Once it is organized, it is much easier to keep it that way!

Two weeks ago, I set out to clean my computer cabinet. I took EVERYTHING out and made a huge MESS. It took about 75 minutes to get everything "fixed" and back in place.

Then I sorted through the MESS! I found homes for everything I needed, and pitched the rest! I got rid of quite a bit. It is always kind of entertaining to see what we "thought" we needed.

One bonus was that I found almost $3.00 in change, which I gave to my daughter to put in her piggy bank!

I put all the pens/notepads in one place. I put the digital camera and ipod in a basket. I also put some drawer organizers in one of the drawers and was able to put all my USB cables/chargers in one basket. This is one of my favorite products to help organize cds/dvds.
I can have 1 binder with photos, another one with home movies and a third with software. These are well worth the money!

Two weeks later, it still looks PERFECT! Once I got rid of the clutter and found homes for everything, it made it so much easier to see what I had!

Weekend Assignment: 15 minutes

Pick one area that needs to be organized/decluttered/purged. I am going to pick the medicine cabinet. Have a trashcan ready!

First: Take everything out!

Second: Sort through the mess; throw away anything old, expired, or unusable.

Third: Look at the remaining pile and double check to make sure that you need everything.

Fourth: Put things back. Make sure you can see everything, so you know what you have.

In 15 minutes, you have just done a fantastic job of organizing!!

Do you NEED all the things you have? Label makers are NOT a waste of money!

It is hard getting rid of things!
My daughter and I have been working on her room (this is a big project that took about 2 hours)! I could have been done a lot faster if I worked by myself, but we both had fun, and she had a say in the project. I also have ADHD tendencies and had to stop to check email and facebook and play a game with my son.

We started with her dresser, under her bed, toy shelves and her closet. I actually just pile everything in one place and make a mountain! I find this easier than just doing one thing at a time, because this way you see EVERYTHING you are dealing with! Plus it makes you want to get rid of that mountain!

Before we started her drawers were overflowing (and one drawer was a junk drawer). The top of her dresser looked sloppy, and her closet wasn't bad, but it had quite a bit of stuff that wasn't being used. She also had random stuff under her bed!

I had a whole bunch of containers/baskets that could fit on her closet shelves. We decided that she could only keep what we had room for! This is a big step to decluttering. If you don't have room for it, do you really need it? If you have room for it, do you still need it? If you aren't using it, let someone else get the enjoyment from it.

She decided she wanted games/puzzles, cds, Nintendo DS games, barbies, polly pockets, costume jewelry, and purses/wallets/old cell phones. Books are in a different cabinet, so we didn't have do deal with them.

My daughter had a blast making labels for her baskets. In the middle of this project she says, "label makers are NOT a waste of money!" We kept one large basket for misc. As we were going through the mountain, she would put the things she wanted in the baskets. Once the baskets were full, she was done. That left me to decide what do with the leftovers. We are giving some things to her cousins, donating quite a bit, and some things were going in the trash.

Our end result was nothing under the bed, about $2.50 extra change in her piggy bank. We reclaimed an entire drawer which is now strictly for dance and bathing suits. Plus her closet has everything she wants with easy access. In addition, her stuffed animals are well accessorized! I found a few hats and flower leis that we didn't know what do with. Her stuffed animals on her bookshelf are now wearing them!

Step 5: Decluttering and Organizing your Small Spaces

You've made your list and now you want to get started.

These areas are pretty small and you can try the pile system where you donate/sell/keep/trash, but in reality the easiest thing to do is to either keep it or pitch it (recycle it)!

Remember these are your small areas. Areas you can do in 15 minutes like junk drawers, sock drawers, areas under sinks, or a shelf in the linen closet (WARNING: this can lead to the entire linen closet needing to be cleaned out, so I'd suggest the linen closet when you have more than 15 minutes).

*Take a before picture!

I just did under my bathroom sink, which is probably the most unattractive part to my house! I had 4 bottles of hotel shampoo that were all sticky... TRASH. I had the ice packs that you fold in half to activate that they give you when you have a baby.... TRASH. Now maybe you are thinking, "wait, you might use those!" Well, maybe someday...but for almost 3 years they have sat under there waiting to be used, and every time we have the need for an ice pack, I just go to the freezer and get one. Now maybe you are thinking, "wait, someone could have used those!" Well, I'm too embarrassed to give the Goodwill my extra childbirth ice packs, so there is no place for them but the trash! I do not feel guilty and you should not feel guilty either! I also had 2 bottles of lotion that had about 1.5% of lotion left in them....TRASH.

