How to Get Rid of Stuff
I love being a home organizer! Witnessing my clients’ sheer joy and relief at finally reclaiming their space always brings a smile to my face. Just the other day, I helped a client empty the storage unit she’d been renting for the past 18 months since moving from her home of 30+ years to a smaller condo…just in time to avoid paying next month’s rent!. (We celebrated with a chocolate milkshake…yum!) It’s amazing how much people actually love getting rid of stuff once they’ve made the decision to do it. So what makes deciding to do it so terribly difficult?
Most often, not knowing what to do with excess belongings prevents folks from even starting to clear stuff out of their way. This procrastination leads to an ever-growing pile that eventually just feels too overwhelming for some. The longer they put it off, the more daunting the thought of shifting that enormous pile becomes. So it sits…and sits…and sits…gobbling up all of the available breathing space.
That’s why I created a guide on how and where to donate, recycle or sell many of the most common items people struggle to divest. It has become the most-visited page on my website and elicits a surprising number of emails from readers wanting to contribute their own suggestions on what to do with all manner of cast-offs. If you haven’t yet visited this treasure trove of information, you’ll find it here in the Free Resources section. I encourage everyone to become part of this collaborative effort and email me if you know of ways to donate, sell, recycle or repurpose in ways not already mentioned.
If you’ve been following my blog or Facebook page for any length of time, you’ve no doubt heard me mention the Buy Nothing Project. For those who are unaware of this enterprise, I strongly recommend visiting their website to learn more and consider joining your local group, especially if you yourself have excess stuff you need out of your way but don’t know how to go about getting rid of it. It's all about neighbors helping neighbors...and who doesn't love that?!! Many items that can’t be donated to charity can be shared with your neighbors who need them through a Buy Nothing group. Some examples include food items; opened-but-no-longer-wanted self-care items like shampoo/conditioner, nail polish, lotions or first aid supplies; leftover construction, DIY or craft materials; clothing or other household items with slight defects; cleaning solutions; broken electronics (yes, someone handy may want to fix them or use the parts); empty boxes, jars and packing materials. Heck, one woman in my group was even collecting leftover vegetable peels for making natural dyes!
Many of my clients find it easier to part with their more sentimental objects when gifting them to someone that they know really needs or wants them than by merely adding them to a donation box without knowing exactly where they will end up. All it really involves is posting a photo and brief description on the group’s Facebook page to be connected to members who are interested in what you have to offer.
If you want to give Buy Nothing a try but aren't sure where to start, request a copy of my free guide to joining and using Buy Nothing. Once you join your local group and understand how it works, getting rid of unwanted items as you go becomes easy peasy and prevents unwanted pileup in your cabinets and closets. It's truly a win for everyone, including the environment!
Nothing feels better than coming together as a community to meet each other’s needs. My need for more space and your need for the items I no longer want that are hogging all of it are a match made in heaven! With a little information on what to do with all that stuff, even reclaiming your space can be easy peasy!
How many boxes and bins of stuff are you storing for purely sentimental reasons? How cluttered are your shelves and cabinets with stuff you’re reluctant to part with because of all the memories they evoke? Whatever your answer, you’re not alone. Keepsakes...memorabilia...souvenirs...whatever you want to call them, are often the most troublesome belongings to maintain control over for everyone, myself included...and I can be downright ruthless when it comes to getting rid of stuff I don’t use regularly. As we struggle to figure out where to start in establishing order over it, more trinkets continue to pile up, making the task at hand ever more daunting.
Organizing your keepsakes is no different from any other organizing project. We begin with three primary goals in mind:
Let’s take a closer look.
First, decide how much space you’re willing to devote to your sentimental objects. Remember that stuffing them into a storage bin in the back of a closet or the deep recesses of your garage won’t allow them to trigger the memories...and that’s the whole point of keeping them, right? With that in the front of your mind, try some of these strategies to reduce the amount of space they gobble up:
Creating Easy Access
Let’s be honest...how likely are you to dig out those big rubber storage bins and old cardboard boxes from the crawl space in your attic and spend hours pouring over your kids’ old artwork? Yeah...that’s what I thought. So why are you keeping it? While most people neither plan to nor need/want to devote time to regularly reviewing their scrapbooks and photo albums, those options offer the ability to more easily find and share precious memories as long as they are stored within easy reach. The less you keep, the easier it is to create easy access to your memories so that you can pull them out when the mood or opportunity to share them strikes. And you don’t have to be a crafty scrapbooker to do it. The key is to reduce the volume enough that you can store them in an easy-to-reach section of your living space rather than in the basement, attic or garage. Imagine Cousin Sue comes over for lunch and you get to reminiscing. How easy will it be for you to pull out that stack of old letters she sent you from summer camp when you were kids? Make it so.
