Organize Your Home

Tips for Organizing Your Home
Consider all that is brought into a home on a regular basis: groceries, mail, advertising flyers, clothes, videos, CDs, sports equipment, newspapers, books, etc. Now consider how much easier it is to keep things rather than getting rid of them. Before we know it, we have far more belongings than space to store it all. It can be a daunting task to organize a home and even harder to change our habits. The following tips can help even the most organizationally challenged among us.

The One Location Rule
The average person spends 20 minutes a day or more looking for various belongings. Over the course of a lifetime (for example 70 years), that can add up to over 8,517 hours - almost an entire year spent searching! The one location rule can help and it goes like this: if you store an item in one place and return it to that spot after using it, you'll always be able to find it. It sounds simple enough but it can take some practice. If you tend to drop things wherever it's convenient, the following are some suggestions for incorporating the one location rule into your daily routine.

  • Keep hats, gloves, umbrellas, coats and keys in a closet next to the front door. When you come home, make a habit of placing these items in the closet rather than laying them down elsewhere. In the morning rush you'll know exactly where to find these items.
  • If you have children, ask them to always enter the house from the same door and take off their shoes. This way they'll always know where their shoes are not to mention they won't track dirt into the house.
  • Keep a notebook by the phone with a pencil or pen attached by a string. Everyday, write the date at the top of a new page. Use the book for phone messages, reminders or even inspirational quotes for yourself and your family. By using a single book kept in one location, you need never worry about losing messages scribbled on post-it notes or scraps of paper.
  • A chalkboard is another way to keep track of schedules and phone messages. Hang the chalkboard near the phone in the kitchen or living area.
  • Use a corkboard to pin up important notes such as lists of borrowed library items, contact information, upcoming events and community centre schedules. Remember that even a corkboard can become cluttered! Review and remove outdated items as needed.

Consolidate
Another basic step in becoming organized is keeping similar items grouped together. It can save time and frustration. Here are a few easy-to-implement consolidation projects:

  • Group clothes by colour to save time spent rummaging through dozens of items. Hang clothes of common colour together so it's easy to find what you need. Another option is to divide clothes into light and dark.
  • Insufficient storage space can make any home look cluttered. Without enough dressers, filing cabinets and shelves it is nearly impossible to keep things organized. A closet organizer is one of the best ways to store items out of sight. Today you can choose from custom-designed wooden shelves all the way to inexpensive coated wire shelves that can be configured to meet your specific needs.
  • Place an in-out tray, such as those used in offices, to sort your mail. When mail arrives, place bills and any other correspondence in the inbox slot. Establish a time each day or each week when you tackle the inbox. Place letters ready to be mailed or paid in the outbox and take care of them once a week.
  • If you receive a lot of junk mail, keep a recycle bin (or cardboard box) handy near the mailbox or doorway. By not bringing junk mail into your home, you avoid the clutter.
  • If the floor in your child's room is knee-deep in toys, here's a simple solution. Find (or cut to size) cardboard boxes low enough to slide under the bed. Cut out images from a toy catalogue of the items, which should go in the box and paste them to the front of the box. The images serve as a visual reminder of where things belong. They are also a great help to young children who haven't yet learned to read.
  • In small bathrooms, even minimal toiletry items can look like clutter. Attractive baskets are a simple and inexpensive way to keep belongings in one place. Use baskets with lids for use inside cabinets; the lids will allow them to be piled one on top of another. Label the baskets to make it easier to find items.

Technology to the Rescue
The benefits of new technologies often far outweigh the time spent learning how to use them. Today's technology can make many tasks faster and easier such as household bill payments and coordinating schedules and shopping trips.

  • Automated bill payment can be a great time-saver and prevent overdue charges. Check with your bank regarding details and fees for your type of account. Often the price of automated bill payment is no greater than the cost of paying a bill through an ATM.
  • Online banking is another convenient option for paying bills. Check with your bank for details and fee structures.
  • Internet-based calendars can help you coordinate schedules with family and friends. Free calendars, such as those provided by Hotmail and Yahoo, allow you to create a calendar and invite other people to join in and view it. You can decide on the level of permission i.e. read only or edit capability. These calendars will save time on phone calls and e-mails too.
  • How often have you gone grocery shopping only to walk out with more than you intended to buy or having forgotten something? Being organized on your grocery trips saves time and money. Personal Data Assistants (PDAs) are handheld computers, which among other things are great for organizing grocery lists. You can input items, quantities, even aisle number then check items off as you shop. Once you've created the grocery list template, you can reuse it over and over again. (PDAs are also a great way to keep track of family schedules such as dates and times for soccer practices and doctor appointments.)
  • If you aren't quite ready to invest in a PDA, try this new approach to the traditional shopping list. Create a list of all the food items you normally buy in a two-week period along with the quantity. Leave space at the bottom of the list for irregular items. Make a dozen photocopies (or print extras) and post one per week on your refrigerator along with a pencil. As the week progresses you can add any irregular items as needed.

Organization does not come naturally to everyone - it often takes conscious changes to our habits. The previous tips are simple ways to adjust our habits. They will also save you time and effort in the long run which are two of the best reasons to be organized. Now what could you do with an extra 20 minutes a day?