Clean Up Your Act - HOW TO BE PRACTICAL & GET ORGANIZED
by Jillian Melnyk
Sometimes when I look around my home office I worry that someone is going to turn me in to be on an upcoming episode of Hoarders. Okay, it's not that bad, but I suffer from what feels like a never-ending encroachment of clutter and just so much stuff.
There are a few reasons. For starters, I'm overly sentimental.I have a hard time throwing things away because they remind me of the past.Second, I was raised not to waste. Every time I'm about to ditch an item a little voice in the back of my head shouts: "Hey! You spent good money on that!" I think it's the voice of my grandmother. Third, I blame Martha Stewart. What that woman can do with old toilet paper rolls and used yogurt cups is miraculous - how can I throw those away when I might need them some day to whip up a miracle craft project of my own? And fourth, there's the environment.Every time I think about throwing something away, I imagine where it's going to end up... a landfill. So it sits in my house instead, which, in my skewed perception, becomes a better option.
So, you see, it's hard. But there's hope. I decided it was time to de-clutter and get organized. September might seem like a strange month to suddenly get organized, but it's actually quite fitting.Getting your life - and home - in order before the holidays can take a lot of pressure off of the upcoming season. Plus, checking out what's in your closet (and - gasp - realizing you still have unworn clothing or other items with price tags attached) might be just what you need to make you realize what you do (and don't) need to add to your holiday wish list.
For kids, starting the school year with an organized wardrobe and orderly desk is key. Not only will it save you from buying unnecessary items, but knowing what you have and where it is will ultimately help save time. This is especially true for winter essentials like scarves, gloves and heavy socks that often get lost in the back of closets or are forgotten in drawers. (And it's usually half of the pair that is missing when you need it most.) Similarly, when cleaning out a desk or drawer, you may uncover brand-new or barely touched school supplies. (And who wants to spend money on duplicate items?) So go ahead, dive in and see what you might uncover in your kid's closet.
Here's what I did and what you can do too:
I was realistic.
I have clothing items in my closet that have sat there for years, unworn. Some don't fit, some are sort of out of fashion or are so worn out that they are not looking their best. The key part: I don't wear them. In the past I've had a hard time letting go of them because I tell myself that someday I'll either lose or gain weight (and the item in question will fit) or styles change and I'll fall back in love with this item. But I needed to be practical. If I hadn't worn it in more than two years - and I was being generous, some organizing experts say to toss things you haven't worn in a year - I gave it the boot.
I tried my hardest to find a new life for all items that I knew I no longer wanted or needed. And with some planning, everything didn't have to end up in a landfill. I took the best of the best and traded them in for cash at consignment shops and I donated the gently-worn-but-still-useful to a good cause. The worst of the worst (like stretched out t-shirts and things with holes or stains) found a new life as cleaning rags. For children's clothes, you'll likely find an array things your children have outgrown or never worn. These are perfect options for donation, trading with other parents, or selling. If you're looking to make some cash, an autumn garage sale might be a great option. (PS: Don't tackle the closet organization all alone, make sure you get your kids involved. They know what they haven't worn, let them help pull from their closets, fold, stack and organize, too. Letting them choose the charity of their choice for donation can also get them involved in the process.)
I don't just suffer from having too much but sometimes not knowing what I have, so I end up buying more... it's a snowball effect. For example, I always end up buying things like binder clips because I can never find them. My solution: I purchased new organizational tools including plastic and fabric bins, magazine racks, desk organizers, and drawer setups to corral the stuff I already had in my home office. Now with a little desk organization, I can easily find what I'm looking for, including those pesky binder clips. A word of caution... set a budget and pick a style. It is easy to get carried away, but you don't have to spend a lot to keep things organized.
I chucked it.
Some things are not meant to last. How long has that jar of face cream been sitting in your bathroom? Or that packet of cold medicine? Many beauty products and cosmetics start losing their potency after two years. I also had a lot of cheap beauty products that I flat out didn't use. These are items that are not worth keeping. Make sure to check the expiration date on any pharmaceuticals. I was surprised to find a number of outdated cold medicines in my medicine cabinet. Make sure that you dispose of all out-dated prescriptions and over-the-counter pills properly. Check with your town to see if they have an upcoming drug drop-off date planned. You can also ask your local pharmacy if they have a drug disposal policy.
I took care of what I owned.
What's the point of owning nice things if they're going to be mashed in the back of the closet or they are hard to access? I now know where my most prized possessions are and that they are carefully wrapped for safe-keeping until needed.
Overall, it felt good to get organized. I wouldn't say it was a revolutionary change, but it certainly helps and makes me re-evaluate each purchase I make. Not only do I think about what I currently own, but now when I buy, ask myself: "Do I really need that?"
Jillian Melnyk is the Editor for Rochester Area & Genesee Valley Parent Magazine. To comment on this story email Editor@GVParent.com