25 Practical Tips To Help You Get Organized

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It’s time to get organized! Here are 25 easy practical and specific tips to help you start getting organized and to make organizing as easy as possible!
25 Practical Tips To Help You Get Organized


25 Practical Tips To Help You Get Organized

If you missed Get Organized Part 1, you can find it here.

One of the main excuses we use to avoid getting organized is that we don’t know where to start. We can become so overwhelmed that it can actually paralyze us mentally so that we can’t figure out what to do. I was at that point myself the day after Christmas this year. Boy did I have a mess, plus my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was really bad. I was caught in a vicious cycle. I was too sick to clean, but sitting in a mess was making me worse and I was desperate to get organized.

Finally, I decided I needed to practice what I preached and, using sheer grit, I made up my mind to start to get organized by just cleaning off just my fireplace mantle. While I was doing that, I noticed some other things in other areas that I didn’t want to forget to box up, so I started gathering those things together. Then I figured I might as well bring in the boxes for the things I had just gathered. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had cleared most of my living room.

Just find one small area to get organized and start working on it. You usually feel so good just getting that one area done that you become motivated to do a little more and then a little more. It doesn’t matter what area it is in life. Whether it is dealing with debt, losing weight, getting organized or something else, stop looking at the whole picture. I’m not saying that you should live in denial, but when it’s time to get the job done, you’ll just get overwhelmed if you keep looking at the whole picture. Pick one small area and work on it. Once you have mastered it, then you can move on to the next one.

Instead of saying I’m going to clean all the closets in the house, just decide to clean one closet or if it is really bad, decide to do just one shelf in that closet. The same goes for the kitchen or any room. Start with one shelf at a time.

It would be impossible to cover everything about how to get organized in just one article, but here are some tips to help you get started. These ideas aren’t in any particular order and some are short tips and others are longer. I hope they help you.

General Points to Get Organized:

  • If you are sick or are having trouble getting motivated to get organized, try my 5 minute trick. I make myself get up and clean during the 5 minute commercial on TV. For example, I try to bring in the laundry off of the line, wash my dishes or pick up a room. That way, when I’m not feeling good I don’t overdo it but, at the same time, I feel like I am accomplishing something.
  • Start organizing the easiest area to clean or the area that is bugging you the most.
  • Work quickly. Don’t pick up that cute snowman your child drew and ooh and ahh over it for 10 minutes trying to decide what to do with it. Either toss it or put it in the “memories” box.
  • Have boxes and trash bags ready to use. I designate boxes for “items to give away”, “things to pack”, “things that go in another room” and “trash”. Once you have filled a box or trash bag, set it outside of the room. This makes it easier to see what still needs to be sorted, gives you more space in the room to work and gives you the feeling that your are getting somewhere.
  • When you first start to get organized, do a quick once over in the room. Quickly go through and pick up all obvious trash and take out very large items that don’t belong there.
25 Practical Tips To Help You Get Organized

Quick Ideas to Give Your Organizing a Jump Start:

  • Make your bed. (2 minutes) Don’t assume that this will take too long. Some people spend more time trying to decide what to eat at a restaurant than it takes to make a bed.
  • Wash dishes and clean counters (depending on the level of the mess, 15 minutes to an hour)
  • Designate a spot for keys, purse, backpacks, shoes and coats.
  • Clear off the dining room table. If it is really bad, clear off the easy stuff and put the rest in a box to sort later while you’re watching TV.
  • Quickly go through the house and pick up all items of clothing. Hang them up or put them in the hamper.
  • With a trash bag, go through the house and pick up obvious trash.

You’ll probably be surprised to see how much difference toward getting organized it makes just getting the trash and clothes picked up… You should be able to do all the above things easily in a couple of hours on the first day. Then make sure you keep doing them each day. If you did a good job the first day, it should only take you about 15-20 minutes each day after that to keep it picked up.

cleaning and organizing the bathroom

Deep Cleaning or Organizing

  • Start organizing one shelf or closet at a time. Don’t flit from one room or closet to the next.
  • The main idea here is to purge! Get rid of it. Toss it out. Call it whatever you like. Just stop holding on to this stuff.
  • If it is not adding to or making your life easier, get rid of it.
  • If it is ugly and doesn’t work, toss it. (No I’m not talking about your husbands… now ladies we must be good ;-).
  • If you don’t use it or if it was the wrong thing or the wrong color, throw it out, sell it or give it away. I don’t care how much you originally paid for it. Why are you keeping it — to punish yourself for making a mistake?
  • Don’t use the excuse that “It will take too long to get organized now, so I will do it later.” I was waiting for something to cook on the stove the other day and, once again, noticed that my spice shelf was a mess. I thought, “I really need to clean that,” but my very next thought was “No, it will take too long.” Then this little voice said, “You know, you can have it done before your sauce is finished cooking.” Don’t you just hate it when you hear those voices like that?! Sure enough, it only took me about 3 minutes to do it.

