Spring into action! Step 6: Finishing up

Step #6.  We are almost done.

Now it’s time to check out any other areas around your house that might need a little decluttering love.  Other rooms that may have problem areas.  See if there are things you don’t use, don’t need, or don’t really want in these areas.


•  Dining room:  How is the dish storage in there?  The dining room table — has it been hidden?
•  Other closets:  Hall closet, Linen closet and Coat closet.  What do you actually use that’s in there?  Would this space be more useful as something else?  Do you need brooms, towels and/or coats in this area of the house?  How better can you share the space and have multiple items in there?
•  Living room:  Most of the time, the flow in and out of this room, so it might have mostly been taken care of in Day 2.  If not, see what problem area is lurking in there.
• Other spaces that might need some attention:  playroom, mudroom, laundry room

The garage, basement and attic are not mentioned in this spring cleaning week.  These are areas that will have to be special projects later!  They take way more than a day or two.  Collecting things for a long time, most of which may be forgotten, these places are like long-term memory.


Once you go in, sometimes you get lost.

The main focus of this week were the main living areas.  Reclaiming the space for day to day life.  Seeing what you actually have – and finding things that you thought were lost.  Taking off that top layer of clutter and disorganization.  Seeing what is working – or really, what isn’t.  Getting ideas of spaces you really want to dive in and tackle completely.

In the next few months, I plan to go around the house, to different rooms and areas, with more details on how to declutter and reorganize your spaces in useful, creative and functional ways!


Spring into action! Step 5: The Office

Paper.  Paper.  More and more paper.
The office areas, family hub, crafting areas (whether adult or kid)

We are tackling the paper areas around the house.

This is step number five.

So much paper coming in – not much going out.  School papers – mail – crafts at home – drawings at school – paintings – bills – magazines – ads – junk mail – real mail – more and more information…

And it just piles up.  And up.  And up.  So you need a system for things coming in and for things going out.  There are SO many options and filing systems out there.  Getting rid of what you don’t need is the first step to get ahead of all the paper.  Throw away what you don’t need anymore.  Old magazine and catalogs.  Junk mail.  Shred if needed.  BUT save and organize all important information – like tax documents.  Keep these in a safe place, out of the way, but accessible.   Put a trash can by the door for junk mail to go straight to it.

For kids’ artwork, try to only keep what is really special and unique, things that stand out and things that mark a milestone — like the first time that “J” gets flipped around correctly when she writes her name! 

For this challenge, just get rid of and/or deal with as much as you can.  That you don’t need.  That needs action.  That has been waiting for a while.  I have piles of papers waiting for me too.  Then start to think of a few systems that might work for you – for the different types of things that come into your home.

Here are some things that I do with our incoming papers.

We have gone paperless on most all of our bills, so that has helped the incoming mail decrease greatly.  On a day to day basis, mostly what we get is junk mail — which goes directly into the trash/recycling.  What bills and notices we do have, I have recently added a things-to-deal-with filing system – functional decor.  One side is for NOW; one is for SOON.  And bonus, since it’s hanging on the wall, the kids do not doodle on stuff we need!


an arrow…I love arrows!

So that’s for the “official” paperwork.  I have a french message board in the kitchen for upcoming school & social information and invitations.  Visible, but kind of out of the way.  And then the big one at our house…artwork.  A budding artist (not me) and all three kids bringing things home from school.  I made an art display wall for pieces they are really proud of and seasonal pictures.  So that we can enjoy them for a little while!  And as new items come in, it’s easier to see which ones are special pieces that I want to save for a little while longer, at least.   They are proud to say “I made that!”



artwork hung on the wall with little 3m clips

These are just a few of my sorting/storage ideas for dealing with incoming papers, etc.  But the key here is to sort and purge.  Go through what you have now.  And find a system that works for you — for everything that you know will be coming in tomorrow!

Spring into action! Step 4: The Bedrooms

Step four.  The bedrooms.

Maybe you are wishing for a relaxing, peaceful place for rest at the end of the day.


ooh, fancy

Maybe you just wish you could see what the floor looks like.


my favorite part is the empty picture frames hanging on the wall 

And kids rooms – from toddler to teenager – there is no keeping up with the mess.  It generates overnight… sometimes literally!


Let’s get started!  These will work for both adult and kid bedrooms!

• Look for things that belong in a different room.  Or things that should be in a different room?  Do you have to have a desk in there? (I do – sometimes there is no other place)
• Then, put things where they go, clearing off surfaces as much as possible.  Bedside tables, dressers, desks, floors, etc.  Leave the alarm clock.  Aw man! 
• If putting things away was not easy, then there may not be a place to put things. See what you might need — like a hamper, shoe rack, etc. — BUT before shopping for storage or moving things around…

Sort and purge!!  Use a similar purging process as Step 3.  Look for unused items, things that have seen better days, stuff you no longer want or need and those things that you wonder why they are even in your house.

