form to manage the kid chaos will pay off in sanity at home, and you will be passing those good habits along to your children.

6. Get help if you need it. If you are still feeling overwhelmed or if the job seems too big to take on alone, you can get help! Call a really organized friend and bribe him or her with free food in exchange for decluttering advice or physical help. Or call in a pro. Professional organizers have seen it all, can help you sort out even the most cluttered space, and can teach you systems that will help prevent your overstuffing your home in the future.

7. Take it to the next level: Simplify your life. Once you have been working on paring down for some time and are feeling good about the progress you have made, consider taking things a step further. Downsize to a smaller, easier-to-maintain space, go paperless or challenge yourself to get rid of things you don’t use.

Read the entire article here.

Image courtesy of: scentsandmoods.wordpress.com

Organize your house for back to school

All lined up in a row...

All lined up in a row…

Wherever you are in the world, there is one time of year parents dread: Back to school time. Here in the US summer is nearly over so it’s time to hit the shops to buy uniforms, sports equipment, stationary and text books. And its time to shake the sand out of their shoes and get the whole family organized and ready for the new school year.

Kathryn Weber from Red Lotus Letter recently wrote an article for LA Times that highlighted some great organizing ideas to keep the family in line:

 Paper shuffle

Without question, paper is one of the biggest sources of clutter around the house once school starts. Finding a way to tame the storm will keep the house looking neater and help keep your kids be better prepared. The first step is to determine which pieces of paper need to be available and at your disposal. This includes lunch menus, announcements and the school calendar. Those can be posted on the fridge or a bulletin board for easy access.

For other papers, create a storage file and an active file for each child. The file can be a simple folder where you keep important papers such as sign-up instructions for after school activities, or even artwork you want to save for a scrapbook or framing later. Stash the folder(s) in a file box or file drawer in a desk.

Next, set up a file holder that stays on a counter or at the desk. Label individual folders for each child for papers you need to look at or, sign, or that they need to work on.

Corral the kids

Designate a place to stash all those extra shoes, jackets and sporting equipment. If your kids need somewhere for balls, bats, gloves and helmets, why not take a cue from school and keep these items in a locker? Companies like ULine (uline.com) have closed and ventilated lockers perfect for athletic equipment and supplies. Place lockers in the laundry room or garage, and keep the odors out there, too.

Indoors, find a spot for backpacks, jackets, scarves and hats so they don’t end up scattered throughout the house. This also helps keep kids find their items quickly in the morning. An entryway organizer, such as a shelf with hooks or pegs, is the perfect answer for backpacks and jackets. Don’t have room? A simple hall tree saves space.

 Organize the desk

Now that parents are more involved with their children’s homework, it helps to create a work center spot where students have access a computer and can seek help from Mom and Dad. Parents can also easily check to see if their young scholars are studying or surfing the web, texting, talking on the phone, etc. Create an address book to store online passwords and make logging into online assignments easier.

Read the entire article from LA Times here and for more information, contact Kathryn Weber through her Web site Red Lotus Letter.

Image courtesy of CraftySouthernMama.blogspot.com

Organization Skills for Children with Aspergers

aspergersI recently had a client with a “chronically messy” daughter who we later found out had Aspergers. After doing some research on how Aspergers affects organisation skills, I came across a website called My Aspergers Child which had some great tips I thought I would share with my readers: 

Below are some ways in which children and teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can organize and prioritize daily activities and tasks. At first, parents may need to have a lot of involvement introducing the techniques and helping their child to get used to using them. Also, the techniques can be used in more than one place (e.g., at home and at school). 

Therefore, it is important that everyone who is using them (e.g., parents, babysitters, teachers, friends, etc.) uses them consistently. Over time, most children and teens with Aspergers will be able to use the strategies independently (although some may always need a certain degree of support). 

Organizations Skills

 1. Be a coach: For the best results, you’ll want to be a low-key coach. You can ask questions that will help your child get on track and stay there. But use these questions only to prompt their thought process about what needs to be done.

 2. Color coding for tasks: Colors can be used to indicate the importance or significance of tasks (e.g., chores, homework, etc.), and therefore help to prioritize tasks and work through them in a logical sequence. For example, a note on the child’s bulletin board written in red could mean “urgent.” A note on the bulletin board written in green could mean “pending.” And a note written in blue is not important or has no timescale attached to it.

