Most people start the new year with the best intentions for getting organized, but by mid-January are back to their messy ways. It's easy to give up, after all, when there are so many obstacles-sloppy kids, a packed calendar-standing between you and a clutter-free home. But rather than calling it quits until 2012, why not face your organizing demons head-on? We consulted experts and learned the 10 most common organizing excuses that people make-and found easy-to-achieve solutions that will make a messy home a thing of the past.
Excuse: "I can't get rid of items I spent good money on."
Even if your laptop cost $1,000 in 1995, it's probably not worth a cent now-most tech items depreciate in a matter of years, so depending on its age, chances are no one's going to buy your clunker. (Click here to find out where you can donate old goods, including electronics.) But if you're looking to get rid of a relatively new tech item, search eBay to see if it's worth selling. If the gadget isn't in good enough condition to sell or you don't want the hassle of dealing with customers, check out Gazelle.com, which buys electronics to resell or accepts obsolete products to recycle for no fee. When it comes to old clothing and books, Alejandra Costello, a professional organizer and cofounder of Color-Coded, suggests selling them to recoup some of the cash you spent on them. Start setting stuff aside for a springtime yard sale now, or consider selling them online. (Check eBay or Craigslist to see what similar items are going for.)
Excuse: "I pack things up and store them-but my house is still a mess."
Lots of people ring in a new year by splurging on containers. ("This is the year I'll get organized!" Sound familiar?) But "buying containers is the last step in the organizing process," says Pauline Wiles, owner of organizing company The English Organizer. The more containers you amass, the more clutter you create. The first step is sorting through your stuff and getting rid of things like stray chargers, clothes that don't fit, kitchen tools you don't use and makeup you haven't worn in years. The only things that should go in storage containers are out-of-season items (beach towels, winter accessories) or heirloom items (photo albums, your grandmother's table linens).
Excuse: "My kids never keep their stuff organized."
A highly specific organizing plan won't go far with little ones. "Kids need things to be very simple," says Wiles. She suggests keeping your system as easy as possible by using hooks, which are always visible and can be hung within little arms' reach. School bags and jackets can go on hooks by the door; label each hook with a child's name so they all know whose things go where. In the bathroom, give each child his or her own towel (get them involved by letting them pick a color) and hook. Hooks installed on the inside wall of closets are perfect for pajamas, robes and other items that don't need to be washed between wearings.
Excuse: "I don't have time to get organized."
If you spend a full weekend organizing your kitchen, you'll wind up burned out. Instead of a marathon decluttering session, Wiles recommends dedicating 5 to 10 minutes to organizing each day; just commit to cleaning out one shelf of your medicine cabinet or a single nightstand drawer. "Start small and build on that," she urges. Brenda Kenny, a professional organizer with Busy Bee Organizing Solutions, uses a timer to keep herself on track. "Set an egg timer for 15 minutes every day, and during that time focus on nothing but decluttering." For more ideas on how to tackle the small stuff, click here.
Excuse: "Why should I bother? Everything just gets cluttered again."
Getting the same (messy) results over and over again? Then it's time to overhaul the system. If your family is notorious for having messy dresser tops, for example, set up a charging station near the front door where everyone can drop his or her electronics. We love this charging valet, which can accommodate up to four rechargeable gadgets. Chargers and cords are hidden inside the box, and there's room on top for a wallet and sunglasses so you won't have to scramble when you're rushing out the door. To give your teenager a hand with her piles of accessories, screw 10 small hooks into the side of her dresser, says Dawn Billesbach, founder of timesaving site MenuFortheWeek.com. They're the perfect place to hang necklaces, bracelets, sunglasses and belts-all the things that usually clutter the top of a dresser or fall behind it.
Excuse: "I don't have the money to get organized."
"Organizing doesn't need to cost a penny!" says Jessica Dolan, professional organizer with Room to Breathe Home Organizing. In fact, if you stop buying things for your home, you'll save money-and be on your way to becoming more organized. Rather than shopping for high-tech organizing gizmos, take advantage of what you already have: You can use shoeboxes for receipts and loose batteries, reclaim a shelf in the linen closet by donating unwanted linens to a pet shelter and "find" room in your dresser by paring down your wardrobe to items you actually wear-no custom-made solutions required.
Excuse: "I can't get rid of things that have sentimental value."
"Letting go of an object that belonged to a person you love won't remove or negate your memories of that person," says Melinda Massie, president of Organizing with a Side of Fabulous. Consider alternate uses for prized heirlooms: Frame and display a few of your late uncle's favorite albums and donate the rest of his record collection to a secondhand music shop, where music lovers will find (and appreciate!) them. If there are items you can't bear to part with-your daughter might want your grandmother's china in 20 years-pack them up carefully and put them in a long-term storage space, like the attic, where they won't clutter up your living space. If you're setting linens aside for a few decades, make sure they're clean and dry, and put them in a waterproof container.
Excuse: "I'm too stressed out to worry about organizing."
Getting a handle on your mess may actually help you control your stress. "Feelings of anxiety about things that are out of our control can be diminished by exercising influence over our environment," says Joseph Cilona, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York City. If your boss has been giving you grief about a client or your car's "Check Engine" light is on again, coming home to a messy house is only going to exacerbate your anxiety. Plus, 20 minutes a day spent clearing clutter is considered a low-intensity workout, which has been found to increase energy and decrease fatigue, says Dr. Cilona. Rather than collapsing in front of the TV at the end of the day, dedicate some time to emptying trash from your purse or tossing the plastic takeout containers that have been multiplying under the kitchen sink.
Excuse: "I'm buried in paper-and it keeps on coming."
One of the easiest ways to eliminate paper clutter is by tossing instruction manuals. Most manufacturers keep easy-to-download manuals online. And really, when was the last time you consulted the instructions for your DVD player or dishwasher? Throw all of those in the recycling bin, and you'll probably have an empty drawer left behind. Next up: Stop the influx of paper clutter by putting an end to junk mail, once and for all. Register with 41pounds.org, and for less than $10 a year, they'll eliminate up to 95 percent of the credit card offers, catalogs and coupon fliers your household receives. Deal with what's left in your mailbox-bills and personal correspondence-right away to avoid a mountain of envelopes, suggests lifestyle expert Jorj Morgan.
Excuse: "I'm going to need this soon, so I'll just leave it out."
Where do the agenda for your meeting in two weeks, the birthday card that you must remember to send and the summer vacation plane tickets that you don't want to lose wind up? On your desk, naturally. "The stuff on your desktop probably grows as if you poured fertilizer on it," says Laura Stack, president of The Productivity Pro. The key to a clean surface is to reserve the top of your desk for tasks that you're working on today. Here's how Stack keeps her desk in check and manages not to misplace important documents: Buy 43 hanging folders to go in an easily accessible drawer or cabinet. Label 12 by month (January, February and so on) and label the remaining folders to represent the days in a month (1 through 31). The "day" folders go after the folder for the current month, and your papers are sorted by the date you need to deal with them. Things you'll need further in the future (like those plane tickets) go into the appropriate month's folder, and are sorted by day when the "day" folders arrive there.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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