So you’ve gotten rid of more than 1/2 of your possessions and thought the house would just fall into place, but it hasn’t. How do minimalists organize their stuff?
This should be an easy task right?
First off, maybe you need to get rid of more.
This is going to vary for everyone, but generally after one pass of decluttering your entire home, if you start again, you will find things that you missed. Things that you kept “just in case” you needed them later, but in fact, now see that it’s completely unnecessary to keep things for that reason.
If you are finding that there are still things that get left out on counter, and surfaces tend to collect items, there is probably still have too much in the cupboards.
Unless you live tiny, there is very little need for dish organizers and coffee mugs organizers. When you get down to only what you need in your kitchen, the cupboards that are currently there are generally sufficient to hold everything without “creative storage solutions.”
Do you have various sizes of glasses and mugs? At the most how many do you use in a day?
How many baking dishes do you have? Sure, you can buy organizers for them, but if you only use one at a time, why keep 3?
Do you have several pairs of scissors? If your office drawer is full with tape, scissors, rubber bands, highlighter and paperclips… ask yourself if you actually use these items regularly? Most people don’t need a bag of 100 rubber bands, when you can simply have 5 available to reuse. There is no need for 5 tape dispensers or 10 highlighters. Keep only what you use and donate the rest to a local school.
The problem isn’t in lack of organizing skills, it’s simply that there is still too much stuff.
When you get rid of all the excess, organization comes fairly easy:
Keep things near where you need them.
If you have an office where you have all your office supplies, but find that you are always using scissors in the kitchen, you’ll end up with scissors left on the counter after each use. Instead, create a space for your scissors in the kitchen. Unless you actually use them in the office, there is no need to keep them there.
Make use of the traffic flow – wherever you come in and out of your house, have a shoe shelf and hooks near that door. Hooks are great for purses, coats, hats and keys. Having it always by the door means you always know where to find it and can always grab it on your way out of the house.
When you organize your kitchen:
- Keep the mixing bowls and measuring tools near the counter you bake at.
- Put the pots and pans near the stove.
- Have the mugs near the coffee pot and glasses near the water source.
- Keep dishes and silverware near the dishwasher or near the table where you eat most often.
- Have the towels in a drawer near the sink.
- Place the spices in a drawer or cupboard close to the stove.
- Keep oven mitts in a drawer near the oven.
When you organize the living room:
- Keep only the movies you love and toss the DVD/BlueRay cases, keep the discs in a CD wallet. (We have one for the kids/family movies, one for my chick flicks, and one for the Action movies my husband Brian enjoys.
- Limit what in the living room to communal property. Meaning: everything in this room should be used and needed by all family members. No personal items should be stored here.
When you organize the office:
- Assign a role or task to each desk drawer. Tailor these jobs to your own needs, for example one drawer for mailing supplies and another for office supplies, one for bill paying, or one for kid’s school supplies – what ever you need from the space. Only items relevant to that task or category should belong in that drawer (or section of drawer) and only items that are truly needed.
- Assign a job for the closet. For some, the office closet might become their family board game storage, for others camping gear, and for others keepsakes and craft supplies. The decision is completely up to you. The space can be dual purpose as well, the point though, is that it has a defined purpose. Write out the things that are currently there and then write out your plan of what needs to be there based on how you actually use it and what makes sense for your family.
- Limit what you file. There are many things we don’t need to keep: user manuals, expired policies, magazine articles, tax papers that are older than 7 years.
When you organize the kids room:
- Have the kids set a limit to how many toys they keep, how many stuffed animals are on their bed and how many blankets as well. Having the kids make this decision means they are happier and what they keep and letting go of the excess: because they made the decision, it’s not being forced on them.
- Use the questions to help them let go of things: Which one is your favorite? Do you love it? Which ones can we give to a child that doesn’t have anything?
- Give each child their own personal box or basket. When you (and your child) has determined how many toys they will keep, they need a home for the toys to belong. This way when it’s time to clean up, the child knows right where that toy should go.
- Limit sets of toys to a manageable amount. When toys are kept in smaller boxes or baskets that they kids can easily grab, it’s easier for them to pick them up and put them away. One shoe box of Legos, one shoe box of doll clothes, one shoe box of kitchen toys, etc. Limiting the toys to smaller amounts also means they will use more of their imagination.
- Only rotate things that get a lot of use. If you decide to keep different sets (hot wheels racing, Duplo, Legos, etc.) Think carefully through each set before stashing it in the hall closet. Make sure you only keep things the kids really enjoy. For us, this meant letting go of the Lincoln Logs, but keeping the Duplos, Getting rid of the doll house, but keeping the castle and knights. Some kids would rather only have Legos and never rotate anything, that’s ok too!
- Have all the toys in one room: pick either the play room, living room or kids room. Avoid having a little bit in each space. This helps kids from feeling overwhelmed as well. (Think: if toys are in every room of the house and you say “pick up your toys”, it’s overwhelming because in the child’s mind you are saying “clean the whole house.” When toys are only in one room, they can focus on that room.)
- Use hooks. Hooks are one of the best inventions for children. They are much more likely to hang up their coat and put their backpack away when there is a hook to hang it on.
- Use labels if needed. Remember the placemats that had outlines for the plate, cup and silverware? Think of that as you work around the room. Designate a home for clothing items in the dresser: shirts in one drawer, pants in another, etc. Have a place just for their shoes and a place just for their personal box. It may help to label the shelves with images if they are young: a lego brick where the lego box goes, etc.
When you organize your closet:
- Have a place for shoes. It doesn’t matter how you do it: as long they have a place to belong. A shoe shelf, or the floor work just fine. Do remember: it’s much nicer to look in the closet and see a row of shoes rather than a box or basket.
- Use simple boxes to separate the small items. It’s nice to have a specific spot for socks, undies, belts, etc. without them getting jumbled when you close the drawer. Any boxes will work: you can buy pretty ones or use shoe or tissue boxes.
- Hooks are your friend. Use hooks for scarves, ties, purses, belts and jewelry.
- Keep like with like. When hanging clothes, keep your short sleeves in a group and long sleeves in a group, etc. If you’ve gotten rid of enough, you should easily be able to hang things and move them. If closet space is so tight your clothes wrinkle, you still have too many. 😉
When you organize your laundry room:
- Only keep what you use. I know I’ve said this before, but the laundry room should be pretty basic: Soap, baskets, drying racks, iron, etc. A shelf is going to stay clean if you only have 3 items on it.
- Hooks again. If you iron (I gave that up years ago, if it wrinkles easy, it doesn’t deserve a spot in my home!) there is a nice rack you can get to hold the board and iron. Hooks help store drying racks and can hold the laundry basket when it’s not in use.
When you organize the cleaning supplies:
- Keep everything off the floor that you can. For our laundry room, I just put nails in the wall where I wanted the broom and mop items to hang. But you can use a nice organizer here.
- Clean regularly. When you have a weekly cleaning ritual in place, grime doesn’t build up and become difficult to clean, so there is no need for a bunch of different chemical cleaners. Pick something that works everywhere: an all-purpose cleaner. I’ve found that Norwex doesn’t need chemicals, so I’ve been able to eliminate them almost completely from my home. I do keep white vinegar and magic erasers, but the rest of the cleaning is done with microfiber cloths.