Tag Archives: declutter

Don’t Feel Guilty About Throwing That Broken Appliance Out


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If you’re new to this site, welcome! I hope you’ll look around. Start here to learn more about my organizing journey, or subscribe by RSS. See you soon!

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I Beg You: Clean Out Your Closets

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Digital Organization: The Desktop

Oooohhh! The desktop! Mine’s been driving me NUTS for weeks now. I’m one of those visual types who needs to see things in order to remember they’re there. I loved having a Mac years ago because whenever I hit “download” it downloaded directly to my desktop and I never had to hunt for this PDF or that JPEG. When I inherited a PC laptop from my hubby (then boyfriend), I intentionally moved important downloads and documents to my desktop so I could keep track of them, just like I was used to on my work Mac computer. Well, despite my usual vigilance to keep things “pretty,” I let things slide and here is what my desktop looked like last night:

Woah! Stuff everywhere. It was hard on the eyes, hard to find anything important, and not very inspirational.

So, just as a quick clean-up, here’s what I did:

  1. I deleted any shortcut icon for a program I rarely used. When you install these little programs they make themselves a shortcut for you. How convenient. Except I’m okay with clicking on the Start Menu, thank-you-very-much. If I need you, I’ll find you.
  2. I dragged any shortcut icons of programs I use on a regular basis down to the start menu task bar on the bottom of the screen. I rearranged them by type (iTunes and Spotify are both music programs, for instance,) and voila! Instant order! YES. Love it.
  3. I created a SORT! folder and dragged all icons of files that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them into that file. Yes, it is delaying the inevitable, but the goal was to clean up the visual mess. I’ll get to the real digital organizing at a later date.
  4. I created a To Read folder for all the PDF downloads from great blogs I’ve visited. There are several downloads about growing your creative business that I really wanted to read, but just couldn’t see in all that mess. Now I know where to go for my reading material.
  5. I kept the folders for our different businesses and this blog, so I had easy access to those files.
  6. I went to WallBase.cc  (at Daniel’s recommendation) to find a good background to download. The one I chose really spoke to me and my purpose for cleaning up my desktop.
  7. I rearranged the folder icons and moved my Recycle Bin a bit to be visually-pleasing and in places that made sense.
  8. Done!

It’s a great feeling to have simplified my desktop. In fact, now I’m inspired to write more and read more of the many downloads I have stored away for future inspiration. I’m pleased with the result, and hope it will inspire you, as well!

Additional Posts in this Series:

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Linking up at:

p.s. This is it! This is the last day to enter my book giveaway of the book Organize Now! plus an At-a-Glance daily planner. It closes at 9pm CST today. Don’t miss out!

You can enter by commenting on this post. And if you’re new to my blog and would like to read more, start here, or subscribe via RSS! Thanks!

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A Tour, A List, and a Giveaway Announcement!

Wow. I can barely believe it. In just two days, this blog will turn 1 Year Old. I’m strongly considering making it a smash cake.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I’m rolling out a smorgasbord of goodies and new projects in the coming weeks and months. The move and the holidays took so much out of us over the past few months, but now that we’re all settled in, we’re ready to begin again with renovating and decorating and organizing. I can’t wait to begin!

I realized I haven’t shown off the new house on the blog yet, except for the office, so in honor of our one-year blogiversary, I’m launching a new series, Home Tour Tuesdays, to expose the rooms in all their bland glory and then we’ll revisit them again after projects are completed along the way.

Which brings me to The List. Daniel asked me to make a list to keep track of all the things I think need to be improvement upon in the house. The idea is to budget out into the future and pace ourselves financially. There’s just one “little” problem. The List is really, really long. Seriously. It’s so long I had to make it its own page so I wouldn’t bore you to tears in this post. We’ll be referring to and adjusting The List as we can over the next few years. As projects occur, I’ll link to them and mark them as in progress or complete.

My hope is that by the time we are ready to move out and into our first completely-ours home (as in, we bought it), we’ll have the list completed and the duplex will sell quickly to a new owner who will appreciate the updates and love it as much as we have. Fortunately for us, my dad owns the home and is in support of any renovations we will do since it will hopefully enhance his likelihood of selling his investment property.

Finally, stay tuned after this inaugural House Tour Tuesday for my very first giveaway announcement! It might be Behind Closed Drawer’s birthday, but we’re the ones giving away the gifts! Sweet.

