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3 Most Common Mistakes: Dealing with Clutter. Expert help for organizing your home, on Babble.com.

What are the three most common mistakes parents make when it comes to dealing with their family’s clutter?

Expert: Lorie Marrero professional organizer, founder of The Clutter Diet and author of The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life.

1. Unpremeditated cleaning.

People will say, “I want to organize this closet or this laundry room.” Then they just jump in. Their mistake is not thinking the project through first.

Before you start, you need to ask yourself, “How is this space used? Who is using this space? What are we trying to do in here? What are the major functions of this room and how can we include those in the space? Can we make a zone for each of those different functions?” In a laundry room, for example, the functions would be washing and drying, folding and ironing. You need to think about and plan for how each function will fit into the space so that when you’re finished the project, the space isn’t just clean, it’s organized for living.

With parents in particular, they often fail to think about their kids and how the kids might be interacting in that space. Do you need to put certain things up higher to keep them out of the kids’ reach? Do you need to put other things down lower so kids will be able to reach them? What can kids do to help in this room? For example if it is a laundry room, make sure kids are able to reach the shelf where their things are stored so that they can grab them and put them away.

2. Failing to see all of your storage options.

In many homes there are “hidden” storage spaces. One of the things we say all of the time is “Go vertical.” You need to look at your space in a different way. If you have a bare wall, why don’t you have shelves on that wall? If you have a closet with existing shelves, do you have the maximum number of shelves that you could have in there? Could you put an extra shelf up top? Stretch it as far as it goes. Go all the way to the ceiling!

3. Allowing the toys to take over.

First of all, when it comes to toys, people over-purchase. People have just an excess of toys. I remember growing up; we would only get toys on our birthday and Christmas. Now, many kids just expect that they’re going to have new toys whenever they want them. When we work with our clients we see this a lot. If there’s scarcity, people tend to appreciate things more. One of the ways to create some scarcity is to rotate the toys. You can take a bunch of the toys and put them on a high shelf somewhere in a box. Every few months, take those boxed toys down. Rotate them in and take some others out. Making the toy choices more limited not only helps the play area stay less cluttered, it also helps the kids feel better about their space. It makes them feel more appreciative of what they have and helps them to not feel so overwhelmed by all of the choices.

We also find that the toys don’t usually stay in the designated area, so we recommend putting a basket in every room where the kids play a lot. For example, if you have a kitchen area where they like to hang out with mom, have a basket near the door in that room. That way, you can easily gather those toys up and toss them in that basket. Then at some later point, like once a week, take all of those baskets and put them back in the central toy area.

Really, the benefit of organizing is that it smoothes the way for you to be able to go and do all of those things that you want to do with your life, instead of having your belongings slow you down.

Interview by Lindsay Armstrong

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