There are several organizing mistakes that I frequently see when working with my clients. The following is a list of the most common ones. Hopefully, this list will help you learn to recognize and avoid these common organizing pitfalls so that they don't bring your organizing efforts to a sudden halt.
1. Resist Shopping Before You Organize
It is best not to shop before you start a project but I see this one all of the time. For one thing, it is impossible to know exactly what, how much and what size products you need before you finish the sorting and purging part of your project. You may be surprised to find that by the time you get that far, you end up needing to buy much less than you anticipated. This happens because once you have sorted through all of your things, and have let go of what you no longer use, you likely will end up with some available empty containers that were once full. You will spend less money and purchase more functional products if you wait.
Another important benefit to shopping later rather than sooner is that you can use getting to this step as a motivational incentive to get the hard part of the project done first. In other words, put in the effort first, then you can reward yourself by shopping for products. Shopping is the easiest and most enjoyable part of the job, so if you shop first, you risk losing your interest and/or motivation to continue.
2. Don't Shuffle Clutter from Room to Room
If you catch yourself filling up a different room in your house each time you organize the one you are working in, you may be caught in the shuffling trap. Be careful not to make the mistake of moving things from room to room instead of letting go of or find a home for them. If you do this, you will never finish organizing! It is so easy to make this mistake because it is harder to make decisions about whether to let something go or where to store it than it is to just move it. It is tempting to push off decisions until later in order to get a room that has been driving you crazy cleaned out - especially if you are short on time. The problem is that if you are only postponing decisions, no real progress is being made.
Additionally, If you can’t find permanent homes for things because your storage spaces are already full, this may be a sign that it is time to go through your closets and cabinets and clean them out in order to make room for new things. Making some empty storage space so that you can put things away, will usually put a stop to the shuffling game.
3. Focus on Your Successes, Not Your Failures
If you are facing a big job, focus on what you have completed as you go, rather than on the sometimes-overwhelming amount of work that lies ahead. By staying focused on your progress, you will give yourself the motivation and determination to keep going. Be sure to take pictures before you start so that you can look back at where you started and clearly measure your progress. Relish in the progress you have made each step of the way and be careful not to let a small slip up or delay in your progress derail your effort to move forward.
Success comes by taking small steps forward and building on those successes. Nothing stops progress in its tracks like beating yourself up for not being perfect. Stay focused on your goal. With each small success you will gain more confidence in your own ability to change and overcome, and you will learn to trust yourself one victory at a time.
4. Don't Get Overwhelmed by Organizing Too Large of a Space at Once
Have you ever spent the day running around your house doing a little organizing here and there, in a haphazardly way, and by the end of the day, you are exhausted yet can’t see any tangible results? This can leave you feeling like your efforts have been futile. Instead, focus on one small space at a time and break up large rooms into small chunks. If you can get your kitchen island organized, you can get your pantry organized. If you can get your pantry organized, you can get your kitchen organized. If you can get your kitchen organized than you can get your whole house organized. Breaking a project into small manageable chunks not only prevents you from getting overwhelmed, but will help you to clearly see your results as you go. This is important because at the end of the day, if you can open your pantry or closet and see the fruit of your labor. This will provide you with the encouragement you need to keep going.
5. Don't Start Your Organizing Quest with a Difficult Category of Clutter
If you have several areas in your home that need attention, leave keepsakes, photos and paperwork until last. Tackle these categories later because they are the most emotionally challenging and can also be very time consuming. Both photos and keepsakes can take you for a walk down memory lane and the next thing you know you are out of time and not much progress has been made.
In the beginning, you will want to target a category that will enable you to make more rapid progress. A bedroom closet, a bathroom or perhaps a pantry are all easier places to start. Once you have gained momentum and have already completed most of your other organizing projects, you can then dive into these tougher categories of clutter.
6. Stop Making Excuses About Letting Go of Clutter
I often hear the same excuses for not letting go of things, such as “I might use this thing someday” or “I should sell this thing” or, “I don't use this thing, but I paid a lot for it, so I should keep it.” And my favorite; “This thing was a gift so would feel guilty if I got rid of it.” These excuses become the barriers that get in the way of our being able to free ourselves from this kind of clutter. Be firm about what stays in your home, and let go of the excuses that bind you to the things that you don’t use. If an excuse traps you into keeping something consider alternative choices. For example, in the case of “I should sell this thing,” If it is thing is truly worth the time and money it takes to sell it, then commit to selling it now rather than later.
