Natural Cleaning Hacks To Up Your Eco-Friendly Game
Keeping your kitchen organized is one thing, keeping it clean a whole other ball park. In a space that you use so frequently and that gets messy every day, it’s important to establish a regular cleaning routine. Since you’re working with food in the kitchen, it’s a great place to use eco-friendly cleaning alternatives!
Baking soda, vinegar, lemons and Co. are likely already stocked in your cabinets. Here are a few ways to substitute toxic cleaning products with these natural ingredients:
As you see, there are many ways to clean your kitchen without spending money on expensive chemicals. Best of all: These eco-friendly cleaning hacks also keep your conscience clean as you’re actively contributing to a healthier planet. Check out even more cleaning hacks in the visual below!
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.
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
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 three part blog series focusing in detail on each of these. The first thing we get right when we are on vacation is that we go into VACATION MODE and slow down.
Do you want your life to be simpler? Practice living in VACATION MODE even when you are not on vacation...
Have you ever noticed that we move at a different pace when we are on vacation? We move slower, we stop watching the clock and most importantly, we do it guilt free. When we are not on vacation, many of us are so used to hurrying all of the time that we aren't even aware that we are doing it. We are stressed out and exhausted on a regular basis but this is the pace at which we have been running for so long, that it has become the new normal, the new faster speed of life. Most Americans today are so over committed that at the end of each busy day, we are not even sure what we did all day. Most of us would agree that our vacations come to an end all too soon, and we dread going back to our normal schedules. I believe that part of the reason we all yearn for more vacation time, is because we spend the rest of our busy lives trying to do too much. One week a year of not hurrying just isn't enough to rejuvenate us when the rest of our lives are so hectic.
What if we could hold onto a fraction of this "vacation mode" when we are not on vacation? What if we could at least change our focus from, "How much can I possibly get done today?" to "What can I get done at a comfortable pace today?" and "What can I leave for tomorrow?" What if we could let go of that incessant need to try and squeeze one more thing into each day? Imagine how different things would be if we all functioned somewhere between our normal crazy lives and vacation mode? Still getting things done, but working at a reasonable pace. When we are on vacation, we purposely don’t over schedule our days, because we want to avoid the rigid schedule we have when we are at home. We intentionally schedule down time, because on vacation, rest is a priority for us. We may even do nothing other than read a book or take a nap for an afternoon. But our bodies also need rest when we are not on vacation and we should not feel guilty about taking time for ourselves to refuel on a regular basis.
Americans have become so progress oriented, that our society as a whole is over stressed and sleep deprived. I know there are many justifications for why we overextend ourselves; working those extra hours pays for the new car, and our kids are eager to participate in a new activity, even though they are already too busy, but that’s where we get snagged. Practicing moderation in what we purchase and in what we commit ourselves to is key. But saying no to more of something is challenging when everyone around us is spinning out of control. Scaling back has to be a conscious endeavor, because very likely, if you are living in a world like mine, everyone around you has their minds set on having and doing it all.
There is comfortable place somewhere between our pace while on vacation and our regular life, that offers peace and contentment. Figuring out where that place is, and fighting to stay there is well worth the effort. For starters, just making sure that we have some unscheduled personal and family time each day, will move us closer to this goal. Regular life is so much more enjoyable and less exhausting when we mindfully move at a slower pace. Stopping to smell the roses should not be restricted solely to those who are on vacation.
Written By Laura Coufal
Owner, Clean & Clutter Free
Professional Organizing Services
We have made it to January, and it is that time of year when many of us begin to think about lightening our loads and purging what we are no longer using.
For some of us, light is on our minds because we have just accumulated more possessions as a result of Christmas and with the incoming of the new, we yearn for a throwing out of the old to make room for it all. For others, it’s the new year that inspires us to take action. A new, fresh start is just what we need to kick off the new year and start off on the right foot.
January is the month of Oosouji in Japan. To observe Oosouji means to clean the clutter, the dirt and the dust of the past. The purpose being to banish any old problems or ways of thinking and to welcome a new start, with a clean slate (and home). The word Oosouji literally means “big cleaning,. Additionally, January’s foreboding cold weather leaves us with no choice but to stay indoors and think about improving our surroundings, making our home more comfy, clutter free and cozy. With the bustling holidays behind us, there is nothing to distract us from doing just that.
If your family does not purge on a regular basis, I strongly encourage adding purging to your calendar at least once but ideally twice each year to stay on top of controlling clutter. Since we have things coming into our homes on a constant basis, in order to keep our homes balanced, we need to have the same amount of stuff leaving our homes each year. It is a simple Ying and Yang formula. With everything in life there is a need for balance, and even too much of a good thing can do us harm. It is no different when it comes to our possessions and our home environment. January is a “no brainer” time of year to schedule a purging session. July is also a good time for a 2nd purge, and having the kids home on summer break means that they can get involved too.
Our family has just completed our own January purge, as I put away our Christmas decorations this year, I collected all of our heaping full donate boxes that have been accumulating over the last several months from the storage room and placed them into our garage. Since we always have a donate box available and ready to be filled, my family knows to toss no longer wanted items into the box throughout the year. This makes our purging process automatic, and it is shocking how fast those boxes fill up.
I also sorted through our Christmas decorations, and if they did not get put up this year, they got added to the donate pile. This week it will all go a local charity and our family’s January Oosouji will be complete. So bring on the new year!
WHAT TO DO WITH OUTDATED FRAMED PHOTOS
Do you have old framed photos of various sizes sitting on a shelf someplace in your storage area and don’t know what to do with them? If so, then you’re not alone, I have found it to be a common occurrence when working with clients to come across these forgotten photos of yesterday. They once merited a place on a wall or side table in a living room but now they are collecting dust in a dark place somewhere. They usually hold the photos of children or other family members who have long since grown up. These old photos are trapped inside outdated and chipped frames that once sparked joy but have since been replaced by updated photos and frames.
There are several reasons these old photos are often left in frames; the first is simply due to the fact that most of us do not take the time to remove them, and once they get put in a closet or storage area somewhere, they are out of sight and out of mind and several years may pass before we see them again. Another reason old photographs stay in frames is that we somehow feel obligated keep them there because it took time and care to assemble them in the first place. Finally, these photos often stay framed because it is mistakenly believed that this is the best way to protect them long term.