Find out where your “mess spots” are, think about why they are that way and find ways to change them. (I know with some of you, your whole house may be the trouble spot! :-)

Here are some examples of how to get organized and stay that way:

  • I kept piling Kleenex, small bits of paper and other trash on the corner of my dresser. It drove me crazy. Why did I keep doing that? Because that was where I stood to empty out my pants pockets before I tossed them into the clothes hamper. The solution: I put a small trash can on the floor by that spot so I could easily drop everything into the trash can instead of the dresser.
  • Do you always have trash overflowing around the kitchen trash can? Start emptying it twice a day instead of once a day or buy a larger can.
  • Are you usually frustrated about stepping over mounds of clothes each time you walk into the bathroom? Make it a rule that no one can get dressed or undressed in the bathroom. Buy everyone robes. Get undressed in the bedroom, put on your robe, walk to the bathroom, shower, put on robe and go back to the bedroom to get dressed. This is also a great way to free up bathroom time in the morning if everyone has to share a bathroom.
  • Do you have a cabinet in your kitchen that starts an avalanche every time you open the door? Ask yourself these questions: Do I really need everything that is in this cabinet? Could I get by with 15 plastic cups instead of 35. Could part or all of what is in this cabinet be put someplace else? I keep all of my mugs on one shelf. In some homes, I haven’t had room to do that, so I would keep 8 mugs that I used virtually every day on that shelf and then put the extra mugs in a less accessible place. Then I didn’t have to fight 15 mugs falling all over each time I opened the cabinet.
  • Organize any cabinet this way. If your canned goods keep falling all over, try storing only 4 cans on the one shelf and putting the rest in another place, like a higher cabinet, another room or the garage.
  • This applies to organizing other rooms besides the kitchen. My bathroom doesn’t have much storage space, so I keep all my extra toiletries for the bathroom in a basket in my bedroom closet and keep only the item I am using now on my bathroom shelf.
  • Use the same method for organizing linens and clothes. If you don’t have a linen closet, store extra linens or guest linens in a guest room or spare bedroom. Also, store the sheets in the bedroom where they will be used.

Read Getting Organized Part 3
Clothes, Laundry and Toys


For more helpful tips to get organized and making cleaning and laundry easier, take a look at our Keeping It Clean e-books.



  1. Lori McGarrity says

    Before I even saw this part at the end where you can leave a comment I was going to find a way to write you. I am so thrilled I have found your site. I’ve been a subscriber of your newsletter for a couple of years but when I switched email accounts I (stupidly) didn’t make sure I changed my address for your newsletter. Now recently I have been making myself take the time to actually go further and read things at your actual website. I am so thrilled because to me, you have taken the best out of the two very popular other websites which I am sure you are familiar with and that I always loved and enjoyed very much, one being “Debt Proof Living”, formerly “Cheapskate” and the other is “Flylady”. I will not bother to spend valuable time at either one of those sites any longer because I find yours much more superior in many ways. Thank you so much to take the time and energy to keep this site and newsletter up to date as you do. Very, very fondly, Lori McGarrity, Hopewell, VA

    • says

      Lori, you made my day. I was in Colorado with no Internet but Tawra called and read me your e mail. We appreciate not only yours but so many of the other sweet comments we get from our readers. We are like anyone else and do enjoy a little encouragement. Thanks again.

  2. Bea says

    There is so much common sense in this article. I think when people get ready to move, and have to sort through all their “stuff,” they see, for maybe the first time in years, just how much they have stored in their closets, etc. It is eye opening. I know from personal experience that when I had to pack to move I saw many things I even forgot I had, and should have gotten rid of years ago. It makes more sense to periodically go through closets and storage areas to get rid of things, before it’s time to move. Then it becomes a big job and overwhelming, if you wait to the last minute.

  3. says

    I am getting things done now that I have wanted to for years. It is costing money but nothing that will break the bank.
    I told my husband that the door liner on my fridge was cracked and we should order a new one. We were out anyway so he hummed and hawed as we drove to the hardware store. I went to the section and was asking how much a liner would be. Don was at the fridge section looking at new fridges. My fridge was 12 years old when we bought it 12 years ago and was an energy hog. So now in 2 weeks I will have an energy efficient side by side white fridge that has in it what I want. Only 2 drawers that have glass so I can see what is dieing in the crisper and hopefully use it before it has to be buried. The freezer has lots of shelves so I don’t squash the bread under the turkey. I get to arrange the shelves so they are better for my storage needs. I did not want the ice maker and water dispenser since my sink is across the kitchen from the fridge plus I can’t drink the town water anyway. That in itself was $1000 we don’t have to pay. Since they had none in stock they gave us the catalogue and we picked out the one we wanted so he is giving it to us at his cost since he doesn’t have to store it and try to sell it. That was another $500 we don’t pay.
    I will be able to get rid of the rug in the living room since I found a home improvement guy who will lay the flooring we have had sitting in the basement for the past 4 years and have not been able to lay ourselves for lots of reasons.
    So new organized fridge. No dirty rug to try and keep cat hair free and a nice new floor. Much less work and organizing will be fun.
    I also made a discovery. If your dishwasher does not clean the dishes as it should take the water throwing part off and see if it needs to be cleaned out. I did mine yesterday and it was clogged not with food bits but cat hair. It was horrible but today my dishwasher is cleaning my dishes so I don’t have to do them twice. Once in the machine and once in the sink.

