Clutter can be a household’s worst enemy. Chronic disorganization isn’t just a nuisance, it can negatively affect a person’s mental, physical and fiscal health.
Lost bills go unpaid. Misplaced medications sit untaken. Mold, mildew, and dust cause allergies and other health problems. As WebMD’s Jennifer Nelson explains, “clutter equals stress.”
Naturally organized since childhood, Tucker resident Cindy Smallwood has been employed by friends and neighbors on home organization projects for years. She says taking few steps toward organization can positively affect the entire home and family.
Smallwood suggests creating “Home Central” – a place where daily items like keys and mail are organized. “You have to have one place that’s the first place you go,” she said. “When everyone comes in the house, it’s where they dump their stuff. You need to have a designated area for that. For most people, the kitchen-dining room area is the dumping ground.”
Smallwood suggests clients arrange hooks, shelves and baskets near the entryway. This allows car keys, shoes, purses, backpacks and other items to be neatly put away rather than dropped all over the house.
Incoming mail is a source of clutter in many homes. “Mail is another huge thing that has to be dealt with on a daily basis,” noted Smallwood. “You need to have some way of dealing with it as soon as it comes in.” She suggests sorting mail near the trash can or recycle bin, then dividing the remaining mail into two groups: items that need immediate attention, and those that can wait. Each group needs a place in Home Central, such as a file folder or letter tray.
“When you have an organized Home Central, the mornings run more smoothly and there is less time wasted running around the house looking for things,” said Smallwood.
Tackle the Clutter
Too often, disorganization is approached as a problem solved by sorting and labeling. New containers only go so far. Purging unused or unnecessary items is an extremely important step towards personal organization. Smallwood notes, “[W]e’ve just got too much stuff. It’s just way too much, and there’s no way you can have enough places for all of it. Making a regular practice of going through and weeding out or just not letting it come in the house in the first place, can really cut down on that clutter.”
Purging can be difficult for those that feel overwhelmed or extremely attached to their belongings. “It does help a lot to have another person to help you let go of some things,” she said. “It’s ok to save a few things, but you don’t have to save a child’s whole wardrobe from the first six months of their life. Letting somebody else enjoy those little outfits is ok.” Smallwood suggests setting personal limits on sentimental items. Keeping three or four favorite books, outfits or small toys is fine so long as there is a place to store them properly. As Smallwood laughingly explained, “It’s a lot easier to keep a little bit of stuff neat than a whole lot of stuff neat!”
The difficult work of purging and organizing will be wasted if newly neatened areas quickly return to a state of chaos. Having the entire family on board is an essential and sometimes long process. “Once you have a system in place, you still have to maintain it, or else you’re going to be right back where you started. You can set all these great systems in place, but you have to follow through and keep that area neat.”
She warns against attempting to keep things neat single-handedly. “You’ll have to train your family for a bit, but after a while, it will become habit. Have [family members] place the items back properly, not just you picking up after them and putting things in the right place.”
The time and effort needed to organize a cluttered home can be substantial. The rewards are wide ranging, including a healthier, more relaxed atmosphere and more free time.
Smallwood is available to assist with home organization projects, including helping clients prepare for yard sales and transporting donated items to the drop off locations. Her hourly rate varies depending on the task, and there is a four hour minimum. She can be contacted at email@example.com.