Home Organization and Cleaning Like the Pros



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home organization and cleaning

Home Organization and Cleaning

Have you ever had one of those Duhhhh!!! moments when you ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?” We have articles all over the website about cleaning and home organization but I thought I would take a moment to give you a few more tips that will make home organization and cleaning easier, faster and more pleasant for you.

 

  1. Do a big messy job first thing in the day.

    If you do one larger or more important organizing job right away, it won’t matter as much if the rest of the day is full of interruption. You will have gotten your one home organization task done and feel good about it.

  2. Spray your cleaning products on your rag.

    It saves you money and time. When dusting, spray your Pledge on your rag, not on the table you are dusting.

    When I did professional cleaning, I was repeatedly instructed when cleaning a bathroom to spray the cleaning products on my rags*. This way, I didn’t waste time rinsing and re-rinsing the sink or tub.

    Fast forward 15 years and someone has invented a new product everyone is crazy about – bathroom wipes. People love them because the can just wipe and run. This is the same thing professional cleaners had been doing for years.

    *The only exception to spraying the rag would be if you are dealing with heavy build up. Then you need to spray the product on the sink or tub and let it soak. If you clean regularly, build up generally shouldn’t be a problem.

  1. Sort your mail.

    Find time during the day to organize and sort your mail. I usually sort mine the minute I get it out of the mailbox. If that doesn’t work for you, at least sort it before you go to bed.

    When I sort mail, I make 3 piles:

    1. Junk mail/trash

    2. Bills or things I need to answer.

    3. Things to file.

    Then I toss the trash, place bills in an area where I can deal with them and put the third pile by my file box so I can file it.

    This takes me 2 minutes, because I don’t thoroughly read things. I’m just sorting and will deal with them later.

  2. Little things make a difference.

    Sometimes the smallest changes can make a big difference in home organization. For example, you are allowed to change the shelves in your kitchen cabinets to fit your needs. If you are storing things in one place and it isn’t working then try someplace else.

  3. Help yourself get motivated.

    My mom leaves her stove light on in the evening, which gives the kitchen a warm feeling. It also provides just enough light so you can see when you are popping in to get an evening snack. I decided to do something similar so I put a small lamp on the kitchen counter for a soft glow.

    That counter had always been cluttered but now I am forced to keep it clean because the lamp would show the mess. It is the same type of motivation as having company over to force yourself to clean the house.

    Even something as simple as putting a pretty flower arrangement on a dining room table can help you want to keep it clutter free and contribute to better home organization.

  4. Time yourself.

    Stop putting off doing things like home organization because you think it will take you too long. If your house is an average uncluttered house in reasonable condition, it really doesn’t take that long to do most cleaning and organizing tasks.

    • 15 minutes or less to dust

    • 15 minutes or less to clean a bathroom

    • 15-20 minutes to vacuum



  1. Get Organized Now!

    Home organizing doesn’t really take that long if you do it in small chunks. Do those things that only take 30 seconds to one minute to do right now:

    Hang up your car keys. Don’t carry them across the room and lay them on the table.

    Hang up you coat. Don’t dump it on a chair or on the floor.

    Toss your clothes in the hamper. Don’t leave them on the floor.

    Stop trying to stuff more garbage into the trash can. Grab it and take it out right now! It will take less time to simply take out the trash than it does to keep stuffing.

    There are lots of little things that are easy to do in less than a minute but contribute greatly to better home organization. Today, when I was microwaving my cocoa for 1 minute, I noticed that the back of my stove was covered in flour and grime. My first thought was, “I need to give that a good wiping sometime soon.” Duh!! What was I thinking? I quickly grabbed the cleaner and a rag, sprayed it, wiped the stove and polished it with the towel– all before my cocoa was done.

  2. If you don’t have a large laundry room, sort and organize your clothes at the hampers in the bedrooms or bathrooms.

    Looking at piles of laundry laying in front of a washer can be discouraging and mentally wearing, not to mention the acrobatics you have to go through climbing over the pile as you are loading the washer. I have rarely felt overwhelmed by my laundry because I didn’t have piles of it laying everywhere.

    The method that has worked the best for me is to have a hamper for each bedroom.

    Each day, I would sort my clothes into 3 piles right there by my hamper.

    If I had mostly dark items, the other piles would go back into the hamper and I would carry the darks to the next room.

    I would sort again, pick up the darks and return the rest to the hamper.

    After hitting all the bedrooms, I would put the darks in the washer and start my first load. Usually one huge armful was one load so this wasn’t hard.

    This sounds more complicated than it is.

    The next day, when I needed to wash another load, most of the whites and lights were pretty much together. I had already sorted them earlier so I didn’t really have much sorting to do. All that needed to be sorted was the handful of clothes that had been added the night before. It would take me about 2 minutes each day to do this because everything was “pre-sorted”.

    I have modified this method for my circumstances.

    For example, Tawra keeps a hamper in the laundry room by her washer. Sometimes, when I would help her with the laundry, the kids would bring me their dirty laundry. I quickly sorted my 3 piles, placed one in the washer and put the other two back in her hamper by the washer. When the first load was finished, I would grab the next load from the hamper and toss it in.

    If you keep up on your laundry, it will be easy to keep in one big hamper and you’ll be surprised at the improvement in your home organization. Doing laundry like this for 7 people was no problem.

What home organization task is bugging you the most? Just start doing it. Find a faster or easier way to do it, if possible. Ask us if you can’t figure it out. If we don’t have the answer, one of our readers might.

     -Jill

For more helpful tips to make cleaning laundry and home organization easier, take a look at our Keeping It Clean e-books.