Consider some of the storage methods below and select the ones that work best for you and your family:
Preserving and Identifying
Most people keep some combination of memorabilia they’d like to pass along after they are gone and items that carry meaning for no one else but them. Do your loved ones a favor and differentiate between these two categories to make their job easier when faced with the daunting and emotional task of going through your things after you pass. I know it may sound morbid, but knowing you have done your part to make that process a little bit easier for them will ease some anxiety for you now, while also ensuring that you will be leaving them precious memories instead of just more stress to add to their grief. Here are a few loving steps you can take to achieve this:
Of all the items you make space for in your home, your keepsakes are really the only ones that can’t be replaced. If they are worth keeping, they are worth devoting some time and effort to preserving with care. While it can be overwhelming to think about that huge stash of old papers, photos and trinkets stashed away in your attic (or wherever), tackling it now and making some intentional decisions to transform it into a more manageable storybook of your life will be some of the most enjoyable and thought-provoking work you’ve ever done. With these three stated goals and the creative, yet practical strategies I’ve laid out over the last few blog posts, even establishing order to your keepsakes can be easy peasy.
Raise your hand if you either have kids or were once a kid yourself. If you raised your hand, this one’s for you.
Kids and former kids alike tend to struggle with letting go of items that represent memories. Even I, the queen of getting rid of stuff, struggle from time to time. No matter how much of a minimalist you may be, guaranteed you’re hanging onto some things merely because they remind you of special memories, people, or achievements. And there’s nothing wrong with that just as long as you’re doing it selectively and with intention. But so often, we end up holding on simply because we aren't sure how, when or whether to let go. That keeping-by-default approach eventually leads to clutter, which in turn leads to disorganization when the clutter becomes unmanageable.
Learning how to make choices about your belongings with confidence is key to avoiding what I call "clutter creep”. Teaching kids that skill is as important as teaching them to balance a checkbook, yet it’s one aspect of child-rearing that often gets overlooked because parents themselves never learned how to do it.
Kids are notorious for wanting to keep everything under the sun because they haven't yet fully experienced the many negative consequences of clutter creep. And if no one teaches them how to make thoughtful, intentional decisions about their stuff, they’ll continue to keep by default and grow up to be former kids who feel compelled to keep everything. Perhaps you know someone who fits this description? The good news is that by learning just a few simple strategies, they can instead grow up to enjoy a lifetime of clutter-free living as adults and save you from grappling with their clutter creep in the meantime (perhaps on top of your own). So whether you’re hoping to raise a de-cluttered kid or to become a de-cluttered former kid, read on.
First, two important points to remember when it comes to keeping memorabilia:
1) Their main function is to trigger a positive memory (thus the name “memorabilia”)
2) Less really is more.
Think about this for a minute: How is a huge stash of photos, old school papers, certificates, artwork, old birthday cards and so on helpful in preserving memories from the past? Not only is it in your way, limiting activity in your present and threatening productivity in your future, but all the memories that stuff represents are currently hidden in a big, anxiety- and stress-provoking mess. In order to trigger any precious memories, you would have to take time to sit down and actually go through that big pile, piece by piece...yet most of us are actively avoiding the big pile... which is precisely how it has grown so unwieldy. We’re procrastinating looking through it because it's overwhelming. It represents unmade decisions, uncertain outcomes and sometimes even guilt as the pile continues to grow. It doesn’t feel fun or inviting the way your old memories should feel. Add to that the visual noise and inconvenience of having to live around it. Whether you’ve stashed it all away in some storage closet or are tripping over it every day, it is there...unmanageable and unconquered...nagging at you in the back of your mind (or maybe even in the front of it). At some point, that huge stash of what is supposed to be positive memories has become a big pile of negativity. And guess what...your kid's stash can feel that way to them too. So what to do with it?
Strategy #1: The Transformation Challenge
A couple of weeks ago, I talked about functional keepsakes in this blog. If you missed it, go back and read about them here. The idea is to transform your 3-dimensional keepsakes into something that serves a practical purpose. An example would be a big seashell your child collected during a family beach vacation. Help her brainstorm ways this purely sentimental object can fulfill a functional need. Turn the shell upside down and voila! it becomes a dish for holding small items such as change, paper clips, tiny earrings, etc.