 3. Lists: Lists, both written and pictorial, can help children with Aspergers in the same way as color coding. Lists can also be a good way of (a) registering achievements (e.g., by crossing something off when he/she has completed the task) and (b) reassuring the child that he/she is getting things done.

 4. Make a plan: Decide on one thing to focus on first. You can come up with three things and let your youngster choose one (e.g., if homework or a particular chore has been a problem, that’s the natural place to begin).

 5. Praise progress, but don’t go overboard: The self-satisfaction children will feel will be a more powerful motivator.

 6. Sell your youngster on the idea of “staying organized”: Brainstorm about what might be easier or better if your youngster was more organized and focused. Maybe homework would get done faster, there would be more play time, and there would be less nagging about chores. Then there’s the added bonus of your youngster feeling proud and you being proud, too.

 7. Set expectations: Be clear, in a kind way, that you expect your children to work on these skills and that you’ll be there to help along the way.

 8. Social stories and comic strip conversations: Social stories and comic strip conversations can be a really good way of illustrating the consequences of an action and can help children to understand why it’s good to be organized (e.g., what might happen if the child doesn’t get his/her homework done).

 9. Task boxes, envelopes and files: Children can store work or belongings in set places, so that they aren’t misplaced or forgotten.

 10. Teaching materials: You may find that certain teaching materials (e.g., sequence cards, games, timers, clocks, etc.) help some Aspergers kids to understand the concept of time and sequences. Materials like this can be adapted and used in different places (e.g., home and school).

Read the entire article here. 

Image courtesy of:  My Aspergers Child.com

 

The 5 benefits of a “docking station” in the home.

The perfect docking station

The perfect docking station

This is one of my favourite pieces of advice to give clients – make yourself a docking station! What do I mean by this? A docking station is a place where things land that come in the house – whether it is the mail, your hand bag, the kids school notes etc – to be dealt with so they don’t end up all over the house causing clutter.  It is a sorting place, a communications centre, the hub of the home basically. Unclutter.com wrote a post on the 5 benefits of what they call a “destination station” which sums it up quite nicely:

Here are five benefits of creating one for yourself:

  1. Stay in the know.  A destination station can be a place to stay in contact with family members and housemates even when you’re not all present. For example, you can post a calendar to keep track of joint appointments, parent-teacher meetings, vacation schedules, etc. You can also mount a chalkboard to leave important notes and messages.
  2. Find things quickly and easily in one central location. Skip the scavenger hunt for bills that need to be paid or items that you need to mail or return to the store. Instead, keep those items in the command center so you can quickly put your hands on them when you need to, and use baskets and containers to collect specific items in an organized way. By having them in one central spot, you won’t have to search your entire home to find what you’re looking for when you need it.
  3. Keep track of frequently used items. The command center can also be a place to keep things you use often. This can be a great spot for your keys, daily bag, mobile phone and charger, tablet, sunglasses, or any other items you need before heading out the door. You might even install a hook for your favorite jacket. Again, since the items are kept in one location, you’ll always find your things quickly and easily.
  4. Stop clutter from creeping into various spaces. When the things in your home don’t have permanent storage places, they can often bounce about various rooms and create clutter. It can be tricky to know where to put things that won’t be staying in your house, and the destination station will give you a location to organize and store your stuff until it’s time for the items to leave.

Read the entire article here.

Deciding when to let go of your children’s toys

What stays and what goes?

What stays and what goes?

This is a topic that challenges many of my clients with children. It is more often than not themselves, rather than the children, that have trouble letting go of the toys and games. Unclutterer.com had some great ideas to help with this clutter challenge:

Letting go of toys can be difficult because you may be considering passing them on to younger or future children or you might think that reducing the number of toys means that you’re depriving your children of enjoyment and learning experiences.

How do you decide when it’s okay to let toys go?

Observe your children during playtime

When I was a teacher, I spent a good amount of time observing the children in my classroom. This helped me create lessons that suited their learning styles. Though interacting with them gave me lots of insight, I found that simply observing them when they were “in the moment” helped me to get to know them better. To truly discover the types of toys that your children love (or don’t love), you’ll likely need to do this as well. That doesn’t mean that you need to spend an entire hour with a clipboard in hand ready to jot down what you see. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to figure out which toys they reach for often and which one they don’t pay much attention to. Those that are not as interesting to them anymore are great candidates for donation. And, you can then decide which specific toys you’d like to introduce them to.