The main place you will probably be working is in the closet.  Closets are a huge week-long month-long challenge within themselves, so right now only tackle obvious stuff in the closet.  A few quick glances and a browse through for those things you know are already in there.  Go through a couple of times and pull out some of the obvious stuff.  One day soon, we could do a complete closet makeover… 

Another big item group that could be lurking in bedrooms are kids’ toys.  Again with this, it could take you for-ever to go through all of these.  Maybe hit a few high points – the things in the bottom of the toy box.  Are there things not age appropriate? Broken? Things you haven’t seen in a while?  It will make room for the stuff they do play with – and that means less on the floor!

The main purpose of this step – the bedroom sorting and purging – is to get a little more breathing room right now.  To have just a little extra space in your closet when you are looking for clothes in the morning.  To have a little peacefulness in your bedroom with the surfaces nice and clean.  To have a little calm when your kid can actually find the toy they were looking for, since it was right on top in the bin.


Spring into action! Step 3: Kitchen & Bath

It’s time for the fun part!!  Going room by room!   It’s time to focus on a specific spaces and see what works – and what doesn’t.  What you need – and what is excess.

This room-by-room purge is not going to get to everything that you have.  But is either going to 1) make you feel better about a space by making a little headway or 2) get you moving & motivated to just go ahead and tackle the project completely.  This is designed to do either — or both!!

So we are going to start with the kitchen.  And then move onto the bathrooms.  These are good places to start because they usually have very little in the way of sentimental items, which make for easier decisions.  And most likely in the past two steps, you have not been in these rooms much, with most of your traffic being in the living spaces, bedrooms and office area.

Let’s get started!

• Go through and get rid of things that are expired, unused, or things you are wondering why you bought in the first place.

• Go through dishes, cups, cookware, and small appliances.  See what you actually use, check for duplicates or things of similar usage.  If you have more than one, is one more useful?  Do you have too many water bottles or coffee mugs?  I’m guilty. Big time. 

• Storage containers.  Yikes.  The lids?!  What goes with what?  Try to pick out the ones that you go to most often and get rid of the rest.  If yours are looking really rough, then consider a new set completely.  Like a glass storage set – or ones with self-locking lids.  Whichever will fit your kitchen style.  Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and go for it!

• Now, look around and see if there is anything that’s not working.

Not actually working:  If you see something that just doesn’t work, time to say goodbye.  Every time I use this spoon, it hurts my hand and doesn’t stir very well.  I always have to grab another one.  If something is not functioning very well at all – and it’s something you use – make a plan to get a new one in the near future.   When I use the toaster in the morning, I have to hit the side of it for it to turn on, but I’m used to it…   

Not working flow-wise:  If you make your coffee every morning, but you have to go to the opposite side of the kitchen from the coffee maker to get a mug, maybe think about moving the mugs closer.  This will probably displace something else, but it may be worth it to move things around — when you are fumbling for your coffee at 5:00  6:15 a.m.


So now that you’ve given the kitchen a face-lift, time to tackle the bathroom!  The steps in here are very similar to the kitchen, but on a much smaller scale!

• Go through and get rid of things that are expired, unused, or things you are wondering why you bought in the first place.  Yay!

• In the bathroom, you may have duplicates of things – just in different colors or slightly different uses.  But think about if you really like something or if you are just keeping it because you might like it or use it later.  But later hasn’t come yet.  If you bought a lip gloss in a great color, but it’s just way too sticky and you never reach for it…get rid of it.  

• One of the tricks in the bathroom is finding creative and convenient storage for things like toilet paper.  Think about somewhere you can store a few rolls.  And then hope your family can figure out how to work the toilet paper holder.

• One last thing to think about.  Do you have routines for morning and evening?  Are there things you could group together in a container to grab and go?  Are the things you need accessible?  Do you share the space with someone else – and is there a better way to use that space?

How can your kitchen and bath function best — to make things easier for YOU?

Spring into action! Step 2: Group & Sort

This week’s challenge is more of an overview purge.  It’s to get that first layer DONE.  To find the thing that you’ve lost because “I know it was right there” at one time.  You probably won’t get into the farthest corners of your closets.  But after clearing out the main problem areas that you find yourself dealing on a day to day basis, you will reclaim your space and your HOME!

Today is STEP TWO: Grouping!

