Absolute #9 – Organize from BIG to small

Big – like a whole storage room garage

 

 

make up

 

 

 

Small – like your makeup bag

This absolute or rule of mine is another way of saying, “start by looking at the big picture.” I think many people are overwhelmed with the concept of organizing their home. They don’t know where to start so they start small. They fold clothes on shelves, clean out a junk drawer, put little pieces of toys in a bin. All of those exercises are worthwhile and can help you straighten up your home, but they don’t take into account the big picture. Here are some quick tips on how you can organize from big to small.

  1. If you want to organize your whole house, take a walk through it with a notebook. Write down the function of each room and then what needs to get out and what needs to stay in that room. Then move things to the right room.
  2. If you are tackling one room or area, categorize everything in there first. Start with what you see – items on shelves, table tops, floor, your bed, etc. Then dig deep into drawers, closets and pull everything out. You may be surprised at the biggest pile!
  3. Address each pile separately and purge what needs to go out: donate, trash, recycle and move to another room might be your sorts here.
  4. Now we get into the small stuff. What you have left in the room needs to find a home. That could mean a shelf, a drawer, a closet or new bins.
  5. If you are left with some itty bitty categories like jewelry, foreign money, craft notions, or baseball cards you can put those in a temporary bin, take them out of the room and do a mini categorize, purge & re-arrange. That can be done while watching TV.

By following these tips you will have done a thorough clean out. I’ve seen it work in all kinds of homes for the last 11 years. And if you want to re-arrange your sock drawer so be it. But starting small will take you a long time to get the whole house in order.

Fall is a Great Time to Organize Your Garage!

I think there are some common problems with garages that people share no matter where they live.

  1. They’re not just for keeping cars – we use garages to store bikes, lawn equipment, sports equipment, extra raw materials (like pieces of wood…)wood for fireplaces, tools – all kinds of stuff.
  2. For a lot of people this is our entrance way into our house – so we might keep shoes, recycles, trash, And this might be our motivation for trying to keep it organized! Because we walk through it all the time. And it bugs us if it’s a mess.
  3. It’s usually one big room when we move in and that’s hard to organize because there’s no pre-determined place to put things.  We have to do it from scratch.

So if you’ve decided it’s time to tackle the garage, here’s my CPR process that I discuss in my book ABSOLUTELY ORGANIZED. And this can be used for any room in your house by the way:

  1. You’ve got to plan the time to do it and solicit some help either from your family or a friend. It’s not a one person job and it’s going to take anywhere from 3 – 6 hours the first time you do it. To make it fun, put on some music, give the kids a reward afterwards or promise your friend a meal (pizza & beer works well for my friends)

(That’s one of my absolutes or rules: If you don’t plan it – it’s not going to happen)

  1. CATEGORIZE: Take everything out of the garage and put it in piles in your driveway or on your lawn.  Categories can be: sports equipment, lawn & garden, tools, bikes… And if one of those categories is really big: break it down further.
  2. PURGE: as you pull things out start to purge whatever is broken or disgusting, or anything you don’t use anymore.  (for items you want to give away, I suggest you look online for places to donate, or give to a friend or just put at the end of your driveway and let people take it) For chemicals or gasoline call your township and find out about hazardous waste collections)
  3. RE-arrange:  Now that you have piles of everything you’re keeping start to think about what you use most often and make it accessible.  For the kids toys and sports equipment we use colorful plastic tubs on the floor.  For our lawn chemicals we put them in plastic bins up on a shelf.  Keep things in their categories and create zones.  Even if you don’t have the right containers or shelves right now, put things back where you want them by the end of your organizing session.
  4. Now you can go shopping for what you need:  industrial shelves, wall cabinets, racks, etc. There’s a range of products for garages and you can spend thousands of dollars on a garage makeover, but you want to make sure it’s organized first, so you can measure the space for exactly what you need.  Rubbermaid has an inexpensive Track system if you want to do it yourself or you can go high end to places like GarageTek.  I’ve even seem people put up old kitchen cabinets in their garage for storage.
  5. To keep it that way, you have to straighten it on a weekly basis – teach your kids where things go.  And then clean out on a seasonal basis.  Our family has a pool so we do a Saturday clean out once in the late Spring to get the pool/beach stuff out and accessible and then once in the fall to put the pool stuff away and get the winter supplies out (shovels, rock salt, sleds). Because we do this twice a year we can do it now in LESS THAN 2 HOURS.   The kids complain…we put on music…let them play a little; give them little jobs and then we take them to McDonald’s afterwards. Everybody’s happy and it’s a great way to spend a little family time on a nice day.

 

Independence – A Great Thing to Teach Your Kids!

