An organized home makes life easier. You can actually find what you need when you need it, saving you lots of time (you’re not looking for an item for an hour) and money (you aren’t buying something you already own).
Of course, it also saves your sanity. Because an organized home becomes a calm, serene space.
Plus, an organized home inspires our lives and empowers us. “I believe it’s impossible to make your best choices, your most enlightened, spiritually rich, emotionally stable choices in a cluttered and disorganized home,” writes organization expert Peter Walsh in the foreword to Real Life Organizing: Clean and Clutter-Free in 15 Minutes a Day.
In Real Life Organizing, author Cassandra Aarssen shares a slew of creative solutions for decluttering our homes. This isn’t about perfection or ruthless minimalism. It isn’t about being a tidy person. In fact, while Aarssen is a professional organizer, she isn’t naturally organized. In fact, she writes, “the majority of my life has been spent living as a complete and utter super slob.”
Maybe you can relate. Whether you have bits of clutter or heaps of it, below are five of my favorite creative tips from Aarssen’s encouraging, funny, fantastic book.
Create time capsules. A time capsule is simply a box or big tote that contains iffy items—things you don’t know if you’d like to keep.
Label the outside with everything that box or tote contains. When the container is full, add “If not opened by ________, donate!” Aarssen suggests picking a date 6 months from now.
Store your time capsules in the garage, basement or laundry room. Once that date arrives, if you haven’t taken any items out, bring your capsule straight to Goodwill (or whatever donation place you picked).
Make annoying or boring tasks into a game. For instance, any time a sock doesn’t have a match, Aarssen tosses it into her “lost sock bag.” Once a month, she empties out the bag into a big pile. Then she and her family race to see who can find the most matches. “It also helps to sing love songs as you find a sock’s long lost mate!” she writes.
Have a memory bin for each family member. This is a great place to store your kids’ artwork, special outfits, report cards and rewards. Aarssen keeps her family’s bins in the office closet so they’re easy to access. She also includes sweet notes to her kids.
“One day, when my kids are grown and have little ones of their own, they can go through the box and keep what they like,” Aarssen writes.
Have an in/out system. This is super helpful for preventing piles and keeping surfaces and counters clutter-free.Aarssen keeps a few baskets and bins on a shelf in her mudroom. (If you don’t have a mudroom, keep your baskets or bins somewhere by your door.)
She has two baskets for donations: one for family members; the second for a local thrift store. She has a third bin for anything that needs to be returned, like store-bought items, library books or anything borrowed from loved ones. Finally, she has a fourth box for new things that don’t have a home yet—like birthday decorations.
Create an “Organizing Road Map.” Create a map for every room in your home. Begin by writing down the areas with the biggest clutter issues—anything that’s just not working for you. (Tackling the most problematic spots first keeps you energized and motivated.) Next divide your project into 15-minute tasks—like reorganizing a junk drawer, throwing out old socks. Then schedule these tasks throughout the week. (You can download a free organizational planner here.)
Decluttering can feel overwhelming. Aarssen’s ideas and approach remind us that we can bring creativity and play to tasks that often feel tedious and even unbearable.
And here’s another important reminder from Aarssen about organizing: “It isn’t about having a pretty or tidy space, it is about making your space so functional that it saves you time, energy and requires minimal effort to maintain.” Which sounds pretty perfect to me.
How can you incorporate creativity and play into decluttering your home? How can you get creative with systems that simplify your life?