7. Don't Postpone Decisions
Any given item usually has a whole set of strings attached to it…Should I keep it? Will I use it? Where shall I store it? Or perhaps...How should I get rid of it? Much of the clutter in our homes ultimately represents indecision, and it is tempting to put off all of those difficult decisions until tomorrow. But you will be doing yourself a great favor if you take a deep breath and face it now rather than put it off until later. Whether you are dealing with clutter from the storage room, laundry room or kitchen, deciding to decide now will prevent build up from accumulating as time goes by.
Written by Laura Coufal
Clean & Clutter Free
In Celebration of Fall-Here Is My Recipe for Healthier & Still Delicious Pumpkin Bread.
Until recently, I had been holding onto summer with white knuckles, but I have to say, this week, I am finally starting to feel excited about things like hot apple cider, pumpkin creamer in my coffee, colorful mums on front porches, and all of the other seasonal musings that come with Autumn. So in celebration of fall, I want to share this recipe. My kids have been asking me to make this pumpkin bread that I make every year. Because we like to eat it for breakfast, I have adapted significantly it from the traditional recipe I had, to make it more healthy. Other than the fact that it still has a not so healthy portion of sugar, it is packed with fiber, potassium, beta-carotene and protein. It is so moist and delicious, your kids will not even be able to tell that it is reasonably healthy!
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Spray a generous coat of cooking spray onto the bottom and sides of two 9X5 loaf pans. Cream sugar and oil, add remaining wet ingredients and mix well. Sift dry ingredients together, add to wet ingredients and mix well. Pour evenly into both pans. Bake for 45-55 minutes.
The key to getting and keeping your college dorm room organized, is to ensure that you have everything you need, and nothing that you don't...
With my daughter going off to college in a few weeks, dorm rooms have been on my mind, along with the shock of how fast these last few months with her have passed. I sent my oldest daughter off to college 3 years ago and so we have been through it all before. With exception to enduring a day full of emotions and tears, these tips will ensure that all goes as smoothly as possible on move-in day.
DO: PLAN AHEAD FOR FURNITURE AND DECOR
If you know ahead of time who you are going to be rooming with, talk with your future roommate in advance to avoid duplication of larger items such as a dorm refrigerator, microwave, TV, coffee pot, etc. This is also a good time to discuss decorating, and come up with a style or theme together so that your choice of decor style and color doesn’t clash with your roommate’s.
DO: SPACE PLAN
If possible, measure the spaces in your dorm room a head of time and take photos of closets and bathroom spaces to ensure that larger items like futons, dorm refrigerators, and other items will fit into the spaces available. Use your creativity to rearrange the existing furniture to create more space. If you are short on space try stacking the beds or moving a dresser to your closet.
DON’T: PURCHASES ITEMS WITHOUT MAKING SURE YOU NEED THEM
Be sure to use a college supply checklist to ensure that you don’t forget anything. Knowing what to bring will not only prevent essential items from getting left behind, but will help you to avoid bringing items that you don’t need, that ultimately end up cluttering up your small space. Check with the school to see exactly what they provide, that way you don’t buy a trash can just to find out that there is already one provided. Take advantage of local stores on move-in day. When my older daughter moved in to her dorm room, we held off on buying several questionable items until move in day because we knew we could stop at the store down the street. By the time we had her situated, we were able to buy only what she actually needed and found that we needed less than expected.
DO: ESTABLISH ZONES WITHIN YOUR COLLEGE DORM ROOM
If possible, create small areas for different activities such as studying, sleeping, entertainment and eating. Store everything that you need for each activity in those zones. For example, for studying, create a place to store pens, pencils, highlighters, a comfy pillow, portable light, glasses, etc. so that you will have everything you need at your fingertips when it is time to study.
DON’T: BRING OUT OF SEASON CLOTHING IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO
If you live within reasonable driving distance from your college, leave your winter clothing at home until colder weather arrives. Swap your summer and fall clothes for your winter clothing as the weather changes. You will free up much needed space in your dorm room closet if you only store the clothing and accessories you actually wear.