Unfortunately, it is actually dangerous to leave photos in frames, because over the years, the photo can adhere to the glass, especially if they are exposed to any moisture or heat. Once this happens, the photo becomes impossible to remove without causing severe damage and ends up stuck in that frame forever. The other obvious problem with leaving photos framed long term, is that they take up a large amount space in your home, especially if you happen to be a photo person and have a lot of large photos. Your family’s photos deserve better than to be stuck inside ugly outdated frames for eternity, so take the time to remove them and use the following steps to preserve them:
You can visit: https://www.archivalmethods.com/blog/preserving-family-photographs/ to get more tips for preserving your family’s valuable photos. It is well worth the small amount of time it takes to remove old photos from their frames and get them all safely inserted into one photo safe box or envelope. As an added bonus, it will be liberating to be able to finally get rid of all those outdated frames taking up space in your storage room or closet.
Before you make a major life move, such as buying a smaller home or entering assisted living, you have to decide what, exactly, to do with your current estate. There are many options, and the one you choose can have a significant impact on your finances. Keep reading as we answer a few common questions seniors often ask about the buying and selling process and how to keep a property in the family.
I want to sell my current home, but I cannot afford expensive upgrades. What can I do to get the most money at closing?
If you’ve lived in a house for any length of time, there are many small issues that you’ve learned to ignore. Little things like cracked tiles and dried-up caulk are quick fixes that won’t cost more than a few dollars to repair. However, if your home has not been updated since the early 2000s (or before), you might have to sell as-is, possibly for thousands less than you would if it was brought up to modern standards. The good news here is that some dated aesthetics can be rectified without a huge investment. For example, wood paneling is easily paintable, old light fixtures take only moments to swap out, and vertical blinds can be removed.
How can I afford to move if I don’t want to sell?
That depends entirely on your personal situation. If you do not have any savings and are on a limited income, you may not qualify for mortgage. But, if you do have financial padding, a bit of planning can allow you to keep your home in the family and purchase something more senior-friendly. Start by looking at your expenses and income. Redfin asserts that the type of loan along with property taxes and other expenses also factor into how much you can afford. Know what your bank account can handle before you begin your search. This will lessen the chances of looking at and falling in love with something you can’t pay for.
My spouse always handled money. How do I make (and stick to) a budget when I will have a house payment?
Many seniors choose to move out of their longtime home after the death of their spouse. When your spouse was the one that paid bills and earned the majority of your income, learning how to budget can be a challenge. Tiller Money, a budget-tracking app that works with Google Docs, notes that keeping an updated spreadsheet with your financial transactions is a great way to understand your incoming and outgoing funds. Write down how much you spend on housing, transportation, food, and other necessary expenses. Try to find information on these expenses for the last three to six months so that you know exactly what you can expect to spend. Your local bank branch should be able to pull all your transactions and help you sort them into categories.
What do renters want in a house?
If you’re thinking about renting your home for added income, you likely will have to make some repairs and updates. Most people in the market for a rental want a place that is clean and that shows minimum signs of wear and tear. Safety is also a priority, so make sure that all the windows and doors lock and that there is plenty of exterior lighting. You can look online for homes similar to yours to get a better idea of how much you can charge. Keep in mind that there are expenses that you, as the homeowner, must incur, including maintenance and, in some cases, utilities and lawn care.
Remember, what you do now affects both your quality of life and what you leave behind to your heirs when you pass. If you sell your home, you will have the equity to spend on housing, travel, or other interest/needs. On the other hand, you may not have real property to leave behind. If you keep your home and use it as a rental, you’ll have money coming in each month but will also run the risk of having bad tenants that damage the property. Before you make a decision, take the time to evaluate your financial state, and talk it over with your family. They may have other ideas about how you can afford and enjoy retirement without making any drastic changes to your life.
Today, families are busier than ever and its easy to get overwhelmed with keeping up with it all. The following is a list of helpful routines that can make all the difference in maintaining order and reducing stress at home as the weeks roll by.
1. Daily & Weekly Routines
We all function better once a system is in place. Routines are especially important for children, so forming habits that take place daily or weekly, like having set times for homework, and chores and having consistent bath and bedtimes can be soothing for both parent and child. Parents having set weekly routines for getting things done, like paying bills, filling the dishwasher and doing laundry are also helpful. Routines not only help keep families organized, they reduce stress and enable us to feel more in control.
2. The 15 Minute Family Huddle
Every week, have a short family meeting to discuss the weeks upcoming appointments, activities and other details. Use this planning session to go over all of the upcoming weeks to-dos, this is when details can be added to the calendar, like errands, deadlines or phone calls that need to be made. These meetings help families feel more in control as the week progresses and forgotten details are less likely, ensuring that stress levels stay low and last-minute emergencies are avoided.
3. 10 Minutes Each Night
Have each family member take 10 minutes before bedtime to get ready for the next day. Choose outfits, prepare lunches, pack everything that needs to go to school and set it by the door. Also, gather together after school supplies for activities. Doing this will make the mornings run smoother and will prevent items from being forgotten.
4. Delegated Household Tasks
This should never be a one-man job even for a stay at home parent. Each family member should be engaged in this process and can be assigned age appropriate household tasks. Even if your kids are busy, making them responsible for completing scheduled chores, will teach them valuable skills that transfer to adulthood. It takes teamwork to Keeping a family running smoothly, reinforcing this fact when kids are young will solidify this attitude as they grow older.
5. A Place for Everything
Having permanent homes for everything ensures that clutter is kept at bay and time is not wasted looking for things. Assign homes to everything you own and make sure other family members know where things go. Reinforce the rule that things need to be returned to their permanent homes when they are not being used.
6. Clutter Cutting Habits
By teaching kids helpful tidying habits like making their bed each morning, hanging up their back packs every day, cleaning up one toy or project before bring out another, etc. they learn valuable skills that will carry over in to adulthood. Reinforcing these important habits will go a long way not only in keeping the home organized now, but in helping kids develop automated organizing skills that will last a lifetime.
7. Twice a Year Purge
Families today have a substantial amount of stuff coming into the home on a regular basis. For this reason, it is important to take time twice a year to de-clutter and purge items that are no longer being used. By moving unwanted items out of the house on a regular basis, you balance what is coming in with what’s going out. Establish a box labeled DONATE and communicate with each family member so that everyone knows where to put their unwanted items. Then make it a priority to move it all out twice a year.
