Decluttering Your House & Home With These 12 Key Tips
As the mom of two boys who are unexpectedly done with their school year and the owner of a business built on in-home consultations, I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. You, too? At first, it wasn’t too bad finding a balance between structure and trying to take advantage of the extra time with my kids. Then remote learning happened and I was struggling. Social distancing is disruptive and stressful—but, of course, it’s also necessary.
I felt the need to do something. Anything. And so the mini-projects were born. I created them for two reasons—
- I have a list of clients who are anxious to get their homes “in good order” as soon as social distancing ends. I didn’t want them to have to wait that long.
- I’m stuck at home and tackling some of these challenges myself.
When I posted the first mini-project on Instagram, another organizer commented that it was nice to feel like she had control over something during this mess. The control part really resonated with me. Because when everything else is happening *to* us, being able to control something—even it’s just your junk drawer or inbox—feels pretty good.
Hang in there. Get some fresh air, get some exercise, get organized. We’re all in this together.
There’s a lot of talk about grocery shopping these days. But before you head to the store, take stock of what you already have. Check expiration dates on all of your pantry contents. Toss any expired items. Make sure you have enough snacks because no one needs hangry. Make note of anything you may need to add or replace. And as you plan your meals, use the items in the order they’ll expire.
2. Fridge & Freezer
We tackled the pantry; let’s tackle the rest of our food supply.
Same rules – throw out any expired food. Take stock of what’s left. Think about how you can work leftovers into this week’s meal plan and use them first. Then incorporate the fresh food you already have into breakfasts, lunches, and dinners before it goes bad.
We are relying on our phones now more than ever. When you’re #socialdistancing, your phone lets you stay in touch with family, friends, and colleagues. It also allows you to order everything from groceries and books to medicine and pet food. But a cluttered phone complicates things.
Delete any apps you don’t use and then organize the remaining apps into folders. (Bonus points for color-coding!) Delete notes, text chains and voicemails you no longer need. Download or back up your photos and update all of your apps. Back up your phone. The final step: disinfect your phone. You can find plenty of good tutorials online.
With citizens in more and more states being told to shelter in place, now is a great time to take stock of your medications – prescription and over-the-counter. Dispose of expired meds. (Warning: make sure you dispose of them properly, not just tossing them into the trash. There are detailed articles about how to dispose of medication safely on the internet.)
If there’s something you need, stock up via delivery or drive-through pickup. With more and more businesses limiting their services and hours, now is also a good time to make sure any elderly or immuno-compromised folks in your life have all the over-the-counter and prescription meds they need for the next couple of months.
5. Your Entertainment Queue
Now more than ever we need to take the time to relax, rest and recharge. One of my favorite ways to do that is to binge-watch a great show, listen to a podcast, or to snuggle up with my boys in front of a movie. Today’s challenge is to get your entertainment queue in good order so at the end of a long day you don’t have to waste 15 minutes figuring out what to watch.
Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have built-in features that allow you to create watchlists. Goodreads is great for bookworms. The Sofa app lets you organize all your media lists in one app (but it’s only available for iPhones). If you prefer to DIY, you can always use Google Sheets, the Notes app on your phone, or a simple paper notebook.
6. Cleaning Supplies
Spring cleaning has taken on a whole new meaning this year. This mini-project is sorting out your cleaning supplies. Start by removing them all from whatever closet, shelf or container you keep them in. Group like items together and combine any half-empty bottles of the same item. Survey sponges, brushes, and mop heads to determine what you need to replace or sanitize.
When it comes to storing your supplies, there are two schools of thought: Some like to keep everything in a caddy and move it from room to room as you clean. Others like to keep the cleaning supplies for each room in that room: the stainless-steel wipes stay in the kitchen, while the tile cleaner is stowed in the bathroom. You get the idea. Do what works best for you.
7. Kids’ Lunchboxes and Backpacks
How many times have you reached into your child’s backpack, searching for a permission slip, only to discover a fine layer of Goldfish dust at the bottom of the bag? Since school is now over for the year, let’s get those backpacks and lunchboxes cleaned out. Start by enlisting your kids’ help: get them to empty out everything and put the wayward water bottles in the dishwasher and stray socks in the hamper.
Pretreat stains and use a minimal amount of detergent. I found these machine-washable lunch boxes via shopthebuyguide.com. But if you’ve never washed your lunchboxes or backpacks, try the gentle cycle first. Throw in some rags or towels to balance the machine.
While the washer does the dirty work, have the kids help you sort through the school supplies and piles of paper and throw away anything they don’t need. Air dry the lunchboxes and backpacks.
Every time I clean out my purse, I find a gift card I’ve forgotten about. We could all use a happy little surprise, so let’s declutter our purse (or wallet). These become cluttered easily. The good news is that it’s just as easy to unclutter them.
Empty your purse or wallet completely. Throw away trash and return any stray items to their proper place. Inventory what remains and group similar items in small, zippered pouches. Gift and reward cards go in one pouch, business cards and pens go in another—you get the idea. This not only keeps your purse tidier; it also makes it easier to switch from one bag to another.
9. Makeup Bag
Although I am proud to say I’m showering on a regular basis and not wearing pajamas all day, I will admit that I haven’t been wearing much makeup during this #stayathome effort. That said, I hope it won’t be too long before we’re all out and about. Which brings us to this mini-project: your makeup bag.
Take everything out and then assess. Get rid of anything that is expired, broken or melted. Check the packaging for the expirations date – look for the jar with a #M. That’s how many months you should use the product before tossing. Pro tip: when you buy new makeup, use a sharpie to write the purchase date on the item so you’ll know when it’s time to throw it away. Wipe out your makeup bag and repack.
10. Glovebox & Console
Save this one for a warm, sunny day: your car’s glove box and console. Empty both completely and sort through the piles of paper, pens and pencils, melted chapstick and other items that tend to accumulate in these areas.
After discarding what you don’t need, make sure you have the essentials: current proof of insurance, vehicle registration, and your roadside assistance info. It can’t hurt to throw in some disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer if you don’t already have some in your car.
11. Email Inbox
As if keeping your inbox clutter-free weren’t challenging enough, over the last few weeks, we’ve been inundated with messages from every organization we’ve ever interacted with. Take a little time today to clean out your inbox so you don’t miss anything important.
By default, most inboxes are sorted by date; try sorting by sender before you get started. I find this speeds up the process. Also, consider using an app like @unrollme, to simplify unsubscribing.
12. Junk Drawer
Every client home I’ve ever visited has a junk drawer. And while these drawers often contain some pretty useful stuff—from scissors and stamps to paper clips and pencils—they can quickly get out of control.
Start by completely emptying the drawer. Sort and group like items, toss the takeout menus (that’s what the internet is for), and test pens and markers to see if they’re still good. Return lost items to their proper homes (screwdrivers to the workbench; prescriptions to the medicine cabinet, etc.) and toss any mystery keys and crusty batteries. When you put everything back, use drawer organizers to tame the chaos.