 

Comments

  1. JD says

    Love the tips and ideas and am going to start the spraying of cleaners on my cleaning cloths. Sounds like a great idea to me.

    I do have a problem…our kitchen is very small and I cook a lot. I have not been able to find a spot to keep my plastic storage containers in (ziploc, etc). Every time I think I have a location figured out I have to unload most of the cupboard or pantry to reach them. Any ideas where to store these wild things?

    • says

      JD if I had the perfect answer to what to do to organize plastic ware and kids bedrooms I would be a multi millionaire. I think between me and all the female family memebers of my extended family we have tried everything and nothing seems to work but here are a few tips which might help to semi control them. I have a small kitchen too so feel your pain.

      The main thing that helped was realizing I didn’t need to store so many and all of my plastic ware in the kitchen and they need to be in the handiest place I could find.

      I use these almost every day so they need to be put in one of the easiest and handiest places in my kitchen. I use them more then some of my small appliances like my hand mixer and toaster so instead having those on a handy shelf I need to put my plastic ware there instead.

      Most important get rid of any you don’t need and par down.Really think about how many do you really use on a daily basis. Count them. You would be surprised at how many you probably have. Do you need 25-30 of them? I don’t think so. Look in your fridge- can you even fit 25 of them in your fridge. Even if you can that is way too many and you need to start using some leftovers fast.

      I didn’t realize how many of these things I really stored. When I did I gave myself 2 each of 4 different large sizes to store in the kitchen. That means you only have 8 containers and lids. I placed the rest on a shelf in another part of the house. Strangely enough I haven’t missed them at all. Now depending on your life and family you may need a few more or less but the point is most don’t need all they store.

      I also had a whole shelf in my kitchen for can goods but no place to put the plastic ware so I removed part of the can goods (once again storing in another area) and used that area then for my plastic ware. I have to maybe every couple of weeks go into the other room to get things to restock my can good shelf but that takes much less time then digging for plastic ware every day.

      Tawra has a slide out shelf where she stores all of her plastic ware on that one shelf which comes in handy.But you may not have something like that.

      The lids are what are usually out of control. For those I use just a plain box like what Velveeta comes in to store my lids. I usually use 2 – one for my larger lids and a smaller box for my smaller lids. Now if you have room I saw the other day where they used an old cd holder for lids.

      The main thing though that helped was realizing I didn’t need to store so many and all of my plastic ware in the kitchen and they need to be in the handiest place I could find.

      • says

        Jill we are having painting done next week so I am trying to get rid of things so that the day before he comes to paint I just have to move a few things.
        Read your idea of platic containers and I went to the cupboard and found a lot of containers I never use because the lids are hard for me to get off and on because of my hands.
        So out they went to the thrift store box.
        Thanks for motivating me to get rid of them since I never use them and the lids sit in the basket I keep the lids in so I can find them.
        Now I can get a smaller basket and have more room.
        Maybe when the painting is done I will even be able to continue the organizing.
        Working on it but I fall back more than I spring forward.
        Such is life as long as I get this organized now it will take longer for it to be cluttered up again.
        Can hope anyway.

      • T says

        I realized that for a family of 3, we didn’t need all of that plastic ware several years ago. Like you guys, I pared it down to the essentials. I like to keep the lids right on the containers and since we don’t have a ton of them now, we can do this. The boys can easily take the clean stuff out of the dishwasher, put the lid on it, and stack it neatly. No more fighting with finding the lids! I’ve read that you shouldn’t keep your spices, bulk food, etc. in the cupboard above the stove as the heat/steam can make it go bad sooner so this is where we keep our plastic. This last year, we’ve been slowly but surely replacing any of the old plastic with glass. Call me silly but leftovers in a nice glass container look more appetizing rather than in plastic. Anyone agree?

        • says

          I totally agree with you. Most of my freezer things I try to put in glass and all of my long term food I now vacuum seal in glass. Years ago we stored almost everything in glass. Most foods came in cans or glass jars and we saved all of our glass jars to store our things in. They do taste better in glass and you can see them better. I have always said if you want to get rid of your leftovers put them in containers where your family can easily see them. I even changed over to using a cake stand or clear glass cookie jar about 30 years ago because I noticed the family would eat the things I made better when put them in those instead of a regular cookie jar.
          I even have my flour and sugar in glass containers.

    • Jalopy says

      When I had this problem, I found a door size rack in the organizing section of Lowes/Home Depot. It mounted on the inside of our pantry door and held all our plastic containers, as well as several staple items we did not have room for in the small kitchen. I did have to stay on top of the quantity of storage containers, regularly assigning a child to throw anything that did not have a lid/container match into recycling. I also had to mountable spice racks, etc. in the cabinets to hold spices, pots/pans lids, etc.

    • marlene says

      JD,. there are things that you can hang over the inside of cabinets or mount to the inside of them that are made especially for that. Walmart, homedepot, lowes, target, or even better, The lakeside collection. They have alot of those things at great prices. Hope that helps. xoxo

  2. Carol Miller says

    Please do not use my last name.

    Laundry: having been a military wife & no laundry to be sitting around(unexpected house inspections & or company)–we had laundry bags for dark colors, medium colors, light colors for clothes only. As soon as bed linens & other linens were changed, they went into the machine & or waited by machine to be laundered. Each person was responsible to place their own clothing in the bag. Helped little ones to know colors & to become responsible for their own putting away later. About the age of 12 or so, they began to do their own laundry-no, I didn’t have any accidents in the laundry(kitchen)area–I was around & stayed with them in case they had a problem. Another thing, because of the busy schedule, I had certain days for doing different types of laundry, cleaning. Took the pressure off of having to do everything at one time. Thankyou for the articles. Really enjoy them.

