Home organizing doesn’t have to be complicated.
Many of my clients feel overwhelmed because they don’t know where to begin. These 5 tips are the fundamental principles to guide you in starting a home organizing project and keeping your home permanently organized.
Perhaps you heard your mother or grandmother say, “A place for everything and everything in its place”, but I bet you never had a real sit-down lesson in how to manage your home.
Here are the 5 basic principles for having an organized home.
1. Every item has a home
We all know that books belong on the bookshelf, but with all the myriad of things that we have in each room, it matters that we assign each item or collection of items a “home” or permanent place to keep our home neat and uncluttered.
Decide with intention where everything belongs, room by room. In the living room magazines and remote controls will go on the coffee table or in a basket. In the bedroom, slippers will go under the bed or in a closet. In the kitchen mugs go above the coffee maker and baking utensils go in the drawer nearest the largest counter space.
These are examples of course, but it’s important to make a decision that makes the most sense for your way of life and then stick with it. Everyone in the house needs to know these defined spaces and agree to put their things back in their home after use.
2. Home Stations
Home stations are the essential areas set up in every room to help you manage the flow and use of your things.
An important station in every home is the entryway. When entering a home, you may be bringing in mail, have keys in your hand or be holding a handbag, and wearing a coat. You should have a table set up near the front door to place the mail for yourself and your family. Here you can set down the keys. You may have a coat rack or a closet nearby to hang your coat or umbrella. In Winter, a basket for gloves and scarves is a big help.
Having an entryway station will ensure that you are not dumping your things throughout the house and making a mess and losing things. No mail on the dining room table or keys lost in the kitchen or on the bedroom dresser. Entryway stations visually direct people’s activities coming and going from the house.
Other rooms have stations too. Bedrooms can have stations for a small home office or dressing area. Playrooms or kid’s rooms have stations for different activities such as crafts or imaginary play or even a cozy reading or homework area.
3. The Boat Rule
In order to maintain your home and keep it from getting cluttered, I quote my friend Perry who grew up on a sailboat: “If something comes on the boat, something goes off the boat.” Organizers typically call this the “One In/One Out Rule."
While it's unlikely that you live on a small boat, if you live with the philosophy that you have infinite space in your house for everything that you and your family thinks is cute or fabulous or interesting, you will have a very cluttered home!
If nothing else, this rule helps you intentionally decide what to bring into the home. This includes even smaller items like mugs and kid’s toys.
4. Knowing what to keep
Organizing guru Marie Kondo says to keep what "Sparks Joy". Unless something is useful or sparks joy in you, don’t keep it.
The two biggest clutter creators for most people are clothes and ….. their kid’s things! We keep clothes that don’t fit, don’t look good, don’t make us feel good because well, they are still “good”. We feel guilty giving them away. Don’t. Get them out of your closets and donate them where they will actually do some good.
After you have cleaned out your closets, begin to go through your children’s things. If your kids are still little, don’t expect them to joyfully give up their things. Children are possessive and need help weeding through what’s appropriate to keep and what needs to move on to another child. However, you can help them make a special display of their truly most precious toys and possessions.
For the grown up and out of the house children, do not feel guilty. If they don’t love it enough to keep in their own home, then they don’t need or want it. Your house is not a storage facility.
5. Who’s In Charge?
Keeping your home organized and neat is a team effort. The key to keeping your home and family life harmonious is by designating house responsibilities. Some of these are communal responsibilities that everyone agrees to and others are assigned to one person.
For example, everyone must put back any items that they removed from their “home”. When everyone respects the home they live in, they are showing respect for each other.
Other duties are best designated to one person to avoid confusion. Sometimes the well-intentioned theory of pitching in where “everyone does it”, becomes “nobody does it”. Designating one person for a particular task makes sure it gets done. For example, someone needs to be responsible to manage the incoming mail, including throwing away the junk mail.
These tasks will vary from home to home, but the key is to invest the time to clarify the rules in your own home.
Organizing your home is a journey. Take your time. Don’t feel rushed. Little by little or room by room, you will think about what you want to have around you, what you truly need and what makes you feel joyful or even just content. Don’t think of organizing as a chore. Think of it as an act of caring for your possessions, yourself and your family.