Whether you cook every day or only occasionally, the kitchen is the hub of most households. When your kitchen is well organized, the entire house functions more efficiently. Streamlining your kitchen is a time investment that will yield an excellent return. Here is a simple four step process to declutter and organize any kitchen.
Step 1: Clean out your cabinets, pantry and drawers.
You don’t have to do this in one fell swoop, you can break this step into smaller ones. Begin by creating as much open surface area as possible, you will use this space for sorting.
As you create the open surface area remove anything that clearly does not belong in the kitchen. Perhaps there are toys, tools, or books. The kitchen is often the landing place for items that belong elsewhere. It’s positively uncanny how this room seems to attract all kinds of non-kitchen stuff (some of my clients wonder if there isn’t a magnetic force field in play).
To keep counter clutter in check, you can put designate a container to collect all the miscellaneous items that tend to land on counters. Then schedule five minutes once a week to re-home those items. This will help eliminate all that visual clutter. I use a basket that coordinates with my kitchen decor, so it looks like it belongs.
Now you are ready to remove everything from your cabinets, drawers and pantry. As you remove things, start sorting the items into categories, grouping like items together.
Step 2: Cull, and purge the excess.
As you group things together you will be able to see exactly what you have. Let go of the things that you have not used in the last six months and don’t have a concrete plan for using in the next six.
Typical unused items in a kitchen might be bread-making machines, specialty baking pans, rotisseries or deep fryers. If one of these items was a gift and you thanked the giver, you have no further obligation to the item, let it go. If you bought the item yourself and haven’t used it, don’t berate yourself up for a bad purchase. Absorb the lesson, realize good intentions sometimes don’t go as planned and let the item go.
If you have multiples, and people so often do, choose the best of the bunch and let the others go. There is no point in owning six vegetable peelers. Multiples take up valuable space and make finding just what you need more difficult. If you have to sort through a crowded drawer to find the one peeler you wanted, you will waste time, become frustrated and possibly injure yourself (I have seen it happen). Two of an item is generally the maximum any household needs. You should be able to look in a drawer or cabinet and not be overwhelmed with visual stimuli, you should be able to clearly see each item. Keep only the items you need and use.
Step 3: Rethink where things should go.
Make ease of access the driving criteria. Think about how you use your kitchen. Store frequently used objects in easy-to-reach locations (e.g., keep coffee mugs above the coffee pot). Items used less frequently, such as roasting pans, should be stored on a high shelf or in the back of a cabinet. Items that are used less than once or twice a year can be stored outside the kitchen and should be if space is an issue. Overcrowding your cabinets and drawers is a sure fire method for attracting frustration.
Take advantage of the kitchen triangle. It’s the triangular area you can create from your sink to your refrigerator, and from your refrigerator to your stove. It is the most valuable space in your kitchen. Think of it as prime culinary real estate. Within this triangle you should keep the items you use on a daily basis for food preparation and cooking.
Take your family’s special needs into account. If you make sandwiches regularly, consider putting a small tote bin in the refrigerator to hold all the condiments you normally use, instead of storing them in the door as is common. You will be able to grab the bin in one quick move, sparing yourself the where’s the mustard question.
Step 4: Adopt the ETE habit.
ETE stand for Eliminate the Evidence. It’s a habit worth embracing. ETE simply means you pick up and/or put away as you go. Don’t wait until later. If you make a sandwich – put away the fixings and wipe down the counter. Then eat your sandwich, put you plate in the dishwasher, and no one will know you were even in the kitchen.
ETE can help you keep the rest of the house under control too. If you just pick up an put away as you go, you will never have to endure a marathon cleaning session again.
Like all new habits it will take some effort to integrate into daily life, but when you see the results you will wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.
*Photo credit: Kyle Smith
Do you wish you could be more organized? Do you feel like it takes too much time to get organized? If you answered yes, you have loads of company. It’s a universal issue – people want to get organized, but don’t really think they can unless they spend hours doing it. I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but if you think the same way you’re misguided. You can get organized quickly, and you can do it right now. Seriously, you can. Here are four ways to be get organized fast. (Prefer to watch instead of read? You can find the video version here on YouTube).
Create A Launching Pad
This means choosing a single location to hold the things you need to grab when you leave the house. Maybe it’s just your keys. Maybe it’s more. For me it’s my purse, cell phone, keys and sunglasses. When I come into the house, I place those four items in a basket by the door. I don’t even have to think about it because it’s now a habit. What’s better, I never have to search out those items and that is a huge time saver. If I know I need to take something more with me, I place it in the basket as soon as I think of it. Sometimes it’s an item that needs to be returned, sometimes it’s a coupon I want to use. You know that nagging feeling that you are forgetting something when you leave the house? Having a launching pad stops that cold.
Contain Your Paper
Choose a single collection point for all incoming paper – do this and you’ll never have to spend time looking for stray papers. All paper, no matter the source, should land here. Choose a location that is convenient and feels natural. Work with any habit you already have in place. For example, if papers normally land on your kitchen counter, you should choose to dedicate a section of the counter to paper. Once you’ve chosen the location, add a container – this is crucial because containerizing is what stops paper from overtaking surfaces and getting lost in the shuffle.
Eliminate The Evidence
This another way of saying clean and clear as you go. If you take something out, put it away as soon as you are done with it. This applies to all the ‘things’ in your life. Clothes, food, crafts, books – whatever it is put it back where it belongs as soon as you are done using it. It’s simple and straight forward. And it saves loads of time in the long run. Imagine how much more orderly your home would stay if everyone in your household practiced just this one principle. Don’t worry about your current condition, you can start this process right now and it will make a huge difference.