    • Cynthia says

      About 10 years ago now I went and bought three identical wooden (with a cotton liner) laundry bags. Whites, lights and darks. Now I don’t have to tip the whole lot out and can see if I have a ful load ready to wash when I put an item in. It has saved me SO MUCH TIME and frustration over that time and, if you can find the room, I highly recommend it.

  3. Chris says

    In item #7 Living on a Dime mentions “hang up your car keys.”

    Several years ago my husband put a hook on the kitchen wall for me to do just that .. .. .. and I do.

    I’ve rarely had to look for them, with little beads of sweat popping out on my forehead when I’m running late or extra frustrated that I can’t find my keys.

  4. Maribel says

    Hi, I do laundry almost every weekday and linen on Saturday. There are only 4 of us and my family mostly wears uniforms for work and school.

    I keep three laundry baskets in the laundry room and one hamper in each bedroom. I sort two to three times a week. Each basket is a load so when its full I put it to wash.

    We have clean uniforms, socks, etc. and I don’t have too many, I believe 7 each top and bottom. This is advise that I have gotten from you where you suggested that we keep clothing items limited. If only I can keep the towels to a minimum. lol my children use a different towel each day.

    PS-I love your website, your emails and your advice. I have been reading your emails for almost two years and I brag about you to all my friends. May God bless you greatly.

    • says

      Thanks Maribel. There are some days where I have put in extra long hours and at the end I think does any one really read our stuff? I know that is dumb but us females do have days where we don’t always have rationale thoughts (ask any husband : ) anyway it is always nice to hear from our readers and how much they not only enjoy the articles but it actually helps them too so thank you very much.

      • harriet says

        I just got up to clean two bathrooms after reading this post! Thank you! I’ve been putting it off all day because CFS has been kicking my butt all week, but I have a guest visiting tomorrow and I don’t want to leave the guest bathroom–usually used for washing the dogs–all disgusting for her.

        I actually have had a question for you I’ve been wrestling with. How do I judge whether I’m not trying hard enough, or whether my inability to reach my goals is understandable given my limitations? I’ve been dieting for the past year, slowly losing, but I just have not been able to stick to a diet the past month. I’m just so worn out all the time. Sometimes I tell myself, “Oh come on, stop sticking food in your mouth, you’re using CFS as an excuse” and sometimes I think, “I have CFS/FM, two jobs, anemia, and troublesome teenagers. Give me a break already.” I just don’t know.

        • says

          Harriet, you just have to do what you can. Yeah, you have a lot going on so no wonder you don’t feel like doing it! I’ve been there with the diet thing! Just do the best you can. For me I found out I can’t eat wheat and sugar. I put on 20lbs when I went off my gluten free sugar free diet for 6 weeks around Christmas. Augh!!! So now I’m back on it again. You just have to do what you can with the energy you have for that day. If all else fails so like I do and watch TV and during the commercials do 1 thing during each one. You can get a TON done but still rest doing that!

        • says

          Harriet the drugs I am on for RA make me very tired and the pain keeps me doing things slowly and a lot of times not at all. Glad that you are losing weight since that does help a lot.
          To stick with a diet well maybe not the diet plan you are on here are a few ideas that I use.
          Keep salad fixings in the fridge. Those mixes are good but just a head of lettuce is a start. Add a few cut up vegetables a bit of tuna or meat left overs even some left over pasta minus the sauce and add some salad dressing. nice easy lunch especially if you have everything already to go.
          When cooking pasta keep a cup or two separate in the fridge and you can add it to a salad of macaroni type with lots of vegetables or you can open a can of soup and add it to make the soup a bit more filling.
          To cans of cream soup you can add some canned clams and mushroom soup becomes a sort of faux clam chowder or instead add some frozen corn for corn chowder.
          Instead of a ham sandwich roll the ham up with a slice of cheddar some shredded lettuce mustard and eat it that way or roll it up in those flour tortilla.
          Being tired puts your appetite on hold or makes you want to eat anything not nailed down. Neither is good so think of ways to serve yourself something different so you do eat healthy.
          Fried rice is a complete meal and so easy and fast to prepare left over rice some frozen vegetables and a bit of meat but the meat is not necessary.
          That is the diet ideas.
          Now if the day is nice (right now we have 4′ snow banks) get outside even if it is just to sit outside for a 1/2 hour. The sun helps. I try to go for a walk even in the winter if it isn’t too icy especially on sunny days. My kids say I am solar powered.
          You need the sun so since it is cheap use it for all its worth.
          On days you feel better DO NOT set out to fix all the ills of your house that day. Pick one that really bugs you and work on that one thing. You won’t exhaust yourself so you will feel better the next day and maybe be able to fix something else.
          Pace yourself. Nobody can do that for you but you. It works. It has taken me 36 years to figure this out and now my life is so much more productive, and I feel like I am contributing to my husbands life again.

  5. Jan says

    RE: Junk Mail
    I open all the junk mail I receive. Most contain a postage paid return envelope. I write “take me off your mailing list” across my name & put all material back in the postage paid return envelope and mail it back. Charities usually do not have pre paid postage so I will pay the cost of a stamp. Yes, it takes a bit longer than just dumping it in the trash but by using this method I have almost entirely eliminated junk mail from my mail box.