8. Practice Saying No
Today, many families overbook their days, not wanting to miss out on activities and opportunities. We also struggle with saying “no” to our kids and to requests for commitments because we feel pressured. But learning to say no when we have reached a limit is the best thing that we can do for ourselves and for our kids. Limit the number of activities you and your children participate in. This will ensure that your family has time to get important tasks done and stay organized on a daily basis. It also it will allow you to build in “down” time into each day. Scheduling “down” time where nothing is going on will ensure that every family member including yourself has time to unwind and refuel.
9. One Family Calendar
It is helpful to have one central family calendar that everyone uses, whether that be a paper calendar or a digital one that everyone’s phones are synced to. Having everything on the calendar and having only one that everyone uses will ensure that nothing is forgotten.
10. Don’t Put Off the Predictable
Just as it is much less stressful not to wait until the last minute to do a homework assignment, it promotes peace to get predictable, scheduled activities out of the way ahead of time rather than waiting until the last minute. For Example: Shopping for Saturday nights’ dinner party well in advance rather than waiting until Saturday morning allows extra time for any unexpected surprises that might pop up.
There are some things you can’t change about your house. Its location, the school zone, and the size of the yard are a few features that come to mind. Chances are, you aren’t willing to change the layout or add a new bedroom if you’re moving either. The good news is that buyers already know this information about your home before they walk through the front door, so if they are there, they’re not looking at the floorplan.
So what are they looking at? Buyers are there to see the condition of the home. And the very first thing they will notice is if it is clean, since this is a good indication of how well the home has been cared for. But you’ve got kids, and clean has taken on a whole new definition, and it’s time to take a new look at what clean means. Your sale just might depend on it.
Here’s how to get things in shape when you barely have time to get yourself ready each morning.
Start with “the great purge”
The most challenging aspect of cleaning when you have kids in the house is getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need. Kids tend to form an emotional attachment to everything. But, now is not the time to provide asylum to stuffed animals and armless Lego men. Talk to your kids about the move, and let them know they can’t take everything with them. If they are resistant, it might help to decorate a few moving boxes with “Toy Retreat” signs and let the kids know their stuff is ready for a permanent vacation. Set a good example by cleaning out your own closet, craft room, and garage. Set limits on what you can keep and don’t hold on to multiples. If you do not have time to host a yard sale, contact the Salvation Army, Goodwill, AMVETS National Service Foundation, the ARC, or Habitat for Humanity, which Moving.com explains are all charities that pickup.
Plan to bring in extra hands
When you are getting ready for showings, it needs to be all hands on deck, but sometimes that's easier said than done. First things first, hire a maid service to come in and give your home a deep cleaning, getting into all the nooks and crannies. Next, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to hire a housekeeper to come in once a week to help you keep your clean home maintained. The right person will help you keep toys and clothes put away, beds made with fresh linens and the yard tidied, all ensuring your home is ready for those last-minute showings. This does not mean that the members of your family can sit back and relax – create a chore chart for the daily must-dos so you're housekeeper isn't doing all the heavy lifting.
Provide visual aids
One simple way to ensure your home stays clean is to give your family a clear idea of what you expect. But telling them is not always enough. Plan to take photos of the interior once it’s clean. Print these out and stick them where they are visible within each room -- or each section of room. You may also want to color code the toy bins to facilitate organization. Yellow might be set aside for dolls while green is sanctioned for Nerf guns. You don’t have to stop in the kids’ bedrooms, this colorful cleaning and organization hack can easily apply throughout the house.
While cleanliness is not the only thing your buyers will look for, it’s the first thing they will notice. A clean home looks – and smells – like it’s ready for its new owners, and keeping it that way may put them in place sooner than you can say, “home for sale.”
Guest Blog Written By:
Create A Family Giggle Log
In 2013, coincidentally, the same year that I started Clean & Clutter Free, Family Fun Magazine published our family’s idea to create what we call a "Family Giggle Log" (August Issue). It was so mind blowing, and a tad bit unsettling that we could to go to Walmart and find our family’s photo in the latest Family Fun magazine.
If you have young ones, I want to past this idea along to you. I know these years are busy, but it is during these all too fleeting years, starting around age 2 or 3 that our little charmers say and do things that capture our hearts and make us smile and laugh. I would give anything to live just one day with my children at age 3 again. Nature’s ingenious way of ensuring that we don’t leave our troublesome, tantrum throwing toddlers on someone else’s doorstep, is that they are adorably sweet and funny all the while messing up a whole house faster than a tornado can roll through it. It is during these years that our young ones see things with fresh eyes and ears, so innocent and genuine. They never sugar coat the truth before it comes out of their mouths so what we hear is often interesting and sometimes embarrassing. This stage does not last long though, by about age 5 or 6, it starts to dissolve as their more mature intellect begins to develop.
When our girls were young, my husband and I got into the habit of jotting down things that our girls would say that would make us laugh. We correctly predicted that neither of us would have a keen enough memory to remember every funny or sweet thing they did or said, so we managed to form a habit of getting something down on paper when these moments occurred. We had a notebook that we called our “Family Giggle Log”. The entries were messy and short because we did not have a lot of time, but thanks to this little notebook, we captured memories that would have been long forgotten. Now that our girls are well into their teenage years, they still enjoy our occasional recaps of the past as much as we do. As predicted, out not only did I forget half the things my girls did when they were young but I can’t even keep straight which one did the things I do remember! For this reason, I am ever grateful for the memories that we did catch before they slipped through our fingers like sand. The following are a few of our favorite inserts from our Family Giggle Log hopefully they will make you smile too:
“Mommy what is an earthquake?” Me – “That is when the earth shakes around for a little while.”
Maddie - “Do you go upside down?”
Dad was at the park with the girls, and Maddie was hanging from the monkey bars...
Dad - "Be careful Maddie"
Maddie - “Dad! You’re bothering my attitude!”
“Mommy, Why do women where bras?”
Me – “Oh just to give some extra support.” (I know this was a lame explanation but I couldn’t think of a better answer at the time).
Cassie - “Is it because bras help make men’s love you more?”
Cassie shared a story she wrote at school with her dad....
Dad – Wow, good job, you really like to learn don’t you?
Cassie – “Actually, I just like to impress people”.
