These days it’s not only the typical “messy” child who’s overwhelmed with excess stuff. Even the most organized offspring may have a tough time keeping their things in order when there’s so much to maintain.
Here are some clutter control tips to help you manage the mess and also train children of any age to be more organized.
1. Categorize. Putting similar items together is one of the basic rules of organization because it’s the simplest way to keep things in a semblance of order. Typical categories of kid stuff include toys, games, books, art supplies, computer-related, music-related, school-related, clothing, accessories, hobbies and collections. Categories with the largest number of items can be subcategorized.
2. Make it easy. The easier it is to do something, the more likely that thing is to get done. So make it easy to:
- Put stuff away — by having accessible containers and appropriate furnishings that are easy for your children to use. For example, shelves with colorful plastic bins provide easy-access storage options and simple solutions for getting toys and other items up off the floor.
- Hang up clothes — by putting up clothes hooks at kid-friendly heights in thoughtful places, making it easy for children to hang frequently used items of clothing instead of dropping them on the floor. This also helps discourage the habit of putting not-yet-dirty clothes in the laundry, something that many kids — and adults — do because it’s easier than putting clothing on a hanger or folding it. (Safety note: Avoid locating eye-level hooks on the back of doors that swing open.)
- Throw things out — by placing trash receptacles in convenient places, making it easy for everyone to discard wrappers, tissues, junk mail and any other detritus that tends to get dropped on the floor. Treat your wastebaskets like babies — keep them within close reach at all times, feed them frequently and change them often.
Wall-mount pot racks can be put to good use in closets (especially walk-ins), utilizing wall space for storing accessories such as scarves, belts and purses. You can even hang clothing on hangers from the hooks, or hang night clothes or exercise gear directly on the hooks. Some wall-mount pot racks also include a shelf for storage of non-hangable items.
The bathroom is another area where insufficient storage space can be supplemented with a wall-mount pot rack for hanging towels, robes, hair dryers, curing irons and anything else hangable that otherwise ends up on the floor or next to the sink.
In some homes, it also may be possible to use ceiling-mounted hanging pot racks for various storage purposes. However, when installing a ceiling-mounted pot rack, it’s important to choose a place where what hangs from it will be accessible yet not obstructive. It should be hung low enough so you can put things on the hooks easily, but not so low as to be in your way when all the hooks are occupied. If that’s not possible, you’re probably better off using a wall-mounted pot rack instead.
Both hanging and wall mount pot racks now come in an ever-widening variety of styles and materials.
Spring cleaning just isn’t what it used to be. A more accurate term might be “spring clearing,” since uncluttering is often what needs to be done before cleaning.
But whether you live in a tiny apartment or a spacious house, clearing out clutter isn’t just a springtime ritual. A clutter-free home requires an ongoing commitment to staying streamlined. Here are five key ways you can get — and keep — your household organized and uncluttered.
- Make it easy. Put frequently used items in convenient places. Instead of storing supplies only where they fit best, locate them close to where they are used most often. Get rid of things that don’t work well and replace them with products that are easy to maintain and a pleasure to use. To help discourage messes, make it easy to discard things quickly–keep at least one wastebasket handy in every room.
- Establish an “In-Out Inventory Rule.” For each item that comes into your home (such as books, videos, CDs/DVDs, clothing), another item of equal type should go out (to charity or resale). If you can get in the habit of following this maintenance rule for even one of your “clutter categories,” your stuff will be less likely to reach the stage of critical mass (or critical mess, as the case may be).
- Let go of clutter daily. Each day, make a conscious effort to let go of at least one unit of clutter. The “unit” can be one item or one container-full. As long as you do it consistently, you’ll see results. Remind yourself that the more stuff you choose to let go of, the less time you’ll need to spend maintaining it.
- Keep the positive, let go of the negative. If your clutter includes sentimental objects, here’s a rule to remember: Let go of anything that doesn’t touch you in a positive or poignant way. Don’t keep anything that makes you feel stressed or upset (unless you’re legally required to keep it).