There are two parts to step two.  The first part involves moving stuff…

#1  Moving things back to the room that they belong
#2  Grouping like items together (to be sorted through)

Choosing items to group:  Think about the stuff that seems to overwhelm you – and your house.  What do you have an overabundance of?  What do you always seem to be cleaning up?  What drives you crazy?  You may think of lots of stuff, but for today, just pick your top 3 or 4.  Pick groups that you think you can pull together and sort in a day.  Things like:  books, papers, multimedia items, toys, toiletries, linens, clothes (sometimes this one can be a bigger project than it seems at first).  Items that seem to scatter around the house are a great choice!

You can do the moving and grouping at the same time.  Or depending on how many things are out of place, you can complete #1, then move to #2.  Using a laundry basket, etc, to carry items from room to room will make this process easier.  And this part does not require making decisions – so enlist help from the rest of the family!!

Now that you have gathered your groups completely, the second part of step two is the purge!

This is why you only picked a few!   It is time to sort and purge.  Now you can see what all you have.  You may find something you forgot you had.  Maybe you will find duplicates.  Go through and decide yes or no.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself to decide whether something stays or goes.

Do I use it?
Has it exhausted its usefulness?
Does it interest me or bring me joy?
Is it special or have significant meaning?
Do I have similar items?
Is it easily replaceable if I do need it in the future?
Am I hanging on to this just in case one day…?

Have those black trash bags handy and work through each group of items.
Group – Sort – Purge!


Extra credit: Decide where you are going to keep each group.  And keep only what fits in that area.  I have a HARD time with this, and it is definitely an ongoing process!

Spring into action! Step 1: How do I start?

Spring break is upon us… And thoughts of warm weather and the beach fill my head. But the weather is cool and rainy.  And we aren’t headed to the beach.

Ok, focus…  I’m not going to be talking about warm weather fun –


unless you are me and think cleaning out is fun.

I am going to spend this week going through a workshop of  SIX STEPS to spring into action – how to get started decluttering around the house.

And since spring break is usually an out-of-routine week, it’s a great time to start.  But really anytime is!   As my bro-in-law asked me a few days ago:  “Where do I start?”  A great question.  So enough talk…  Let’s get started.


Get some large black trash bags.


I like to get the force flex ones.  The reason for black and force flex is that you can’t see IN the bag and there is less of a chance that something will poke OUT of the bag.  If these two happen, there is a greater chance that it will be REMOVED from the bag.  And we don’t want that!

This step is important if it’s been a while since you have done any purging or cleaning out.  However, I do this step every few months – in certain problem areas around the house.  It’s a great place to start.

So, armed with your garbage bags, go room to room and gather obvious trash items and obvious items that you want to get rid of and start filling bags!!  Don’t forget bathrooms and closets.  Remember, this step involves quick glances and obvious answers to the question keep or toss.  If you have to think about it, save it for the next step!

During this step you will NOT move things from room to room.  Also, you will NOT sort. If it’s something that you have to go through, move on.  You will be back later.

Fill bags ruthlessly — but thoughtfully!

Some tips:
• Since you may have a bunch of black trash bags, I suggest labeling them with a strip of masking tape (I use blue painters tape) and write what is in the bag.
• Once a bag is full, take it to its designated spot.  Take trash directly outside.  Designate a spot for all donation items.  If you plan to have a garage sale later, LABEL what it is – now.  Also, the back of your vehicle could be a great place to put donation bags and go ahead and get it halfway out of the house!
• For some items – books, plates and heavier items, you may need boxes.  I seem to always have Amazon boxes around the house.  You may want to get some of these if you are, say, book heavy…

For some of you, step one may not last very long.  For others, step one might take a while.  But this is a very important first layer of decluttering to make the rest of the steps go smoothly!

Now get ready for STEP TWO!


I am good at getting things done.

But I’m also good at getting distracted…


Wait… where was I?

See, it happened again.  So I’m setting a goal for myself.  I’m going to try to fight through my procrastination tendencies.  Really, my procrastination is this:  getting distracted and underestimating how long things really take or how long I’ve spent on them.  It’s a distracted underestimation procrastination!!!   say that fast 3x

I’ve always had the underestimation thing.  It takes 10 minutes to get everywhere, right?  Maybe that’s why I have a tendency to be late.  The lateness is something that I have almost cured.  It only took a year of training to break that cycle.  I still have my moments…

But the distractions are still here.  And it’s time for them to hit the road.

Let’s chalk it up to mommy brain:  maintaining children, maintaining a household, and everything in between.  My brain seems to just takes little breaks every now and then, and I guess I’m not aware of it.  So here’s to being aware of what my brain is doing!!

