Every year we spend the week between Christmas and New Years organizing our house top to bottom. The tradition started naturally, because we moved into our house over Christmas break in 2011. So, it seemed obvious to use the year end as a benchmark to get on top of our household.
The great aspect of organizing over the break is that we start fresh for the new year. Right now everything in our house has a spot and a home. There’s nothing out of place. Clothes we no longer wear are at the Goodwill. Items have been donated and recycled. Cupboards and files are organized and we can find everything and relax!
I even found a few items I thought were long lost–my social security card (yay!), some photos, jewelry and ton of lip balm and hand lotion.
Now, I realize not everyone wants to tackle their organizing job at once. It’s a little crazy, actually. It’s exhausting and tough, but when it’s all done it’s so worth it. If you’re ready to get your home, schedule, finances and life organized in the new year, here’s how we did it.
1. Start Room by Room
We divide up the house by section–typically we start upstairs with the guest room, bedroom and closets. Then we move to the storage areas, linen closet and bathroom. I block out two days for these two areas. Then we move downstairs to the livingroom, diningroom, TV room. On day 4 we tackle the kitchen, cupboards, pantry and hall, and then finally on day 5 we hit the basement including our deep freezer, food storage, files, gym and craft area.
If you don’t plan to go in one swoop like we did, I suggest taking one room or area per weekend. Even if you simply start with a closet, a single room or cupboard and tackle it for an hour, you’ll be surprised at your progress. In a month or two the whole house will be cleaned and organized. Doing it all at once may seem insurmountable, but taking it in bite-sized chunks is much easier.
2. Use the Buddy System
One of the only reasons I can tackle our whole house in five days is because I have the best helper in the world–Sam. He jumps in, helps clean right along with me, he hauls the heavy stuff and this year, he painted the entire bedroom (looks great, hon)! Sam’s the cleaner and I’m the organizer, so together it works really well.
If you can enlist help, it will make the job that much easier. When my mom visits in the summers we usually go through the pantry, the garage and even the cupboards if they need a little touch up. Having someone to help you really speeds up the job and it’s much more fun. If you’re going it alone, turn on some music or a great podcast to really help time fly.
3. Donate & Recycle Anything You Don’t Use
Sometimes we hold onto stuff, because we worry about being wasteful by throwing it away. I know I feel really guilty when I see all the bags of trash lined up on the curb. Rather than dumping it into a landfill, reuse and recycle whenever possible. You may even be able to earn some money by selling items on Craigslist or eBay.
We donate anything that’s usable to the Goodwill, which gives us a tax deduction. I also sort items into piles to send and give to others–a watch and belt buckle to a friend, some books and planners to my mom and so on. I feel so much better knowing the items will be put to good use and appreciated (and they aren’t just getting dumped). We also try our best to recycle anytime we can–boxes, aluminum, glass and paper-goods.
4. Clear a Space and Move On
As we clear through the house I make it a policy to carry everything with me as I go. So if I find gloves in the bedroom closet that go downstairs to the hall closet, I bring them along as I move through the hall and down the stairs. Carrying a basket (we use a laundry basket) with you as you organize, helps. Once you’ve finished an area, simply bring the basket to the next spot and put the items where they go, if they have a home.
We ended up with a couple odd items at the end we needed to create and discover homes for, but for the most part every single item had a home and a spot. I try not to pull everything out and go nuts as I go because it becomes too overwhelming. If I’m running around with each item looking for their home, I’d never get it done. Instead I just move the extra stuff with me as I go and eventually we find the perfect spot.
5. Go Paperless When Possible
Make an effort to go as paperless as possible. One area that’s particularly tough for me is books. I love books and truly struggle to get the same feeling with an e-reader or reading online with my Kindle app. When I invest in a book, I try to look for used books and make an effort to only buy books I’ll want to re-read. Otherwise downloading them or borrowing them from the library cuts back on books (my bookshelf is still admittedly pretty full).
For billing we go paperless whenever possible. I was pleased this year when we did our filing we didn’t have much we needed to store. Most of the papers are veterinary records, important documents (like my found social security card) and tax records. My doctor offers online patient records, as does our insurance. I’ve asked my bank and financial institutions to send only electronic statements. Ditto for our car insurance, utilities and retirement.
6. Resolve to Live with Less
If you truly want to get organized, the biggest hurdle is simply getting used to living with less. It’s tough at first, especially if you aren’t used to denying yourself items you want. Ask yourself if you really need an item before you buy it. Really think about how you will use it and if it’s worth the price.
Living with less doesn’t mean going without completely, or denying yourself what you really enjoy, but it means being a little more discerning with your purchases. Rather than shopping just because an item catches your eye or you’ve had a rough day, only buy when you truly have a need.
7. Tackle Your Budget
If you really want to win at the organizing game, you need to tackle your budget. Get your finances in order and you’ll be surprised at how much the rest of your life will follow. Having an organized home goes hand and hand with an organize budget. No longer will you spend on items you don’t need and no longer will you think you need to buy items you can’t find.
I can’t even tell you how many times I used to run to the store for something–enchilada sauce, rice, oatmeal, shampoo, only to realize I had it in the back of the cupboard all along. Since we’ve made an effort to really organize our home this almost never happens. We know exactly what we have, what we need to buy, the parameters of our budget and we stick to our list.
8. Create a Calendar
The other are to organize and really bring the pieces together is your schedule. When you have a calendar blocked out with what you need to do, you feel in control and on top of your life. When your calendar is open ended and disorganized appointments are forgotten, obligations are overlooked and life feels chaotic.
I use both Google calendar and a planner. I like my planner because I can use it as a journal of sorts to track what’s happened. The planner is a perfect place to write down our budget, goals and other items. In my Google calendar, I simply block out my time so I can see a quick overview of what I need to do each and every day.
Getting organized will help you feel motivated and on top of your game. If you want to start the new year out right, take some time to get your calendar, budget and life under control.