  4. says

    5 just had to laugh at your comment that children LOVE organization. I was Born Organized and I keep a pretty clean house. I say pretty clean because I live with 7 other family members and I am CONSTANTLY having to pick up after them. I will even clean and organize their rooms and literally 2 days later you can’t even tell. They DON’T CARE about cleanliness or organization at all. They have been trained (for years)and I finally got fed up with standing over them or lording consequences over their heads. I have to clean my entire house every day. I will have a room spotless and in the morning you can’t even tell it was the night before. They leave things places right out int he open, to remind themselves to take those things with them the next day and then forget to look and walk out the door and then “I” have to put the stuff away. I am talking 25, 20, 19 yr olds here, not little kids. The older kids are as bad as my 3 yr old when it comes to making messes.

    There is only so much you can do when it comes to teaching your kids responsibility.

    I LOVE your site and am enjoying reading it. I just had to tell you how funny some comments are though, because kids HAVE TO WANT a clean house and HELP to keep a clean house otherwise we are just spinning our wheels. I am so sick and tired of cleaning I am burned out emotionally. I need a vacation.

    • Carol says

      My daughter had 5 room mates at one point, in a 3 br, 2ba townhouse. Galley kitchen and a nice size living room for three. Quite small for 5. She was so fed up with having to pick up after every one.

      I told her to get 4 boxes from a local liquor store (tall and narrow of equal size), write a name on each box and put them in the coat closet. If they leave anything on the floor or where ever, put it in their boxes. Shoes, sweatshirts, socks, fast food cups and wrappers, anything!

      Then when they can’t find something, tell them they have their very own “lost and found” box in the closet. Is that gross to find part of a soda and french fries in their shoes or on their favorite hoodie? Of course it is! How many times will it take this tactic to work? Just once!!!!

  5. Mari says

    Well after just reading both part 1 and part 2 of “Get Organised” I feel quite inspired to have a go myself and tackle those wardrobes of mine that are bulging with clothes that don’t fit and probably never will do now – my last attempt at getting organised was a bit of a flop, because I only threw a couple of things out – one of them being a very large carrier bag containing many years’ worth of family photographs which I thought I’d never look at again but, as soon as the trash wagon had been and collected, I desperately wanted back…..I could have kicked myself at throwing away such precious memories – and I still do to this day!!

  6. Barbara Frame-Love says

    Just found your site recently and love it. Am a Christian, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and niece (2 living aunts), cousin and handicapped gr grandmother of two and a third on the way. I am deeply into family genealogy and the old fashioned hand quilting (no sewing machine). My ‘clutter’ is mostly my fabric. Clutter clean-up began a few weeks ago when I started a Grammy’s Stitchery class for some of the young ladies in my neighborhood. Let each lady go through my stash and choose which fabric colors she wanted to work with. Only catch was, she had to organize my fabric by type, color and holiday…. Still have more to do but a new class will be starting soon!!!!!

    Have a safe God blessed 2011….

    • says

      Barbara, you might (and anyone else too) check out the web site on the 5th (Wed). I discovered a method for folding fabric which is so easy to do and makes my fabric stash and shelves look great and I will show you how to do that on Wed.
      I wasn’t sure if this method would last or not but 3 years later is still is working for me and I love looking at my stash now instead of feeling overwhelmed with a mess. Plus I have found a bonus using this method and that is I have room for twice as much fabric and you know for a sewer that is always so very wonderfulllllll!!!!!!!

  7. rose says

    i love how we keep inspiring each other to be the best that we can ..
    thanks for posting this article again ..
    yes i had de-cluttered my house to a point where i was happy but hten the holidays came and i worked more out of the home instead of staying home more (i know, thats not an excuse) .. and now i am having the clutter gnomes visit me again .. its not as bad as it was (not nearly as bad!) ..
    thanks for the reminder .. this week i will be tackling the clutter again (where does it come from is what i’d like to know!)… hehhehehe ..
    thanks again jill and tawra for posting this timely needed reminder 😀

  8. says

    Thanks so much! I already was inspired to clean out under my bathroom sink and have been working on other small areas. I appreciate that you are not unsympathetic toward those who have disabilities or limitations as I’ve had to deal with those myself and my sister-in-law has CFS also. It helps to have ideas of how to work inside of those difficulties.

    I am posting this on my blog. :-) It’s too helpful not to share!

  9. says

    I don’t think you can teach older children to pick up after themselves. I started teaching my kids to clean house as soon as they were crawling. As I crawled around dusting mopboards and chair legs they had their own dust cloths and were helping me. Peek-a-boo made it fun. As they grew older they had their own cleaning cloth to play in the bucket while we washed the floors. Later they stood on a chair at the kitchen sink and helped me wash dishes. Still later we had races to see who would get done first. When they were older we drew chores from a hat so we didn’t have to do the same thing all the time. I worked along with them, passing out stars, trips to the playground, plenty of time to build a snowman with them, read a book, etc. Making it fun, and helping them to be proud of themselves was the trick. Today they’re adults living in their own spotless homes. Me, I have some wonderful fun filled memories!

