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By now, the holiday decorations have likely been packed away into plastic tote bins waiting to go back into the garage rafters, and the last crumbs of holiday treats swept away. The problem is, you’ve still got a refrigerator full of stale food, a layer of dust over everything that you hadn’t noticed until said tote bins went back to the garage, and a craft table somewhere that still has 80 rolls of wrapping paper and every pair of scissors in the house strewn about it. How and where do you start to bring order to your home after the holidays without losing your mind in the process?
Start with a scheduled plan, one day at a time. Tackle each of these spaces as outlined below, and by the end of the month you’ll be channeling your inner KonMari.
Follow these steps, spending less than an hour day (sometimes just a few moments), to a better-organized home in just 30 days:
Start by clearing off the kitchen counter so that you have spaces to put everything from the refrigerator and freezer. Remove contents of both, disposing of anything that is out-of-date or akin to a middle school science project (you’d be smart to do this the day before your garbage pick-up). Vacuum and wipe down the inside of the refrigerator and freezer before replacing the items you are keeping.
Same song, different verse. Remove contents of pantry and dispose of anything that is out of date. Donate unopened items that are within date that you do not use. Vacuum and wipe shelving before returning goods to shelves.
Now is the ideal time to take inventory of what you have. Do you really need three ice cream scoops? On the other hand, perhaps you do need another vegetable peeler or two so that the kids can help at dinner time. Donate usable items you no longer need to a student leaving for college.
When is the last time you assessed the quantity and quality of your guest linens? Now is a great time to organize what you have and restock as needed.
Don’t wait until your child or grandchild is stung by a bee to realize that the Benedryl in your medicine cabinet is three years out of date. For prescription meds, call your local hospital to see if they sponsor a drug disposal day for outdated RX drugs, as these shouldn’t be flushed into the water system, and many shouldn’t be discarded in the trash.
|6||Toiletries, Makeup and Skin Care
It’s easy to let samples and little-used toiletries and makeup items accumulate. Many ingredients in skincare and makeup do not have a stable shelf life and should be discarded if not used.
When is the last time you wore those 4″ stiletto heels, or the 7-year-old sentimental sneakers? Be objective and only keep what you actually use. Times and seasons of your life change; it’s okay to give yourself permission to let go.
|8||Books and Magazines
Did your dad have a bookcase full of National Geographic magazines? Well, he probably didn’t have the internet when he was saving all of the issues from 1956 and on. If you have time and inclination, you may wish to go through old magazines to save clippings and articles of interest–or, you could just set up a Pinterest account.
This one may take a buddy to help you rationally decide what to keep, what to donate, and what to discard. Do you really need to keep those fat pants “just in case,” or do you really want those skinny jeans that are two sizes too small hanging there haunting you each time you walk in your closet? In the wise words of Elsa, “Let it go!”
|10||Front Entry / Coat Closet
This is the time of year that many cities sponsor coat drives for the homeless. More likely than not, you’ve got more than one coat and a pair or two of boots in your coat closet that haven’t been worn in a year or two. Why not let someone who would really appreciate them get good use out of them?
How many of the cleaning supplies in your cupboard do your actually use, and how many are now either gelatinous or dried up? Time to take inventory and clean up the cleaning products.
This could be a fun wager to pose with household members–not unlike guessing how many jellybeans are in the candy jar. How many useless pens are in the junk drawer? How many take-out menus? How many out-of-date coupons? The winner gets to claim all the spare change found in the junk drawer.
After you finish putting away the 80 rolls of wrapping paper and return all of the household scissors to their rightful places, spend some time organizing this space, You may find you actually want to spend time there!
|14||Office / Desk
It’s easy to let the office become the dumping ground for all the mail, school papers, leftover lunch dishes–you get the picture. Taking a few minutes to clear your desktop and workspace of clutter will help set the stage for a more productive work week.
Like it or not, a purse seems to be a magnet for everything from trash to spare appliance parts. Taking time on a regular basis to sort through the collected detritus not only keeps you organized, but also prevents your child’s uneaten peanut butter sandwich from becoming hazardous waste.
|16||Mail & Paperwork
Oh, the mountain of paperwork that collects on the kitchen counter / office desk / [fill in the blank]. Start by sorting into piles – bills, coupons, school or work, personal, and trash, and distribute accordingly. Having baskets or bins for each and sorting the mail and papers as they come into the house will help keep you from feeling buried in an avalanche of paperwork.
|17||Outdoor Porch / Patio
Use a leaf blower to clean out the corners of your patio and porch. Cover furniture during the months it is not in use to protect it from dust and moisture. Sweep area to remove any remaining debris.
If you have younger children, set a play-date for your kids at another friends’ home to allow yourself a couple of hours alone to tackle the contents of the closet without being bedeviled into keeping every last Happy Meal toy and broken crayon. For older kids, enlist their help to sort and organize. Make the process enjoyable by finding creative ways of putting their belongings in order by implementing colorful labeled bins or baskets.
This should be done seasonally, and will need to be done more frequently for younger children who outgrow their clothing quickly.
|20||Kids(s) Toybox / Play Area
Consider rotating toys, perhaps storing some away for a time and bringing them out again later to help keep interest alive. Discard items that are broken and donate toys that your children have outgrown or no longer use.
When’s the last time you washed Fido’s bedding, or Fido himself, for that matter? If your pet sheds, take time to thoroughly vacuum baseboards and corners of rooms where fur and pet dander collect. Wash pet food and water bowls.
Nothing keeps a house feeling fresh quite like rotating seasonal decor. You needn’t store bins full of artificial decorations if you don’t have space or inclination. Look around your yard and clip seasonal blooms and branches to bring life to the inside of your home. Change pillow covers of the throw pillows on your furniture to match the moods and colors of the seasons. January is a great time to go through what you do have stored in those overhead bins and evaluate what to keep and what to donate or throw away.
Perhaps a more daunting and dirty task than some of the others on the list, cleaning out the garage can have a tremendous payoff. Consider investing in overhead metal shelving, which frees up floor and wall space while still providing ample storage for things like seasonal decor, suitcases, and other items not used everyday. Wall-mounted shelving may also prove a worthwhile investment, depending upon how much storage space you require.
Your automobile requires more than gas and the occasional oil change. Show it some love and spend an hour removing trash, vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning windows. If car detailing isn’t your jam, consider paying to have your car professionally detailed. Some companies will even come to your home or business to do the work.
See Item #9, Bedroom Closet, Item #10, Coat Closet, and #19, Kids Dressers. Since you may have more than one person in your home, you may need more than one day to sort through clothing.
See Item #25, Clothes.
Ever the dumping ground for reading glasses, chewing gum, charging cords, remote controls, and papers of unknown origin–night stands need attention on a regular basis to keep clutter at bay.
|28||Bedroom Dresser & Drawers
See Clothing, and Junk Drawer, above.
You’ve already tackled kitchen equipment, now it’s time to clean and vacuum the drawers (you’ll be surprised–and perhaps horrified–by how many crumbs are in there!). Assess whether or not the drawers are being used to best advantage, and reorganize if necessary. Just because the silverware has always been in the third drawer from the left doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the most efficient place for it.
Often overlooked, the laundry room can become grungy from the accumulation of lint and the over-spray of laundry pre-treatment. Take time to vacuum the corners and wipe down all surfaces. Don’t forget to thoroughly clean and vacuum the dryer’s lint trap, which can be a serious fire hazard if not cleaned regularly.
Trying to determine what can stay and what should go? If at least one of the following statements is true about an item, then it’s a keeper: