How many times have you looked at the sheer volume of belongings and lack of order in your home and thought, “Today’s the day!” And then promptly turned on a new show to binge and tuned it out. Or started the job and then became too overwhelmed.
I would venture to guess this has happened to a great number of us. So would Cas Aarssen, the creator of the popular Clutterbug method for taming mountains of mess in spaces around the world.
Aarssen once was like the masses: Drowning in clutter and no hope in sight. But she had a revelation that led to her Clutterbug system of organizing by personality, and she shares several tips on getting organized that probably had never even crossed your mind. They sound almost too simple to be true! But Aarssen says indeed they do work, so take a look at some of the easy things you can do now to make you—and your home—breathe a little easier.
1. Challenge Yourself to Five Minutes
“The hardest part of decluttering and organizing is getting started,” Aarssen says. “You are overwhelmed and overthinking it. It’s all in your head.”
Overcoming the mental block is a huge challenge for many people, and a big reason that the best laid plans to get your gear together never make it from thought to action. So how do you take that leap?
“Grab a garbage bag and just do some trash bag therapy,” she says. “Look for things that are obviously trash that can go, and grab a box and hunt around your home for things that you're not using and loving. Set a timer and tell yourself, I only have to do five minutes. Usually what happens is you get started and you're motivated, and you keep going, and it isn't as bad or scary as you thought. Or even if you stop, your house is better than it was and you've done five minutes.”
2. Get Rid of Lids on Bins. Just Do It
One of the first things people tend to do when they decide to declutter and get organized is to go out and buy a bunch of plastic bins. There are pros and cons to this idea, depending on your cleaning personality. But if you insist that bins are going to save you from your stuff, follow Aarseen’s lead on something first.
“Don’t have lids on bins,” she says. Lids make it more difficult to get at what you have tucked away in the first place. And though closing up the bins might not seem to be a big hindrance, doing so plays into a theme for many of us.
“Even taking a few extra seconds to take off the lid, you’ll set it aside, right?”
Lids require enough extra effort and enough of a block between you and what you want to find that many times, we will just leave the bins alone and walk away. That means the things we had saved in the bins because we didn’t want to toss them out won’t get used at all and will continue to take up space. and won’t use them.
3. Organize Organically for Your Unique Habits
How many of us gravitate toward plopping things down in the kitchen as we pass through? Guilty! But don’t think that necessarily means you should change your habits and find a way to keep your counters clear. Aarssen’s passion is to teach people to clean and organize in a way that works for them and how they live, not how they think it is supposed to be done.
“I am a huge fan of a kitchen command center,” she says. “Kitchens are where people naturally pile their mail when they come in, school papers, things they have to save, you know, just paper. I love magazine racks that hang on the wall to capture paper. But put it where you naturally pile it. So often we're like, well, we have an office upstairs or around the corner, it should go there. But we don't worry about where things should go. We look at where we're naturally piling things and then we create a system for that stuff where the natural home is.”
4. Create Labels That Are the Right Size for You
We’ve all seen the Instagram photos of perfectly lined-up baskets or jars, each with a label listing what’s inside. And Aarssen absolutely loves labeling things. It makes them easier to find. Just pay attention to how you label your belongings.
“Size matters when it comes to labels,” she says. “I love a little label maker, but if you can’t see the label from across the room, it’s pretty useless. Find a font you love and make them big enough to motivate you to put things away.”
If you need a nudge to discover a label that speaks to you and suits your purposes, Aarssen has a variety of types on her site that you can download and print for yourself.
5. Get Children Involved (Two Genius Tips!)
Children are messy. They just are. But Aarssen offers two ideas on how to keep kid clutter to a minimum that is genius in its simplicity and logic.
Ditch Dressers for Little Ones
“Dressers don’t work for small children. They can’t see what’s inside and they aren’t about to fold up their pajamas and put them away,” she says. “Ditch the dresser and go with a cube shelving unit with fabric bins. They hold more, kids can access it and it also give you spots for toys and books but takes up less floor space than a dresser..”
She also says putting big picture labels on the outside of the fabric bins helps children know exactly where they can find what they are looking for—and where to put it away.
6. Invest in Garage Storage
If there is one space that is over-the-top overwhelming, it’s the garage. Unless you are one of the rare birds who actually parks a vehicle in one, your garage is likely filled with a wide variety of things from car maintenance gear to Christmas lights. It can be tempting to overlook this area, but it can be saved, says Aarssen. You just have to commit to the cost.
“Garages are the one space where there has to be investment to make it work,” she says. “For visual organizers, my favorite is a slat wall home organizer, which you can find at any big box store. It is stored vertically on the wall to take advantage of that space’”
A slat unit allows you to use hooks to hang everything from lawn tools to bicycles, all without sacrificing floor space - important if you are planning to actually park your care in there.
“If you have off-season storage or camping gear, it is important to have shelving,” Aarssen says. “If you have bins stacked up, you won’t unstack them. If something is hard to put away, we won’t.”
And that, organizer wannabes, is the central truth. Try some of these thoughtful and surprising tips and see for yourself.