  10. Maggie says

    So,now it is Jan 3, 2012. I would love to see the fabric folding information. I have been telling my husband for over a year now that I will “clean-up” the sewing room and make it more organized. So far, all I have done is start new projects and still have many UFO’s. Any help that anyone can provide would be greatly appreciated. I am trying to move my sewing room to a different room and keep the current room a guest room for my grands. It was my daughter’s room that we redid with kids things but I have overwhelmed it with boxes and bags of sewing supplies. And since November, I have had a bum arm and cannot do all that I had planned. So, Jill and Tawra, please send me some good tips for getting this room tidy.

    • says

      Maggie I just saw the fabric folding post yesterday as I was looking for ideas so will post it tomorrow or Thursday for you. Keep your eyes peeled though because the next couple of weeks we will be posting organizing tips and things which can be used in all areas of the house. The basic principles apply for all the rooms. Although I must admit the fabric folding info changed my life when it came to my sewing room. I still after 2 years have it all folded. I surprised even myself and it makes me want to keep the rest of the room as orderly as a sewing room can be that is. :)

      One thing to get you started is start collecting clear plastic containers. I usually don’t buy any because I get so many in every day life. I have things like;

      large containers from a restaurant that their peppermints they sell come in. I keep my small scraps, laces, crochet and knitting needles in these.

      I love the containers that decorated cakes come in from the grocery store. I turn it up side down and use the bottom as a lid. Since I don’t buy these myself I beg borrow and steal for people I know.

      I use 2in sided flat boxes (with no lids) to lay my projects like quilt blocks or fat quarters in. You can get those in so many sizes for free from the grocery store and the stack really nice.

      One year after Christmas I found large hat boxes on sell for $.25 to store different things.

      I also love Xerox boxes with the lid that comes off for larger things. I paint them or cover them in wall paper, fabric etc. to look nice. You can paint most any box.

      Then I cut the lids off and angle the sides and spray paint cat litter boxes which I use to store all my books and magazines in.

      Maybe these will get you started.

  11. Maggie says

    Jill, I eagerly await your fabric info. I am determined to get my house decluttered in 2012. I will be cleaning out my bookcases and giving books to the library that I think I will never read. If I want them in the future, I will borrow them from there. Most likely, I won’t even remember what I gave them. I do pass along all my books after I have read them – to the library or to any friends who are interested. The rule is they have to give them to someone else. They are NEVER to be returned to me.
    So books and fabric. A viable goal for 2012. Whatever else gets done is a plus! Thanks Jill.

  12. donna b. says

    Hi Jill and Happy New Year!

    Happy to see you post about the sewing room, and seeing your note about fat quarters/quilt blocks, had a question. I decided I want to try quilting, and I’m working on getting my machine up and running again, but my question is, I’ve seen so many, special “quilt” feet for the machine and special machines. — Do I really need any of this stuff? I’m just a beginner and don’t want to spend anything I don’t have to.

    I used to be a really good sewer but will have to brush up, and this became a little overwhelming. I think my regular old machine will do?


    • says

      Yes Donna it will. I have a machine I am not too wild about now that has only about 6 stitches on it. It is straight and zigzag. I can’t even adjust the zigzag at all to make wider or closer together. It has less then most basic machines but that is all I have had to use now for about 15 years.
      I have never bought any of the new feet. I think they would be fun but you don’t have to have them. They made beautiful quilts for hundreds of years without any of the “cool” things we have now so I would start out slowly. Learn as much as you can first by watching quilting shows on TV or on youtube. You really don’t need classes especially if you have basic sewing down.

      I do have a cutting mat, rotary cutter and ruler which really come in handy but to be honest I didn’t have those for years and still made quilts. If you decide you do want to buy these things check out Jo Ann Fabrics if you have one. They have 50% off coupons all the time and every couple of months put their quilting notions on sale for 50% off. This is the time to buy them. I thought I had died and gone to heaven a few months ago. I went to the thrift store and there for $3 was a huge – bigger then the one most use. It normally can cost $60 or more. It was brand new. I was so excited.

      Well anyway yes any old machine will do. I don’t even buy too much fabric for my quilts either. I try to make do with fabric I have on hand. Also I use white sheets I don’t need any more for the backing and when I make baby quilts and things I use old flannel sheets for the batting.

      Holler if you have any other questions. Us quilters love talking about quilting.

      PS Don’t get to stressed with some of the things they teach. I almost stopped quilting because I was so stressed my seams weren’t going to be a perfect 1/4 of an inch and I wouldn’t press things right but I have learned to not worry about those things quite so much.

  13. Maggie says

    My sister and I quilt but she does many more projects than me and is much more accurate with seams and such. I took a class with a wonderful lady once who said that no one knew what my pattern was but me and as long as the seams stayed sewn, 1/4″ or 3/4″, it would still be beautiful. Most people aren’t looking at the seams, they are so thankful that you made it. I have very few extra things and only use a straight seam and a quilting foot on my 25 year old Kenmore that my sister gave me when she got a fancier machine. So, go to it. Scissors and cardboard patterns work well but just a few new things, a rotary cutter and plastic ruler will take less time. Please write and let us know how you are doing. As Jill says, us quilters are eager to help someone else. I have made 5 baby quilts and the babies do not know that this was your first quilt. Relax and enjoy. You will be so happy you tried this.

  14. barb~ says

    This was just the reminder I needed to start decluterring in the new year. Thanks Jill-what a great article with so many good ideas!!