So the first step is to identify when it’s happening.  To catch myself in the act of doing nothing!  I’ve started keeping a daily chart, tracking what I’m doing every half hour.  I feel silly.  But it’s helping me get more done, just by writing it down and being able to visualize my day.  I’m mindful of the time already.  But I want to make it a habit to not lose time.  So I will continue and find where those timelessness pockets occur!

The second step is to just do it!


Just jump into whatever I’m putting off, all the while being mindful of how long it’s taking.  So what I’m doing is working in 15 or 30 minute increments, depending on the task.  I also need to realize that tasks really don’t take as long as I think.  Like emptying the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, or …blogging.  The end result is good, but checking something of my list — great!  Whatever the excuse in my head, I need to just do it anyway.

And I need to remember to keep a eye on those

…what was it,

oh yes, distractions.

I might need it one day

The two main reasons that most people don’t get rid of stuff are that they represent memories of treasured moments or that you might need it one day.  And I, too, do this so much of the time.  I have been going through tons of stuff recently.  Stuff in piles and piles…in the garage and basement…in closets…on the floor.

And what I’ve come to realize about the stuff that “I might need one day”  Sure, I might need it one day.  But why?  There are three breakdowns (at least with me) of the “might need” tendencies.  And identifying these will help me say goodbye to some of the stuff that keeps sticking around.

“I did need it”
I had the amazing towel holders for the bathroom.  It wasn’t a bar – it wasn’t a ring.  Those things are just too fussy for me (ha) – I don’t want to have to arrange a towel through something.  I know, lazy!!  But these were like a combo of those two things – just slide the towel on the side.  And they were about the only thing I liked about the bathroom at the time.  But then the tub got a crack – and 2 months later, we had a renovated bathroom. (started with the crack, then we just kept going)  A bathroom I designed and was so excited about.  Including new towel holding devices.  So why keep the old towel hooks?  I did love them and did need them.  And (apparently) I’m really picky about what I put towels on. I think it comes from not wanting to find that certain thing that worked… again (more with the lazy!)  I’m never going to put them in the “new” bathroom.  And I have towel holding apparatus in the other two bathrooms already.   Are the towel bars a treasured item?  No.  Bringing fond memories?  Um, no.  So why keep them?  I did need them.  I did enjoy them. They served their purpose.  And I’m not going to use them again.  Why hold on?  Goodbye towel hooks.  I wonder what else I have used and loved – that can go too?


“I want to need it”
This one is a tricky one.  It’s more of wanting to want something.  It’s that shirt that you thought you had to have, and it was on sale too.  But when you got it home, it just didn’t work.  Or when you find something and just settle and purchase it – instead of holding off until it’s the right time, place and price.  Many of these things you keep because of the guilt of the purchase.  Since you already paid for it, you just feel that you need to find purpose and life for this item.  Those shoes that I bought for a special occasion.  I had to have them – like they were required with the dress.   But I did not like them that much.  And they hurt.  And well, they really didn’t fit.  But I kept them to maybe use them again.  Did I?  No.  They just keep following me around, staring at me, waiting to have a new life on my feet.  But we both know (me and the shoes) that I’m never wearing them again.  It would have been nice to love them and use them.  Buying something – thinking it will infuse fun into your wardrobe or seeing how cute it looks on someone else.  But in reality it never happens.  When you see it in the closet, it just reminds you that you don’t love it.  It’s not you – and it just sits there.  Even if you really really WANT to love it, it’s never going to happen.  And it’s just taking up space. That book you really wanted to read (or thought you should read).  The  These items are usually easier for me to give up, because when I take that second look, I know that I’m never really going to like this item.  And that I probably never did.  I just wanted to.


“I might need it in the future”
This is a little different than those other two. This is the true “I might need it one day” – and it usually is the one that strikes most often.  The “OH NO, what if I need it in the future and I get rid of it now?!”  These are the things kept for that just in case moment – something that might happen in the future.  It has probably been used once or twice.  And now it just sits there – just in case.  I got rid of over half my cookbooks.  I love to cook.  I want to cook.  And yep, I need to cook.  But with the internet and limited time, the cookbooks aren’t realistic right now.  But getting rid of them was hard…  What if there was that ONE recipe that would change family dinners forever.  And I just gave the cookbook away!  What if I need that particular serving dish?  Or pair of jeans?  Or garden tool? And crazy things… like a washing machine adapter from 3 houses ago.  That fear of “what if I need this in the future and I have to buy it again” – I might as well hold onto it…  But doing that with a roomful of stuff just turns into a mess (just ask that corner in my basement).  And even if you have kept it, you probably won’t know where it is when you actually need it.  What is needed is prioritizing!  Realitizing! (sure, why not)  Then find what truly brings you passion.  And what you truly need.  This category is my toughest purge.  Items that had very limited usefulness – they haven’t fulfilled their entire purpose.  This one takes honesty.  What do I really need RIGHT NOW?   

