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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Getting It Together: Everything In Its Place

Today, we will be featuring Tara, from Survivin' on Sweet Tea and Love.   One of the many things you'll discover as you read Tara's blog, is that she {adores} a clean and organized home.  I hope her ideas  {inspire} you as they have me. ~Belle

First of all, I am not a professional but if I could choose any career that would fit me like a glove, I would choose to be a professional organizer.  I constantly think about organization because it helps me lead a more productive life.  I organize out of habit and subconsciously so when Belle contacted me about writing this post and I agreed, I had a hard time 1) thinking of all the ways I organize and de-clutter my surroundings and 2) condensing the post because I could talk about it all day.
Some of the things I am going to share are simple and are by no means rocket science.  Maybe you practice all of these tips in your home OR maybe you don't and need a little help.  Because every person and home is different, some may work for you and others may not.  Here are a few, condensed organizational/de-cluttering tips that have proven to work for me:

Everything has a place!
When you buy something, buy it knowing exactly where its new home will be and exactly how you intend for it to be used.  Don't buy it just because you have an urge.  When you buy it, you should get rid of something else that you no longer want or that no longer has value to you.  Also, before going to bed at night, always try to make sure everything is in its proper place.  Life will run much more smoothly the next morning when everybody overslept and is in a hurry to get out the door.

Don't cover up your furniture with stuff.
I have decorations on my furniture but no more than a few items per piece.  Remember that each decoration has its own place and a purpose (either personal value or functional use).  Also, remember that the more stuff you have, the more dust it will collect and the more time you will spend dusting.

When it comes to clothing/shoes...
If you haven't worn something in the past 6 months and absolutely have no plans to wear it, get rid of it by either donating/selling/tossing.  
If you just can't bring yourself to do that and you tell yourself you will wear it, give yourself another two months to wear it.  After those months are up, be honest with yourself.  If you actually wore it and liked it, you now have something new.  If you didn't wear it or you wore it and realized you didn't like it, remove it from your closet. 
The best way to organize shoes is to buy a shoe organizer.  They are relatively cheap and come in many different forms, sizes and colors.  

Keep your closets/pantry organized by grouping.  
Grouping allows you to quickly find what you need.  Some people group by colors but for me, I can easily distinguish color differences so I group my clothes by style.  Long-sleeve button downs together, dresses/skirts together; tank tops together, jeans together and so on.  Of course, I also have my clothes sorted by seasons also.  
You should never have so many clothes in a closet that they can't breathe.  What does that mean?  See the space between my clothes hangers?  I don't have so many clothes that they are jam-packed in there, which only results in wrinkled clothes.  They should have enough room to freely hang and you shouldn't get stressed out just looking for something.  If your clothes are packed in like sardines, it is highly likely that there are some or many pieces not getting worn.  It is time to de-clutter!
For my pantry, I group by types of foods and packaging.  One shelf is for boxed foods such as rice, pastas, taco kits, etc., another shelf is for all my canned products, another shelf is for seasonings and condiments and my top shelf is for cereal and bagged items such as marshmallows.  Among the groupings based on packaging, I also group based on kinds of food.  All of my canned fruits are in one section, canned vegetables another, canned tomato products together, etc.  Having everything organized makes grabbing what I need less time consuming than if I had to search for it.  As you can see from the picture below, I also make sure all of my products have the name visibly turned outward so I know exactly what I am grabbing.  This technique is most useful for canned and boxed products because they are mostly shaped the same.  You will notice that the Pam cooking spray and olive oil aren't turned outward.  Because I use those two products often and they get put back in the same place, it isn't a big deal for me.

Keep the paper piles down.
As soon as I bring the mail inside, I tear up the junk such as credit card offers, and they go directly into the trash or recycle bin.  I put any catalogs or magazines in their place - the magazine basket beside the recliner.  With the bills, I open and tear off the remittance from the invoice.  I, then, affix a stamp and return address label immediately, enclose the remittance portion and place it in the bill organizer downstairs.  It is now ready to be mailed as soon as I enclose the check.  

The invoice portion gets filed into the bill file in the filing cabinet and I keep those for one calendar year.  Another thing I do for organization and to know exactly where our money is going or has gone is to create a spreadsheet.  I make columns for Payment Name, Due Date, Date Paid, Form of Payment (either check #, AW for automatic withdrawal or OBP for online bill pay) and Amount Paid.  With every single bill that gets paid, I type in that information.

Tax season.
Tax season is soon upon us.  I stay organized throughout the year so when January arrives, getting my tax information together is easy.  Aside from waiting on W-2s to roll in, I am always completely ready to file taxes the first week in January.  In addition to having my bill invoice file, I keep a file for medical bills and other tax files (ex. property taxes paid) in our filing cabinet.  When I receive a medical bill, it quickly gets filed away.  Most of the time, I pay co-pays with my credit card and when I get my credit card bill, I highlight where I paid and staple the receipts to that bill and then.... file it in the medical file.  If I ever get audited, I have proof of everything.  The bill spreadsheet that I keep is also printed out at year-end so it also shows medical bills in which I've also written checks to pay.

Warranties/Owners Manuals
Again, have a place for these items.  We store all of this in our handy dandy filing cabinet.  One thing I haven't done as good a job with is keeping up with receipts after I've made purchases.  Because I like to get rid of extra paper, I sometimes end up tossing them prematurely.  Recently, we had a product break and needed a receipt.  I have decided to start stapling the receipts to the inside of the owner's manual.  Products break, become unneeded or unwanted, etc. so I try to go through these manuals at least once a year.  You will be amazed at what you no longer need to keep.

De-Cluttering: plain and simple.
It is good to do it several times a year.  Some people say you should go through your house everyday tossing 3 items from each room.  I think that is a little much unless you have tons of clutter.  If I did that, my house would be completely empty within a couple of months.

If you have a huge de-cluttering project, take baby steps.  Don't try to conquer it all at once or you will get bogged down and likely give up.  Work on one room at a time or even smaller, work on one area at a time.

The simplest way to de-clutter is to make three piles:
1) Keep pile - Items that you actively use, are in good condition, have a specific place in your home and have real value go into this pile.
2) Trash/recycle pile - If it is broken or no longer being used but is not good enough for selling or donating, it goes here.
3) Donate/sell pile - If it no longer has its own specific place, is not being actively used and won't be but needs a good home, this is the pile where it belongs.

Just remember that to organize and de-clutter, you MUST be willing to purge.  If you aren't, you are only moving clutter from place to place.  And, boy, does purging feel good! 

If reading this post inspired you, be sure to stop by Tara's Blog, for further inspiration, and if you'd like, share the news about this event with your readers.  Hope you all have a fantastic Friday!  
{Thanks Tara, for sharing with us today tips on how to organize effectively.  We're so glad you were able to be a part of this event.}


Erin said...

Great tips! I have issues with piles of paper...

Empty Nest Full Life said...

I am with you on this! We will be putting our kitchen back together(remodeling) and I will be getting rid of the unnecessary, and working on much more organization around this house. Thanks for sharing. Jackie

About Southern Belle said...

I hear you on keeping the paper piles down. That is probably the one thing I find the most difficult to keep organized. Good ideas!


I Love your Blog...very beautiful!

Greatings from switzerland
Jacqueline ♡

Jenni said...

Tara, thank you so much for guest posting! I love all of your great ideas for organization! :)


Emily said...

Great advice, Tara! =)