The point is to clear some space by replacing an everyday, mundane, purely functional object with something that is both functional and memory-evoking at the same time. In this example, by transforming the shell into a change-holder, you can ditch the boring plastic container that was previously holding change. Thus, you are eliminating clutter without eliminating the memory. Plus, every time your child places change in the shell, it will evoke positive memories about his beach vacation. Win-Win! Challenge your kids to see what ideas they can come up with. You'll be amazed at their creativity, and they'll feel so proud of their own cleverness.
Strategy #2: The Keepsake Box
Last week’s post focused on how to keep paper keepsakes under control. Most kids don’t understand the concept of “less is more”, but keeping every school project, essay, drawing, handmade card, and certificate they ever received is not going to be valuable to either of you down the road. Help them to see what they are losing by keeping more. Would they rather look through the big, scary pile of papers on their desk to find and admire their old artwork, or use their desk for drawing something new? Would they rather spend the afternoon looking through a pile of old birthday cards from their best friend, or playing outside with that friend? Instead of keeping everything, limit the paper keepsakes to just what will fit inside a defined and manageable space such as a keepsake box and encourage them to choose with intention what goes in it. When the space gets full, it's time for your child to sit down, review everything in the box (and evoke some cool memories) and then eliminate items that are no longer as meaningful as they once were in order to make room for new ones.
This weeding out process gives them an opportunity to practice making intentional decisions about what to save while keeping them in charge of their own stuff. Consider using a box that they themselves have decorated or another vessel that conveys special meaning, making the receptacle itself a functional keepsake like the objects described in Strategy #1. Defining the space ahead of time keeps the pile manageable. Decide together in advance the rules for when it’s okay to add a second box (every five years? every ten?) and stick to those rules. This will depend on how much space you are both willing to devote to paper keepsakes. Remember, the less stuff you keep, the more space you have available for enjoying life and creating new memories!!
Strategy #3: The Art Gallery
Artwork often represents a unique challenge for parents, especially if your child is a prolific artist. Once again, less is more. You can save space in your keepsake box by displaying any drawings and paintings instead. Borrowing the concept of limited storage space from strategy #2, create a gallery space specifically for this purpose using a bulletin board, the refrigerator, frames in a hallway/bedroom, or pages of a portfolio...whatever works best for your family. (I'll share more ideas for keepsake organization in next week's blog post.) Define the space ahead of time and don't exceed it. Have your child decide what gets displayed and for how long. When a new masterpiece comes along, leave it up to her to decide what needs to go in order to make room for it. This not only allows him to practice that crucial decision-making process again, it also alleviates any guilt you might feel about tossing your little Picasso's creations.
Strategy #4: The "Vacation" Rotation
So what about trinkets and toys that cannot be transformed into functional objects and won't easily fit in a keepsake box, scrap book or on a gallery wall? Ever notice how kids develop a sudden strong attachment to toys they have long outgrown and forgotten all about when they discover them in the “Donations” box? When saying goodbye forever is too much of a struggle, teach your kids to say "bon voyage" instead, and place these items into temporary storage for 3-6 months. Make note of their scheduled return date. If your child hasn't mentioned them or asked for them by that date, extend the "vacation" a bit longer. If they still don't ask for them, this is a sign that they may be more ready to part with them than they thought. If they still insist on keeping them, negotiate a swap for some other toys they no longer use. Again, this allows them to practice making choices and keeps them in charge.
While it’s tempting to discard items you’re sure they won’t miss while they are napping or at school, this can lead them to cling even more fiercely to sentimental objects and potentially introduce a level of distrust into the relationship that you don’t want. Even more importantly, you’ll miss precious opportunities to help them practice letting go of their own accord.
Strategy #5: The Photo Shoot/Book Tour
Sometimes saving the actual object is not required to trigger a memory. They say a picture paints a thousand words, so a photo or even a short story about an object may be a more practical and appropriate solution. Make it fun and creative! Set the mood with a fan and some mood music while you play pretend professional photographer and conduct a photo shoot of your child with all his to-be-donated stuffed animals, dolls, or dinosaurs. Invite friends or siblings to join in. Or encourage your child to write the story of an object...where it came from, why it's special, what adventures they hope/imagine it experiences in its next "life" after donation. Allow him/her to share the story with family and friends a la book tour. Documenting the important role this object has played while it is still fresh in their minds will preserve the memory in more intricate detail than saving the thing itself ever could. They are putting into words or capturing in photos what the object means to them right now rather than having to rely on a vague recollection of it down the road.