  15. Maggie says

    Jill, I saw your note that you posted 2 articles on fabric folding/storage but for the life of me, I cannot find them on your website. Can you send me a link or tell me exactly where they are? Thanks.

  16. donna b. says

    Thanks Jill and Maggie.

    I guess I don’t understand what the “quilting” presser foot is for — I’ve been watching tutorials like crazy, but will continue. I love Jill’s idea about using old flannel for a batting, I think it may be better than the polyester stuff.

    My aunt took her father’s flannel shirts after he died and made herself a small quilt to cover her lap while sewing. She remembered every single shirt and it was so special to her.

    One of my daughter’s friends had breast cancer at 33 and all her friends took T-shirts from all the plays they had performed in together and made her a T-shirt quilt. She loved it. (and now she’s perfectly healthy and newly married! thank God!)

    I also love the prequilted fabric that’s in the stores, but that can get a bit pricey. I decided I’ll just give it my best shot — that’s all I have! LOL.

    I think quilting is such a special craft, and I love the idea of recycling fabric, so I’m cleaning up my machine this weekend! Wish me luck!

    • says

      Donna a quilting foot is used to machine quilt your quilt on a regular machine basically. You can tie your quilt with yarn or embroidery thread which goes much faster and is easier or you can hand quilt your quilts too. Since I don’t have a quilting foot and can’t afford to have someone else machine quilt mine I hand quilt all of mine but to me that is part of the fun of making a quilt is the quilting and because I love hand sewing more then machine sewing. When I first started quilting I thought you had to have these monster quilting frames set up in one room to quilt on but have since found out you can use large hoops (they look like big embroidery hoops) that just lay on my lap. I can then take it from room to room and it doesn’t take up much space at all. Some people don’t use hoops at all but I haven’t tried that yet.

  17. rose says

    yes tawra and jill .. thank u so much for this timely reminder to declutter .. i can not believe how much i have to go thru again .. granted most of it is in that one room that i have put the stuff in from the last 2 times i decluttered .. but i have really looked around and seen all this other stuff that has seemed to have accumulated .. from where? i have no clue..
    thanks for this reminder .. i appreciate it .. 😀

  18. Maggie says

    I hand-tie most of my quilts and find it is easier. I am not very good at quilting with a machine and have arthritis in my hands so can’t do much hand sewing. I just double the strands of embroidery floss and then just tie the layers of the quilt together with a small (1/4″ or less stitch and tie the ends on the top. Cut the strands about 1/4″ high and that is it. If you make the strands really long and sew multiple stitches, then cut them, it goes quicker. Babies love these little strands and play with them. If they come out when the quilt is washed, it is easy to restitch them. I recommend an Eleanor Burns quilt book (Log Cabin was my first quilt)and you will find you have a quilt before you know it. Check at the library or JoAnn’s for a discounted book. Also, Eleanor Burns has a website and always has sales of her books. EleanorBurns.com. Worth a look. But do check your library for beginning quilt books.

    • says

      Our PBS station has Eleanor Burns and Fons and Porter shows that are really helpful. I would check out the library first because different people like different teachers and that way you can get the feel of which ones you like the best. I bought The Quilters Complete Guide by Marianne Fons and Liz Porter, years ago and it is my quilting Bible. Eleanor Burns and they both started at the same time and are the most well known. Just recently on our PBS show of Fons and Porter (I think it is called the love of quilting) they have had the grown daughter of Marianne co host and she is a new quilter so they are going through all of the beginning quilting tips which has been really good. Another one on you tube I like is the Missouri Quilt Co. videos. They do show you how to make the quilts with packets of fabric but what I like about it is their quilts are simple and easy.

  19. donna b. says

    Thanks, all of you. I’ve been watching like crazy and hae raided my library.

    Jill, I too, Love Missouri Quilt co., their tutorials are so easy to follow, I like them alot.

    thanks for all the good advice from all of you — I’ve alredy found that people will give me fabric they won’t use so no expense so far. I’ll keep you posted, and I’m sure initial results won’t be so pretty, but I’ll keep trying. Just saw tutorial on T-shirt quilts that I LOVED.

    I wonder if you could use old sweat shirts the same way, they would make such a warm blanket.

    Thanks again, and Happy New Year to all of you!

  20. Brenda says

    I have been wanting to clean out all the closets, dressers, china buffet cabinet, etc. Yesterday I began. I chose the closet in the spare bed room because I needed to put my Christmas wrapping paper back away. AVALANCHE! I took everything out; including the hangers and the little packet of mouse poison and began my sorting. Instead of putting the wrapping paper rolls back in the floor of the closet, I got the step stool, some picture frame hangers & wire and made a sling to hang them from the ceiling and can just slide my paper in and out and they are easily visible. All in all, I found 5 outgrown kids winter coats, a large ice cream tub of winter mittens & hats that were too small, saved board games with missing pieces for “just in case” and countless other items that were either given to goodwill or thrown away. Everything now fits perfectly and I have room to walk in and look around.