"Mommy, if I throw my booger into the fire will it explode?”
“If I put on a whole bunch of clothes, to you think I could live inside the refrigerator?"
And one more from Emily because she was extra inquisitive...
“If everyone in the world blew on my finger at the same time would it fall off?”
I have already managed to copy many of Maddie’s Giggle Log entries into a scrapbook that I created for her when she graduated, and I plan to do the same for the younger two when I get around to making their scrapbooks...hopefully before they graduate. For me, capturing our young children’s special moments in photos and in written form, through journaling, letters and stories, holds greater power to take our family back to this precious time than other kinds physical keepsakes, so I limit keeping larger keepsakes like art work and projects. Words and photos take up much less room in our home and I just take photos of the rest.
Having lived through raising my own children, the best advice I can give to young parents is this; The most special memories made are the ones that they hold in their hearts as the years go by. For us, surprisingly they were not the times that we went to Chuckie Cheeses, instead it was the times that we did seemingly silly things together like having a picnic in the basement on a cold winter day that they seem to remember and cherish the most. So while it is good to try to capture some your child's memories when you can, ideally through photos, videos and written words, don't get so caught up in taking photos and such, that you miss out on being fully present during those precious moments as they rapidly roll by.
Written By Laura Coufal
Clean & Clutter Free Professional Organizing Services
I was talking with an acquaintance the other day; she asked me how my organizing business was going and then asked “So are you one of those people who like to have everything just so?” I told her that I am not a perfectionist if that is what you are asking. But I do like to be able to find things when I need them.” So if having everything “just so” means having a specific place for everything I own, and being able to find things easily when I need them, than yes I am one of "those people". But if you are asking me if I am particular about having everything perfect, this is definitely not me. I like things to be simple, not perfect.
I actually have become an organized person out of necessity, due to my ADHD and the fact that I have a low tolerance for juggling tasks and remembering things. I get flustered easily, and my short attention span makes me forgetful and flighty. I need to keep things really simple for myself in order to keep all my ducks in a row, lest I forget a duck. When I was in college and living with several roommates they found it quite amusing to tease me about the fact that I could not leave our dorm room without returning at least once to grab whatever I forgot. My car keys, purse, books, sometimes I had to return twice...it was embarrassing.
I learned early on that everything in my life needs to have a permanent home in order for me to keep track of things. Though my home is not perfectly organized all of the time, we can keep it looking fairly presentable without much effort simply because we have less stuff and everything has a home. In addition to having a home for everything, like items are stored together. That’s pretty much it, it is a simple system; Less stuff, everything has a place, like items together. Since everyone in my family knows where everything belongs, things are usually put back when we are done using them. Nobody does this perfectly either, and as you might guess, some family members are better at it than others. But we have established the habit of doing it most of the time, which goes a long way in maintaining order overall.
I like to get things done with the least amount of effort possible, so when complicated tasks are presented to me, my mind automatically starts figuring out how to simplify the job at hand. This comes in handy when getting things done. I'm always looking for ways to consolidate errands, or save a step when cleaning. I much prefer simple organizational systems to complicated ones because they are easier to maintain and use. When it comes to my schedule, I keep that as simple as possible too. This may mean having to say no when I am asked to take on too much, but it is important that I do this for the sake of my sanity since I get overwhelmed so easily. I limit my involvement to the things that are most important to me, keeping my priorities in check, like family time.
I don’t spend a lot of energy fussing over and making sure everything is in perfect order at home. I do make a strong effort to frequently get rid of things that we are no longer using, and this is really the biggest secret to staying on top of keeping order in our house. Being organized has less to do with trying to achieve perfection, and more to do with keeping things simple, lightening the load, and establishing and sticking to helpful habits and routines. We should always ask ourselves the same question when we are overwhelmed with household tasks, with staying organized or with adding things to our calendar; How can I make this easier for myself so that I can minimize my stress and feel more peaceful at home?
Written By Laura Coufal
Clean & Clutter Free Professional Organizing Services
When you think about decluttering, does it suck the wind out of your sails? All too often, the task of tidying up can feel overwhelming, and turn even the most resilient homeowner into a deer in headlights. Sometimes it can make you want to throw in the towel, or at least call for professional reinforcements. However, a few clever strategies can be just the ticket. Here’s how to ensure the task of paring down is not only simple, it could even be called “fun.”
Formulate a plan
How do you plan to tackle your “stuff”? Everyone has their own best methods for decluttering, and to ensure you stick with your project, think about what works best for you. For instance, some people do well with selecting a certain number of objects every day and parting ways with them. Other people do best sorting a section at a time. For some people, the key to beating clutter is scheduling a particular time for the project, even 15 minutes per day, and committing to it. You can even print a helpful calendar from Home Storage Solutions to help you stay on track. The important thing is to find your method, and embrace it wholeheartedly!
Putting things in order
As you go through your home, keep in mind it’s important to develop a system that will help you avoid becoming cluttered again. This can be especially challenging if your home doesn’t feature an excess of square footage. If space is tight, be creative, and consider some unconventional, yet oh-so-clever storage hacks. For example, furniture can multitask, such as using an attractive vintage trunk that is both your coffee table and a storage solution. Wasted wall spaces can hold floating shelves. Baskets can house unsightly items on your shelving, turning an eyesore into an accent. In the bedroom, the space under your mattress can hold under-the-bed storage bins. Look for ways to put idle space to work!
Focus on feel-goods
As you declutter, there will likely be plenty of things you no longer want or need. Instead of tossing them into the trash, think of ways they can benefit other people. You can donate items to a charity, offer them on a swap website, or even have a yard sale. If you make a little money, consider donating it to a nonprofit, or invest the funds into furthering your decluttering project. Another idea is to check into local nonprofit events. Silent auctions are popular fundraisers, and you could piece together themed gift baskets to donate to a worthy cause. It’s a great way to amp up your motivation, and the warm fuzzies double the fun!
Put on some tunes
Even if you find a great decluttering method, are making wonderful progress, and enjoying seeing the fruits of your efforts, there will probably be days when you struggle with your motivation. One of the best ways to overcome those lackluster moments is with an upbeat cleaning playlist. In fact, you might want to put on your favorite tunes every time, since Huffington Post notes just listening to music can potentially cut your work time in half!
