Creating an Organized New Year: The 3 Best Places in Your Home & How to Start
If you’re assuming this post is all about turning your whole house upside down and starting over, you can exhale now. This isn’t for the expert organizer, the detailed filer who never has a paper out of place, or the housekeeper who scrubs with a magnifying glass and Q-tips.
And all the normal people said amen.
But… it is definitely not too early to think about spring cleaning. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who’s wondered, Wow… it would be so much easier to clean around less stuff.
Let’s back this train up though. First of all… Feliz Año Nuevo! I realize new beginnings aren’t everyone’s cup of chai, but there’s something about turning the calendar to a new year that gets me.
Even in the midst of some of my largest frustrations and deepest discouragements, I still see glimmers of light. I still feel hope. I still long for a fresh start.
Whether you just pictured a broken relationship or a cluttered closet, you’re not wrong. The new year with its new beginnings can be whatever you want it to be.
Today it’s going to be about the parts of your home that drive you crazy. When my friend and I started our organizing business last year, it wasn’t because our houses were perfectly organized. It was because we love to declutter, organize and design… other people’s houses.
Yes, we still have our own drawers and cupboards yelling for our attention, but we’re conquering them one by one and learning more tips and tricks along the way. Here’s what I’ve learned about how to start:
UNO: Start Small
For me that means a drawer. Or a box. Or a cubby. An area that will probably only take me 30 minutes or less.
Does your medicine cabinet drive you crazy every time you open it? I use mine 2-3 times a day, so if it doesn’t flow, I know I need to pivot. Giving it a few minutes of my time to minimize my daily frustration is totally worth it.
DOS: Tackle a Most-Used Area
If you have a formal living room with perfect couches that rarely get used and a piano that never gets played, that probably isn’t the room needing help.
Think high-traffic zones. While working with our clients last year, we noticed there are common areas that people always want decluttered and organized. And we agree… these are the three best places to start:
Kitchens: Why? Because your people keep getting hungry. But also because kitchens are like mini restaurants that never truly close and they can easily get cluttered. Unless you live in a tiny house though, I wouldn’t recommend tackling your whole kitchen in one afternoon.
Start with a drawer, move to a cupboard, and don’t forget to get rid of a few things along the way. (Especially those cheap water bottles you secretly hate and never use.)
Closets: Why? Because jumping on a Zoom call naked is still only appropriate from the waist down. We’ve found the primary/largest closet to usually be the priority for people, especially those who love clothes.
Do you have to dress up every day to go to work? If finding what you’re looking for resembles finding Waldo, it might be time to overhaul your closet.
Since my business partner could be a fashion designer, and I’m ridiculously passionate about matching hangers, organizing large closets is by far one of our favorite jobs.
Offices: Why? Because your spouse or roommate is still there. If anyone under your roof is now permanently working from home, your office might be the area making you feel coo-coo. Believe me… it’s worth putting in the time to make your workspace flow and bring more sanity.
A few months ago we spent two days decluttering a neglected office in Solana Beach. Check out the transformation!
TRES: A Plan & Some Simple Tools
Diving headfirst into an organizing project can quickly become overwhelming if there’s no plan. I know… it’s tempting for me to jump into action the minute I feel inspired too. But I don’t recommend decluttering and organizing in the middle of cooking, driving carpool, repotting plants, and having overnight guests.
Save it for a day when you don’t have much else going on. (Here’s where scheduling it on your calendar comes in.)
Ready for the ways we help people ramp up and stick with it?
If you’re a crazy-busy person, try scheduling your project. That might sound too Type-A to some, but if your calendar is the boss, making space for organizing might be the only way it will get done.
Once you have a day and time, gather a few supplies:
- A kitchen timer or your phone timer
- A bag or box for donations
- A trash can
If you’re anything like me, getting distracted in the middle of a project is common. Setting a timer for a reasonable amount of time is key to finishing what you start. Burning out in between tennis rackets and ketchup packets ain’t pretty.
I know for a fact I can focus for 15 minutes, but I’d feel much more productive if I completed 30. Setting a timer for two hours though? That’s setting myself up for failure. So empty your space and declutter for an amount of time that works for you. Then stop for a snack, boogie to the bathroom, check your feed to make sure the world’s still spinning, and get back to it.
Deciding to declutter is a huge part of the organizing process, so make sure you have a box or bag ready to gather your donations. My favorite place to take my quality junk is The Salvation Army, remembering to only donate items in good or better condition.
As for true trash, I’m always pleasantly surprised about what I can say adios to forever. Do you have any of these?
- Expired coupons?
- Busted flip-flops?
- Broken wooden spoons?
- Stained shirts?
- Scribbled phone numbers with no name?
- 48 wallet-size school pics of your kid’s fifth grade face from nine years ago?
Let them go and experience heavenly peace wash over you like a hot bath in Alaska.
Any questions or organizing observations? Leave me a message in the comments and I promise to respond. You got this, friend!
If you’d like some more inspiration, here’s how to find us on the socials and see some more fun before-and-after pics:
FB: Home Savvy Organizing
Two Sundays before Christmas my hubby excitedly announced he’d been approved to work from home 3 days a week. “M, W, F on payday weeks and T, W, Th on off weeks”. Hurray…NO! The office was filled with Norwex, papers were haphazard, I had my own routine down that didn’t include sharing space, and my parents were coming in a week! Oh, and sharing isn’t an option when he’s home because of patient confidentiality. Argh.