My room-by-room tour will begin next Tuesday, but for now I’m starting things off with just a little teaser of what’s to come. I give you … our front door:

Welcome to our house! It’s not fancy, but it is home. When we walk over this threshold, we walk into a place where we work, relax, and live. There’s happy doggy paw prints scattered across the tile by the back door on rainy days; there’s dishes in the sink; there’s empty walls waiting for the money to fill them with artwork; there’s even dirty socks on the bedroom floor sometimes. But, above all, there’s love. Love and faith and family and friends and the things we’ve collected in almost two years of marriage that make the place ours. Our deep desire is for this home be a place where loved ones are welcome, where old and new friends can stop by for a cup of coffee and good conversation, and where Christ is always honored.

So, welcome, friend. I can’t wait to show you more! My initial 365 days of organization are nearly up, but each year brings 365 more. The journey is not over. In fact, with this new place of residence, it has only just begun. I hope you’ll join us as we discover what new things this year will bring.

Okay then, you’ve been very patient. Are you ready to learn about this fancy giveaway I’m doing in honor of my first year blogging?

Starting on Thursday (our first blogiversary!), I’ll be collecting entries to win this book by Jennifer Ford Berry, plus a few extra goodies.

You can cast your vote by commenting on the giveaway blog post on Thursday, and you will receive additional entries by sharing the giveaway blog post with others in your social network and posting another comment to let me know.

I’m so excited! Tell your family and tell your friends. Tweet it. Pin it. Facebook it. Spread the word. I’ve flipped through the pages of the book after purchasing it for the giveaway and let me say, it’s pretty good stuff to give your own organizational journey a kick start.

{Image credits to stoon for the frame, Ralph Aichinger for the key, and AssasinM for the bokeh background. You guys rock.}

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5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012: Before You Buy Organizers, Know What You Need

Today is the final day of this series! I hope that you have gleaned some nugget of truth along the way that will be useful to you in your home. We’ve already talked about Being Intentional With the Process, Making Specific Goals, Sorting the Major Areas You Use FIRST, and Not Getting Distracted by Details. Today we’re going to go a step further and discuss the importance of knowing what you need before buying those cool, snazzy organizers that are being promoted in every major home store these days (they aren’t dumb. They know how many people make home organization a resolution this time of year!)

I have to say, this particular post resonates with me because as that girl who liked to organize but hated to clean and sort to get the organized state, I went through cycles of binging on pretty, neat plastic tubs, bins, shelves, and anything else that caught my eye. I was operating under the mistaken delusion that more containers meant quicker organizing.

So here’s what would normally happen: I’d buy clear plastic shoeboxes with the newest hip shade of lid, a couple of big totes, and maybe some baskets for good measure. I’d bring them home, take them out and admire them, start putting stuff in them, and I’d eventually get stuck. My sorting method would leave too few or too many containers remaining. Or they wouldn’t fit under my bed or on the top shelf in my closet. Or they’d be cheap and fall apart within weeks. Or … something. But you get the picture.

Then there was the problem that I’d inevitably lose track of which tub or shoe box held the particular item I would look for months later, so I’d tear them all apart until I found it.

So, please, spare yourself that agony …

Step 5: Before you buy organizers, know what you need.

This might make you cringe, but live with your stuff for awhile before you make that next shopping trip to Target or The Container Store.

The beauty of organizing your home is that you don’t have to be confined to a particular method of cleaning, sorting, or decluttering if it doesn’t work for you. I like to keep my toothbrushes in my bathroom in an open mason jar. You might prefer a classier holder. I keep memorabilia in clear plastic bins, you might prefer baskets. I have the majority of my craft supplies in cubbies and fabric drawers in our garage, you might be horrified by that idea and choose a snazzy wardrobe (cast off from the big tv days) to house your crafts.

So, basically, if I was to give you a list of all the best things to buy to get your home organized, they wouldn’t necessarily work for you and you’d be stuck with even more “organizational” clutter than before.

My suggestion is simple; take a few days or even weeks or months to really get the feel for how you use your home. Not how you wish you used your home, but how you really, truly use it. Pay attention to where you put items out of habit when you are done using them. Notice where you wished you had a shelf, or a container. Gather all of like items with like (wooden spoons with the wooden spoons in the kitchen, printer paper with the printer, dirty colored clothing with other dirty colored clothing) and note how much room is needed to hold all the like items.

Once you have a good handle on this, take things a step further and break out your measuring tape. Measure the space available–height, width, depth–in the areas you need containers. Write the measurements down in a place you will be able to find them again (for me, this was a notebook I kept in my purse). Take the measurements with you to the store. You’ll be glad you did. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broken this little rule and ended up making a second or third trip back to The Container Store to find something the actually fit. Shame on me!

