I think the most difficult part of organizing and decluttering is the initial process. Upkeep isn’t as stressful, at least for me. There are some things that I’ve been doing to stay organized that I started to write down for my sister. I realized that this was something that might help anybody. So here we go –
- Always unpack as soon as you get home – whether you are unpacking from a trip, a move or a target run, you really should unpack as soon as you get home. If you get something new – you can find a place for it. If you are unpacking clothes – you can put them away or into the laundry right away. I know it isn’t practical for some people to unpack an entire house immediately, but don’t let yourself live out of boxes for too long. It looms over you until you really move into your new place. Not only is this practical for finding your things but it also gets you into living mode and out of moving, travel or shopping mode.
- If you are a frequent traveler, have a designated bag of toiletries ready to go – I don’t think there’s a problem with having a toiletry bag ready to go for last minute travel. My sister travels for work and for fun – it’s just helpful to not have to worry about that one part of packing. Plus – I genuinely feel if you find good travel containers – you should never let them go.
- When you get mail – recycle the envelope and file the mail. My sister now has a binder where she can put recent bills and a folder for “current projects.” Her amount of paper was one of the largest problems she had in her house. I hope that she can mostly keep up on this system so she never has a buildup of thousands and thousands of pages again.
- Whenever you open a new toiletry item (like makeup or Sunscreen), write the date on it. Sure – there are some things that you can stretch but it might be just the kick in the ass that you need to get rid of decade old products. Also – any product with SPF expires after a year. This could prevent bad sunburns and genuinely keep your bill of health in order as well.
- If you have an furry animal – commit 5-10 minutes a day to cleaning up its hair. Trust me – it’s better than spending hours trying to get up the hair all at once after a month or two. There were even a few things my sister had to toss because we literally couldn’t get them to come clean.
- Go through your wardrobe quarterly. This serves two purposes – to keep your clothes seasonally appropriate (I recommend putting non-seasonal clothing into storage) but also it will give you an opportunity to get rid of some things that don’t fit or that you never wear. Don’t just think of clothes – you should also look at shoes and accessories with a critical lens.
- Keep a list of tasks arranged for weekly, monthly and bi-weekly chores. It doesn’t matter if these are for a housekeeper or yourself – make a list. This has not only helped me stay on top of things I want to achieve but also puts a timeline on some of my least favorite tasks. I hate washing my duvet. It’s bulky. It takes forever to dry (I don’t have a dryer). Knowing that realistically I only need to wash it about once a month – that makes it more manageable for me. I spread out these monthly tasks that I might dread over the weeks of the month. By doing this – I don’t pile onto myself at any time of the month and I have plenty of lee-way to complete these tasks.
- Last and most important – ALWAYS put things back where they belong. You will never lose anything again. My sister was telling me she never knew where her bras were. Well, we made a drawer for them. A good way to make sure she knows where they are is for her to actually put them away. This goes for literally anything – from dishes to laundry detergent to pens. Everything in my life has a place. If it’s not in that place, I do not know where it is. It’s so simple and I spent my whole childhood denying this to my mom and dad but it is one of the most practical lessons I should have learned sooner.
Overall, I think the reason my sister finally asked me for help is because she let all organization go for too long. It’s kind of like working out – if you only go a week without a work out, sure it might take you a few days to get back into it. If you go a month – maybe it takes you a week or two. If you go years – expect it to take around 10 weeks to whip your life into shape.
My sister and I were able to cover a lot of ground in only a week and a half. On my last day, I did what all normal sisters do: I grabbed a pillow and beat my sister while yelling “Never. Let. It. Get. This. Bad. Again.” I’m hoping that was the final straw in getting these messages to sink in.