Reward your fine efforts
You’re doing a really good thing. Decluttering can be provide life-changing benefits, helping you to be more productive and healthy. On top of that, you might have donations to charities and a little spending money. However, there is nothing like a little pat on the back to really make you feel great. Some experts suggest picking out a thoughtful reward that compliments your project nicely. In other words, avoid something that will clutter up your house again, or that is unrelated to the task. For example, invest in some attractive storage baskets to outfit your space, or take a day off to stay home, savoring your uncluttered space. Think of the perfect gift to give hardworking you!
Decluttering can be overwhelming, but with a good plan you can do it! Choose a method that works for you, stay motivated, and enjoy a special reward. It’s a challenging project, but you’re worth it!
Written By Guest Blogger
Back when my kids were still in grade school, we were hustling through our morning routine, when my daughter Emily came running to me. She announced that she could not find her school uniform jumper. I calmly ensured her that it was hanging in the laundry room, clean and ready to be put on. “It’s not there Mom!”She barked back. I was confident that it was there so I told her to look again, sure that she would find it. But of course, she didn’t find it, so with a sigh; I trudged into to the laundry room to retrieve it myself. When I got there, I could not find it either, and I could feel anxiety and frustration boiling up inside me. Now I was the one going into crisis mode. We had to leave for school in 10 minutes; and it was going to be 95 degrees that day so wearing her hot pants were out of the question.
I knew for sure that it was hanging there yesterday…yet it had vanished mysteriously. I ran around the house frantically looking for the jumper. After 10 minutes of frenzied searching, my older daughter Maddie, was the one who happened to take notice of what my youngest one was wearing, Cassie, who was 6 had gotten dressed and was indeed ready to go, but her school jumper, which was supposed to go to her knees, nearly reached her ankles. The mystery had been solved, and I laughed at myself for being so busy panicking that I hadn’t even noticed her. Jumpers were quickly traded and we piled into the car, arriving to school without a minute to spare.
Once the crisis had past, the whole event turned out to be quite amusing. Though, big picture, this was not a large issue, it still managed to derail our morning. This is a perfect example of how one little mishap can turn a normal calm morning sour and stress levels can escalate in a heartbeat. We thought we had everything planned and ready to go, but still, unexpected chaos found its way into our home that morning. If you are a parent, you know exactly what I mean, craziness can happen without warning. It seems that these occasional crisis’s are simply part of family life and while we can’t avoid these roller coaster moments entirely, having helpful organizational routines in place for staying on top of things can go a long way to help us feel more in control when the unexpected does occur. Routines give us a sense of security and predictability that bring us comfort. They also help us to get more done and forget less.
Planning Sessions for Moms
One especially useful routine for minimizing family chaos, is scheduling a 20-30 minute planning session for yourself at the beginning of each week. You can greatly reduce the day to day stress of managing a busy family and feel more in control by doing this one thing. I do mine on Mondays, but they can be done anytime that works best for you. If we dive into each week without taking the time to plan ahead, everything comes at us without warning and we feel like we are simply managing one crisis after another.
Use a weekly planning session to examine your calendar and make sure that you are prepared for each of the week’s upcoming activities and appointments. Add things like errands, household chores, meetings and phone calls to ensure that they will get done. This will help you to catch things that may have been overlooked, like two conflicting appointments or the fact that your daughter has her first soccer practice this week and still needs soccer cleats. Make a to-do list for any other tasks that need to get done as well. You can also use this time to plan out your family’s meals for the week and make a quick grocery list for the items you need to pick up from the store. By doing this, you should only need to visit the grocery store once a week, which will save you time. This planning session can also be used to make out a weekly chore chart for your kids and pay any bills that are due.
If you can include a planning session in your weekly routine and stick with it, you will feel more prepared and in control on a daily basis. You will also get more done. More importantly, you will reduce the potential for any unexpected chaos that may be looming ahead. Instill a little much needed peace into your family’s busy week and add weekly planning sessions to your calendar.
Written By Laura Coufal
Clean & Clutter Free Professional Organizing Services
I often work with clients who are
creative, and some of these people
have an incredible amount of talent.
But multiple unfinished projects,
and the supplies needed for
proposed craft projects can create
clutter in a craft room to the point
that it is impossible to work
in that space. The following is
a list of tips to help you keep
your craft room organized
and avoid getting physically
and mentally buried in your
Written By: Laura Coufal
Clean & Clutter Free
Professional Organizing Services
1. Resist Starting a New Craft Project Before Finishing The First One
So you have a quilt that was started a year ago, a half made scrapbook for a friend, and then there is that dress you were going to make that you bought all the supplies for but never got around to starting. Does this sound like you? It is tempting to start a new project when the one you are working on gets challenging or boring, but if you force yourself to finish one before starting or buying supplies for another, you will avoid the mental clutter of having too many projects floating around in your head. Having too many craft projects going at one time can not only compound the physical clutter in your craft room, but can be mentally taxing because they morph into little voices inside your head nagging you to finish them once and for all.
2. Evaluate How Much Time You Have Before You Commit
Creative individuals often have inspiring ideas, but these ideas require a certain amount of time and energy to become a finished product. It is so easy to get carried away with too many projects because if you are passionate about the craft, you also likely enjoy the work. You may need to pace yourself to avoid getting too far behind if you have a busy schedule. Having too many projects going at one time and not being able to make progress on them can be frustrating and discouraging. Limit your projects so that you have a reasonable amount of time to complete them.
3. Decide Whether or Not Your Current Craft Projects are Really Worth Finishing
If you already have too many unfinished projects going at one time, consider each project and ask yourself these questions: Why have you not finished it? Is it solely due to lack of time? Are you looking forward to the next time you will have a day off so that you can work on it? Or would you prefer to do something else? Did you put it down because you got bored with it? Are you still excited about it or has it lost its appeal? Are you only finishing it out of guilt because you spent money on the supplies? These questions should help you decide which craft projects are worth finishing or even starting, and which ones to give up on.
4. Give Yourself Permission to Let Go of Unworthy Projects
So what if a project that you were once excited about has lost it’s spark? It has turned into a burden that you feel guilty about. You were inspired at one time to do it but where did that inspiration go? You feel bad because you have already invested money and time into it. But it does not make sense to spend precious time and energy working on a project that no longer inspires you. Why force yourself to finish something solely out of guilt? Unfinished projects do more harm than just clutter up a room, they make you feel heavy. Life is too short to live with these burdens, and crafting is supposed to be fun! It is okay to let a project go, guilt free. In the end you will be surprised at how liberating it feels to mentally let go of a project. And a clutter free room will simply be an added bonus! It’s okay if not every creative idea that you think up comes to fruition.
5. Get it Done Once & For All
If you have craft projects that you have decided to complete, commit to getting them done now instead of letting them linger. Schedule time on your calendar to work on the project and stick to the plan. Don’t let another activity take its place at the last minute. The best way to take action and beat procrastination is to get it on your calendar so that you make time for it in your schedule. Also remind yourself that you deserve to have some time for yourself to do the things that you enjoy. We all need a bit of leisure time to do what we love. Too often we are guilted into replacing enjoyable activities with work instead.
6. Resist Buying Craft Supplies Before You Start
I frequently come across multitudes of craft supplies that were purchased for proposed projects that never materialized. Resist buying supplies for a project until you are ready to start on it and have already put time aside on your calendar to do the work. Because we are inspired by our new ideas, and because shopping is so enjoyable, it can be challenging to resist shopping impulsively before we are ready to start. By being mindful and resisting these urges, you will not only keep your craft room more organized but you will save money. Also, once you spend money on craft supplies, you automatically lock yourself into completing a project. By holding off on shopping, you can avoid feeling guilty if you change your mind. As an alternative to shopping, try writing down your ideas in a craft project notebook so that you don’t forget them. Then you can shop when you are ready to start the craft.
Mental health is partly controlled by our genetics and partly by our environment. While counseling can help you manage stress and anxiety, you can also take measures at home to keep things cool and calm so you have a place of respite from whatever ails you.
Here are a few tips to help you keep a clean house and create a calming space.
Cut the clutter. If your decorating style can best be described as “junk drawer chic,” you might want to reconsider the amount of stuff you keep in your home. As the Huffington Post explains, clutter can actually ruin your life. Not only can it increase your stress levels, but having a cluttered house can wreck your diet and make your home anything but a safe haven. Spend an afternoon purging your countertops and cabinets of things you really don’t need, and only keep those items you can’t live without.
Simplify your cleaning routine. After the clutter is under control, keep things clean by streamlining chores. Dust, mop, and vacuum all rooms at the same time to avoid having to get your cleaning tools in and out of the utility closet. And don’t forget neglected areas, such as the walls and baseboards, behind the appliances, and inside the kitchen cabinets. Angie’s List also suggests dusting the ceiling fan and above the kitchen cabinets, which will reduce allergens in the air.
Insist on assistance. If you live in a home with more than one person, more than one person should handle the cooking, cleaning, and home maintenance. Assign specific chores to each member of your household. Even something as simple as having your kids put the dishes away or fold the laundry will help keep your home clean and free up valuable time for you to focus your attention on self-care. Your family—or roommates—will no doubt offer up excuses as to why they can’t help out. Be ready with a counter argument and available to offer instructions on how to get things done. And remember, teaching your children how to care for a household puts them in greater position to manage their own homes as young adults.
Learn to love lists. The human brain is hardwired to like lists. Not only do lists help you keep track of what you have—and haven’t—done, keeping a list of daily, weekly, and monthly household chores can help you remain focused. Creating lists helps bring order to the chaos, and that can lower your stress levels. Keep separate lists for each room in the home and make sure they are visible. Another benefit of listmaking is that it gives you a mental boost when you see tasks being marked off.
Don’t forget the outdoors. You don’t want to relax inside all year, so it’s a good idea to focus on the exterior of your home as well. There are a few simple tricks to make sure your outdoor spaces remain maintained season to season. Start by clearing debris out of the yard at least once a week. Once leaves begin to fall, rake them onto tarps for mulching or composting instead of allowing them to pile up and mold throughout the winter. Bob Vila offers more tips on simple outdoor maintenance tasks. Don’t forget to set up a cozy spot with a hammock or lounge chair where you can relax and enjoy the outdoors.
Once you have your cleaning routine down, consider changing your spaces to best accommodate your interests. For instance, if you like to read, carve out a corner of a room where you can cozy up with a good book, or rearrange your kitchen to free up counter space for baking. Whatever you decide, make it something just for you, and keep it neat and tidy.
Guest Blog Written By Alice Robertson
DEAR YOUNGER ME....
A warning to young families from an empty nester:
DO NOT PUT OF UNTIL TOMORROW, WHAT CAN BE DONE TODAY:
Earlier this year, I spent several days in the basement of a client, wanting to get her home ready for a future move. We were about two days in, with seemingly a long road ahead, when she sighed heavily and called out her warning to me. “Whatever you do” she said, “Do not wait forever to go through your stuff and get rid of it like I did!” Her large storage room was packed with the all of the beloved and not so beloved things of yesteryear. Her three adult children had moved out years ago. We had sorted piles of kids keepsakes, stuff to donate, stuff to give to her children, stuff to sell and stuff to keep. She told me that if she only could have known when she was younger what a burden all of her stuff would become, she would have none a better job of dealing with it then rather than letting it build up.
AVOID STOCKING UP ON BARGINS:
“Better yet”, she said, “If I would have known better, I would not have collected half this stuff in the first place.” She pinpointed one of her downfalls to be stocking up on sale items that she couldn’t pass up because they were bargains. She loved to entertain, and in her head, she wanted to be ready for future parties and celebrations. She also wanted to be ready to decorate for upcoming holidays. As it turned out, many of those “great deals” ended up being a waste of money because she never got around to actually using the supplies.
THE LONGER YOU WAIT, THE BIGGER THE BURDEN:
Of course this wasn’t the only thing taking up space in her storage room, it simply added to the ever growing pile. She had accumulated a mountain of stuff that fell into the ambiguous category of “No longer treasures, but not yet trash”. Including old furniture, home décor and framed photos that no longer merited a place upstairs. As the years went by, her storage room became a graveyard of things forgotten from yesterday. I reassured her that her situation was not at all uncommon, many families struggle with the same issue, especially if they have lived in the same home for many years. I commended her for making the decision to deal with it now. She easily could have put it off for another 10 or 20 years. Because this job is a physically and emotionally demanding one, it’s best not to wait until we are 90 to tackle our storage room buildup. I also reminded her that some people leave the job undone forever, placing a giant burden on their adult children.
