Are Junk Drawers a Bad Thing?
By Alex Felsky
Junk Drawers. Every home has at least one. They contain a miscellany of tools, odds and ends, and other little things that don’t have another home. As a Professional Organizer, I have a confession: I have a junk drawer in my kitchen. Not only that but I have a messy plastic containers cupboard. There. I’ve said it.
Why would a Professional Organizer allow such disorder in her own home you ask? Well, keep in mind the purpose of home organization. It’s about efficiency, ease of use and reducing stress in your home. It’s NOT about being perfect, rigid or one-size-fits-all in applying organizing systems.
So, why do I have a junk drawer and what do I keep in it? I have one because I want my organization system to serve me, not the other way around. I only have so many hours in the day. I do not want to spend them chasing perfection; I’d much rather spend my time chasing my toddler. I am organized in the rest of my kitchen because it’s easy to find what I’m looking for and it’s an efficient use of space. It reduces my stress when I don’t have stuff all over my counters so I have space to prepare food. To organize my junk drawer when it is serving its purpose doesn’t make sense.
In my junk drawer are candles and matches, a flashlight (in case of power failure), spare batteries, furniture pads, a measuring tape, a pen and pencil, some fishing line, a spare smoke detector, some baby proofing stuff, a few screws, a halogen bulb and the holder for our fireplace remote. Random? Yes and no. It’s handy to know here we keep the spare batteries and flashlight and candles, but a few screws and fishing line could just as easily be with the rest of the tools.
The cupboard that stores my plastic containers is a big mess. Though it’s not always easy to find the lid to each container, it’s a sacrifice I’ve made consciously. I have a 16 month old who loves to play with them, stacking and nesting the containers while I cook. I left off any baby latch on the cupboard so he could explore and play and make a big mess. If I reorganized and tidied the cupboards after each play session or even after the end of each day, my effort would be wasted.
I’d much rather live with the disorganization for a few years knowing that my son will grow out of his interest in plastic containers. It would go against the purpose of being organized to be constantly tidying that cupboard. Once my kids are older I will be able to have an organized plastic pots cupboard.
Different homes and different families call for different organization systems and solutions. For some people with very little storage in their kitchen, a junk drawer would not be the best use of limited drawer space. Junk drawers should be included in your yearly purge so that you can find the junk you’re searching for and throw out any garbage or things which are never used.
Now you know this Professional Organizer’s dirty little secret!
How to Eliminate Your Laundry Piles
By Alex Felsky
Families with working parents know that if there was ever a never ending job, laundry would be it. Between sorting, washing, drying, ironing and putting away, it’s time consuming and easy to fall behind and end up with an Everest sized mountain of dirty clothes. So, how can this be avoided?
Plan on doing (at least) a load of laundry a day. Impossible you say? Even if you work outside the home, you have time to put a load in the morning and then put it into the dryer when you get home and fold and put it away in the evening. Just keep it moving along! If it’s dirty, wash it. If it’s wet, dry it. If it’s dry, fold it. If it’s folded put it away! Between sheets and towels, clothing and even cloth diapers, you can run your washer with a full load, which will conserve both energy and your time. You may even find that you can do a “lights” and “darks” load and eliminate the need for a “whites” load. Simplify your laundry routine by using only one kind of detergent for everything.
This will soon become routine and you’ll do it without
thinking about it. The real payoff is that your weekend won’t be all about
laundry and you won’t have piles of dirty clothes cluttering up your home!
Young children can help with sorting, and though it will initially take you more time if you accept their “help”, they are learning a valuable skill. Once they reach the age of about 10, they can start using the washing machine to wash their own clothes. They may not appreciate the chance to participate in this chore, but we really do our children a disservice by doing everything for them.
As you are folding your clean laundry, take an inventory of each family member’s clothes. How many pairs of socks does someone need? How many pairs of t-shirts? Of pants? Do this for each type of clothing for each family member. A good rule for deciding how many is reasonable is to remind yourself of how many days in the week there are (7) and how many you can wear at once (1) and since laundry is getting done every day, it’s probably reasonable that one only needs a lot less than one currently owns.
The real test is does what’s left fit easily and without a fight into the allocated drawer or closet space? Believe me, the problem is not that you don’t have enough storage space, it’s that you have too much stuff! No, really. Get rid of any piece of clothing that is too small, stained, ripped, worn out, too big, or makes you feel frumpy. Even if the top is brand new with tags on. Even if your best friend gave it to you. Even if it was your favourite hoodie in university. Life’s too short to wear anything you don’t feel fabulous in!
You will be left with things that you love, that fit well
and are in good condition. If you still have more than will fit into your
closet, then keep weeding out until everything fits comfortably. It can be hard
to get rid of things that you bought and then never wore, but you must keep in
mind the vision you have for your home and your life. Is it maintaining the
status quo, or do you want space and the feeling of being on top of the laundry
in your home?
Another side effect to de-cluttering clothing is that there will be pieces that you need to get rid of that have lots of life left in them. Donating them to a local women’s shelter will make you feel good about someone in need enjoying them, all the while making room in your closet for things you love. Keep a donation bag in your home at all times and put any items you are ready to let go of into it as it occurs to you. Once it’s full, out it goes!
For some people, putting away clean clothes is the most
hated chore, so they don’t do it. They live out of laundry baskets. I urge you
not to fall into this habit! If this is you, then you most likely have too many
clothes. Even in a large family, putting away should be a quick and easy chore.
