How to Organize Your Home, One Room at a Time
For many of us, the feeling of having too much stuff can cause panic. Since spring is a season of new beginnings, it can be the perfect time to pare down what’s in your home—a daunting task, even if you’re organized by nature.
Remember: decluttering doesn’t mean getting rid of everything you own. Rather, organizing your home means taking time to consider your lifestyle. Recognize what’s working for you, what isn’t and why you’re hanging on to stuff. As the following experts can attest, tackling your house one room at a time can be a winning strategy.
1. How to Organize Your Living Room
“Look around as if you are a visitor and this is your first time in the space,” says Regina Leeds, the Los Angeles-based author of 2008’s One Year to an Organized Life. “Does the room reflect the reality of today, or has it become a monument to the past?”
Next, sort objects and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. Ask yourself: does it serve me well? Is it broken? Do I actually use it? Remote controls can be stashed in a basket; magazines can be recycled; home videos can be digitized.
Meanwhile, if you’ve been keeping gifts or heirlooms solely out of guilt, just don’t. “Your goal is to make your home comfortable for you,” says Cherri Hurst, owner of Toronto’s Hurst Class Organizing. “Your affection and love for the person who gave you these objects doesn’t change if you let go of them.”
2. How to Organize Your Kitchen
Your kitchen cupboard is likely full of mismatched china, oversized roasting pans and souvenir mugs. Montreal-based Kathleen Murphy of Organizing Options suggests you get rid of anything that’s damaged, neglected or unpleasant to use. Streamline your kitchen to enhance the experience of cooking. Anything you use on a daily basis should be easily accessible, says Murphy. She suggests storing baking tools, juicers and giant soup pots on higher shelves or in a closet.
You may be tempted to hang on to objects in case you need them someday, but that’s not a valid reason to hoard stained, mismatched Tupperware. “For every 10 things you give up, you may end up regretting one. Save the space for something you’re using now,” says Cherri Hurst.
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3. How to Organize Your Bathroom
“If you’re not certain where to start organizing in the bathroom, try attacking your vanity from top to bottom,” says Eleanor Warkentin of Goodbye Clutter in Vancouver. Unused prescription medication can be properly disposed of at a pharmacy. Unopened toiletries can generally be donated to a women’s shelter.
Group items in clear categories and commit to using everything up before you buy more. “That way you’re reminded not to buy five tubes of toothpaste at once,” says Kathleen Murphy, who recommends going through bathroom cabinets at least once a year. If you want to take advantage of a great sale, reserve a clearly designated shelf or area in your closet for duplicates, so you’ll remember to draw on your own supply.
4. How to Organize Your Home Office
Home offices often overflow with books and binders that are rarely, if ever, consulted. “People have a sense that they need this stuff to function,” says Warkentin, but they usually do just fine without it. So, check to see if any of your hard copies are available online; get rid of items you haven’t consulted in years.
Surplus pens and paper can come in handy while decluttering, as a list may help keep the process moving along, says Kathleen Murphy. “Lists help you feel like you have control, and you can see your progress.” (Of course, you should pare down your supplies once you’ve finished with them.)
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5. How to Organize Your Garage
The garage can become a graveyard for things you don’t want in the house. When deciding what to get rid of, “Rust is a good clue,” says Warkentin, who recommends investing in a shelving system to keep things off the garage floor. If you’re sick of storing other people’s items, give them a deadline—if they don’t pick up their stuff by then, you’ll be getting rid of it.
If you’ve been holding on to bulky exercise equipment in the hopes that you’ll finally get in shape, a timeline can help. “Tell yourself, If I don’t use this bike in the next three months, I’m going to take up walking,” says Kathleen Murphy.
While going through this process, remember: organizing your home won’t happen overnight. Enlist a trusted friend or a professional and recognize it may get worse before it gets better. Be realistic about your expectations and stay positive. And as Regina Leeds points out, “Empty space is full of possibility.”
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