    • says

      Brenda I was just getting ready to write another organizing article and one of my main points was sometimes we don’t really realize how many items we have and store that we don’t need and not really lack of space or even the time to keep things tidy but the fact we have too much stuff. I looked at a web site about getting organized and it had some good ideas but I think they were missing the point. They showed a cute way to organize pens and pencils the thing was they had 6 cans (about 4 in. in diameter) and they were packed with pencils. Do normal people really need a couple of hundred pencils sitting out on their desk? If you actually counted them that is how many there were. I saw an organizing show on how to store the kids toys and they were so proud that they had gotten rid of so many toys but they still had a whole bin with about 75 plus little cars in it. How many cars can one 5 year old play with in a day?

      Anyway I really enjoyed your post because it is exactly what I was trying to show on how to do it.

  21. Maggie says

    A friend’s mom decided she was going to begin knitting and gave me tons (I’d say at least 25 yds of fabric)that she no longer wanted. I wish I could share this with you. It is really nice and is very pretty. Jill, is there any way I can send some of this fabric to Donna? I know our emails are private but I would be glad to share. Otherwise, Donna, just get on Joanne’s mailing list. They send out lots of flyers with discounts for fabric. I got my fleece for my son’s birthday gift for 50% off. Saved me almost $35. Now, of course, I just have to make it. :)
    You will love your first quilt. Oh, check the county programs. Our county has several quilting classes and they are pretty reasonable in price. That’s how I made my first 2 quilts. Also, they sometimes give you discounts so when you purchase fabric it is at a discount.
    As for clutter, my sewing closet, winter clothes closet, wrapping paper closet if overflowing. This is one of my projects for this winter. I love the idea of hanging the paper from the ceiling. However, my closet is a part of the roof line so 1/2 is slanted to no room for a shelf. Tricky but something should work. Thanks everyone for all your tips.

    • says

      Maggie that wouldn’t be a problem if Donna oks it. The only thing you might have to check how much it would cost to mail. Fabric can be heavy and the price to ship it might be more then buying it. I’m like you though I have so much I wish I could share sometimes but distances just makes it hard. Won’t it be fun if we didn’t have to worry about postage and all our readers could get together and exchange with each other the things they didn’t need.
      I read a historical book not to long ago and it was describing in there how the first settlers would barter and exchange so many different things. If someone had and ax but another one didn’t but did have a shovel they would share both of those things back and forth. I think that is why they say in an emergency situation the best thing for survival is knowing your neighbor.

      Good tips though about the county classes. They are a little known resource for so many different classed.

  22. donna b. says

    I have no problem, with sharing my email, but I don’t want anyone spending to send me anything, it’s a very kind gesture, and I sincerely appreciate it. I have enough already to get started, so I’m fine.

    I’ll just bother you all with my incessant questions – LOL. Maggie, perhaps you could share with someone close to you, you said your sister quilts more than you (or is my suspicion correct that she has lots of fabric stored also!LOL)

    Thanks so much, sometimes the distance makes it prohibitive to share. Sharing your knowledge is a gift I treasure.

  23. Grandma says

    I am giving up organizing for a while.
    Started to work on a shelf in the basement and dropped 12 cans of tomatoe sauce on the floor and spent time digging it out from under the oil tank.
    Got the shelf done then picked up the bag of potatoes that had about 25lbs left in it and the bag ripped as I was going up the stairs to put them with the others and 25lbs of potaoes rolled down the stairs and you guessed it under the oil tank. So that took more time to pick up.
    But under the oil tank is now dust free. Mind you I was covered.
    So I will sit at the computer and work on my advice blog.
    Organize a different day or at least a different area of the house.

    • says

      I feel your pain Grandma. I have had a few days like that recently too. I have in my old age :) learned like you are doing to just change gears and try something different. Then there are the days like this past Monday where I went out and my car was leaking something like crazy, came in and went to the basement and my hot water heater is dead and went to use my computer and couldn’t get it to work. I decided to take a deep breath and was so glad I now have a good mechanic to look at my car, the money to pay for a new hot water heater and maybe I should take a day off from using the computer and rest anyway so rest I did.

  24. Maggie says

    Grandma, You really made me laugh. We’ve all had days like that. My mom used to say that things happen in 3’s so when I have dropped the 3rd thing of the day or the 3rd accident has happened, I just change gears. Good plan for you too.
    Donna, Jill is welcome to send you my email and you can ask me anything you want about quilting. As for fabric stashes, I’m blaming my sister for lots of my fabric. She has been cutting her large pieces into 5″ squares and 2 1/2″ stips and sending me some of them. So, she is overflowing, too. I am located in Arlington, VA, so if you are close to me, I can send you bits and pieces. My sister and I used to swap 6″ squares and for a postage stamp could send 3 squares. If you are not interested, though, it is okay. My sister lives in AZ so she is not close. Good luck with your first quilt and feel free to email me anytime.

    • says

      Margie – duhh!!! a swatch swap is a great idea that would really work great. Where was my brain. Donna these are were quilters send each other packets of squares to exchange to make a certain quilt or give more variety to their stash.