Moreover, it should be quick and easy because you aren’t the one doing it! If you
don’t love this chore, delegate! Even young children can and should put their
own clothing away daily. Make their closet accessible to them by hanging a
clothing rod about 4 inches lower than their height. Throw away the horrible
plastic hangers that come with kids clothes and replace them with matching
plastic or wooden ones. Label their drawers with pictures or words for what
belongs in each one.
Some families keep everyone’s clothing in one room, preferably in or near the laundry room. This is called a family closet and it removes the need to cart a laundry basket all over the house. Clothing can be folded and put away one at a time and you can always see who has what.
When shopping for new clothing, read the labels to avoid
buying clothing that requires hand washing or dry cleaning and consider any
ironing you’ll need to do to be presentable before you buy. Also, only buy
clothing to fill a gap in your wardrobe. It’s too easy to get seduced by good
sales and cute tops, but unless you need it, it will only turn into clutter
once at home. Once you’ve pared down your wardrobe, it will be easy to keep
track of what you need and stay focused on your goal when you’re out shopping.
When you make a new purchase it is important to follow the one in, one out rule. For every piece you buy, you donate another. This is the only way you’ll maintain your uncluttered drawers and keep you laundry piles from growing. If you follow all these steps and still find your laundry getting overwhelming, then you need to pare down your clothing even more.
Teaching Kids to be Organized
By Alex Felsky
Giving children the lasting gift of being organized is important in our hectic society. Parents often wonder how to best go about it. First, it is never too early to start teaching children these skills. All children benefit from being responsible for their possessions. This valuable life skill teaches them respect and self-reliance which will translate into their lives as capable, organized adults.
Having children clean up after themselves is the first step to teaching respect for their belongings. Putting away toys before taking out a new game and at the end of the day, fosters routines and responsibility. It means less aggravation caused by lost toy pieces and less foot injuries caused by stepping on pointed plastic toy corners.
Also, being included in chores makes them feel important and useful within the family. Good examples of chores that even toddlers can help with include folding laundry, dusting, wiping the kitchen table and sweeping. Remember that practice, not perfection, is the goal. It may take more time and indeed more patience, but the lessons children learn are priceless.
Parents often ask how they raise an organized child. The best way to teach children is to lead by example; take time to be organized yourself! Let children see you taking the time to meal plan and organize your desk.
Vocalize what you are doing as you do it. For example: “Time to decide what we want to make for supper for the next week. What day shall we plan for spaghetti?” and “Mummy is done making supper so now I’m going to put away the cook book and load the dishwasher”. Your child will enjoy participating in the family rituals. If your child’s room is chronically messy, unless the rest of your house is neat, it is not realistic to expect her to pick up after herself. Build routines into your day for maintaining your home and teaching your child how to care for his things.
Much of the mess in bedrooms comes from clothing and children’s rooms are no different. Make it easy for children put away their own clean laundry by labelling their drawers. If your child is not yet reading, use pictures of the items which belong in a drawer. Children who like to draw can make their own pictures. If they are too large, they can be shrunk using a photocopier and then affixed to the front of the drawer.
Ensure that there are not more articles of clothing than will fit in a drawer. Weed out any clothing that is too small, the wrong season, or is never worn because it itches or is not your child’s style. Store off-season clothing in labelled bins at the back of the closet and donate the rest. Drawers need to shut easily or children won’t bother. Make it easy for your child to be tidy!
At holiday time and children’s birthdays, when an influx of new toys are expected, take time before hand to help your child choose several toys which they have outgrown or never found fun to donate or pass down to younger or less fortunate children. This not only makes room in the house for new toys, but also teaching children about sharing and charity.
If you child has too many toys, encourage family and friends to give non-cluttering gifts. Popular gifts include tickets to a movie or theatre show, homemade play dough, memberships to local museums, zoos, and aquariums, an outing to a play centre, a round of minigolf, an RESP contribution, a subscription to a children’s magazine. The possibilities are endless and gifts of experience build more memories than any toy could.
With practice and patience, children can learn to be organized for life!
The Seven Secrets of Conquering Paper Clutter
By Alex Felsky
1. One thing at a time
Looking at a pile can be overwhelming for anyone. It’s easy to give up and go and do something more fun when you’re faced with a mountain of bills, school letters and flyers, but picking up one thing at a time and not putting it down until you have dealt with it will soon see the pile vanishing.
2. Be ruthless
How do you decide what to keep and what to throw out? Be ruthless with paper clutter. If you can get the information online, from a quick call or from another source, get rid of it! Financial records should be kept for 6 years, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.
3. Keep it moving
When your kids’ school sends home notice of a bake sale for which you need to provide some muffins, right it down on your calendar the night the notice comes home and then into the recycling bucket it goes! After you read the weekly flyers, make a list of any items you want to buy and then put the flyers immediately into the recycling bin. If you don’t read the flyers, then visit http://www.reddotcampaign.ca/ to stop getting them.
Set up one location to open all your mail. Stock the area with a recycling bin, a paper shredder, an inbox and a filing system so that you can get rid of a lot of the paper before it takes up camp in multiple corners of your house.
5. Start now
All you need is five minutes to start to make a dent in your paper clutter, so no excuses! Start now and set a timer for 5 minutes and you’ll be surprised how much you can get done in that time. Start by gathering up all the piles of paper clutter into your designated paper sorting area.
Choose a day, once or twice a week to deal with your inbox. Use that time to pay bills, file papers and note due dates and important events on your calendar. To keep you doing it until it becomes a habit, schedule the appointment with yourself on your calendar.
7. Practice makes perfect
Don’t be hard on yourself if you find yourself falling back into old patterns. Forgive yourself, and then tackle the pile before it gets out of hand again.