This past week I finally tackled the office, decluttering and reorganizing and now I can breathe. ????
Today the kids and I tackled their playroom. Now I feel ready to do some projects that have been waiting in the wings!
Oh, yikes. Yes, I can see how that would be a tricky transition. Good job tackling the office so quickly! And the playroom as well! Such a nice way to start January…
I love that you leave your tree up! Although Christmas decor was reorganized (13 bins down to 9!!!) and stored on Jan 10, we now have a white lights Fraser Fir we are calling our COVID Tree! Me first, then Chris! We are fine and mending amiably!!
Yep–those little white lights are addicting. I also leave a white strand over our mantle all year, but that’s a different blog post. Reorganizing Christmas bins from 13 to 9 is impressive! Good job decluttering and paring down. Glad to hear you’re both on the mend from the Rona, too. Feliz Año to you and Chris! 🙂
Hi Carrie — this is practical and entertaining, as your writing always is! I am in this reorganizing mode after several weeks of holiday neglect to many areas of the house. I like the timer and have used it, but haven’t remained consistent in using it. I think that would be a good one for me to commit to, as I can easily get side-tracked.
Glad to know I’m not the only one who gets distracted and sidetracked. I seriously have to close the door just to focus. Might be good to leave my phone in another room, too. Haha. Thanks for your kind words, Jenn. Keep going and I’ll do the same!
Whoa! I need to hire you to declutter my office! It’s a huge mess–one I never seem to have time to deal with because I’m working in it. But I hate the mess and am having a hard time finding papers I need now…Sigh. On my to-do list in the next couple days!
I have no idea where you live, but we’re game! I get it… paper drives me crazy. And it just keeps coming! Good job putting it on your to-do list.
There is nothing like a move to another state to get the decluttering “bug”! We have boxes of “stuff” (mostly keepsakes from high school) that have been sitting on the shelves in our master bedroom walk-in closet for the past 18 years (the dust on the top of the boxes will attest to that!). The last time we moved was to our “dream home” 18 years ago, and those things seemed indisposable then. Now we are tossing “stuff” with hardly a glance. It was fun to read a couple of those sweet love letters from my sweetheart (with my sweetheart of 59 years), but then toss them out. Stacks of wallet-size photo reprints of that HS Senior picture were an easy toss. We have passed the point of having room in our trash bin and are trolling our neighborhood for space in theirs.
I hear ya, Sherry… two international moves taught me that real quick! Isn’t it amazing what we think we can’t part with and then a couple decades go by and we’re fine to fling them? Makes me want to study psychology again. Cute that you saved those love letters though. Fun to remember those early dating days. 🙂 Good job paring down and getting back some valuable space!
Love the tips and inspiration Carrie! I did a bedroom closet on Tuesday (a spare bedroom rarely used now so the closet was a great “storage” place!) and took a trip to a local women’s shelter thrift store the next day. It felt great! Why do I keep hangers from the dry cleaner? And the girls’ high school homecoming/prom dresses?! And other dresses that I haven’t worn for years?! One thing I’m having trouble figuring out where to donate is my grandma’s crocheted doilies. Do you know what I’m talking about?!? I have SO many! Any thoughts? Looks like you are loving the work you are doing! 🙂
Good job, Julie! Hangers from the dry cleaner is a big no. I have a saying about those… Friends don’t let friends use wire hangers. Haha. We had a prom for special needs kids at our old church and they were always looking for formal attire to be donated so the kids didn’t have to buy them. Maybe they have something like that in your area? It was a Tim Tebow event called Night to Shine, and they do it all over the world. As for your grandma’s doilies… have you already asked everyone in the family? If you don’t want to send them to a regular thrift store, maybe there’s a local tea room that would want them? Or a church that does a Christmas tea every year?
Good thoughts for the doilies. I think everyone in the family has their own collection! There is a local tea room – I will check.
Did another run to the thrift store again! Freedom!
I just typed “what to do with grandma’s doilies” into Google and got hit with a barrage of ideas! Some are cheesy, but you might find one or two fun ones. Good job making another run to the thrift store. I’m on my way to The Salvation Army too. 🙂
Get rid of a stained shirt??? We need to keep that for our next painting project.
Haha. Of course one is great, but you don’t need 12 of them, Mr. Kahler. 😉
I can tell you’ve been scouting my closet. LOL
Haha. Just a wild guess. Most guys I know hold onto old t-shirts for a loooong time. You can only do one paint project at a time, soooo…. Take back your valuable closet real estate! Tell them the organizer lady sent ya–they’ll understand.
What is with those wallet-size photos? I love decluttering and getting rid of stuff. Thanks for an inspiring post!
Right? They always seem so great at the moment. 🙂 Glad to hear of a fellow decluttering friend. Keep it up! Thanks for reading, Beth, and Happy New Year!
Love it , Carrie! Hate it too! So, pinky promise, I will choose my opening number shortly and keep your sweet face front and center and get to it. First , I have to haul the naked Christmas tree back to its spot in the garage. At leastI have a spot. Aren’ you proud of me?
I love that you’re choosing your opening number. Ha! 🙂 I’m putting Christmas away today too, but leaving the naked Christmas tree up for a bit longer. We’re addicted to little white lights. Yes, I’m proud of you–your house has always been put together! Maybe I could come visit and take pictures of how to keep a home. Keeping clutter down as we get older is hard!