DO: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVERY INCH OF DORM ROOM SPACE
Bed risers and under the bed storage bins are a great way to utilize the space underneath your bed for extra storage space. Add storage cubicles to the bottom of your closet if you are short on shelf storage. Consider bringing a small night stand with open shelves so that it can double as a small book case. Stackable storage cubes also work well. Over the door pocket organizers are great for extra closet and bathroom storage. Utilize wall space by adding removable damage free hooks on doors to hang things like purses, coats, robes, towels or your backpack.
Taking these steps will ensure that you have everything you need in your college dorm room and nothing stealing space that you won't use.
As a 3 part blog series we have touched on the 3 things that we tend to do better when we are on vacation that we somehow forget when we go back to living our regular lives. If we could just carry some of these things back with us into our daily routines, we would all benefit in a big way. First, we slow our lives down to a more enjoyable pace by LIVING IN VACATION MODE, second, we live more simply while we are away by PACKING ONLY THE NECESSITIES. The third thing we get right while we are on vacation is that we live more in the present by doing a better job of PAYING ATTENTION.
Think about the last time you went on vacation, likely, you can remember much of what you did each day that you were away. That's because we tune in to whats going on around us when we are on vacation. Our senses wake up as we slow down a take in new sights, smells, and even tastes, as we try new foods. We make our best memories on vacation and focus on savoring each moment. We forget about our to-do lists and what needs to be done tomorrow and just live for right now. Whether we are sharing special moments with our family or friends, enjoying a meal, sightseeing or just taking a walk, we are going all of these things in a more awake state than usual and we are enjoying the process.
If we do a better job of living in the present when we are on vacation, what would it be like if we could consciously bring some of this presence back with us into our regular schedules?
I have to repeatedly remind myself to stay present when I spend time with my 3 daughters. I am all too aware that their childhood is quickly vanishing. Already, those little girls I had running around the house have been replaced by big teenage girls that aren't home as often. I know I don't have much time left to make memories. Also, I want those memories to be vivid and rich, I don't want vague ones where I was only half engaged because my mind was mostly on my to-do list and on getting things done. I also do not want my best memories to be limited to the few times a year when we were on vacation.
But lets face it, staying present is not easy, it takes practice and effort, and the busier we are, the harder it is to do it. But it is well worth the effort because when we are present, we not only are more engaged and more patient with the people we are with, but we are better listeners too. While we are naturally more apt to wake up to the new sights and experiences that we encounter while on vacation, it is easy to dismiss the present moment on ordinary days when nothing new or unusual is taking place. But with practice and intention, we can get better at paying attention to what is going on right now, even on uneventful, ordinary days.
Just the other night, my 19-year-old came home from work, she was excited about the storm that she noticed brewing in the sky while on her drive home. She took a seat on the front porch and invited me to join her. I put down the task I was working on and sat down next to her. We just sat there watching the lightning show in the sky for a while, taking in all that we were seeing and hearing. Eventually the wind turned angry and the rain became a down pour, and we were forced to go in to avoid getting soaked. But for a short time, we were absorbed in the now, not doing anything other than living and sharing in the moment. At some point, I realized that this was the first time all day that I had stopped being productive. In my mind, I thought - I need more moments like these in my life. My guess is that many of us need more moments like this in our lives. I was so grateful to my daughter for nudging me be present for a little while.
See if you can look for opportunities to savor the present moment more often. Even simple tasks like walking the dog can be done better. As we walk, we can intentionally stop thinking about what needs to get gone when we get home or what problem needs to be solved, and focus instead on the walk itself. We can walk more consciously, and pay attention to all the sights and sounds of nature. We can intentionally listen to the birds singing, and the planes flying overhead. Our brains will appreciate the momentary break from constantly problem solving. Even our pooch will appreciate the extra attention.
There are three things that we get right when we are on vacation that we somehow forget when we go back to living our regular lives. If we could just carry some of these things back with us into our daily routines, we would all benefit in a big way. This is a 3-part blog series focusing in detail on each of these.