Now, what kind of look do you want with the container you purchase? If it is for the wooden kitchen spoons, simply putting them in the same kitchen drawer by the stove might suffice and save you some money. But if your drawers are all full, or if you want them even more accessible, a pottery pitcher or a plastic lazy susan with upright dividers might be better. For your closet, matching baskets or sturdy fabric-covered boxes would add a certain polished look. In the office, a simple plastic drawer unit or lidded paper boxes would be appropriate for printer paper. Just make sure the item you buy matches your aesthetic, your space available, and your budget.

Speaking of budget, storage isn’t cheap. Even shopping at Wal-Mart, you’ll still run into sticker shock. I’ve had to deal with this by purchasing a few here and there and making do in the meantime. Sometimes making do for us means not having a drawer divider in a kitchen drawer for awhile, or swallowing pride and accepting to use an ugly boring plastic tub I have on hand, or even focusing on updating one area at a time to aesthetically pleasing storage and re-using the uglier storage from the updated locations in other, less visible locations. In fact, I have one plain brown collapsible fabric “drawer,” (first spotted in our old master bedroom closet, then in our laundry room storage area later) that has made its way around my house and is currently residing under the kitchen sink with all my cleaners.

So, before you go out and buy organizers and containers, make sure you know exactly what you need. Save up, take your time, and measure twice.

And that completes our 5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012 series! If you are just getting started reading and would like to learn more, links to the complete series are in order below. I hope you’ll also take a moment to subscribe to Behind Closed Drawers by email or RSS feed, both located at the top right-hand corner of the page. The one-year anniversary of this blog is coming up, and I have big things planned to celebrate!

5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012

  1. Be Intentional With the Process
  2. Make Specific Goals
  3. Sort the Major Areas You Use FIRST
  4. Don’t Get Distracted by Details
  5. Before You Buy Organizers, Know What You Need

Happy Organizing,

Andrea

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5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012: Don’t Get Distracted by the Details

Day four already?! Where does time fly?

By now you know that you should Be Intentional With the Process, Make Specific Goals, and Sort the Major Areas You Use FIRST. Today, we’re going to look at not getting distracted by the details. Which is hard. Really hard. I might be a big-picture thinker, but as a vintage-lovin’, artsy-fartsy, all-around creative kinda gal, the details are what bring things to life! So when I am organizing my house, I tend to latch onto my pretty mason jars and wonder what I can do with them, or I painstakingly arrange those socks in the drawer until they … are … just … right. Ahem. Like they’re gonna stay that way! But hey, they need to be perfect, right?

Wrong. Oh my goodness. Wrong.

If I waited for my entire home to be perfect before I felt like I had done what I had set out to do, down to eradicating the last dust bunny from under our entertainment system, I’d be waiting for the a loooonnng time to ever enjoy the sense of accomplishment that sorting those major areas first brings, meeting my specific goals to clean the house, and carefully approaching each task with intention and purpose.

So, while this post might piggy-back a little on yesterday’s post, it bears repeating …

Step 4: Don’t Get Distracted by Details

Yesterday I mentioned how my mom always chided me for focusing on a small task when my whole room was a disaster area and some quick picking up of laundry would make it look so much better. My alphabetizing my cassette tapes may have been a facetious comment (although as a former library worker, alphabetizing had been known to happen), but the moral of the story is still the same.

If your home is cluttered and unorganized, don’t fall into the temptation to focus on only the details. I’ve been so guilty of this. I can arrange my coffee table magazines to the absolute perfect angles (obsessive compulsive much?) while at the same time ignoring the pile of boxes people have given me for shipping from my Creative Salvage Etsy shop that need to be stored in the attic.

My theory why it is so easy for me to get lost in the details is because details are manageable. They are small. They can be accomplished in a short amount of time, so they can feel more rewarding. They also give one the sense of being in control, whereas if a home is overrun by “stuff” it is visually distracting and overwhelming to some.

Here are some helpful tips I’ve learned in my organizational journey:

  • Be systematic. If you tend to get stuck focusing on one detail here and there, combat that by sticking to a plan such as cleaning and organizing from the front door to the hall and then the hall to the kitchen and the kitchen to the back door.
  • Keep moving. Sort as you move from the front door to the back door, but also keep the momentum going by not sorting in a detailed way.
  • Use the box method. Bring five boxes: Keep, Sell, Give Away, Throw Away, Decide Later. If the item is a no-brainer that you love and use, put it in the Keep box. If you don’t use it or want it and it is in good shape and valuable, put it in the Sell box. If it is in good shape but not particularly valuable, put it in the Give Away box. If it isn’t in good shape, you don’t want it, and probably nobody else would either, put it in the Throw Away box. If it is in good shape, but you’re not sure if you can part with it, don’t prolong the decision making and hinder your progress, put it in the Decide Later box. Go through your area quickly and thoroughly, but don’t spend too much time thinking about the items or you begin to focus on those little details again and your work will be hindered.