DECIDE TO DECIDE:
My client does make a very good point though and young families can benefit from not shrugging off her warning. Much of the stuff we store in our storage rooms ultimately represents indecision, and it is tempting to put off all of those difficult decisions until tomorrow. My client suggests that you “Make it your goal to thoroughly go through your clutter well before the last child leaves home”. “Deal with clutter when you see that it is starting to build up.” she says.
LIMIT KIDS KEEPSAKES:
What I have learned from years of organizing is that adult children want only a manageable amount of childhood memories, not a museum of their past. A couple of keepsake boxes and handful of photo albums per child is sufficient. You would be surprised at how many of my clients are holding on to multiple boxes of keepsakes that their children don’t even want.
Take the following 5 steps to prevent storage room buildup:
By taking away a bit of wisdom from my client and becoming more vigilant of what you park in your storage room today, you can save yourself the pain of having to face an overwhelming mountain of clutter tomorrow.
Written By Laura Coufal
Owner: Clean & Clutter Free
Consultant, Clutter Coach
Next week, my daughter begins her second year of college, so in honor of this big event, I have reposted my tips and suggestions for organizing college dorm rooms from last year.
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 furniture, television, microwave etc. You could also discuss decorating, and come up with a style or theme together so that your décor doesn’t clash with what your roommate brings to the room.
Measure the spaces in your dorm room and take photos to ensure that everything you are bringing will fit into the spaces available. Try rearranging the existing furniture or stacking the beds to create more space.
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 their assigned 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.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVERY INCH OF STORAGE 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. Over the door pocket organizers, are great for extra closet and bathroom storage.
STORE IN-SEASON CLOTHING ONLY
Bring only your summer and fall clothes to school until cooler weather arrives. Take your summer clothes home with you and bring back your winter clothing as the weather changes. You will free up much needed space in your closet if you only store the clothing suited for the current season.
MAKE USE OF HANDY ORGANAZING PRODUCTS
Stackable storage cubes are perfect for college dorm rooms because they not only to give you extra storage space, but can also double as night stands or end tables. 3M command hooks are handy for hanging purses, coats, robes etc., and they can be placed anywhere without causing damage to the wall. Inexpensive plastic portable drawer systems can be placed in your closet for extra drawer space.
USE A CHECKLIST TO ENSURE THAT YOU DON'T FORGET ANYTHING
Visit the following website to print off a checklist of recommended necessities to bring along with you to your college dorm room: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/making-a-decision/off-to-college-checklist. Knowing what to bring will not only ensure that nothing essential is left behind, but will help you to avoid bringing items that you don’t need, that ultimately end up cluttering up your small space. This list is exhaustive, so you won't need to bring everything on the list, think about what you really need and only bring what you will use. You may also be able to share some of these items with your roommate which will save on space.
For savings on technology that will help keep you organized and informed, follow the link below:
This post was written by Matthew Adams. Classic Garage Solutions is a garage storage and organization company serving homeowners in the Lincoln area.
Many people frantically spend hours each week moving items from one place to the next in the hopes that it will “help” them be more organized. Others will carefully clean one room only to find that in doing so they have cluttered another. Some will label boxes and meticulously find spots for their items to go. Few know what to prioritize when de-cluttering and organizing. Most people become frustrated and give up after several failed attempts. Their homes and workspaces remain busy, cluttered, disappointing. This can lead to many things, including unhappiness, increased stress, and loss of time searching. According to a study conducted by a Boston marketing firm, the average American burns 55 minutes a day looking for things they know they own but cannot find.
Why Most People Make Mistakes
What is the reason so many of us are incapable of finding effective methods to organize our spaces? Why is it some people have the perfect set up, void of any clutter, and others appear to be close to hoarding? Why do so many find themselves confused and incapable of knowing where to begin when cleaning? The reason is simple. Most people are not able to clean and maintain organization simply because they never formed the habit of doing so.
What You Need to Do
Here’s a little known fact: Harris Interactive reports that 23% of adults say they pay bills late (and incur fees) because they lose them. As we read that statement, we begin to understand the importance of remaining clutter-free! Can you imagine the amount of money that could be saved if those late bills were visibly in sight, or placed in a reliable location?
The solution is obvious, we need to form a habit of organizing, and staying organized! This means effective strategies must be implemented.
Establish A Pattern
Consistency is key in establishing an organized, efficient home. Set up a time every week where you will clean/de-clutter your home. If you are a relatively clean person, perhaps you only need to spend 30-60 minutes each week cleaning. The National Soap and Detergent Association believes getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40 percent of the housework in the average home. If you have a lot of clutter and misplaced items, perhaps you should set aside more time, multiple times a week, until you reach a point where everything has a place and you are simply focusing on the weekly tasks.
Establish A System
Having a system in place is critical to an organized home. Everything needs a place, whether it’s in the trash, on the shelf, on a desk or in a box. Doing so helps:
Don’t Put It Off
Organizing isn’t a once a year event. It truly is a lifetime habit. The benefits that come from an organized home are increased happiness and decreased stress. By applying consistency in your life, you will find the results you want.
Every now and then we may be tempted to simply leave the task for a later date. We may try to convince ourselves that the house is “clean enough” and that we have other priorities that take precedence. When we do so, we are simply forming another habit. And unlike the habit of cleaning and organizing, this one is much easier to obtain and hold onto.
Be Ruthlessly Diligent!
Be diligent in your efforts. You deserve a clutter-free home, an organized desk, a clean environment. Don’t settle for anything less! Do yourself, your family, and your friends all a favor: be diligent, stay organized, and clean! You don’t know the wonders it will do to your life!
Written By Matthew Adams
Classic Garage Solutions
HIDDEN POWER OF MOVING
I often find myself helping others either with preparing for a move, or with unpacking and organizing once they have moved into their new home. But in late February, I moved myself, and was surprised at how much I learned since this time it was my own stuff that I was dealing with.
We See What We Are and Aren’t Really Using
Our move has made me think of Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists. When Ryan first made the decision to downsize and join his friend Josh in the quest to live life significantly lighter and more simply, he packed every single thing he owned into boxes as if he were getting ready to move. Then, he only unpacked belongings as he needed them. After 6 weeks, he got rid of everything that was still in boxes. When we move, we are essentially forced to do the same thing. Packing everything we own into boxes has the power to help us see what we are and aren’t really using. In Ryan’s case, he had so much stuff that he realized he only really used about 20 percent of what he had.