Parting with stuff--for adults and kids alike--feels bad because we fear forever losing the memories it triggers. No wonder we avoid it! But having adequate space to live in and create new memories...feeling organized and in charge of our own environment...that feels really good. Teaching your kids these strategies and giving them opportunities to practice making intentional choices will empower them. With a little patience and a few good strategies, even raising de-cluttered kids (or becoming a de-cluttered former kid) can be easy peasy.
No matter how much of a minimalist you are, you likely have a few treasured keepsakes stashed away somewhere in the hard-to-reach spaces of your home, if not consuming valuable real estate in your closets, cabinets and drawers. I’m willing to bet these trinkets represent a little bit of a challenge to your sense of organization, too.
Organizing is all about managing your stuff with efficiency, so you probably already know that the first step in any organizing project is to purge excess items you don’t really need or use. For many of us, this leads to a dilemma: how do we justify storing boxes and bins of old memories whose only purpose is to give us the warm fuzzies? The mere thought of parting with beloved memorabilia evokes feelings of guilt or sadness, yet keeping them feels self-indulgent and counter-productive. Well, I’m here to assure you that you need not sacrifice your favorite childhood mementos in the name of organization. The key is in discovering a dual functionality for some, and assuming the role of a highly selective curator for the rest.
First, it’s important to recognize that less really is more when it comes to memories. Think about why items in a museum are so valuable. It’s because they are representative and rare. Second, understand that you cannot experience the nostalgia these items evoke unless you actually see them. If you pack them away in a storage bin in the attic or shove them in the back of your closet, they can’t fulfill their function of sweeping you down memory lane unless you drag them out and look through them. The more you have, the less likely you will be to do that. Seriously, when was the last time you made the effort to do that?
The challenge is to save just enough to preserve your cherished memories without creating unnecessary clutter or robbing yourself of the space you need for other items. One way to do this is to bring them out into the sunshine of your everyday existence and assign them a second function that enables you to eliminate other, less meaningful objects.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
Follow EasyPeasyLiving’s “Organizing Outside the Box” board on Pinterest for more ideas on ways to repurpose objects in a functional, yet meaningful way. The possibilities are truly endless and limited only by your creativity.
Now obviously not every keepsake can be transformed into a functional object, and the idea of tucking away a few meaningful pieces in “time capsule” fashion has an appeal all its own. Just keep in mind that the best time capsules are a) representative and b) small. In other words, be selective about what you save, and define the space you are devoting to keepsake storage first. If you start to outgrow the space, review the contents and eliminate objects that are no longer as relevant as maybe they once were. If you can’t remember the significance of a piece, let it go.
A special note to parents: Involve your children in the decision-making process whenever possible. Let them select the artwork that means the most to them while teaching them how to make balanced, selective decisions. Do not fall into the trap of saving too many old toys, school papers, or baby clothes they’re not likely to remember. They will not thank you for offloading boxes of, what to them, is a bunch of meaningless old junk when they move out or you pass on.
With a little creativity, even preserving your memories without sacrificing space can be easy peasy!
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The Financial More of Less
As we wrap up Organizing for Dollars month, I want to share with you the many ways paring down your belongings can actually save you money. After all, who doesn’t want more of that?
The less you own, the easier it is to keep your home tidy, organized, and accessible, meaning:
If you take some of the advice I’ve shared this past month on using items you already have on hand to fulfill a need or creating your own inexpensive organizing solution, you’ll save even more money. Making wise purchases that serve as multi-taskers means buying and storing less. Add all of that to the time you’ll save from having less to manage and navigate around at home, and you can see that less really is more...more time, more space, more peace of mind and yes, more MONEY!
And if that’s not enough, you now have a chance to score a $15 gift card just by visiting my Facebook page and commenting on the 1-Day Challenge post at the top telling us something you had been planning to buy and what you ended up using that you already had instead. Everyone who answers both parts of the question in a comment by July 31 will be automatically entered into the prize drawing. Easy Peasy!
Stay tuned next week, because August is Keepsake Organization month. I’ll be sharing tips on how to add functionality to your sentimental objects, curate your keepsake collection to tell your story, preserve memories without having to keep a pile of stuff that triggers them, and organize the precious items you save.
Stop Acquiring More Stuff!