  25. says

    How long and how much of your childrens mother days cards should you keep.
    How many badges for reading and spelling do you need to remind you your children had brains.
    How many report cards do you keep to let you know your children’s teachers did not always find your children the little einsteins you always knew they were.
    In other words how do you know what to trash and what to keep.
    I have a few of their small stuffed animals that I am keeping but the other stuff has no real emotional attachment to me but I always here other mothers saying what they have saved and I guess I feel guilty that stuff doesn’t cause me tears to get rid of it.
    I have the memories in my head.
    The boys don’t want it so would I be wrong in getting rid of it to the recyler?
    I think 90% will go just sort of wondering if others save it because it is sentimental or toss it because they have no attachment to the stuff.

    • says

      Grandma most moms ask this same thing. At my age I look at these things and can’t remember what child did them ans what they even are so I think what in the world am I keeping them for? One way to help keep them under control is I choose 1 box for each child and then fill it with only the really important things. Even things like Mother’s days cards I will try to weed out – keeping certain ones (like maybe one the spent hours making for me) and getting rid of some (like the ones they ran to the store and grabbed because they forgot it was Mother’s Day :).

      The things we keep are for our own personal memories and if I forget I even have them or don’t look at them what am I keeping them for? I do save a few (very few) things of my kids like a favorite bear or doll and when they were married and had kids I give it to them. They can then decide if they want them or want to toss them.

      It is to much to go into here but sometimes when people keep an excessive amount of memories it is because there is something missing emotionally in their lives. Now this isn’t always true but it does happen often.

      Once again keep a box or two and get rid of the rest. You are right on target Grandma, you really don’t need to keep all those things to remind you that your children have brains. I would say toss it. I had to do this about 15 years ago when I was making a long move and I haven’t missed it or thought of it since so I say go for it.

      For anyone who needs more help on this I go into great detail in our Keepin it Clean e books and we have many other organizing articles which talk about this on the web site too.

  26. says

    Jill we are sorting through lots of stuff and getting rid of much of it.
    I have just found another construction size garbage bag full of sheets for beds we don’t even have. We have a queen for us and a double fouton for company but since our company comes in summer and the house is so small we go camping.
    I have 6 comforters of all sizes and colours so they are going as well.
    We are trying to do this quickly since the last of Jan and the first of Feb. we are going out of town for drs. appointments which require us to be gone for 2 days. The neighbour is going to come in and paint the entire downstairs for us. Using oil paint so it seems like a good time to get rid of my junk and let someone else claim it as gold.
    I want the house to look good so that it will look like someone who actually knows how to do housecleaning lives here.
    Don is finally on board so doesn’t mind taking boxes over to the trift store. This next trip will practically fill in the space between between the bench seat and our front seats.
    I can actually see the back of shelves in the basement now so that is spurring me on.
    Just glad I don’t have an attic to store stuff in or I think I would move without half trying to get it down.
    thanks for saying others go through the memory stuff with the same question. got it down to 4 stuffed animals and pictures that fit into a small box.
    yippy for me. Now to seal the bag so I don’t get a chance for 2nd thoughts.

    • says

      Too funny.You are right in sealing that bag quickly. I have kicked myself because I have let them sit too long before I take them to the thrift store and then I find myself grabbing something out of it. I think what am I doing!!!!

      Boy it sounds like you are on a roll. You and Rose are putting me to shame I really need to do a little purging myself. There is nothing that spurs you on more and makes you feel so good as seeing those empty shelves or bottom of closets. I always tell everyone just start or try one shelf or area and it is amazing how seeing that one little section clean can motivate you to do more.

      Keep up the good work and enjoy your new paint job when you get home. I was thinking last night I have the paint so now I have to really get the umption to paint my house. It will be a job but it needs to be done.


  27. says

    Well it looks like I will have to put up with the smell of oil paint.
    Don does not feel comfortable leaving the house key for unsupervised entry.
    We are hunters and target shooters so we have those locked in cabinets as is the law but we don’t feel comfortable with people access to them even then.
    So Don will take his week of holidays and we will be in the house. We will still go to the city for 2 days but the painting won’t be done then.
    If the smell is too much we will pack the cats and go to a motel here in town overnight.
    So the sorting will still be done at my top speed but if it doesn’t get done I can work on it while he paints.
    Good plan since it makes Don happier. And a lot less worried.
    Got rid of another 2 boxes this morning.

  28. says

    I love your organizing ideas. They are just the thing I need to kick-start 2013. I have a suggestion for organizing your closet. If you come to items that you’re not sure about, or if you *think* you’ve already removed everything you want to part with, try this: turn all your hangers so that they face the same direction. Then, when replacing an item in the closet after it’s been worn and laundered, face the hanger in the other direction. On January 1 of the next year, dispose of all garments whose hangers still face the original direction, since you haven’t worn that item in a whole year!

    This is my second year using this method and it works great….if I see a hanger facing the wrong way, I’m prompted to wear that item if I know I don’t want to get rid of it – if I try to wear it but it doesn’t fit/doesn’t suit, out it goes!

  29. heidi says

    I really only need two sets of sheets for each bed, although I try to get the sheets washed, dried and put away the same day I take them off. No one in our house is allowed to strip their beds on bad weather days when I can’t hang out the sheets to dry :)One set for each bed is probably sufficient, but I like to be prepared for emergencies.
    I am not a sentimental saver, but I use the same idea as mentioned for toy storage for saving mementos. As a homeschool mom of nine, we could literally be covered over in saved school work. I have a file folder for each child for each yr of high school. One file folder for each child for ALL their elementary yrs. (when is the last time you looked at your 4th grade report card??)Take pictures of the amazing school projects and throw the paper mache volcano out,lol!
    Each young child has a treasure box, about the size of a large shoe box. He may keep whatever “treasures” he can fit in his box.

