Frugal Organization Tips for a Clutter-free Home

June 12, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Home Decorating, Home Organization Ideas · Comments Off on Frugal Organization Tips for a Clutter-free Home 

One major facet to keeping our homes in order is keeping them organized. And just like cleaning, it’s a never ending job. You can spend a month of Sundays creating a place for everything and putting everything in its place, then before long, you’ll find you have more items that need to be put away, or things haven’t been put back where they belong and your house is in disorder again. It’s a rare person who can keep everything organized all the time. But we can’t give up trying!

One challenge to an organized home is the fact that we’re a consumer society. We’re always buying or acquiring more. We get what we have organized and put in place, then before you know it, we have more, so we have more organizing to do. The best way to stay on top of the job is to organize as we go, if possible. Barring that, do your best to set aside a certain amount of time every week to work on organization. Even 15 minutes a week will make a difference in keeping clutter under control.

Look around your home. Do you see items that have no home, no place where they belong? If so, create a place for them. Decide where you’ll keep them and put them there. Then, as soon as you use something, put it back where it belongs.

For example, one of my friends is a pen freak. She loves pens and is always buying new ones to add to the dozens and dozens of pens she already has. Everywhere you look, you’ll see pens laying around her home. She finally got frustrated enough to designate a cute little kangaroo planter as a pen holder. She set it on top of her microwave, and now every time she gets a new pen or finds one laying around, she puts it in the kangaroo. An added benefit is that whenever she needs a pen, she knows exactly where to look.

The reason we have clutter is that we have more stuff than we can easily find space for. So unless you can get rid of some things and quit buying more, the next best option is to create storage space. But don’t just rush out and buy store-bought storage solutions.

Cynthia Townley Ewer of OrganizedHome.com suggests that frugal moms “organize first, measure next, and buy–if they buy–last.” Meaning: don’t head off to the store and buy a cart-load of neat organizing gadgets and gizmos, only to find A) they don’t work or fit your room, or B) you didn’t buy enough to complete the job.

Instead, Ewer cautions, organize and separate your items, measure the space where you plan to put them, and see if you can use what’ you have on hand for the actual organization. If not, then you can buy something for the purpose. But not before!

You can easily make your own storage solutions. Cardboard boxes work great to hold almost anything you want to store. And you can find them in every size you need. Don’t like the look? Paint them, or cover them with fabric or self-adhesive paper to make them match your decor.

Wine boxes are wonderful for holding ornaments, glassware and knickknacks in their individualized compartments. Check behind a local liquor store to see if they have any.

Shoe boxes are another great find. Fill them with a variety of household objects including craft items, jewelry, kitchen surplus, tools and more.

Baskets are in abundance at yard sales and thrift stores – often for 25¢ or less each. If you like the style and shape of a basket you find, but don’t like the color or you can’t get it clean, spray paint it. Choose a color to match your decor and create a custom look that’s just right for your home.

Also keep an eye out for used organizing tools at yard sales and thrift stores. Shoe and closet organizers, under-the-bed storage containers, plastic bins and more can be found all over. Don’t go overboard, though. You could buy so many organizers that you need to organize your organizers!

Organizing paperwork is a task in itself, but there are frugal options available. Use file folders and boxes to keep up with records you have to hold on to, magazines you want to keep, and appliance manuals. You can also keep unpaid bills and other essentials in a file folder on your desk or in a drawer.

Organize everything as you go. Keep up with names and addresses by writing them in an address book – in pencil! – as soon as you get a new one. You’ll always know where to find a number, and you won’t be wondering what happened to that little slip of paper with the plumber’s phone number on it when your kitchen sink springs a leak.

There are many ways to create an organized home. Taking the time needed to find what works for you and your family will free you from the “clutter stress” and give you more time to enjoy life.

Organizing your Child’s Bedroom

January 10, 2009 · Filed Under Kids Rooms Ideas · 1 Comment 

messy-room-pictureIf your children are anything like my boys, you need all the help you can get with their bedroom. Keeping their room clean is just as hard on you as it is them. As much as you hate to do this, the easiest way to get them organized is to either do it for them the first time or help them do it.

