5 myths that hamper a clean, clutter-free house

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While plastic storage units can help you become organized, they won't solve all organizational problems. (Stock Photo)

While plastic storage units can help you become organized, they won’t solve all organizational problems. (Stock Photo)

It takes more than a cute container and clear plastic totes to get your house in order. Take a look at these common organizing myths, as well as suggestions for making your life more simple and streamlined.

Myth #1: To be organized, all you need is a trip to the Container Store.

Cute organizers are just the icing on the organizational cake. A pink plastic crate isn’t going to suddenly get rid of last season’s worn and stained clothes, nor will it help you cut your collection of 25 armless or headless Barbies down to size. The most important thing you can do to get organized is to clear your life of clutter. Ruthlessly go through your home, getting rid of anything you don’t use or love. Recycle the old magazines, throw out the expired blue mascara, and donate that sweater that you paid a lot for but never wear to someone who will actually use it.

When organizing, group things into three categories:

1) Keep: Things you know you use and love. Things should be placed in this category without hesitation.

2) Discard or Recycle: Items you know you don’t want or don’t need any more.

3) Store: Items you aren’t sure about. If it’s broken, repair it. If it’s something sentimental, consider saving one representative item, or box it up and practice living without it until you are ready to get rid of it.

Myth #2: You should only stage your house when you are getting ready to sell it.

The entire purpose of “staging” a home is to make it attractive to people so someone will want to buy it. Take a tip from the real estate pros and enjoy a beautifully staged house while you still live in it. Get rid of too many knickknacks and other items that clutter a house. Instead, go for big “statement” art and décor and enjoy the feel of a minimalist home.

Speaking of real estate, think of your drawers and cupboards as prime, beach-front property. Store things where they are used, so you can access them quickly. For example, keep your most-loved and handy appliances close by in kitchen drawers and cupboards, and put less-frequently used items (panini press, anyone?) on the high shelves in the pantry. And if an appliance has sat on your pantry shelf collecting dust for years, show no mercy and get rid of it.

Myth #3: You have to have a junk drawer.

The purpose of a junk drawer is to store, well, junk. Do you really need an entire drawer devoted to coupons, old batteries, broken McDonald’s toys, and string? It will do wonders for your soul to have a folder for the coupons, a container for batteries, and a trash can for the tangled string and broken toys.

The biggest secret to an organized home is to have a place for everything. Then, be diligent about putting things away in their proper places when picking up. If you are too tired to put something away right, just leave it out for later.

Myth #4: You have to organize your house in a day.

Especially if you have young children, it’s remarkable how quickly your house can descend into chaos. You can fight back by picking one small project a day (or even a week), something that you can do in 20 minutes and feel super-proud about. So one day you might go through the pantry to discard expired food, another day you can organize the bathroom drawer. If you have a weekend to devote to big projects like sorting your storage room, that’s fantastic. If not, approach organizing a home like you would eating an elephant (if you were, like, ever going to do that), tiny bite by bite by bite.

Myth #5: Reading this article is going to suddenly make everyone in your house neat and clean.

Ha! If only. Unless you live alone, you are going to have to deal with other people’s organizational habits (or lack thereof). Here are some things to make family living easier:

*Have an exit/entrance station at the point where family members actually enter and leave the house, with an area for shoes, backpacks, purses, keys and mail. Use hooks and baskets in all shapes and forms, as well as boot trays.

* Give up super-finicky sorting systems if your kids or spouse can’t stick to them. Instead, have a simplified organizational system that even the tiniest (or laziest) member of your family can use.

* Take care in putting things away. To cut down on laundry, keep a “clean” laundry basket where people can put cast-off clothes that don’t need to be laundered again. Keep a basket for “items to be put away later,” and go through it at least once a day. Taking a few extra minutes each day to put things away properly can spare you the need for marathon organizing sessions.

 

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Elyssa Andrus has worked as a journalist for 14 years, most recently as the lifestyle editor at the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo. She is a contributor to the KSL-TV show "Studio 5" and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking" (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Natalie Hollingshead. She lives with her husband and four young children in Utah Valley.

One Comment

  1. Christa Woodall Reply

    Love this, Elyssa! I have a hard enough time getting a system down and sticking to it when I’m the only one in the household. Reorganizing is on the agenda for January, and I’ll definitely be more realistic in my approach by discarding these myths (which, sadly, I totally do find creeping up). Love the idea of having a “deal with later” basket that gets dealt with daily–I tend to make piles that just live behind a closed door for much longer than they should. Clearing the clutter is sooooo rewarding!

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