Living life seems to require a lot of stuff. We need stuff to wear...stuff to cook and cook with...stuff to sit, sleep, eat, and work on...stuff to entertain us and stuff to help us entertain others...stuff to help us work more efficiently...stuff to read, write and communicate with...stuff to decorate and create with...stuff to keep us safe and healthy...stuff to make us more comfortable...stuff to keep us smelling, looking and feeling our best...stuff to help us relax...stuff to give each other and stuff to wrap it up in...stuff to keep us warm and stuff to keep us cool...stuff to fix and clean all our other stuff with...and stuff to keep all this stuff organized and accessible when we need it. And every single piece of stuff we own comes with a price tag...not just a financial price tag but also a time, space, effort, convenience and opportunity price tag. Reducing the amount of stuff you own also reduces your overhead costs. Minimalism is about getting by with less stuff so that you can focus more on all those other things that really matter in life. But you don't have to be a minimalist to benefit from making do with less.
July is Organizing for Dollars Month, so today I’m going to share a few strategies for shrinking your pile of stuff to save you money...plus a whole lot more.
One reason we get so overwhelmed by all of our stuff is that most of us own waaaaayyyyy more than we need or have room to accommodate. We go through phases where we get so fed up we decide to weed out our closets and donate our excess...and it feels pretty great for a while. But eventually, we end up right back where we started, because we never changed our thinking about what we really need versus what we just want. To change your mindset, you must begin challenging yourself to stop acquiring something new to fulfill every new need that arises. With a little resourcefulness and creativity, you can meet most of your needs by shopping in your own closet. If you don’t believe me, why not try imposing a moratorium on new purchases for one whole week and see for yourself how well some of these seven strategies can work:
1. Use up what you have first before replenishing
How many skincare samples, hotel shampoo bottles, and still-in-good-shape gift bags are you hoarding? For what? Start using them. Get them out of your way before you buy more of the same. Plan meals around the food that’s been in the back of your pantry or freezer and needs to get eaten. (Read this great article on the myths of food expiration labels before you pitch it.) Use items in your craft supply stash or some of those leftover DIY materials in the garage to create something you need rather than pulling out your wallet to buy it. You’ll be amazed how much money and space you’ll save just by using up the various odd bits and pieces that are currently filling up your cabinets and drawers.
2. Review your stashed decorative items
Are your closets and storage areas filled with framed photos or artwork you took down but may want to use again...someday? What about all those cute tchotchkes you’ve been saving in some bin somewhere because they have sentimental value but no good spot to call home? Review these with a critical eye and make some decisions. Perhaps some can be made into functional objects or to freshen up your current decor. Others may make wonderful gifts. If you’ve been meaning to hang it up, then do it now! You’ll free up valuable storage space and fulfill a need without spending a cent.
3. Gift/regift new items you know you’ll never use.
Rather than spend valuable space on something you don’t need/want, give it to someone who would. You’ll save time and money on gift shopping, not to mention space!
4. Gift wrap creatively
Instead of buying special occasion-specific wrapping paper, you’ll get more mileage out of it if you use neutral gift wrap suitable for any occasion and embellish it with items from your garden or leftover craft supplies. Reuse gift bags that are still in good condition or re-purpose all manner of materials as creative wrapping. An old sweater you’ll never wear plus a needle and thread and some ribbon are all you need to make a one-of-a-kind gift bag for Christmas.
5. Furnish your home with “double-duty” pieces
Look for opportunities to double up on the functionality of your high ticket items, like furniture. Some examples are using a storage trunk or ottoman for a coffee table; turning a narrow cubby-style bookshelf on its side and adding a seat cushion to the top to create seating with book or toy storage; mounting a small ironing board to the top of a rolling storage cart. Look for end tables with drawers, console tables with shelves underneath, and desks with built-in filing drawers.
6. Rely on multi-taskers when entertaining
Instead of overstocking your kitchen and dining room with specific serving pieces and party supplies, try some of these substitutions using what you already have on hand:
7. Give your kids experiences as gifts
Let’s face it: raising kids is expensive, especially if you want them to experience life to its fullest. Instead of spending money on tangible gifts you’ll just need to find space for, use it to splurge on a fun trip or activity you may not otherwise be able to afford to celebrate a special occasion or holiday. One bonus is that these gifts are a lot easier to wrap too!
Obviously, the more organized your home is, the easier it will be to fulfill a new need with an old purchase, because you’ll have a better handle on what you already own and know where to find it. And the less you own, the easier it is to keep everything organized and accessible. If you’re drowning in belongings, the first step is to turn off the tap and stop acquiring! Once you get used to looking for a solution in your own closet instead of a store, it will become a habit.