I also had 4 boxes of contacts, lysol, clorox wipes, toilet paper, extra conditioner, soap, shampoo and cleaners. All of those things were staying.

This is when the baskets come in handy. It is almost better to wait and get baskets after you see what you have left; that way you get the right size.

Then you put everything away, and everything has a home.

*Take an after picture, so you can see what a fantastic job you did!

Baskets (Think Functional and Cheap)

I could spend all day drooling over the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. I love their coordinating baskets, but the reality is, I can't afford a house full of them. However, I can be just as organized at a much cheaper price. My wallet and husband both thank me for this!

Most of my baskets are from Walmart or the $1 store. I have a few baskets that are about 8 years old that I got at Pier One on clearance. Today, Walmart and Target have very similar baskets. Technically, some of what I'm calling baskets are really containers.

In picture 1, you will see that the basket on the left w/a handle is great for storing things that go under the sink. I have two under my bathroom sink. One for lotions/sprays, etc and the other has cleaning supplies. The baskets on the bottom middle are great for stacking. They have lids that snap shut. These come in all sizes! These are from Walmart. I use them for scrapbooking supplies, but they also will work great for children's toys and art supplies. The basket on the top of them came from the $1 store and I have a zillion of these. They are great for junk drawers! The basket on the right is a canvas basket from Walmart. I believe these came in sets of 2. I've had them for about 3 years now. This basket has books, and I have another one similar to this filled with Thomas the Train tracks and trains.

In picture 2, you will see more baskets that are used for toys at my house. I swear I probably have 6 of the little white baskets in the front. Usually they come in packs of two. These are great for holding pens/pencils inside a drawer. I also use these in the bathroom drawers to hold make-up and hair accessories. I like using lined baskets for toys, as well as plastic containers.
I didn't post a picture, but I also have great luck with the shoebox-size, clear containers at Walmart. They are usually just $1 and come with a lid. They fit into drawers and can be stacked. They are great for storing kid's socks inside a drawer! I also like using them for stacking things like Legos, Cars, Polly Pockets, Doll Clothes, art supplies, etc.

Step 4: Make a List

If I had to be good a one thing (besides going on vacation), it would be making lists!

If you've been following my blog, you have found a place for the one thing that you always lose, you are getting a good mail system down and have a very neat and organized purse (or other small area).

Now it is time to make a list. I keep a small notebook (measures about 4x6) in the drawer of my computer desk. This notebook has all my lists (and I have quite a few)!

What are all the small areas you want organized? These are areas you can deal with in 15 minutes. This is going to be the first part of your list. You could actually cross off one item a day, and be done with all of your small areas by the end of the month! This part of my list usually includes junk drawers and the cabinets under sinks. I have found that most small places with the exception of your purse really don't get messy very often once you get in a good routine and get them neat and organized. You won't have to spend 15 minutes everyday of your life doing this. Plus once they are very clean and organized, you will see that you can do this and it will give you the motivation to continue.

The next part of your list are the "medium sized" projects. These would be things like the computer desk, pantry, refrigerator, dresser, kitchen cabinets, laundry room, coat closet or the linen closet. These are things that really need to get cleaned out and decluttered. The first time you do each one, it will probably take a good hour. This is something you might want to work on 1 time a week and be done by March 1. I have found that once I have these areas clean, the pantry and refrigerator are really the two areas that take extra effort during the week to keep organized and clean (5 minutes top each week).

Then the last part of your list has the big goals of things that need organizing. This would be the dreaded tasks! For example, my bedroom closet, my child's room, the garage, my scrapbooking "stuff". These would take an entire morning or possibly more!

At this point, I wish we all had a magic wand or a fairy godmother or a genie to make this list a reality. However, by starting with the small stuff, and working your way down your list you will be learning how to be a more organized person with each item you cross off your list and by the time you get to your large goals, you will be a pro!

Step 3: Your Purse or 15 minutes

Disclaimer: Purses are not clutter, purses are accessories!

I got a new purse for Christmas and I love it! It is perfect for me. I love purses, but my fun, large, slouchy purse was driving me crazy because everything would fall into one spot and it was like a large black hole finding anything!