- Turn “can’t” into “can.” The most important piece of clutter to let go of is the apostrophe and t on the end of the word can’t. When you catch yourself saying, “I can’t get rid of — ” change it to “I can!”
Here’s a trick to minimizing paper clutter. Certain office products can make life less cluttered when used in unlikely places such as the kitchen.
For example, setting up a “mini-file” (a small file holder that holds about a dozen hanging files) on a kitchen counter makes it easier to deal with papers that tend to pile up there, such as coupons, recipes, shopping lists, takeout menus, receipts and appliance instructions.
To save counter space, a mini-file can also be set up in a magnetic file holder on the side of your fridge.
Likewise, stocking a small basket or magnetic bin with frequently used office supplies (scissors, pen, pencil, highlighter, note pad, Post-its) and putting it near a mini-file makes it easier to clip coupons, mark catalogs and make quick reminder notes.
This can help in minimizing paper clutter by limiting those piles of newspapers, magazines and catalogs that get saved because they contain items to be harvested “later.”
Never enough closet space? Portable closets to the rescue!
Portable closets, aka rolling wardrobes, are ideal for storing out-of-season or infrequently worn clothes and accessories. The old-style rolling wardrobe is basically just a garment rack with a zippered cover–it’s only designed for storage of hanging garments. But portable closets tend to include more features, such as shelves and pockets that allow you to also store folded clothing and other items.
Here are three types of space-efficient portable closets, all with fabric covers and smooth-rolling casters:
- The Rolling Wardrobe Rack offers three storage sections: a top zippered shelving area for folded clothes, hats or handbags; a steel rod that provides 30 linear inches of hanging space; and a ventilated bottom shelf for shoe storage. The roll-up door makes it easy to access hanging garments and footwear; the top section has a triangular flap door.
- The versatile Mobile Wardrobe Center provides multiple storage options–the exterior features eight mesh pockets (sized for four pairs of shoes), a removable hamper bag for laundry (attached by Velcro and with a shoulder strap for easy transport), a wooden bar for hanging ties and scarves, removable pockets for toiletries, and additional pockets for undergarments and socks. The zip-up door has a clear section at the top so you can easily view your hangered clothes.
- The Clothes Armoire with Shelves has four compartments for keeping stacks of folded clothes and accessories organized, plus a closet bar that can hold up to 50 pounds of hanging garments. The bottom part is fully enclosed (unlike that of the Rolling Wardrobe Rack) to keep the contents protected.
Other types of portable closets can be found here.
Whether or not you have the luxury of an entry closet (aka coat closet), it’s a good idea to have an alternative for hanging rain-damp items and other gear that should be aired out.
A wall coat rack or series of individual coat hooks attached to the back of an entry door (or on the wall behind it) may be sufficient for keeping jackets, coats, hats and scarves off the floor. But that still leaves the problem of where to stash wet-weather necessities such as umbrellas, rain boots and shoes, which tend to get left in a jumble by the door.
Luckily there are several types of efficient outerwear organizers with umbrella storage. Here are three of my favorites:
- The practical bamboo 4-Shelf Shoe Rack and Umbrella Stand has four spacious slatted shelves for holding footwear and purses, and a vertical side holder for storing umbrellas, canes and hiking sticks. The entire unit is a relatively compact 28.37 inches wide by 10.62 inches deep by 25-1/4 inches high.
- The handsome wooden Hallway Tree offers storage for everything but shoes–it has eight double coat hooks (two on each of the four sides); two center shelves for holding purses and totes; an umbrella stand; and a small drawer for stashing keys, gloves and other accessories. It towers at 72 inches high and is 17 inches wide and deep.
- The elegant birch wood Mission Style Coat Rack features a lower section for holding umbrellas, four double coat hooks for outerwear and hats, plus two drawers on top for stowing small items. Shoes can be tucked under the umbrella section. It measures a slender 16 by 16 inches and is 60 inches high.
To learn about other kinds of entryway storage systems, see my previous posts on this topic.