Not knowing how to organize your child’s bedroom can be a problem. Learning how to do it is easier than you may think.

•    Overlook

Overlook the mess and go into your child’s room. You need to look at what they have, what they don’t have, and what they need. This will give you an idea of what you need to purchase to get started. Now you need to understand, you may have to make another trip or three to the store to get more supplies. This will depend on what you find when you get in there and start cleaning.

•    Supplies

Supplies that are good for organizing your child’s room would be hangers, plastic boxes with lids, and a shoe bag. You can purchase these items at discount stores or other stores. They don’t need to be pricey to work.

•    Room idea’s

If you have the funds and the room, you should consider purchasing a bunk bed with a desk underneath. It’s a wonderful addition to a bedroom that is small or a child that needs room. It’s a bed on top and a desk on the bottom. This type of bed will give your child a huge amount of room.

•    Cleaning

You need to start the cleaning process. You need to plan on spending a few hours on this task. Of course, the amount of time will all depend on how bad the room is and how much stuff they have hiding in unseen places. You need to take some plastic bags with you. You need to plan on throwing away all the old papers, trash, wrappers, and anything else that is garbage. Don’t let your child talk you into keeping stuff that doesn’t need to be kept.

If you are the type of person that can’t throw school papers and drawings away, you need to either put them in a box or save your favorites in a put them in a scrapbook. Figure out a way to organize these items and then continue the process.

•    Organizing

Once you have the cleaning done, you will need your hangers, plastic boxes, and shoe bag.

Hang up all the shirts and/or dresses, fold pants and/or skirts and put them in the dresser. If you don’t have a dresser or don’t have room for all the pants, you can hang them as well.

The plastic boxes will be used for the clothes that you won’t be using. These can be for seasonal clothes or hand me down clothes that your child isn’t ready for yet. You can also use them for toys, kits, etc.

Shoe bags can either hang on the closet door or the back of the bedroom door. When you put the shoes in this bag, you will leave the bottom of the closet clean and you will be able to use it for other items.

Once you finish the cleaning and putting everything where it should go, your child’s room will look wonderful. Now you need to train your child to put things away every night before bedtime. This may take a week or so, but you if remind them each day before bed, it will become habit. You also need to train your child to put things where they go instead of where they don’t go.

Organizing your child’s room will make you feel better about it and your child will enjoy spending time in there. Stand your ground with this and you will feel great. Good luck!

Out with the Old, In with the New

January 9, 2009 · Filed Under Stay at Home Sanity · Comments Off on Out with the Old, In with the New 

toys-in-storage-tubsFamiliar saying, right? Out with the old, in with the new. What does that title make you think of, or mean to you? Well, here on Show Mom the Money and specifically the Stay at Home Sanity section, we are going to tell you what it means for your home. I am going to give you some tips on purging the old stuff (aka decluttering) and making your house look and feel like new! It will be so refreshing and will really help your sanity!

Where to begin: The best place to begin a declutterization process is the area that bugs you the most. Mine is my office table/desk. I don’t have an actual desk so I use a 6 ft. table. It is so cluttered with mail and envelopes and files and paper and headphones and cell phone chargers and 3 disposable cameras of my daughters that need to be developed, and book and post it notes and all kinds of other crap stuff. It’s highly irritating. Most of it has a place of its own (need I mention not my table?) but it lands there because it’s convenient I suppose.

Stick with one spot before moving to the next:  It’s best to start with one spot, get it completely decluttered before moving to the next this way you will feel a sense of accomplishment. I know when I clean one spot, it motivates me to clean the rest!

What to get rid of: You should get rid of anything that you haven’t used in the last year, including, but not limited to: clothes, CD’s, books, papers, games, office supplies, shoes, home decor, dishes, candles, bedding, hair and body products, cleaning products, medicines and even furniture.