In case you missed it, this month’s EasyPeasy 1-Day Challenge is to substitute something you already own for something you were planning to buy. To enter the monthly gift card drawing all you have to do is visit my Facebook page by July 31 and comment on the July 1-Day Challenge post at the top of the page telling us 1) What you were planning to buy and 2) What you found in your own home to fulfill the need instead. You must include both parts to be entered into the prize drawing. I can’t wait to see how clever and resourceful you all are!
De-Stressify Your Bathroom
Is the state of your bathroom stressing you out? For most of us, the bathroom is the first room we spend time in after waking up, and nothing is worse than starting the day by facing a stress-inducing mess. To wrap up Bed and Bath Organizing Month, I’m sharing my favorite tips for keeping your bathroom orderly and your countertops clear and clutter-free.
Between makeup and makeup brushes, hair care items, dental care supplies, nail and skin care products, shaving tools, and possibly even medications, there’s a lot going on in what is likely the smallest room in your home. And if you share a bathroom with others, multiply all of the above by two or more. Yikes! It’s no wonder your bath feels anything but spa-like. The good news is that with these five simple tips and some minimal maintenance, you’ll be able to keep it tidy, organized and functional.
#1 Streamline - Clear away all those excess bottles of...whatever. Get rid of the half-used conditioner you no longer use, empty bottles of lotion, expired eyeshadow and lipstick, and horrible hues of nail polish you will never wear. If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know that I issue a simple 1-day (more like 1-hour) challenge each month...a simple task to put you on the path toward more orderly living. The June challenge is to perform this very task. Keeping half-used bottles of products you no longer use is not going to make you miraculously use them up. It’s going to make you lose your mind from having to navigate through the clutter they create on a daily basis.
(Aside: Once you’ve completed this step, go to my Facebook page and add a comment, photo or GIF to the pinned challenge post at the top for a chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card in the monthly prize drawing. You have until June 30th to enter.)
#2 Categorize - Once you’ve cleared your clutter, divide what’s left into some basic categories:
#3 Take stock - It’s okay to stock up on your favorite products to ensure you don’t run out, but take note of what you have before you purchase more. If you decide to switch brands, use up what you have first or otherwise eliminate the old brand so that you don’t end up having to repeat #1. Also be sure to organize to allow adequate space for storing your stockpile, and try not to exceed it.
#4 Think Vertically - Most bathrooms have limited space, so maximizing your vertical storage options can make a huge difference. Here are a few examples:
#5 Clear countertops daily - Put everything away after each use to reduce surface clutter. One easy way to do this is to place all of the items you use each morning in a single basket or tote you can pull out of a cabinet, closet or off a shelf when you’re getting ready and then put the whole basket away when you’re done. Easy peasy!
Following these five strategies is guaranteed to de-stressify your morning routine. What are your favorite bed and bath organizing secrets? Please share them in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Coming Soon: July is Organizing for Dollars Month! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be covering how better organization can save you money and the financial benefits of owning less, as well as sharing some budget-friendly organizing tools and tricks to help you streamline your home and life. Make sure you don't miss out! Subscribe to the EPL Blog to receive each weekly issue right in your inbox.
Rest Easier with Orderly Linens
The past 14 days have been quite a whirlwind in the Sheridan household! After celebrating three birthdays, a high school graduation, Juneteenth, and Father’s Day...all within a two week period...I’m ready to stop eating and finally fall into my bed...a nice, crisp, freshly-made bed, please!
Which brings us to this week’s topic: organizing your bed and bath linens.
Linen closets are high on the list of problem areas for many of the clients I visit. Whether it’s having too many linens, missing set components, not easily identifying sizes, or not knowing how to neatly fold fitted sheets...the struggle is real! Not to worry. With these easy tips, your neatly-ordered sheets and towels will evoke only feelings of soothing comfort and luxury instead of frustration.
How many is too many?
Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room. The biggest issue for most people is they just plain have way more sheets and towels than they really need. Why is it that everyone feels obliged to keep enough sheets and towels to open a hotel? Think about it: you can only use one set of sheets on a bed at a time, so two sets per bed is plenty...one on the bed, one in the wash. Include one set (two max) for each air mattress or sofa bed you use when guests visit. Your guest sheets can also serve as “backup” sheets if you ever need them during non-guest times. You really should not require any more than that. It is better to replace your sheets more often than to keep more sheets than you can comfortably store. So the formula is # of beds/sofabeds/air mattresses x 2. Period.