The purse I got finally works for me. It has a built in wallet. I love this feature! It also has a pocket in the front for my blackberry. Then the main pocket holds the following: lipstick, lip gloss, gum (all in the inside zipper pocket), mini hand-sanitizer, band aids (in a slip pocket), small notepad, pen, car keys and small planner (when needed). It even has room if I want to throw in my small digital camera.

Your mission is to clean out your purse. Remember the OUT basket, from Step 2... put any receipts that are floating around in your purse in the out basket. Throw away any trash that has accumulated. Then decided what you really need to carry around with you.

One of my co-workers always had the cutest purses and they were so tiny (she has 5 children). She said, "if I carry a large purse, I'll just carry around stuff I don't need." What do you really need in your purse?

Maybe you don't want to start with your purse. You'll need to find something that you can clean and organize in 15 minutes. Here are some ideas: cabinets under kitchen sink, cabinets under bathroom sinks, medicine cabinet, spice cabinet, jewelry box, 1 junk drawer.

Where are we going with this?

To me being organized is about everything having a place. It is knowing where you are supposed to be and when, and not rushing around stressed out in a panic.

Neatness is different than organization. Neatness is when everything has a home (like my definition of organization), but things are also very clean~ spotless clean. Neatness also really doesn't involve clutter!

You could walk into someones house and think, "wow, this person is so organized!" The reality might be they have the appearance of being clean, but closets, drawers, etc. are a mess. They can't find anything when they need it. Their clutter is all hidden!

I like both. I want to be organized and I want neatness. I believe in order to make this work, we have to start with organizing and once you get in a routine, the neatness piece will become easier.

Step 2- Mail (aka, "Junk" and "Other")

My children love going to the mailbox to get the mail. I'm not sure why. Nothing is ever for them. I'm never excited about getting the mail, because it is all for me and it is mostly junk and bills!

In order to make this work you MUST spend 5 minutes (or less) going through the mail everyday. It also helps if you have things electronically sent to you instead of mailed (which leads to a whole different organizational system). Right now my phone bill and cable bill are the only things I get electronically.

When you get your mail, divide it into two piles. Your two piles are "Junk" and "Other". Trash/shred/recycle/throw-away the junk immediately.

Then you are left with "Other". As you open it, divide it up into piles. I have a bills pile, a file pile and then a pile of stuff I need to figure out what I'm going to do with (invitations, thank you cards, etc).

This leads to my basket system.

I also have an IN mail basket and an OUT mail basket. My IN mail basket is bills that have not been paid. The only other thing in this basket are things that I "might" need. For example, I got a 20% off from Kohls Coupon. I'm not sure I will use this, but I don't want to lose it, so this is where it goes. If I got an invitation, I would leave it in my in basket until the event is over (and I would also write the event on the calendar).

My OUT basket (pictured) serves three purposes. Any mail that needs to be filed goes right in this basket. My savings account statement that shows I earned 3 cents interest last month gets put in this basket. I don't have time to file it right now, and I don't want to lose it, so it gets put in this basket. This basket is located by the computer, and once the bills have been paid, they go in this basket (ready for filing). Then the last thing in this basket is an envelope that has receipts in it. I create a new envelope each month (the last month gets filed away). This way if I need to return something, I'll have the receipt.

I don't spend much money on baskets. I love ones that only cost $1!

Eventually your baskets will get full! About every two weeks I go through the IN Basket and pitch anything that is past. Usually about once a month, I go through the OUT basket and file everything.

Step 1: Find a place for one thing!

This is step one. One of the worst things is when you spend 10 minutes (or 15 or 20 minutes) trying to find car keys, or a cell phone or a bill or that very important item you need RIGHT now!

Pick your one thing that you seem to always lose and don't really have the time to lose, and find a place for it.

I did this with my car keys. I hated leaving in the morning, and not remembering where I last put them. In the laundry room leading out to the garage, I hung a key hook up (actually my very handy husband hung it), and I make a conscious effort to hang my keys on them EVERY time I walk in the door.

Organizing is about baby steps. This is step one. Find a place for the one thing you can't afford to lose!
On Monday morning, see how great you'll feel when you go to grab your keys (or phone or special thing you can't lose) and it is right where you put it! Just that one little step is going to convince you that you can be organized!
***Upcoming Blogs***
*Dealing with mail
*Conquering the organization of a small space
*Calendar Organization
*Getting out the door in the morning without a tantrum