  6. Mary Dean says

    I found a great way to clean out sink drains! I had extra cable from an old TV, so I cut off about a foot, cut back about a half-inch of the black casing, then cut back what looks like aluminum foil. What’s left is dozens of little bristle-looking wires. I bent them back a bit, making it look like a little brush. Works great as a drain snake–the cable goes around corners and can be cut as long as one needs to do the job–the gunk was cleaned out of my bathroom sink in seconds! Sure beats hiring a plumber. (Maybe I shouldn’t reveal this comment, since my grandson is a plumber and it’ll cut down on house calls to clean a drain!) Mary Dean

  7. mary says

    We have a dressing table built into our master bath. I always put on my make-up while standing so the space underneath for a stool would be wasted space. Instead we have two laundry baskets there. One for whites and lights and the other for darks. When one gets full, I take it and wash the things in it. My husband and I automatically put the clothes into the right basket. Sheets are taken directly from the bed to the washer. When I put out clean towels twice a week, I take the used towels directly to the washer (we have towels in 1 1/2 baths plus the kitchen towels and dishclothes which accumulate on top of the washer). It makes for quick and easy laundry.

  8. grizzly bear mom says

    1. get on the do not mail and do not call list. You will be amazed at how little mail you get.
    2. Sort by your recycle bin so you don’t even have to bring junk in the house.
    3. When orderly electronically use your pets name. Then you can ignore anything addressed to Rover Smith.

  9. Heather says

    To save time on laundry, I never fold towels, handtowels (bathroom) or washcloths. I have two hampers in my bathroom closet – one for towels, the other for washcloths and handtowels. the kids know which is which and they are great at sorting and putting away. it takes MUCH less time than tediously folding these things and they look just as neat because they are in a hamper and not really “seen”.
    we use cloth diapers and do the same with them. they go into a lined wicker hamper that has a lid that sits next to the changing table. i used to fold and stack them but 3 children later, that’s just too much!

  10. Jeanne Veilleux says

    I tried the “if it only takes one minute to do, do it” idea. When there’s ten “one minute” tasks to do it does take a little longer but on the other hand it keeps down the clutter. One idea I think I got from you some time ago is that “dishes are never easier to do than when they’re just used.” That really works. Another thought I would like to share although it may not be new is if your beds are made and your dishes are done your house looks clean. It inspires you to pick up the clutter. I also like the idea of picking up and putting away stuff before going to bed. It surprisingly only takes a couple minutes and it’s so nice to get up in the morning to a neat house.

  11. Christine says

    I use 4 hampers that I keep by my washing machine to pre-sort clothes. Whites, medium colours, darks and towels. I find this helps keep me organized and I can put in a full load every time, saving on extra washes for smaller loads.

  12. says

    I have a small kitchen and my husband went to either Wall-mart or K-mart and got 2 plastic shelves that you would put in the garage. One is big which I put between the stove and the fridge. and the second the smaller one in the corner for the computer. Works great. Also for the light in the kichen I have a small white christmas lights that I hung with up with hooks and extra coffee cups that came with my plate sets. I have one outlet that I use for everything like toaster and such. Hubby also put up a wall hanging coat rack. (small trailer) and it is behind the door and on the other side of the door a heart shaped hook for keys and my badge for work. Works great

  13. Sheri says

    I used to buy my laundry detergent in 5 gallon tubs. They are my laundry sorting buckets in the laundry room. One big hamper for lights and delicates, 1 bucket for reds, 1 for blues and greens, 1 for blacks, the jeans go behind the door, the bedding goes in front of the dryer, the whites have a built in bin and the towels are on the floor. My children use a lot of towels too… They get washed often. My spares go to an orphanage.

    Since we have a large washer, I wait until I have enough to fill the washer. On sunny days, our bedding and pajamas go out on the clothes line. Delicates hang on hangers in doorways or lay flat on a towel on the bed.

    I fold the clothes. I have one that exploits weakness. So I inspect her clothes as I fold. If there is any tiny little hole in her clothes, they go in the mending pile. She can turn a nice pair of leggings into chaps if she finds a hole in the crotch…

    For mail, I take the junk mail out before putting in my husband’s spot, so just has real mail to deal with. The rest is up to him.

    We have a basket for our keys.

  14. Melanie says

    Interesting about not needing a 3-bin laundry sorter… I’m about to enclose the laundry machines and 3-bin sorter at the end of my kitchen into a closet. And if I could leave out the sorter the closet would be a bit smaller and less visually intrusive to the room.

    Maybe I can set up some new system to try now, before committing to a built closet. Any suggestions?

  15. Angie says

    I always enjoy your website. I have never been a professional house cleaner, so I appreciate the reminder to spray the rag. I do this automatically with dust rags, but not with bathroom rags. duh! I used to be a Professional Organizer so here is my two tips for the day. I have a large walk-in closet in master bedroom so I utilize the floor for laundry sorting. I have 4 baskets. One for my husbands uniforms which I wash every week. One for whites/lights, one for dark clothes, one for towels/sheets. When a basket gets full it gets washed. Automatic sorting and I can see at a glance when I need to do a specific load. I hate laundry hampers, but they are better than nothing. My laundry room is small and connects the kitchen to the garage so stuff on the floor is not an option. Now if I could only get my OD to remember this rule…
    My other tip for the day is get rid of your clutter!!! Clutter increases your cleaning time by at least 40%. I am always amazed at how quickly I can clean our large home when the clutter is minimal. Clutter-free I can do it in under 2 hours. Clutter-filled, cleaning it can take up to 4 hours!
    Keep up the good work!!