When it comes to towels, decide how many towels each person in your home uses between laundry days to determine how many you really need, then add just four more for guests unless you routinely have lots of guests visiting at once. Most guests won’t stay long enough to require more than two towels, and if they do, you can always do laundry. Any inconvenience of suddenly needing to wash a load of sheets or towels in the midst of their visit is far outweighed by the everyday inconvenience of wrestling with too many linens. Also remember, that if you really need to, you can always borrow extra sheets or towels for your visitors from someone who has too many. Trust me, there is no shortage of such potential lenders out there.
I know, I know….nobody wants to hear those two little words because almost nobody knows how to properly fold sheets and towels. However, taking the time to learn will save you hours of frustration in the end. Trust me, if I can learn how to fold a king-size fitted sheet, anyone can. It just takes some patience and practice. (Long arms are helpful but not required.) Check out this tutorial to learn more. The point is that when you take the time to fold everything neatly to the size of your space, you’ll not only fit more in, you’ll be better able to find what you need and keep it neat. You will be amazed at how much more you can fit when everything is folded correctly. I have organized many a linen closet that was too full to fit everything in beforehand and had room to spare afterwards...simply by folding everything correctly.
Take a little time to figure out what size to fold each item so that it makes the best use of the space where you are storing it. It will be different for each situation, but once you know how to fold items that go in a specific location, always fold those things the same way and store them in the same spot to ensure an optimal fit. If you place items so that the folded edge faces out (or up if it is in a basket), it will be easier to grab without upsetting the entire pile.
One size does not fit all
Don’t you just hate digging through all the sheets just to find the size you need? One way around this is to differentiate by color or pattern. For example, solids for twin, stripes and plaids for queen, and patterns for king. Even better, store your sheets in the closet of the room where they are to be used instead of in a central spot like a linen closet. That way, you’re not only guaranteed to get the right size, you will also have your extra sheets handy and won’t wake up the entire household if you need to do an emergency sheet change in the middle of the night (which any parent of young kids should appreciate).
Keep it together!
Stop wasting time searching for the flat sheet that matches your fitted sheet and vice versa! Keep sheet sets together either by inserting the folded fitted sheet and pillow case into the folded flat sheet to form one neat and tidy bundle, or by placing the flat and fitted sheets inside the pillow case. No more digging through your closet to locate the right pillow case!
Use your vacuum
Most people don’t think of their vacuum cleaner as an organizing tool, but when it comes to eeking out storage space for extra pillows and bulky comforters, it can be a lifesaver. Using vacuum bags for storing these items when not in use is a great space saver and keeps them well-protected from dampness, dirt and pests, even when stored under your bed or in the back of your closet or basement storage area.
Think outside the box
Just because it’s called a “linen closet” doesn’t mean you have to store your linens there. As I mentioned above, storing bed linens in bedroom closets offers convenience, as well as saving space for other things in the hall closet. Here are a few other alternative storage options:
What did I miss? Get more ideas and see photos of some of these by following my Organizing Outside the Box board on Pinterest. Share your ideas with us in the comments!
Have you taken the June 1-Day EasyPeasy Challenge yet?
In case you missed it: Each month I issue a simple challenge that can be completed in one day (usually in well under an hour) that will put you one step closer to more orderly living. Once you complete the challenge, you can enter a monthly prize drawing just by adding a comment, photo or GIF to the 1-Day Challenge post that is pinned to the top of my Facebook page. The June challenge is to eliminate from your bed/bathroom any makeup or toiletries that have expired or which you no longer use. Clear those half-used bottles of shampoo and conditioner out of your shower and toss the expired makeup from your makeup bag to make the products you do use more accessible. That’s it!
May’s winner received an Amazon gift card. Will you be next? Remember...you gotta play to win!
Can you believe it’s June already?!! This month is Bed and Bath Organizing month. We’ll make your bed and bathroom the restful sanctuary you deserve with tips on organizing your clothes, accessories, linens and toiletries so that getting ready for your busy day or a peaceful night’s sleep will be seamless and easy peasy. This week I’m sharing my favorite strategies for keeping your clothes easily accessible, tidy and organized.
Now that the world is opening back up and life is beginning to take on some semblance of “normal” again, it’s time to take stock of that wardrobe. Some of us have put on a few pounds since the beginning of the pandemic, while others have lost weight. Whether you’re in a new size now or not, taking stock of what you have, purging what no longer fits the way you'd like or works in your current lifestyle, and organizing your closet and drawers will ensure that you're ready to get back out there in the real world looking your best. An organized clothing system will also save you time and hassle in the morning, keep clothes in better condition longer, and -- my favorite -- reduce dry cleaning bills and ironing. Follow these ten tips to maximize space and functionality in your dresser and closet.