We Live Lighter on Vacation
My last article; living in VACATION MODE discussed how slowing down and enjoying life at a more restful pace should not be reserved just for vacationers. The second thing we get right when we're on vacation is that we pack just the necessities. There is something freeing about having only the personal items that we really need with us on vacation. While some of us might pack more lightly than others, we all essentially bring only what we think we will need and use during our stay. I tend to pack as little as possible, because it means less hauling, loading and unloading and I am comfortable with doing without anything that is not an absolute necessity for the short time that I am away. Others may take more time to pack and bring more, to ensure that all the comforts of home are available to them if needed. Either way, whether we pack light, or pack to be ready for anything, we leave all the stuff we definitely won’t be using, at home.
The Bare Bones
Imagine if we were to apply this logic to our homes when we are not on vacation, and keep only the things that we really use and love. How much space would open up in our homes if every unused thing would simply disappear? How much lighter would we all feel? Our 5-person family rents a tiny 12' by 18' one room cabin each summer. We live in that small space for 4 days with only the things we will be using on the trip. It is eye-opening to experience how comfortably we can all operate with only the bare bones of space and stuff around us and nothing more. It always makes me feel a little like the Laura Ingalls family of Little House on the Prairie and we honestly are content there. For me, it is a reminder of how much we live in excess of the things we really need in order to be happy. It is minimalism and simplicity at its best in that tiny cabin by the lake.
Is There a Move in Your Future?
A move to a new home is another way that our eyes can be opened to seeing what we really use and what we don’t. We quickly unpack the boxes holding our necessities so that we can use the things inside, then the boxes full of the stuff we don’t use gets set aside to be unpacked later…sometimes much later. It’s the things inside these boxes that we need to take critical eye to. If they can sit in a box for a year and not be missed, we likely will also not miss them if they are gone.
The Ultimate Minimalist Test
For those who have lived in the same home for many years, it is easy to become blind to all the things that have slowly accumulated over the years, this is especially true if there is a lot of space in the home. Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists https://www.theminimalists.com/ packed up every single thing he owned, not because he was moving, but because he wanted to see what he actually used. He removed items from of the boxes as he used them and made a pack with himself that after 6 months, anything left in those boxes, would go. This might sound a little extreme for most of us, but it was definitely effective in Joshua's case. What do you have in your home that you have not used in ages? Perhaps it's time to lighten your load and start living a a bit more like you are on vacation.
Watch for my final post in this series: Vacation State of Mind: We Pay Attention - and Live in the Present On Vacation.
My daughter recently read the book “The Little Book of Hygge," Danish Secrets to Happy Living, written by Meik Wiking. She read it cover to cover and was deeply inspired to put it into practice. Hygge, pronounced "hyooguh", is defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”. Originated in Denmark, Hygge is regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture.
On a cold winter’s night, my daughter loves nothing more than to wrap herself in a cozy warm housecoat, light a candle, make herself a cup of hot cocoa topped with a swirl of whipped cream. Then she sits by the fire, just sipping and savoring. She does this intentionally, delighting in her careful routine of enjoying the present moment. Hygge is not necessarily done as a self indulgence per se, but with appreciation for each step of a self-nurturing activity. It is taking the time for appreciating, slowing down and paying attention to the simple pleasure of doing something for no other reason, than to enjoy it. Hygge, essentially then, is living in the moment and recognizing that there is abundant comfort and joy being offered to us by simply being at home.
With all that is going in the world today, it occurred to me that my daughter is really on to something here. We are all spending a lot more time at home, and while we are here, we may as well take advantage of it. Until recently, many of us were so busy on any given day, that the idea of slowing down and engaging in a bit of Hygge, was unrealistic and out of reach. There were dishes to be washed, kid’s basketball games to attend, and laundry piled to the ceiling because we hadn't been at home a single night that week - remember those days? For many of us, our worlds had been spinning so fast for so long, that we didn’t even know how to slow down, let alone relish the simple comforts of home life.
With the onset of Covid-19, we have not only unexpectedly found ourselves at home, but with more time on our hands than usual. Additionally, many of us are fraught with worries about our family’s health and financial stability. That said, why not make the best of the situation by recognizing and embracing all the comforts that slowing down and being at home has to offer? Perhaps a little self-nurturing is just what many of us need right now, and we finally have the time to engage in it, guilt free.
In practicing the concept of Hygge, we are practicing living thoughtfully and in the moment rather than missing out on what is going on right now.
This is a good thing.