  16. Jaime says

    Omg, I am that girl with the huge pile of laundry in front of the washing machine & dryer-and it’s a small laundry room! I have felt soooo overwhelmed about it and our food pantry is in there and it’s been like having to climb a mountain to get to the food and the half bathroom…This is going to help me a lot-thank you so much for this article! Even though it seems simple-I just couldn’t come up with an alternative-I was “blocked” by the overwhelming feeling of all that laundry. There’s four of us in the house so if it can work for seven-this should work for us too. Thanks again! :)

  17. Jules says

    For Jaime–I understand how miserable it feels to get behind with the laundry and how tough it is to battle back to get caught up. My family had a bout with the flu and after each of us took our turn being sick, 6 weeks had gone by. The least sick adult had managed to toss in a load or two along the way, but we needed to wash EVERYTHING–towels, bedding, lots of pjs and sweats to ensure that we eliminated the germs once and for all. After looking at the mountainous pile, it occurred to me that one washer/dryer was going to take forever and the pile was incubating all kinds of unpleasantness. I remembered a place that had 25 washers and dryers—the 24 hr LAUNDROMAT! I waited until after 9 pm and was pleased to find the place all but deserted. I loaded up about 10 machines and in just over 2 hours had everything washed and dried. I think it cost about $30-$40, but having spent more than that in a single trip to the dry cleaners, I considered it fair. Ultimately it was PRICELESS to get ahead of the laundry and stay there.

  18. Pamela Shields says

    I raised 7 children and the laundry was always a BIG chore so something I started early was to teach each child how to sort laundry. Each child had a small hamper (the size of a garbage can or diaper pail) in their room and they were responsible for getting their dirty clothes to the laundry room where I have 4 large hampers; one each for whites, light colors, dark colors, & towels. Mine were inexpensive plastic garbage cans of a size that when full filled my washer, and now they have been replaced with hampers. Children can learn to sort to this extent by 4-5 and when you load the washer you can catch anything that got missed. It kept my utility room floor clean & one can easily see what load needs to run first. I have taught both my daughters the same plan & it works for their families too.

  19. joie says

    Jill thank you so much for your blog I have already learned some helpful hints I am such a messy house keeper. Always procrastinating because it seems so overwhelming I tell myself oh to much to get started with Ill do it when I have more time. My parents are big hoarders who never part with anything so I never really learned how to keep a clean home :( I do keep the dishes and clothes washed and things sanitary. I just have to much stuff so otherwise Im a pack rat :) There is stuff in my plastic and in drawers everywhere. Clothing I have enough to dress all of the neighbor women for a couple of weeks each. This stuff is mine and I see a use for all of it I just cant bring myself to throw any of it away I like it all! Wish every space in my house werent a collect all I dont even get to sit at the table as a family. My husband complains, we hate to have unexpected family,we eat out cause no space on the counter to cook,important papers get lost,we buy more because things get misplaced. Everyone passes the blame on one another. To top it all off this home is a small ranch home with little closets. How will I ever over come all of this hoard? I want to live like the normal tidy person Stuff is ruining MY LIFE. :( aNY SUGGESTIONS ON WHERE AND HOW TO START?

    • says

      Joie first let me say it is hard to always give all the answers to something like this with just having a few sentences to work with. There is usually a lot more involved then what we can write in a paragraph but I will try to at least head you in the right direction. Second some of the things I say may not apply to you so don’t take it personally but it might help someone else.

      1. It has to be a group effort. Have a family meeting and see if they are all willing to pitch in and change your lives in a big way.

      2. Deal with the emotions. When people do anything in the extreme often there are emotions involved that they aren’t dealing with. People are really bad about using “stuff” to make them feel good or to feel loved. Sometimes there is a trauma involved. What happens is they try to fix emotional things with physical stuff or things. This won’t work at all. All it does is makes the problem even worse because it then adds another whole set of problems as in your case where you have to go out to eat, can’t have people over, find bills etc.

      If you came across a man dying of thirst in the desert you wouldn’t hurry over to him and give him a great big hug, tell him he is loved and expect that to fix his problem. No his problem is a physical one and he needs water. People often have an empty or emotional gap in their hearts and they think “stuff” physical things will help that emotional gap. It just won’t work. You need to take care of emotional problems with emotional solutions, physical with physical and spiritual with spiritual. We so often mix these all up so get honest and identify what is the real problem your life.

      Sometimes people also are angry or rebelling because their parents were too strict on keeping the house clean (I know this wasn’t your case). Recognize it.
      Then again it may just be a plain of case of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start.

      3. We have a ton of articles that go into detail of step by step how not only to get organized and clean but how to help get rid of the overwhelming feeling and to get motivated to start. I don’t have room here to write it all out but I will list 2 articles at the bottom to help you get started. Spend an hour or so and read them and some of the others. Don’t spend hours at this though because some can spend ages “learning” how to do something – making if feel like they are taking care of the problem but it is just another excuse to put off taking care of the problem so be careful.

      4. Try to get a friend or family member who is organized to help you with it. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask. If you are serious then once again get rid of the emotional side (fear and embarrassment) and get the job done. You will be surprised most organized people love helping others get that way. I don’t know why but if I walk into a room that is a mess my fingers just itch to get started picking things up. I really don’t judge I just want to help.

      5. Put on some comfortable clothes, music and get started. Hopefully you have read the articles and are mentally and physically prepared to now just get up and do it. You may want to spend a day getting ready and the “troops” ready or clean off just one section today like your kitchen table. But the thing is just get up and move.

      I mentioned this next point in the articles but will briefly mention it here. One thing that helps me get rid of things is to know there are people out there who really really need the things I am just storing.

      I have been on the other side. With my second baby I had only 1 dress to wear and it wasn’t even a maternity dress. Since I had to wear a dress about 4-5 times a week it was awful and embarrassing having to wear the same thing over and over again. I had a neighbor who finally decided to get rid of some of her stuff and she gave me a whole wardrobe of clothes. I wanted to just sit down and cry it meant so much to me. I have had this so often over the years. So now I look at that closet full of clothes that I have and yes I wear most of them but do I really really need that many and maybe someone else could use them more.