In my own move, what shocked me the most is that our family does fairly good job of regularly donating and getting rid of things, but we still discovered that we have a lot of unused stuff. I unpacked our essentials, giving priority to the kitchen, bedroom closets and bathrooms like usual, then within the first week, I eventually removed everything else that we use from their boxes and assigned homes to it all. Once that was done I was relieved to be able to get back to our busy life. But I have to admit that like so many other families, after a month in a half, I still don’t have all of my boxes unpacked. We still have a bunch of boxes sitting in our storage room that have been all too easy to ignore.
Those Leftover Boxes are Full of Hard Decisions
Why haven’t I tackled those boxes? Because we haven’t missed what’s in them one bit. I can’t help but see the irony here, this is the same exact stuff that my clients desperately call me to help them with. But in their case these same kinds of boxes have sometimes been sitting in their storage areas for years after they have moved. They often can’t even remember what’s in them. The stuff they haven’t used hogs all the storage or garage space in their homes. There is more than one reason that we avoid these boxes; for one, in addition to not missing what's in them, other tasks on our to-do lists take priority, or maybe there’s no place to store what’s in the boxes because closets and cabinets are already full. But the biggest reason those boxes don’t go away is this; they hold all that stuff that is so hard to deal with. The boxes often represent indecision. Every single item requires a decision to be made. Are we are ready to let it go? Or out of guilt, do we think we need to keep it? What if we might need it someday? And finally, if we are ready to let it go of it, how do we get rid of it? Should it be donated, discarded or sold?
It Does Not Pay To Put Those Hard Decisions Off
It’s tempting to move onto everything else on our busy to-do lists and put these hard decisions on the back burner. But I know all too well that that’s not a good idea. Just because we are not missing whatever is in those boxes, doesn’t mean they deserve to take up space in our homes for years and weigh heavy on our minds. If you have a couple of boxes like these in your home, they may not bother you much, but if you have a whole room filled with them, I suggest you don’t put off dealing with them any longer. And if you are paying for a storage unit, or unable to use your garage for parking your car, the indecision is costing you money or robbing you of convenience. Decide once and for all to do the hard work of making these decisions and get yourself past them. Because it doesn’t pay to put it off, they will just steal your space and peace of mind.
Let Go of Everything That Has Been Singled Out as Unused
If you are in the process of a move, commit to unpacking every box now rather than later. Take a critical eye to what you allow to stay and be selective. If you have more stuff than you have storage space for, consider letting go of the things that you really don’t use. If in the rare chance you end up needing something that you got rid of down the road, it can usually be easily replaced. Keep in mind that you likely won’t miss 99% of what you let go of. If you decide to keep something, get it out of that box and use or display it. In the end, it will feel so good to get the job done.
Our move has forced us to take a closer look at what we really have, and separate what we use from what we don’t. But, at this point we have to follow through and let go of everything that has been singled out as unused. This weekend I have forced myself to get into my storage room and get through those boxes. Now I have a large pile items ready to be donated. My storage room is finally clean, but it was challenging even for me, because I was the one making the tough decisions about our own stuff this time. I have listed the steps that I took to get though my storage room boxes. Feel free to use these steps as a guide to get you through your own storage space..
5 Easy Steps For Getting Through Your Own Boxes:
My oldest daughter and I went on a mission trip to Haiti after she graduated from high school last year. My mind often wanders back there, because it left a permanent mark on my heart. Especially back to the day that we were hauling cinderblocks for the school that they were building in the mountains near the village of OSAPO where we stayed. As we worked alongside the villagers, I lumbered up the steep hill in the sweltering heat with 30 pound blocks in my arms, it was so hard! But I thought I was doing pretty good...especially for my age (I had to add that since I will be 50 this year).
I was drastically humbled when a 10 year old Haitian boy zipped by me carrying not one, but two blocks at a time, and not in his arms but balanced on his head! That’s 60 pounds, which probably nearly matched his weight. The locals were working circles around us. Just the same, however slow, we were doing our best to help and as we passed along the blocks to one another to get them across the river, they smiled genuinely at me in sincere gratitude. I felt something stir inside of me that was so deeply satisfying. I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world at that moment. And believe it or not, the fact that I was a little exhausted, filthy, dehydrated and sweating beyond belief, only added to my gratification. Because I was ignoring my own needs for once to help make as much progress for these people as possible. I felt like the work I was doing that day was so much more important than anything that I could be doing at home. Improving the lives of these people who are fighting just to survive was so much more meaningful than my usual petty concerns, like keeping my house clean or getting my kids to volleyball practice on time.
Now that I am at home, as I busily check things of my to do list each day, I often find myself thinking back to that mountain, to the day that we put aside all of our own trivial but seemingly important concerns to serve others. My only focus was on how to help these children who worry about where their next meal will come from instead of whether or not their parents will buy them the latest version of the iPhone. I can’t help but to ponder how purposeful and gratifying it would feel to live everyday serving others the way we did that week.
Perhaps these feelings exist inside of me, inside of all of us, because we all live with knowing that it is not right or good to ignore the fact that we live in such abundance and luxury while others, through no fault of their own, suffer in such poverty. Consumerism and the ability for many of us to easily acquire too many possessions is becoming more common every day. The Haitians use and keep every possession they have until it nearly disintegrates. In contrast, we throw out things that are perfectly good just because a new model has been introduced. I can’t help but recognize the absurdity of it all, and my time in Haiti has strengthened my resolve to try to live more mindfully.
I strongly believe that there is love infused within each of us at our cores, beckoning us to give more of ourselves and take less. Could that lead us anywhere other than to feeling more complete? Acquiring more stuff will never complete us. And in respect for those who live in this world with so little, should we not be more mindful of not taking and living with more than what we really need? Perhaps the emptiness we feel in our hearts is there to remind us daily that there is something more that we can and should be doing. Our hearts are tugging at all of us, not just mine, asking us to live each day in the name of love, giving away more and taking less, dedicating our time and our talents to others who have less than we do. I marvel at how serving others can fill up our souls and complete us like nothing material in this world could ever do.
Laura is the Owner of Clean & Clutter Free, professional organizing services.