If you like to cook, make a pot of your favorite homemade soup and bake a loaf of bread to go with it – give yourself and your family a little comfort food. As you chop the vegetables, do it mindfully, and enjoy each step of the process. Don’t let your mind wander elsewhere to anxieties about tomorrow or ruminations about yesterday, stay present, don’t hurry, and don't worry. Appreciate each step. Let the aroma of the soup permeate your home and savor its delicious fragrance.
Keep in mind that the experience of Hygge can be enhanced by taking steps to ensure that the space in which you are performing your activity in, supports you. A clean and orderly kitchen or an organized and functional garden shed offers a more pleasurable Hygge experience than a cluttered area will. Not only will you have an inviting space to perform your activity in, but you will have ample space to work on or in. You will also have everything you need at your fingertips without having to search for anything.
Coincidentally, since your stuck at home, you may find that you finally have the time to complete some of those home organizing and cleaning projects that you have been putting off for so long. When you are done, engaging in a little Hygge, in your freshly cleaned and organized space is actually a perfect way to reward yourself and celebrate a job well done.
Other examples of Hygge might be; relishing in a long, hot bath, or perhaps doing some gardening. It can be as simple as making a pot of your favorite herbal tea and reading a good book or savoring a cup of coffee on the front porch, or it can be as engaging as crafting your own beer or creating a scrap book. It's whatever delights you. The key, is to perform these activities with a new perspective and appreciation for the simple enjoyment of doing them.
By being intentional, and savoring each step of an activity instead of performing these things blindly, we engage in the spirit of Hygge. As we infuse gratitude and presence into the everyday activities we do at home, we reap the benefits of enjoying all the simple pleasures that being at home has to offer.
As I tap away at my keyboard, I can hear the rain outside, gently falling. It is still pitch dark outside, the clouds covering any sign of sunrise. Yet, I am up already, having slept restlessly with the Coronavirus on my mind. My girls are still sleeping, home from school for the day, for the week, maybe for the month, who knows? We hang suspended in uncertainty. Our pantry and freezer are filled to the brim and I have grown tired of shopping.
We are just waiting now, with angst, and while we are waiting for life to get back to normal, I notice that there is something else that is subtly taking shape here, a quiet whisper of a shift in attitude. People are stocking up on necessities, and toilet paper has become the most popular product on the shelf. Amazon has just issued a notice that if you are trying to purchase anything non-essential online, you best be patient because you may not get it for awhile. What I am feeling outside of the trepidation, is a renewed gratitude for all that I have. I find myself pondering and appreciating the things that I normally take for granted: my family, our home, a paycheck each month, our health, the comfort of having plenty of food in our pantry.
For years, I used to save the heels of our bread to make bread crumbs, but a while back, I started tossing them in the trash because who has the time to mess with making bread crumbs? But today, I can’t bring myself to waste any food, so I keep the heels today. Then I wonder how we have become so spoiled that we can’t eat the heels on a loaf of bread in the first place? What was evidently no problem yesterday, is wasteful today… there it is, a shift in perspective has taken place, yes, inside of me, but not just in me, in all of us. Can you feel it? The threat of the virus has forced us to take a step back, and while the virus is obviously not a good thing, it appears to be teaching us something.
We are becoming more appreciative of all that we have. This virus threatens our economy and our health, and we are no longer taking either of these for granted. We are also taking the time to think about how important the people in our lives are to us, and we are picking up the phone and calling those we love. We are becoming more cognoscente of the difference between our necessities and our luxuries, and we are noticing that we only really need the essentials and each other to be happy.
We have all been forced to slow down and do a little less, and I have to say, its refreshing. We are all in need of rest and of reconnecting with our families and I am grateful for this time together. We are staying home, we are being still, and we are being offered time that we normally do not have. We are appreciating the simple things, like hot soup in the crock-pot and a game of chess with our kids. We have time to think about things and to truly take inventory of our blessings.
Attitudes are shifting, we are thinking about conserving our resources and not wasting what has been given to us. We are saving the heels of our bread instead of throwing them into the trash and this is a good thing. I have faith that we will come out of this situation more conscientious, appreciative and stronger than we were before.
Written By Laura Coufal
Clean & Clutter Free Professional Organizing Services
Laura is the Owner of Clean & Clutter Free, professional organizing services.