Look for toys that do similar things

I once worked for an organization where the motto was, “Each child is unique, precious, and unrepeatable.” Toys on the other hand, are not necessarily unique. You may have duplicates or several that function in extremely similar ways. As I mentioned before, your children will let you know which are their favorites based on their typical play habits. This means you can easily donate or give away the ones they don’t play with often.

Swap toys in/out regularly

Limiting the number of toys that your children have to play with will help you get a better sense of their likes and dislikes, and give them ample opportunities to play with specific things. Having fewer toys to focus on can be less overwhelming for them and they can get on with the business of fully learning about each one (rather than bouncing around from item to item). Rotating toys in and out will also stop them from taking over adult spaces and will make it easier to unclutter and maintain children’s areas in your home.

Once you’ve determined which toys your children no longer play with (and which ones you’ll keep in rotation), you can do a toy swap with friends or donate gently used items to a local charity.

To read more from Unclutterer.com click here.

6 Tips to Teach Toddlers about Organising

A big toy box makes it easy...

This is such a common complaint amongst many of my working mum clients – how can I get my kids to pick up after themselves so I don’t have to do it all the time?

This post from Unclutter gives 6 great tips on how you can do just that – and watch them grow up to be organising geniuses!

The following are a handful of suggestions for responsibilities that are appropriate for toddlers and some recommendations for teaching these skills:

  • Hanging up her coat. Put a couple of hooks on the back of the coat closet door at a low enough height that your daughter can reach the hook but high enough so her coat won’t drag on the ground. When your daughter comes inside the house, let her be responsible for putting her coat on her hook.
  • Wiping down the bathroom countertop. Get a small stool for your child to use in the bathroom when he is brushing his teeth, combing his hair, and washing his hands. Have a stack of wash cloths or hand towels within reach that he can use to wipe his face, dry his hands, and then wipe up any spilled and splashed water from the counter top.
  • Making her bed each morning. Pulling up the sheet and pulling up the comforter are tasks that most kids can handle by two and a half.
  • Putting dirty clothes in the hamper. Have a hamper that your child can easily put clothes into and see the clothes inside the basket. After you assist your child in getting out of his clothes and into his pajamas, hand him his clothes and ask him to put them in the hamper. As your child gets older and can dress himself, simply monitor him to ensure that he continues with this responsibility. (Hampers without lids are best, it doesn’t encourage leaving clothes on top).
  • Setting the table. By age three, most children will be able to set a table with minimum supervision. Having placemats is a terrific way for helping children learn where cups, plates, silverware, and napkins typically go on a table.
  • Returning toys to their storage locations. After playing with toys, toddlers should return them to their proper storage bins or shelves. As a result, storage shelves and bins need to be within your child’s reach. Label bins and shelves with pictures of what belongs in each space. Programs like Microsoft Word that include clip art are great for finding toy illustrations. It takes younger children significantly more time to pick up toys than older children, so be sure to leave time in your schedule for your child to pick up her toys before needing to move on to another activity.

Read the entire article here: http://unclutterer.com/2011/04/07/teaching-toddlers-about-organizing/

Six Top Tips for Reducing Toy Clutter

Caught! In the clutter...

Do you need help keeping on top of your kid’s toys?
Do you feel as if you’re constantly picking up toys?
Do you dread birthday parties because it means your kids will get more toys?
One client even confessed how she would like to throw away her kids’ toys while they sleep!

It doesn’t have to be so drastic. Instead of secretly throwing away your children’s toys you can involve them in the process of clearing out the clutter. Of course, this depends on your child’s age. Don’t expect a 2-year-old to agree to willingly part with any of his belongings.

Ask yourself: what toys do my children actually need? Do I have any rules in place to keep down the clutter? Or should I just resign myself to the fact that having children means being overwhelmed by toys?

Certainly, no matter how much they feel they must have the latest techno gadget, kids don’t actually need toys. As most of us have witnessed, children often have more fun playing with the box the present came in than the actual present.

Here are six top tips for reducing toy clutter:
http://www.domesticdownsizing.com.au/six%20top%20tips%20for%20reducing%20toy%20clutter