For those of you looking to kick off the new year by freeing yourself from the clutter in your life, you’ve come to the right place! I am a self declared neat freak, organizing fanatic and interior enthusiast. Contrary to common belief, I am not in any sense of the word, a minimalist. However, in my world (and home), everything has a place and for the most part, a function. Of course with little ones , things are constantly being ripped out of said “place” and being rearranged in any way that those sweet little souls desire (typically dumped on the floor), but nonetheless, everything has a home at the end of the day.
I often get asked by friends and family, if I can help then to re-functionalize their homes; closets, kitchens and play rooms so that they not only operate as they are intended but also remain organized and clutter-free. So now, with all of the “new year, new you” hype, I figured it is the perfect time to share my tips and tricks for decluttering your home and restoring its sense of functionality. That being said, here are ten steps that you can implement in your home today, without consuming much time and without breaking the bank.
1. Clean-Out the Unnecessary: While the thought of decluttering an already cluttered home may seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. Make a list of all the areas within your home and pick one area to target first. Keep it simple, work on one room per day or per week, depending on your schedule. When tackling a heavily cluttered space like a garage, closet or attic, identify things that are no longer practical, used or needed and make piles for items to keep, items to throw away, items to donate / sell and items to relocate. Often times the idea of cleaning out personal belongings instills feelings of anxiousness, but that anxiety will soon turn to feelings of relief and a sense of freedom, I promise!
2. Repeat Step 1 Regularly: Cleaning out unused or misplaced items within your home is not a one and done scenario. In fact, it is something that should be done monthly, if not weekly or even better, as you go about your daily life. Once your home is decluttered after the big clean out (referenced in Step 1), reinforcing your efforts should not take very much time at all.
3. Designate Areas: Depending on the layout and size of your home, you likely have rooms intended for a distinct purpose; living room, family room, play room, bed room, office, etc. And YES even homes with an open floor plan have designated areas (you just may need to get creative in defining each space by way of furniture placement, style and decor).
It is important for the purpose of minimizing clutter, to define the spaces within your home and to use them for their intended use. For example, if you have a living room that is ideally served as an “adult space”, keep it as such. Instead use a designated family room or play room for toys, games and crafts.
Also within reason, try to keep items that reside in their designated rooms, within that particular area. In my home, we have toys intended for my kid’s rooms and also those intended for the playroom; and likewise, the main floor. This is not to say that the kids can’t or won’t bring a toy or lovey from one room to another (of course that can happen), but at the end of the day the item will return to its designated home. Doing this prevents overflow and minimizes the spreading of clutter throughout the entire house.
*If you are confined for space within your home and many rooms serve as multi-purpose, it becomes especially important to implement storage and containment solutions (see Step 4).
4. Color Coordinate: Color is a great tool for home organization and can be used in many ways. Color coordinating closets and office spaces, among other areas, provides the appearance of a cleaner and more put together space. Also, the integration of colored elements within the home (from pillows, to curtains, to storage bins and more), is an easy and effective way to demonstrate warmth and personality, in a fun and non-permanent way.
In my home, turquoise is the color of choice. You will see it integrated moderately into the different rooms of the main floor, creating a clean and clutter-free look. This is especially important in homes that has an open floor plan. When multiple rooms blend into one (like ours, where the kitchen, casual dining space and living room, are essentially all one room), a subtle trace of one consistent element (color, texture, print, etc). is useful for creating an element of cohesion and purpose. Here are a few examples of how I integrate a common elements into my home.
In addition to visually tying it all together, color is often an effective way to assign ownership and to designate the placement of things. For example, assigning a color to each member of your household, can be used as a way to identify, locate and put away items, by providing each person / child with a corresponding colored toy bin and laundry basket.
Finally, having different colored storage totes (or labels), signifying a unique category, such as blue for sports equipment, yellow for craft supplies and green for outdoor items, is another useful color coordination strategy.
5. Use Storage Solutions: This step is implemented to the nth degree at my house. In our closets, we have baskets for items that cannot be hung or folded, including belts, bathing suits and hats. In the playroom, we have toy bins that are organized by toy type, including books, electronics and stuffed animals. In our garage and basement storage, we have plastic totes for miscellaneous items, including holiday decor, party supplies, home improvement accessories and baby items. Nice looking bins, baskets and storage totes are easy to find at many local retailers, including Homegoods, Target, Michael’s, Pier 1 and even Walmart. I like to match them to the style and color scheme of the room that they will be located within. You can also get creative with your solutions, using multi-functional pieces like using a storage ottoman, which can also double as a coffee table and or additional seating.
The following storage system is located within my son’s nursery. The blue baskets store items, such as diapers, wipes and baby shoes, while the bottom baskets contain books and stuffed animals that are stored at a toddler friendly height!
6. Be Consistent: After use, put items back in the same place each time. In your kitchen and pantry, put food items, including bowls, plates, cups, etc. back in the same cabinet. Or in the family room, store blankets, toys and magazines in the same bin, every day. Think of other items that you commonly misplace around your home; keys, cell phones, chargers, mail, etc. and designate a consistent home for these things as well. This will not only prevent clutter from accumulating, but it will will also make it easier to put these items away and likewise, easier to find the next time.
7. Use Labels: Labels are great for organizing the items that you may not use / see everyday and are therefore easy to forget about, including totes that end up in remote storage locations, such as basements, garages and attics. In addition, labels are also great for pantry items and craft supplies that you want to locate and grab quickly and easily. In these instances, your can use a label marker, sticker labels that you either write on by hand or print using a computer, or you can even implement unique ideas, such as chalk board paints for a fun and custom look.
8. Make a Routine: While I certainly prefer to clean up as I go, it may not be practical for everyone, everyday. Therefore, establishing a clean-up routine that works for you and your family, is key to keeping your home tidy and clutter free. Maybe prior to dinner is the best time for you , or after dinner and before bed. Maybe doing a cleaning sweep 3 days a week is best, or exclusively on the weekends. The key here is to remove mess and clutter from one day / one week, prior to recreating it the next.
9. Get the Kids Involved: Keeping a space clean and clutter free should be the responsibility of the entire family. Dividing and conquering not only teaches and shares accountability, but also results in getting the job done faster. Make it fun and second nature for your kids. Place toy bins on low shelves where they can easily put their belongings away at the end of the day, or prior to moving on to the next activity. Rather than using written labels for kid’s storage bins, use pictures so that they can easily identify the designated home for their items.
Here is a fun storage system that we integrated into our playroom. Since the playroom is in basement, apart from the rest of the house, we adapted a playful color pallet that stands on its own.
10. Implement Everywhere! Of course there are in-home locations (closets, pantries, play rooms etc.) that can most prominently benefit from these decluttering tips, but try to implement these ideas in areas outside of the home as well, including your office, your car and even your garage.
Thank you for reading and as always, feel free to comment below with any questions or feedback or to contact me directly!