      You say you go out to eat, loose important papers many things which are probably costing you money. You could use that extra money that you waste because of your stuff to help someone else too. At the risk of sounding a little harsh and I don’t want to because I think you are really trying but if you had a child who had a mound of toys clutched to their chest and another poorer child in the same room with nothing what would you do or think of that child if she said I want all of my stuff and I don’t care that the other child has nothing I’m not going to share or give up my toys because they make me happy and feel good. We often do a grown up version of this.

      Sometimes she will give away one toy but the sad thing is the little girl clinging to her toys doesn’t realize that clinging to that many is not giving her true happiness like she thinks it is. She hasn’t learned that by sharing, giving and sacrificing she will step into a whole new world of joy and happiness that giving and sacrificing brings. Now she is starting to fix her emotional problem the right way. Not to mention the relief she will feel of getting rid of the heavy burden that comes from carrying around and dealing with all these things. How much easier is the weight on the little girls arms if she only has one toy to hold instead of trying to juggle an arm full. While she is holding tightly to the arm full she can’t really enjoy or play with any of the properly.

      One of the biggest things we hear from people who have gotten rid of things was they didn’t realize how much of a burden their stuff had become. They feel like a heavy weight has been lifted off of their shoulders. You said it yourself the stuff is overwhelming you. Not a good feeling. You now need to get up and with a little discipline and work get it done. If discipline and work sound to hard and like they are miserable things are they any more miserable or harder then what you are dealing with now do you think?

      You can do this. You sound like you are now to the point you really want to do it and that is half the battle so read the articles and then get up and before today is over clean at least your kitchen table off.

      Read these articles below:

      The Basics of Organizing

      How To Start Organizing

    • Sandi P says

      Joie, I can certainly sympathize with your predicament. I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder, but after several health issues and family problems, it got very much worse. Like you, I was literally drowning my home in stuff. I had started clearing stuff out, but wasn’t making any real progress when we lost our house to the bank after a bad refi. That’s a whole ‘nother issue, but I went from a 5 bedroom 3 bath house to a 2 bedroom condo with my husband and grown son. Much of my “stuff” stayed in the house and was thrown into the trash! Since the trauma of going through that, I’ve moved twice, each time into a smaller space. I still have problems, but last week I went through my closet and put most of my sweaters into the Goodwill box because I just don’t get outside enough anymore to need them. I kept wanting to grab them back, but then realized it’s been two years since I’ve worn any of them. I find it’s easier donating things than trying to sell them because my emotional attachments get in the way of setting a reasonable price. If only I had known these things then, I wouldn’t have kept bringing more ‘stuff’ into my home.

  20. Donna B. says

    Hi Jill:

    One thing that helped me this year was that I needed to see a cardiologist kind of on an emergency basis — I ended up fine, but he said I HAVE To exercise, and he was fine with walking 30 minutes only 3 times per week.

    I decided that at work I want to use the stairs, and with my balance issues, the high heels had to go –

    I grieved (I’m a shoe lover!), procrastinated, etc., and finally I decided if I couldn’t wear them any more, it was selfish and some other women should be getting use and pleasure (and bunions! LOL) from them.

    I packed up about 14 pairs of my gorgeous heels and took them to the thrift shop before I could change my mind!

    I kept heels about 2 inches and lower, and I’m at least doing the stairs all day at work.

    I decided that no one will see those beautiful shoes if I’m in a casket! (LOL)

    So, even exercise can start small, and my bottom closet shelf is now clean! When you pack the stuff take it to the donation place or bins right away so you can’t change your mind. I don’t even remember now what all those shoes looked like, but I can walk more during the day in my flats!!

  21. Bea says

    Here is a nice recipe for Whitening Scouring Powder
    1 cup baking soda
    2 teaspoons cream of tartar
    1/4 cup borax
    1/4 cup grated lemon, orange, or grapefruit peel

    Combine all ingredients in a plastic container. Shake well. Sprinkle a small amount into sink or on other surfaces and scrub with damp sponge or cloth. Rinse well.pp

  22. says

    You two are awesome! I don’t always get time to read what you publish, but when I do, I usually love it because it seems to be far more realistic than everything else I have read. BTW we LOVE the pizza crust recipe in “Dining on a Dime.”

    I like the tip in the book about taking 15 minutes in a day to clean/pick up stuff. I absolutly despise cleaning, unlike my older sister who is a freak of nature (I really do love her) and cleans like it’s her job. Anways, I tried this tip back in August. Our house was a disaster (like usual), and we had neices and a nephew coming to spend the weekend with us so I got it looking pretty good. I kept up with it for a few days after they were at our house, but then, I don’t know what happened (I think it was because I stopped working four hours a day and went back to my regular hours), I just stopped doing it. During that short time period I was doing it, it worked really well.

