Get Organized and Reduce Clutter

Minimizing and organizing: they’re so hot right now. If you’ve been bingeing Marie Kondo and making your thrift store piles, or simply sighing every time you open that junk drawer because who has the time to binge TV right now, this post is for you.

In my upcoming book, 52 Small Changes for the Family , we take a holistic view of having a happy, healthy home. Eating well, getting exercise and sleep–these are the first things many of us think of when we think of health. But things like reducing clutter to clear your mind are equally as important. And many of us just find this issue way too daunting to tackle.

Let’s face it: no one collects more stuff than parents of young children. The toys. The artwork. The baby clothes you can’t seem to get rid of. The toys. Did I mention the toys? Getting rid of this clutter is about more than making your home look nice or reducing the amount of time you spend picking up around the house. Studies show physical clutter competes for our attention more than we realize, wearing us down and increasing our stress levels. This is even true for kids, no matter how much it feels as though they don’t see the mess.

So while the task seems daunting, know that reducing clutter has a real effect. It creates more physical space for your family to do what they enjoy, while helping improve focus, productivity and learning. Not to mention: less time straightening up and searching for lost items!

So how are we going to tackle this mess? You don’t need to “Kondo” your entire house to see some great effects. Here are some tips for minimizing and organizing using a decision flow that you can do in the time you have available.

Make it Routine

Decluttering can feel like a major task because we feel like we need to do it all at once, or only do it once a year. Create a regular challenge, like once a week or month, and get the family in on it. Challenge everyone to find clothes or toys to donate and papers to recycle. Create a permanent bin where items can be tossed as you find them. And make it routine by performing it at the same day and time each week.

Find a Home for Everything

Kids crave structure, and so by giving every item a home, you provide kids with an easy structure for cleaning up. It’s key to make the “home” mesh with your routine (for example, don’t store stuff you need in the kitchen weekly up in your office, two floors away). Use simple tools like expandable folders or colored buckets to keep things organized once you’ve decluttered.

Tackle the Fridge

If your fridge has become a de facto command center/family calendar/art gallery, it’s time to clean it up. According to UCLA CLEF researchers, a cluttered fridge is a symbolic representation of clutter that dominates the rest of the house–a silent tip of the hat, if you will, that it’s OK for the rest of your home to be cluttered. Toss menus, school schedules and other printed info that you can find online. Next, throw out magnets that don’t work and file away old receipts and lingering papers. For photos or artwork, use a photo album, bin or envelope. And of course, keep the inside free of expired food items and empty containers.

One In, One Out

You don’t need those worn towels. You especially don’t need them once you’ve bought new ones. Adopt a rule that for every new item purchased, its old equivalent will be tossed or donated. Of course, there may be exceptions to this rule like LEGOs, books or jewelry. Allow each family to pick their one or two exceptions–then be ruthless!

Drop Zone

If you’ve ever tripped over a pile of backpacks and shoes, you know your entryway is getting out of control. Clearing and simplifying your entryway frees up minutes each day searching for folders or lost gloves. Give kids designated hooks, bins and spots for their shoes.

Room by Room Toy Storage

We all want to keep toys to their designated areas, but in the end, it’s not practical. If you find toys creating clutter all over the house, add a single bin to each room for toy storage. When the bin starts to overflow, it’s time to declutter or reorganize the toys.

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