This post is for busy moms who can’t find time to do everything for their families, although you want to! If you want your children to be organized for themselves and to help around the house, you’ve got to teach them the skills – even if you haven’t mastered them yourself. Here’s a list of suggested tasks or chores you can teach your children at various ages. Obviously children learn at different speeds but this is a guideline. The goal here is to delegate some chores to them early on and give them mini lessons in organizing. By 18, let them declare their independence!

At age … Teach them to…
Age 3-4
  • Clear their plate after meals
  • dress themselves
  • Match up socks when you’re folding wash
  • Put their toys away with a simple instruction such as “put all the  blocks in the red bin.”
Age 5-6
  • Join in a seasonal clean out like picking up leaves or  organizing the garage.
  • have a morning routine to get ready for school  (write it down in on an index card and place it in a strategic place)
  • set the table
  • put their clean laundry in their drawers
  • straighten their room
Age   7-10
  • clean their own rooms
  • help serve meals
  • bathe or shower themselves
  • decide which activities and sports they will join

 

Age   11-13
  • take on certain weekly chores like taking out the trash, doing the dishes, folding the wash, mowing the lawn, etc.
  • plan out how they will achieve goals like long term projects for school. (i.e. set interim deadlines on a calendar)

 

Age 14 – 18
  • babysit younger siblings
  • make a meal for the family
  • have a part-time job and budget their money
  • make important decisions about college and their future
Age 18 and older
  •  be an independent adult – at this point the “child” should be treated like a roommate with regard to sharing the household work load and contributing to the household budget.

 Have you tried any of these or others? Let me know.

How to Organize Your Garage

As a Professional Organizer I have organized a few garages in my day.  Some were in newer homes with nice walls and some in old homes in rural areas where they have a separate wooden structure.  Spring and Fall are great times to get your garage cleaned out primarily because you can take everything out, sweep it and put what you want back in.  Secondly you have a change of season where you might need new things brought to the front, others can be tucked away.

I think there are some common problems with garages that people share no matter where they live.

  1. A garage is not just for keeping cars – many people use their garage to store bikes, lawn equipment, sports equipment, extra raw materials (like pieces of wood…)wood for fireplaces, tools – all kinds of bulky equipment.
  2. The garage is an entrance way into the house for a lot of families – so you might keep shoes, recycles, and trash there. This might be your motivation for trying to keep it organized, because you walk through it all the time and don’t want to look at a mess!
  3. A garage is usually one big room which makes it hard to organize because there’s no pre-determined place to put things.  You have to create a system from scratch.

So if you’ve decided it’s time to tackle the garage, you can follow my CPR process that I discuss in my book ABSOLUTELY ORGANIZED. It works for any room.

  1. You’ve got to plan the time to do it and solicit some help either from your family or a friend. It’s not a one person job and it’s going to take anywhere from 3 – 6 hours the first time you do it. To make it fun, put on some music, give the kids a reward afterwards or promise your friend a meal that evening. As I always say, if you don’t plan it – it’s not going to happen.
  2. CATEGORIZE – Take everything out of the garage and put it in piles in your driveway or on your lawn.  Categories can be: sports equipment, lawn & garden, tools, bikes… And if one of those categories is really big: break it down further.
  3. PURGE – As you pull things out start to purge whatever is broken or disgusting, or anything you don’t use anymore.  For items you want to give away, I suggest you look online for places to donate, or give to a friend or just put at the end of your driveway and let people take it. For chemicals or gasoline call your township and find out about hazardous waste collections.
  4. RE-arrange -Now that you have piles of everything you’re keeping, start to think about what you use most often and make it accessible.  For the kids’ toys and sports equipment, use colorful plastic tubs on the floor.  For lawn chemicals, put them in plastic bins up on a shelf.  Keep things in their categories and create zones.  Even if you don’t have the right containers or shelves right now, put things back in temporary containers where you want them by the end of your organizing session.

Now you can go shopping for what you need like industrial shelves, wall cabinets, racks, etc. There’s a range of products for garages and you can spend thousands of dollars on a complete makeover, but you want to make sure it’s organized first, so you can measure the space for exactly what you need.  Rubbermaid has an inexpensive Track system if you want to do it yourself or you can go high-end to places like GarageTek.  I’ve even seen people put up old kitchen cabinets in their garage for storage. Whatever works!

To keep your garage organized, you have to straighten on a weekly basis. I suggest you teach your kids where things go and ask them to put things back to normal on Sunday. Then get the whole family in the habit of cleaning it out on a seasonal basis.  Our family has a pool so we do a Saturday clean out once in the late Spring to get the pool/beach stuff out and then once in the fall to put the pool stuff away and get the winter supplies out. Because we do this twice a year I am proud to say we do it now in LESS THAN 2 HOURS – so it’s not an all day hassle anymore.