  30. Janice Prosterman says

    A great article! Thank-you!
    Here are a few hints that have helped me when I had such a mess that I did not know where to start. Just look around the room or area and see if there is just one item that you know what to do with such as put away or throw away. It could be something as simple as putting away an empty plastic bag. As the article said, do not look at the whole room or area or one will feel defeated before even beginning.

    This is a strange hint but it is amazing that it works for me. When I need to leave a room to go do something else or to go to bed, it seems like I keep finding things that I can easily take care of. Maybe the reason this works for me is that I know that I can not stay long there and do not feel the pressure to stay until the clean-up is done.

  31. Sue says

    As usual, your tips are extremely helpful. You always come up with great solutions. I might add that if, at end of three to six months you have not needed the extra mugs, canned goods, etc, then have a garage sale or donate to the food bank or your church thrift shop. A win, win situation that you can use as a tax write off as long as you get a receipt.

    Thanks again!!

  32. Mary Jane says

    I just wanted to share with “my people” on this website a small, but very satisfying victory that I had this week. I am not a hoarder, but I do have a vast collection of yarn, wool, and wool to be spun. I am especially tempted to buy more when it shows up for a bargain at second hand stores and garage sales. I am a knitter and crocheter, and love the challenge of the “make do” mentality as it applies to using yarn, in the same way that a quilter will use what fabric is available and rely on an element of surprise in the finished product. The Lord has been working on me in the area of “enough” in my life. Enough clothes, enough stores for a rainy day, enough food, and yes, even enough yarn in the stash. We were in the thrift shop this week, and someone had donated four very large boxes of commercial size cones of various yarns, like the kind used for weavers, or knitting machines. I knew that I could make an offer, and walk away with the whole thing, which would still be an economic bargain, but I remembered my lessons on enough. Despite the enormous temptation, I walked away. At first, I wondered if I had made a mistake, but by the end of the day, I was very pleased with my decision. More stuff (beyond being prudent) just adds to my stress, using space, time, and effort to store. As well, there is a kind of persistent pressure to put it all to good use and soon. Your article on organization rang a true note for me, and confirmed the wisdom of my decision this week. Happy New Year to all of you.

    • says

      Way to go Mary Jane. Truly I am serious because I know how tempting that can be myself.I always think I can use it for something. Do you spin wool?I have always wanted to do that. There are no real places here that teach how to do it or anything. I’m afraid too it might be expensive like many hobbies so can’t quite justify the expense I’m afraid too. Anyway good job on walking away. Each time it will get a little easier.Happy New Year to you too.

  33. Mary Jane says

    Hi, Jill. I have spun wool and love to do it, but I first learned on a simple hand spindle that you can make or buy inexpensively. (Buy for under $20, and make for under $10.) It is basically a dowel, with a pointed end and a wheel or disk mounted on it, and a hook of some kind on the top. You can google hand spindles, and you should be able to find something on them. We were able to buy a second hand treadle powered spinning wheel about fifteen years ago, and I am simply self taught on using that, but again, there must be help on the internet. I am not great at it, but it is truly something that I love, is stress relieving, and I get too little time to do. It is a little like making bread…after awhile, you get to know what you are doing more by “feel”, than anything else. Fibre to spin can be bought pretty much any where spinning supplies are sold. I learned by first attaching regular knitting yarn to the spinning wheel, spinning the wheel backwards, and watching the yarn “un-ply” itself, to get the drift of what was really happening on the wheel. There are lots of books out there to help too, but like most things, it is take a chance, and practice, practice, practice. I recommend you buy or make a hand spindle, with directions and a bit of fiber. This should let you know if you really want to invest any more in the idea.

    • says

      Thanks Mary Jane. I have seen the hand spindles and have been watching and checking out the internet and such on it. I just have not had a chance to talk to a live person who has done it so was curious. You kind of reinforced what I was thinking and that is to start small and slow and practice a lot.

  34. Mary Jane says

    Jill, I forgot to mention that one of the perks of being able to spin, (and why it was hard to pass up the yarn in the thrift store) is that odd balls of regular yarn, can be plied together on a spinning wheel (or even a spindle) to make a new marled yarn. For instance, 2 balls of white yarn, plied with 2 balls of black yarn will give you close to 4 balls of a salt and pepper, marled yarn. You can see the appeal for a make do and mend kind of person.

  35. may says

    Thanks for all the informations, it helps me to go through everytime when I have life problems. Happy New Year. ~May

  36. Magdalen says

    For the wedding of her best friend, my daughter organised a patchwork quilt, to which quite a lot of people contributed. One patch, showing a cup and saucer, said “Let’s have a cuppa” Another showed little figures involved in a coast to coast cycle which she did with a few friends. Another reflected the bridegroom’s passion for cricket and my own showed some embroidered bluebells because there were a lot growing at Bangor. The central panel showed an panel embroidered, in her youth, by the bride’s grandmother.I don’t doubt, they’ll treasure it all their days.


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