How to get rid of unused items: There are several options you can use to get rid of your unwanted items, some of which you can make some extra cash from, some you can donate to charity and some you can just throw away. Ebay is a good place to sell some of your used CD’s, books, and games, furniture, and home décor. Joining Ebay is easy; however I have not personally tried to sell anything there yet, but am thinking about it. Have a garage sale. Being that it’s winter here in North America, this may not be feasible right now, but you could begin organizing your items for a garage sale in the spring or summer. Old clothing can be given to Goodwill, the Salvation Army or other charitable organization, as well as any of the other items listed above. You can get a receipt from them with a value on the goods donated for tax purposes. Some of the stuff you just need to throw away like worn out shoes, melted candles and old hair and body products and medicine. Be sure you dispose of these things properly as we don’t want to contribute to more pollutants in the atmosphere or ground.

What to do with items until they sell or can be disposed of properly: You will need to get some bins or totes for the items you are selling on Ebay or have a garage sale in the future. After you take the photo of the item and post it on Ebay, put it in the bin. Mark garage-sale items with a price tag and sort them into bins by item; i.e. clothes, dishes, office supplies and home décor. Store the bin in a safe place, but one you can hide out of the way, like in a closet, or a room that is not used much. If you don’t have such a closet or room, make a spot out of the way, up against a wall, but make it easily accessible for when it does sell! For donated items take them as soon as possible, especially if it’s furniture, clothing or home décor. Any clothing items you can put in a large garbage bag or box, as well as games, CD’s and books. Obviously you will want to purge the throw away items as soon as possible as well.

Making time for declutterizing: This is probably the biggest reason your home gets cluttered in the first place, time or lack thereof, to clean. This is my reason excuse. If you take it one step at a time, one table, closet or room at a time, eventually your whole house will be decluttered. It will take some time, but it will happen if your persistent and set a time each day to clean out just one spot a day. It can take as little as a few minutes time to clean out a closet or clean off a table. The important thing is to make the time each day a part of your daily routine.

Keep the house decluttered: Once you have your house purged of the old, don’t go buying new stuff to re-declutter it again. That is unless you need to replace some worn out curtains, bedding, furniture or home décor. Use the money you’ve made on Ebay or at your garage sale to replace these items.

If you put forth the little bit of effort required to purge and declutter, then your house will feel new and refreshing! And with a little bit of effort each day, your home can stay nice and clean!

Happy House Decluttering!

Tips for Organizing your Christmas Decorations

December 7, 2008 · Filed Under Home Organization Ideas, Stay at Home Sanity · 1 Comment 

With the Christmas season in full force, now is the time to organize your Christmas decorations. You know what you have, what you use, and what you don’t use. You will have it all out in front of you or at least out on the walls and doors. This is the perfect time to reorganize everything so it fits better, it’s labeled, and in one place.

This article will show you ways that will make Christmas next year so much easier when it comes to your decorations.

• Old and unused decorations

First thing you need to do is decide what you are going to do with the decorations you didn’t put up. Is there a reason why you didn’t use them? Could it be because you use a theme each year and they didn’t fit into the theme? Is it because they are old, brittle, or broken? Decide if you need and/or want to keep them. If you don’t either throw them out or give them to someone else.

• Decide on the number of containers

Once you have done that, you need to look at what you have left and decide how many containers you will need to store them in. You will need to get plastic boxes with lids. You will put your items in these boxes and get rid of all the cardboard boxes that you have.

You will need at least one container for your ornaments, one container for your lights, one container for your garland, one container for your figurines and other decorations, and one or two containers for your tree. The container for your tree may need to be bigger than the others or you may need to get more than one. Depending on how much you have, you may be able to put your garland in with your lights and save yourself a box.

Purchase your containers as soon as you can. That way you will have them when you take your tree down. When you are ready to put your items in your containers, you need to make sure they are organized so you won’t have to stress next year when you are ready to take them out and put them up again.

• Ornaments

When you put your ornaments in your container, you will want to be careful if you don’t have the boxes they came in when you purchased them. One way to protect them is to use the skirt from under your tree to put them on top of. You can put that down, then put a layer of ornaments in, then put your stockings in there and put another layer of ornaments in. You can also include pot holders, hand towels, and any other material items you may have to help protect your ornaments from being damaged. Another option is to get newspaper or packing material and use that instead.

• Garland

When you put your garland in your container, you want to figure out a way to keep them from getting knotted up. One way to do this is to cut a piece of cardboard about two feet in length by twelve inches in width to wrap your garland around. Do this for each strand that you have so they don’t get mixed in with each other.