    When I get home from work, I work part-time, I am just exhausted. I am not a lucky enough mom to be able to stay at home with my monkey, but I am lucky enough to be able to bring my monkey to work with me every day (talk about multitasking); he is now a year old and has been going to work with me since he was 7 weeks old. I don’t think my hubby quite understands how mentally exhausted it is to be a full-time mommy AND go to work at the same time, especially if it was a bad day. Maybe I will try what Tawra suggested in previous comment about picking up/cleaning during commercials, and see if that works better for me. Believe me, I need all the help I can get! lol We live in what I explain to people as “a bachelor’s dream.” It is a tiny house with a HUGE shop attached to it because my hubby is a carpenter and thought he would never get married (obviously he was wrong because right after he started building our home, we started dating; if he would have “made his move” a year sooner when we first started talking then we wouldn’t be living in a bachelor’s dream lol). Anyways, this place isn’t even finished. Time and money has stopped us from getting the laundry closet done. Until a couple months before our monkey was due, I had concrete floors, and shortly after he was born, my hubby got our bedroom closet done. The problem is, we are both so sleepy and busy that there are very few cloths in the closet. lol I keep rearranging our kitchen cupboards and doing everything I can to free up space; I’m not saying this just because I sell them, but those Tupperware Modular Mates have helped free up a TON of space in my cupboards (flour, sugar, popcorn, cereal, etc. are in them). Space is hard to come by in a little house. We have taken many things out, stuck them in tote containers, and are storing them in the shop until we get a bigger house, but there are many things that we have stuck in a tote until it warms up and I can have a garage sale. About two months agao I was so annoyed with all the junk that I just about had one, but the only reasons I didn’t was because it was cold and we live in such a small town that the only time ot have a garage sale here is to do it during the city-wide garage sale weekend. We have a basket for mail, if it makes it there; argh… we have so many bad habits to break.

    As far as exercise and diet goes, rather than diet doing something that it’s practical for me, I am trying to do something that I can stick with for the rest of my life. Simply, I am just trying to eat less. There is no need to stuff myself, I am trying to eat until I’m satisfied. I can’t cut out coffee, pop, etc. because I hardly drink those; I mostly drink water. However, I am trying to drink more water. I have a 36 oz. water bottle that I am filling up every morning and trying for force myself to drink it all before I go to bed; if it gets too warm, then I add more ice, which therefore adds more water that I am drinking because the ice melts. I have the Wii fit, that I would like to start getting into the habit of using, but haven’t done that yet. I have so many things I would like to improve on, other than just my weight, but I am only doing it a little at a time because I’m afraid it will become too overwhelming and will just stop with it all.

    • says

      Alexis don’t be too hard on yourself. I have been through the same as you – new baby and half built house. It is not easy I know. Until the house gets finished and baby (toddler) gets older it will feel like you are swimming up stream for awhile. You might try the 5 minute commercial method. That is the one I have used for a long time and seems to work better then anything for me. I just tell myself no matter how tired I am or what else I want to do during that 5 mins. I make myself get up and do something like wash dishes, wipe a counter, change sheets or do another load of laundry. It really is amazing how many things can be done in 5 mins. also it seems to be mentally easier on a person when they know they only have to do something hard for 5 mins.

      Sounds like you are frustrated but still trying and that is the most important part that you don’t give up – well if you want to quit for a day, throw your hands up in despair and have a good cry that is ok but just remember to get up the next day and try again. Hang in there. :)

  23. Su says

    Cleaning question–we have brushed nickel fixtures in our bathrooms. What is the easiest/safest way to clean these? It has been hard(impossible) to keep water marks off.

    Thank you!!

    • says

      Oh Su I feel your pain. I watch HGTV and I see people look at homes and say “Oh I don’t want anything but stainless steel appliances.” or “Look at this lovely brush nickel faucet.” and I cringe. Like white carpet these things look great on a tv show but in real life what a nightmare to clean and so much work. Anyway as you can tell it is one of my pet peeves. Sorry but back to your question. If you have to clean these for what ever reason the best way is just dish detergent and water. Then be sure to wipe dry with a soft cloth.

      I don’t like using an old t shirt for this or even a micro fiber cloth but I love an old diaper, flour sack towel or bar keepers towels. The t shirt doesn’t absorb very well and the micro fiber cloths take about twice as long to get something to rub dry as my old diaper or flour sack towel. Plus I am still on the fence with micro fiber. It is pretty much polyester or a plastic like material and because there really haven’t been any studies I don’t want to be dogmatic about this but I wonder if rubbing something over and over again with a “plastic” type material wouldn’t eventually mess up the finish of it.

      Now if you have hard water spots you can use something like Soft Scrub or some non abrasive cleaner. Just don’t use any thing harsh that has ammonia in it. I’m not sure about vinegar either and if you do try it I would be sure not to leave it on long and rinse it well because it is acidy which means it can eat away things (like water spots).

  24. Carole says

    I sympathize with Alexis, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to always refer to her son as a “monkey”.

    • says

      Oh I think it is fine. I call my youngest grandson my little monkey or sugar all the time and he loves it. As a matter of fact he corrected me the other day because I called him by his real name and not his “pet” name. He feels special and he thinks it is hysterically funny too. I even made him a monkey blanket for Christmas. He loves it and he loves monkeys.

      I find that it is only when adults “make” something of things is when the kids make something of it or make a big deal of it. I’ll never forget my son in 4th grade he had a teacher whose last name was Cooper like his and he loved her so much. One day 6 months into the school year he came running in from school and and said “Mom did you know Mrs. Cooper is a black lady?” He had only seen her as his beloved teacher and never thought of her in any other way but that year some “well meaning adult” took it upon themselves to have the schools celebrate Martin Luther day and “opened” his eyes for him. He had only seen people as people not black or white.

      Be careful. There is a thing called the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Often well meaning people step in and taint things by making sure everyone knows the letter of the law and in doing so destroy the spirit of the law or the loving motivate behind something.

  25. Su says

    Thank you for responding. I’ll try the dish soap/water combo. I use old cloth diapers as my cleaning rags. Love them! I wash them separately(not w/regular laundry). Yea, brushed nickel is not all it’s cracked up to be :00)

  26. Katie says

    Looking for some way to get the white stuff (lime?) off the glass shower door and hinges. I don’t know if vinegar would work (it does work nicely with baking soda to open the drain).

