As the new school year approaches, parents often make their own resolutions to get and keep their home organized—with a tornado of backpacks, lunchboxes, shoes and the like, a well-thought out plan can quickly turn your home into a disaster zone. We reached out to a couple of professional organizers to see how they recommend to not only keep the clutter at bay but how they personally hack their way to a clean and organized house, once and for all.
Do: Resist Spontaneous Purchases
Don't: Bring new items in without dealing with your clutter first.
Tidy people don’t constantly bring new things into the home, they exert control over their existing clutter first. To channel a new, organized and tidy person, “Limit volume to begin with, “ says, Shira Gill of Shira Gill Home, noting this is her number one rule. “And this one doesn't cost you a dime. Just press pause on purchases.” Sticking with this crucial rule will not only help with subsequent steps to keeping a tidy home but this tip also ensure your home remains clutter-free.
When it does come to purchases, use the "One item in, one item out" rule. Before anyone in the family is allowed to bring in a new toy, new book or the like into the house, they need to add something that is no longer played with or read, to the donation pile. This will help keep tidying up to a minimum and keep clutter at bay.
Do: Designate a Place for Everything
Don't: Just put things down in a catch-all spot to deal with it later.
Tidy people tidy up by put their things away, says Gill. This is another crucial “do” in her book, and it begins with having a designated spot for everything. This simple system starts with creating a go-to hook, nook or closet for everything from shoes to backpacks, keys, the dog leash, jackets and mail. Gill says once everyone in the family knows where their belongings are supposed to go, it takes nearly the same amount of time to put the stuff away than it does to toss them mindlessly.
Tracy Spitzer, owner and professional organizer of NYC-based UNSTUFF NYC goes one step further to guaranteeing a tidy home by labeling everything—but to think beyond the label maker. "Have kids write their own labels. For example, they can write their names on stickers above their backpack hooks. For younger kids, use clip art or print logos—you'd be surprised how early kids can recognize brand names like LEGOS—and tape them to the containers. Or if you use a picture of a pencil on a bin or a photo of Barbie, everyone can easily put their things away. No excuses!"
Do: Clean in Just Five Minutes
Don't: Spend hours putting things away.
Tidy people keep a clean and organized house with this in-the-know organization hack—by attacking messes in five to 15-minute bursts. Rather than declare Saturday morning as a clean-up session, consider introducing smaller, manageable tidy sessions throughout other key transitional periods of the day, such as before and after dinner and before bedtime.
Do: Come Home to a Clean House
Don't: Leave the house in disarray.
How does one professional organizer manage to keep a house clean? About five minutes before it’s time for her kids to leave for school each morning, Gill asks everyone to put their dishes, LEGO or art supplies away. This little time investment has a huge overall impact on clutter she says, and this way they never come home to a messy house.
Do: End with a Treat
Don’t: Threaten reluctant organizers.
The old saying, "You catch more bees with honey" applies to kids when you need them to tackle some not-so-fun chores. So why not entice those little busy bodies with ice cream? Gill suggests the cheerful tone of a preschool teacher to present the news that it’s time to clean up. Try it like this: “Let’s hurry up and get this done so we can go have ice cream.” Kids love ice cream, but the cherry on top for parents is a clean, clutter-free and organized home.