• Lights

Put your lights around the two foot cardboard as well. It will be a little tricky to do this so you may need to go with a longer and wider piece of cardboard. Now depending on how many strands you have and how big your box is, you may be able to combine your garland and lights in the same box.

• Miscellaneous items

Now you are ready to take your figurines and other decorations down and put them in a container. This would be items that go on counter tops, entertainment stands, on the walls and floor, etc.

• Tree

Once you are ready to take your tree down, you will want to put each set of branches in the container to cover one level of the box. Keep stacking them in the box. I suggest you start with the top of the tree and work your way down. That way when you go to put it up next year, you can start at the bottom and work your way up.

Now you need a sharpie. Write on the lid and the side of the container that will be facing out what you have in the container. When you do this, it will be easier for you to find them next year. Now they are ready to be put away.

Christmas time is a fun and exciting time. Decorating your house is a great time with the family. Make it even better when your decorations are organized in plastic containers. Good luck and Merry Christmas!

Organizing Basics for Busy Moms

October 31, 2008 · Filed Under Home Organization Ideas · Comments Off on Organizing Basics for Busy Moms 

Organizing Basics: We all want more time- if I did a poll of what you would ask for if you could have anything most of us would probably say more hours in a day before we would even ask for money or fame. An organized life is a simplified life and a simplified life means more time for the things that are important. There is no easy fix! Organizing is an ongoing process not an event. People say I am going to “get organized”. That is a great goal to aspire to but I encourage you to reword it a little. Try- I am going to become more organized. First of all, everyone has some aspect of their life that is organized. Your house can be cluttered with mountains of laundry and three years worth of magazines but your spices might be alphabetized or you might need all the towels in your linen closet folded the same way. So, here are some tips for getting started in the process of becoming more organized.

  1. Just do it: Don’t be afraid and overwhelmed by the organizing process. Taking it one task at a time is the easiest way to dive into an unorganized space. Once you see progress you will be motivated to continue.
  2. Start small: Picture the one space in your home that you avoid, the place that makes you shake your head and cringe when you pass by. That spot that you really want to change but just don’t know where to start. The space in your home that bothers you the most. Start there. Set the timer for half an hour. Get done what you can, assess what you accomplished and what is left and go back later.
  3. What works for one might not work for you. Those organization articles in magazines have great ideas but they are very generic. Sometimes we judge ourselves if we fail after trying to implement some of those ideas from HGTV shows and articles. Please remember those shows represent hours and hours of work with seasoned professionals edited down to a half hour time slot. I typically spend 8-12 hours on a home office, 10 hours on a kitchen, etc (which is why I charge by the project and not by the hour). It all depends. One size does not fit all.
  4. Keep at it. Once you have invested the time and effort to become more organized you have to work at maintaining that progress or you will slip right back into old habits. This is just like losing weight, having a daily quiet time or any other new habit you try to form. Maintenance is key to keeping your life organized. I develop a maintenance plan for my clients. It would be a shame to invest your finances and your time in a project and three weeks later walk into the same mess that was there before. All it takes is being aware of what created the situation in the first place and being committed to changing the pattern. Take fifteen minutes at the end of the day to clear the clutter off the kitchen counter or pick up the mismatched gloves that have accumulated in front of the door. If you put everything in it’s place tonight you will have a better start to your day tomorrow and you will not face an accumulation of clutter.
  5. Enlist help- if organization is not your strong suit chances are you know someone who has the knack. Swap- babysitting or cook them dinner for a week in exchange for helping you tackle your cluttered family room. Hire a professional organizer- it is not as cost prohibitive as you may think!! Having an organized life means less stress and more time.

Happy Organizing!

Home Organization Takes Serenity-Acceptance-Courage-Wisdom

October 12, 2008 · Filed Under Home Organization Ideas · Comments Off on Home Organization Takes Serenity-Acceptance-Courage-Wisdom 

God grant me the Serenity
to Accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.

craft drawersCreative Commons License photo credit: evelynishere

The origin of The Serenity Prayer is unknown, and often debated.  Every group who recites it, claims it.  So, I’m claiming it now.  When I’m on a mission to organize my home, I become very tired and weary, and feel the need for a hand-up.  Our busy lives, trying to juggle home, family, and work, leave little time to think about getting organized.  But, when we are not organized at home or work, we feel overwhelmed, missing out on the sense of well-being that we deserve.  What did I accomplish today, other than getting further behind in my work, piling stuff higher to the ceilings, and spinning in circles trying to get my life and home organized?