Are you following my Facebook page? If not, you're missing out on daily tips, advice and strategies for streamlining your home and your schedule to make more time for the things that really matter. You'll find quick and easy recipes, discover simple solutions to everyday problems, and learn the answers to commonly-asked organizing questions from others just like you. What's more, you can win prizes when you participate in the monthly 1-day EasyPeasy Challenge that’s announced on the second day of each month on my Facebook page. You'll find it all at www.facebook.com/easypeasyliving.
We are nearing the end of Purging Month, but just like doing laundry, mowing the grass and grocery shopping, purging your excess stuff never really ends. The good news is that it doesn’t require a lot of time or effort to keep up with it once you’ve completed your initial purge. This week, I’m gonna share a few easy peasy habits that will make divesting yourself of your overage an automatic routine. The more of these habits you embrace, the easier it will become to maintain your equilibrium of "stuff".
First, set yourself up for success with a solid plan for what you will do with each item you decide to let go. (For more ideas on this, go back and read last week’s blog post.) Establish a holding spot/s for items to donate and items to sell (if you decide that’s really worth your time). Make it an easily accessible and consistent location or locations in your home.
Next, create a regular schedule for getting your castoffs out of your home. Whether it is scheduling regular donation pickups (or just getting in the habit of always saying YES! whenever you receive a notification that a truck will be in your area), or finding a consistent time each month to drop things off at a local charity, put it on your calendar and set up a reminder to follow through. Likewise, if you are selling items, set deadlines on your to-do list for pricing, posting, or otherwise preparing your items for upcoming sales events or dropping them off at a consignment shop. Schedule one weekend out of every month (more if needed) for dropping off any recyclables or trash that can’t be included in your regular household pickup, or create reminders to take them whenever you are out running errands nearby.
Then simply collect as you go. Opportunities abound to identify items you no longer need/want/use. As they come up, decide right away if they are 1) Sell; 2) Donate; 3) Recycle; or 4) Trash and place them into the proper receptacle immediately. Don’t procrastinate! Take action at moments like the ones below:
Eliminating belongings you don’t need is just like discarding your food wrappers and containers when you’re done with them. You already know you can’t/won’t use them, so it’s just a matter of putting them in the correct receptacle and following through with your predetermined plan for getting them out of the house. Decisions will become quicker and easier each time you make them. Before you know it, it will become as second nature as throwing away your candy bar wrapper or recycling your empty soda bottle. If there’s an item you’re on the fence about, treat it just like something from your freezer you aren’t sure if you’ll eat or not and add an expiration date to it. If you don’t use it by then, let it go.
Finally, just like you occasionally still have to deep clean the rooms you clean regularly, make a point of “deep cleaning” your cabinets, shelves and drawers at least once per year to catch any expired or excess stuff you may have overlooked. You don’t have to set aside days or hours of time to do this unless that’s your preference to get it all done at once. Instead, just work on one room in your home each month and spend five to ten minutes per day performing the three Rs (remove, review, replace) on a single drawer, shelf, or cabinet at a time until the entire house is done. Then start again. The less stuff you have, the easier and quicker this ongoing process will be.
If you took my advice and joined an online give-away group like Freecycle or Buy Nothing, you’ll find that there are often people requesting one of your "someday/maybe" items. Knowing that someone else is looking for that exact thing may be enough to convince you to part with items you aren't sure you'll ever need again. These groups also offer assurance that you’ll be able to easily get whatever you need when you need it...for FREE, eliminating your need to hold onto things “just in case”. For this reason alone, I strongly urge you to consider joining one of these groups if you haven’t already done so.
I’ll be taking a week off from the EPL Blog next week. Enjoy your Memorial Day!
Coming Soon: June is Bed and Bath Organizing month! I’ll be sharing tips all month on organizing your clothes, accessories, toiletries and makeup both here and on my Facebook page.
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ICYMI: Each month I issue a new 1-day EasyPeasy Challenge that can be completed in less than a day (usually in less than an hour) and keep you on the path toward orderly living. You have all month to take the challenge and then add a comment, photo or GIF to the challenge post that's pinned to the top of my Facebook page to be entered into a prize drawing at the end of the month. This month’s challenge is to join an online group like Nextdoor, Buy Nothing or Freecycle and give away just one item. It must be given away...with no expectation of receiving anything in return. Give it a try! I look forward to seeing your photos and comments on my Facebook page!
Valerie Sheridan is a professional organizer, wife, mother of two, and Founder/Owner of EasyPeasy Living.