    • says

      For me vinegar is what works best for hard water spots. The acid make up of vinegar eats away at the mineral build up. That is why it works well to help dingy clothes in hard water areas. It dissolves the mineral content of the hard water. If you have an extreme case of build up you may have to resort using something like a cleaning product made especially for that (Tawra used something called The Works from Wal Mart and liked it) there are many products of that type.

      Once you get it cleaned off the main thing is to prevent it from getting bad again by using vinegar on a regular basis, using a squeeze each time you shower or wiping the door down with a good absorbent rag when you use it. If you have a family this may not work but in that case if you clean it at least once or twice a week that should help control it more. I know those are a pain.

  27. Gabrielle Miller says

    Here I go again adding in my 2cts worth again. I use swiffers to dust with. Desert is very dusty. The Dollar Store swiffers are half the cost. But still are still costly at the rate I use them. My urban cuz washes her plastic bags. I thought why not wash a swiffer. So I washed it. Actually I did this at the mine 1st. They wash out great. I use Pledge on the ones I use at work because of the amount of dust. They still wash out fine. I ran out of pledge but used ragmop spray used by the janitors. It will lock in more dust but will not wash out. I have washed a swiffer 15 times. The $store version is just as good. I used to use feather dusters and had to wash them out. Swiffer is a better replacement.

  28. Julie says

    These ideas are brill:)

    I especially like the ones about spraying the polish onto the cloth instead of the furniture. Also the one on sorting washing/laundry in the bedroom/bathroom. I often kneel down in front of my washing machine when I fold my clothes & the carpet irriates my skin. It’ll be so much easier to sort them upstairs instead.

    I’ve got a tip about laundry – store some coat hangers in the utility/laundry room, that way you can put shirts etc straight onto a hanger without them getting creased.

  29. grizzly bear mom says

    Regarding laundry: Although we owned some, there were never clean towels in the house. I purchased each of my nieces and nephews individually colored towels. Rich’s were red, brian’s blue, jenn’s yellow. I no longer had to say who left this wet towel on the floor. I didn’t even say Brian hang up this blue towel. I made them responsible for hanging them to dry after use, and getting them in the laundry if they wanted them clean. They could use a wet or dirty towel as long as they wanted. End of MY problem.

  30. Cynthia says

    When I was living alone, I got myself a laundry sorter with removable bags. Every night when I dressed for bed I threw my laundry into Underwear, Cold Load or Warm Load bags. When laundry time came around, I’d just grab the appropriate bag and head downstairs to the washer. (My cold load is large enough that it has to be sorted lights/darks, but the other two loads could be done on their own.) I’d collect the towels and sheets right before taking them downstairs to wash. Fortunately my DH has adopted the sorter technique. Unfortunately, my sorter bags are getting to be cheesecloth . . . ;-(

  31. Michele says

    Hi Jill and Tawra!

    I was just reading your article on Home Organizing and I have a question. We are planning on selling our house in a few months, so I’m packing things we don’t use often in boxes. My garage is full of hubby’s shop stuff and my shed is already full of boxes. I’ve run out of room!!! HELP!! I can’t afford to rent a storage locker for stuff and I’ve de-junked along the way. Any ideas where these boxes could be stored?

    I have no friends here so their basements etc., is not an option for me. Oh, and I’ve already tried under the beds… the boxes are too big! But I need them out of my living room so when we show the house, there aren’t boxes laying around. Please help!

    • says

      We have actaully made beds out of the boxes. You can just neatly stack them in the corner or in a closet or in the garage if you are running out of room. If you are selling some of your furniture you could do things like make end tables out of the them. Just throw a table cloth over them to cover them up. Don’t forgot attic and crawls spaces too!

    • says

      Another thing too is to use as few boxes as possible. For example Tawra had an old trunk in here living room for decoration that was half full of blankets. We took most everything we weren’t using and needed to pack from the living room and packed it in the trunk. No boxes needed and the living room stuff was all in there when the trunk was placed in her new home.

      I needed no boxes to store the extra stuff from my bedroom when I moved because all my bedroom knick knacks and extras were stored in the bottom drawers of my chest of drawers.

      All my bathroom items were stored in the hamper. So all you could see in the bathroom was a neat hamper sitting there. This may mean not having a hamper and hauling your clothes to the laundry room for a few weeks but these are some of the things you need to put up with if you are seriously trying to sell your home.

  32. Adrian Windsor says

    Please shred mail items that you are putting in the trash. You’d be surprised how much information someone can get from “it’s only junk mail.”

  33. says

    I have been blessed to receive tons of excellent hand me downs for the kiddos. We also make really good use of our Good-Will store. I see no need to spend a lot of money on clothes that they are going to tear up. Because all of these clothes have been washed so many times already I don’t worry about sorting. I keep a basket at the end of each bed and their dirty clothes go in there. When the basket is full they are responsible for taking it to the washer and washing and drying it. Then in the evening while watching TV I will help them fold it. I do get them some new clothes, and I always wash those new colored clothes in a like colored load and do a rinse with white vinegar which sets the dye in the fabric. I will do this a couple of times until I am confident there will be no color bleed and then that outfit goes into the basket with all the others. I continue to sort the clothes my husband and I wear by color – whites, darks, reds, and then misc middle colored clothes. Each child is responsible for their own sheets each week (they only have 1 set of sheets so that gets them to do it and actually get them back on the bed). Towels – well, some battles are not worth fighting! LOL. Would love to have the ability to hang the clothes outside, but it is against the rules of the neighborhood. BOOOO!

  34. Cynthia H says

    When I was living alone, I got a three-bin sorter for my bedroom. It takes a little more room, but all I have to do is grab a bag and run downstairs and do a load of laundry. Towels and sheets still need to be pulled, but they tend to be a load (or loads) of their own anyway.

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