Having an organized home may not seem that important in the grand scheme of things.  But, the truth is, when we have structure in our routines and in our homes, we feel better in control and, ultimately, happier.  When we live in chaos, we feel disjointed, unsure, and uncertain of our abilities.  How many times have we looked through the piles of paperwork heaped on our tables and counters, panicked because we can’t find a permission slip for our child’s field trip, or the electric bill that’s already late, or our child’s science report that’s due today, or any number of items that require immediate attention.  Do you start doubting your qualifications as a parent, homemaker, or professional?  Let’s put The Serenity Prayer to work in a step-by-step approach to organizing your home and life.

God grant me the Serenity
When I start an arduous task like organizing my home, I like to begin with a bit of serenity.  Whether you find serenity in prayer, tea, exercise, or closing your eyes for a few minutes, a little peaceful reflection is in order.  Take some time to reflect on the reasons you’ve chosen this particular task, what you hope to accomplish by tackling this chore, the method in which you choose to execute the assignment, and even the rewards you’ll receive once the job is complete.

Accept the things I cannot change
Now that you’ve examined your motivations and expectations, I’ll bet you see a few flaws.  The house you live in has a number of occupants that don’t necessarily share your quest for organization… or at least not in the same way you envision.  For instance, say your family loves to leave videos piled in front of the television so they can wade through them at their leisure.  How will they view your attempt to box all the videos neatly away?  Is this an issue that your family is unwilling to negotiate?  Can you accept the fact that the family room has videos strewn on the floor?  If not, and you insist on putting the videos in a closet somewhere, your family may see you as trying to gain unreasonable control.  They will feel that you are not listening to their needs or wants.  The success of your mission depends on the involvement of the entire family. By including your family’s opinion, you eliminate the misunderstandings which will, at some point, lead to sabotage.  Yes, you can gently lead them in your direction, but here’s where acceptance will be your saving grace.  Pick your battles, and accept the little things that your family will not change.

Courage to change the things I can
It takes courage to, first of all, admit that you need to change your bad habits.  One of my motivations behind organizing my home was that I felt inadequate.  I was late for appointments.  My son almost missed a field trip because I lost the permission slip.  A birthday present for my niece was lost somewhere in the house and never found.   I felt I was apologizing to everyone for things I’d forgotten or missed.  My chaotic house was not really at fault.  I needed to change the way I was spending my time. It takes courage to put your house in order.  Taking a few minutes each day with your family, putting away the dishes, folding clothes, and picking up puzzles and games, is usually not met with happy rejoinders.  Turning off the television against cries of protest, and reminding your family that they all agreed to pick up the clutter before bedtime, takes a great deal of courage.  Changing your family’s routine to include keeping your home organized is courageous, indeed!

Wisdom to know the difference
If you feel that you have been beating your head against a wall, trying to get your family organized, you probably haven’t sorted out what you can and can’t change.  This is where choosing your battles comes in.  You are wise enough to know when you are fighting a losing battle.  At what point do you give up and give in?  Are you losing sight of the big picture by focusing on a losing battle?  If everyone in your family likes the videos piled next to the television, do you want to fight about putting them in a closet?  Ask yourself if this is something that you can change.  If not, how about your family’s habit of leaving their clothes on the floor?  This could be something that your family will change.  You and your family have agreed to organize your home, so knowing the difference between what you can change in their lives and what you can’t change, and respecting your family’s wishes, makes everyone feel ownership and pride in their newly organized home.

When you plan the strategies you will take to organize your home, take a few extra moments to consider the impact your mission may have on your family. The involvement of everyone in your family will smooth out the bumps you’ll experience along the way. Using the structure of The Serenity Prayer might just give you a place to start, and peace in your household.

Now that you found out how easy it is to get and stay organized, it’s time to start… check back here for more Home Organization Ideas.

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