And then … reward yourself. Enjoy some details. I didn’t say ignore them. I said don’t get lost in them. When your living room or hall or bedroom has been organized on the macro level, go ahead and drill down to the micro level. Buy a fabulous sock drawer organizer if that’s your thing (although consider the perfectly imperfect solution of having a sock drawer where you can just toss your socks–as in, you might actually stick with the process–instead of rolling and displaying them like sock sushi.)

Whether you choose to reward yourself with a nice dinner out, a manicure, a movie, or even just enjoying focusing on the details for once like I just mentioned, the point is that you are providing positive reinforcement for sticking to the job at hand. You’ve just begun to reprogram the way your brain thinks about organizing. That’s an accomplishment! Soon you will begin to associate the big projects with a similar sense of pride, control, and accomplishment that the smaller details bring. Congratulations!

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5 Steps to Get Organized in 2012: Sort the Major Areas You Use FIRST

I’m about to “keep it real” as I write this pre-post note. I have to admit I struggled writing this post because I felt hypocritical the entire time. In fact, I have been tweaking and re-writing it several times throughout the day, trying to get my thoughts right. Here’s the thing: though I’ve been working hard to get organized, I’m far from perfect. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have a magic formula. I didn’t always follow the advice I’m about to give you. So part of me feels like a fool even daring to post it and say, “hey! Here’s something to help!” But I’m ignoring that little voice and I’m hoping that by posting this anyway it will be exactly what someone needs to hear, because regardless of how I feel right now, all of this is coming straight from personal experience and the heart. So here goes … 

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Has this ever happened to you or someone you know–you feel overwhelmed by the scope of your organizational needs and don’t know where to start? Here’s a hint: don’t start with your jewelry box or your baseball card collection. Those things being tidy, while nice, won’t help your daily existence too much. Today’s organizational step continues the themes from days 1 and 2 of this series, in that I’ve learned that being intentional with the process includes making specific goals for the areas I use the most. You want to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak.

Step 3: Sort the Major Areas You Use FIRST

It’s a good thing to have an organized bathroom drawer. (I know I liked mine when I had it at our old house and I first organized it; I liked it even better when it had a snazzy organizer in it.) However, if the major areas in your home are a disaster area, you’ll still feel like you’re not under control. Because you aren’t. The thing is … you can be. I promise.

You just have to be willing to go the slow route and tackle them systematically so you can feel more relaxed in your environment.

Carefully consider how you use your home on a daily basis. Where do you eat, work, relax, and congregate as a family? What cupboards do you access each day? Is there a piece of furniture on which you tend to set things down? What’s your favorite chair? Where do you fold your laundry? But mostly, which rooms do you use the most? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. They just help you create an inventory to focus your organizational efforts in the most effective way.

Don’t be afraid to create an organizational structure that is non-traditional. Forget the name of the room. Focus on how you use it, not what it was called by your real estate agent or general contractor. The goal here is to simply determine how you actually use your home’s areas. Once you know this, you’ll have a much easier time sorting, cleaning, and organizing them. Simply remove the items that don’t belong with the function of an area and move them to one where they make sense, instead.

It’s a snowball effect in reverse. Instead of starting small and getting bigger, you start big and go smaller. (My mother used to tell me this all the time when I was younger and I didn’t listen to her. I thought it was waaayyyyy better to, say, alphabetize my cassette tape collection by artist than to pick all the clothes up off the floor and do the laundry first.)

Here’s why this is a good method: it makes you feel good. It inspires you. It provides a nice, tidy atmosphere for you to then take out those drawers and sort them, one by one, without being overwhelmed. It is much easier to focus on the harder small sorting when the easier big sorting is already done.

If you are ahead of the curve and you’ve already got the big spaces fairly under control (nobody has a perfectly kept home , except maybe June Cleaver) then progress right to tackling the cupboard or sideboard or linen closet you use on a daily basis.

Bottom line? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Sort the areas you use the most FIRST. Progress gradually to the areas you use only once in awhile (like that jewelry box, or the closet in the bedroom you never use, or the toolbox in your garage.) Voila! You’re on  your way to being an organizing dynamo!

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