What’s my style?

After doing a few trouble spots of organizing in the house, what is next?

What is my organizing style?  It may seem, by watching home improvement shows or reading magazine articles, that there is a right way to get organized.  But there are SO many different styles of getting through all the stuff and finding a system that works for you.

The most important thing is to find an organizing system that works for you is that it is easily maintained.  But here are a few basic principles to keep in mind:

  • Find a spot/home for everything – nothing lands and stays randomly
  • Keep surfaces mostly clear
  • Pair down enough so that things can “breathe” – aka you can see everything!
  • Group like-items together

You might not be a labeling person – and that’s ok!  You might love storage boxes or baskets.  You might like to hang things on the wall (going vertical is a great way to use space).  I love to label, and I like to contain things.  But you might like open shelving and easy access to items.   What you want to find…is all your stuff!

You want to find a system for you that you can maintain.  There will probably be an initial purge.  But after that, there needs to be a plan for things that enter the house.  And this can be for each area as you get to work on them – different plans for different areas of the house.  The plan will change over time.  And the plan will be forgotten.  And cleaning out will happen again.  But getting to know how this system works for you in YOUR house will help in the future.  It’s best to not just throw everything out (even though, some days, I just want to do that) – it’s going to be a slow-going and sometimes frustrating process.  Yikes!  Who want to start now?!  Yay?  But it’s like a diet – you need something that will work long term.  A crash diet will work short term, but it’s hard to maintain and there is major burn out quickly.  To be organized in the home is to find a “stuff diet” that works – and can keep working.

The goal should be that you are using your home and storage areas to have the things you need and know where it all is and have easy access to it when you need it.  I am going to be on this organizing journey too.  I like to do it – but sometimes it just NEEDS to get done!  Organizing is an ongoing project.  Things are always coming in the house and need a home.  And if the stuff that’s already here doesn’t have a home, where is the new stuff going to go?

So I am going to be tackling some big areas in the near future…  There’s a room in my house that has been catching stuff all summer (and for the past 4 years) – and there are so many things that I need in that room, that I think are in that room, and I have no clue where they are.  Or I have to move stuff out of the way to access them.  And it’s driving me crazy.  It wastes my time.  It results in duplicate stuff.   And the time is now… or at least very soon!

The to-do list

Now the big clean-out seems to be looming in the future – at least at my house.  It hasn’t happened yet.  I hope that it will soon.  But admitting that it needs to happen is the first step, right?  I have identified the problem.  And I know what I want it to look like.  But finding the time to get it started, let alone get it done – with all the other daily stuff that the house and people IN the house need – is a task in itself!


So I’m going to talk about another organizing tool – or torture devise – depending on how you see it!  The To Do list!  Some people love writing out lists and checking things off – and some people just keep the list in their head.  But however you do it, you’ve got a list.  Somewhere.  And as for me, I have a ton lists.  A daily list.  A long term list.  A weekly list.  Lots of lists!

So to those that do not like the list, here are some benefits to making to do lists – about anything, really – long term projects, daily tasks, things to get, things to do.  And some ways to use the list, once you have made it!

The Good:

Visualize – You get to see what needs to be done.  Sometimes the task seems so big, that when you write a list, it doesn’t seem so bad.  Or the flip side of that – the task seems simple, but when broken down, it is revealed to be more involved.

Prioritize – Having the tasks written out helps you see what needs to be done first, get you on the right track and keep you on the track!

Sorting and Grouping – The list will also help you sort and group items together – making things a little easier…

Delegate – This is a great way to get through the list faster.  Get some helper!

Remember – And yes, the list will help you remember what needs to be done.


However, there are some bad things to making lists.  Yes, I know, I just said that.  Unbelievable, right?  But this is where I am most of the time.


The Pitfalls:

Lose the list – Where did it go?  Now what?  I wrote it down to remember.

  • Go digital with backups.  Or store lists in a notebook or journal.

No action – You get caught in just making lists and nothing ever gets done.  Then the list keeps growing and overwhelms you.

Dreaming too big – Sometimes you add too much to the list or start getting too deep – instead of focusing on “first things”

  • For these two, start small and keep things focused on one topic or area

Making vague lists – Not being specific enough about what needs to be done can be immobilizing.

  • Instead of saying “clean room” say “fold clothes, make bed, etc”


So with those ideas in mind, let’s make some lists!!