Stage Your Tomorrow
Get your family in the habit of laying out their clothes for next day the night before. This means having shoes and outerwear are all set, as well as the actual outfit. This will save frantic searches for a missing articles, like shoes and mittens. Also, have everyone gather the stuff that needs to leave the house with them. This means backpacks get packed and sports paraphernalia gets gathered. Cell phones, briefcases, purses and keys are ready to launch too – you set up a launching pad, right? This practice of thinking about what the next holds means you can prepare in a deliberate way and you’ll go off to bed with peace of mind.
None of these suggestions require big blocks of time and you don’t have to do anything before you can start implementing them. Even if you choose just one to follow you will be more organized. Here’s a warning – if you use all four you might just find yourself with some unexpected free time!
If clutter has you down, consider checking out The Clutter Challenge – a free program to help you get clutter under control in just 10 minutes a week (really).
The holidays are upon us – Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve – they are just about here. But it’s not too late to take action and make this year the best holiday season yet. Here are four things you can do right now to reduce stress and create family harmony.
The holidays, especially Christmas, can bring on stress. So here are five super simple things you can do to reduce stress and be more relaxed this season. Nothing fancy, just good common sense reminders, because it’s so easy to forget to practice these ideas these when the normal hustle and bustle turns to frenzy.
Warning! We are about to enter the high stress zone – the holidays. And there is no detour – we just have to power on through.
What’s weird is this – it’s also supposed to be the most wonderful time of year – magical and all that jazz. There should be time to relax and enjoy some downtime. At least that’s the theory. But with all the expectations this time of the year brings, finding even an inkling of balance can become way more challenging than normal. As those demands for our time and energy increase, it’s quite easy to find ourselves saying yes one minute, and seriously regretting it the next.
It’s especially true for us women. We’re are hard wired to please (how lucky are we?). We hate to disappoint (again we are just so blessed – not!). But it isn’t wise, and it’s definitely not healthy, to say yes to every request. Too many yeses will send you to the land of resentment. And that’s not a pretty place to visit, as a matter of fact it’s downright ugly – the ‘avert your eyes, mama’s come unhinged, and their ain’t no cure in sight’ kind of ugly.
So, what can we do to to regain some balance?
It’s simple, just start saying no. You know, that two letter sentence – the one with the N and the O. Got it?
OK, I am being more than a tad flip.
As a matter of fact, I am probably writing this as much as a reminder for myself, as I’m writing it for others. And I know that simple is not the same as easy – learning how to say no takes practice, just as mastering any skill does. But this skill is absolutely worth honing – the return on investment is huge – you get your ticket to land of Freedom. If you’ve been there you know it’s glorious! If you haven’t, then get ready for something that will blow your mind – saying no to what you don’t want to do is positively sublime – it’s may not be better than you-know-what, but it’s about as close as you’re going to get while fully clothed ; )
Here are some tips to get you started:
Realize your time is valuable. It is just as valuable as anyone’s. Which means it’s as valuable as the person who’s making the request. If accepting that request means you have to give up something of your own, you owe it to yourself to say no. And you owe it that person. No one, at least anyone who cares about you, would want you to give up anything just so they could gain.
Evaluate the situation. Are you the only one who can take on the task? And by that I mean really, truly the only living soul – not just that you are good at it. Is it a blood pooling emergency? If either of these are true, you’ll probably be compelled to say yes, and rightfully so. But beyond these rare exceptions, you need to take a minute (or five) and give some thought to what saying yes will mean for you. When you think about committing do you feel good? If the answer is anything short of enthusiastic Hell Yeah! Bring It On, then a no would probably best for all involved. Remember, it’s far easier to go back and say yes, than to take back a yes.
Buffer your no. No is a complete sentence, you don’t have to embellish it, but it sounds nicer when the sharp edge is taken off – just don’t take too much edge off or you may find yourself being cajoled into a yes. To buffer, preface the no with a gracious statement. ‘Thank you for thinking of of me, but I will have to say no’ is perfect. As a matter of fact you should practice this statement until it feels like you own it, especially if you want it to roll off your tongue as easily as yes. Now if you are feeling compelled to offer more in the way of an explanation, a simple ‘My schedule is just too full’ works really well. Remember, buffering isn’t about legitimizing – don’t even go there – if you do you risk opening up loopholes that could trap you into a yes.
Offer alternatives. But only if you’re 100% excited to do so – don’t do it out of obligation. How do I mean? Well, let’s suppose the idea of helping someone is appealing, but not in the way they have requested. For example, maybe you’ve been asked to help your niece get a job at your company – you know, the old could you grease the wheel favor. Let’s imagine slitting your wrists sounds better than trying to make nice with the HR people. But let’s also imagine you truly like your niece and you really want to help her. So instead you might offer to be her mentor or help her craft a kick-ass resume. Now that’s a clear win all around – right?
Get comfortable with no – embrace it, make it yours. Using it will relieve stress, free your time, and make you happier. Try it – you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. As a matter of fact I can hear the freedom bell ringing for you!
Halloween hasn’t even arrived. But guess what? Christmas is closing in fast. At least that’s what retailers want us to think. They’ve already got chocolate Santas and marshmallow snowmen front and center.
Don’t they know some us are still mourning the end of Summer? I’m even trying to convince Mother Nature to give us a few more bare leg days. There’s plenty of time before the reindeer come swooping down, right?
In theory, that’s spot on true. In fact, we’ve got weeks and weeks to go before Thanksgiving, rolls around. It’s my personal favorite – gobble, gobble, nomm, nomm! But then I love any holiday that’s food centric (or maybe I just love food, hmmm).
Anyway, Thanksgiving is the granddaddy of food holidays – it’s the BIG kahuna! Unfortunately, that means it’s fraught with anxiety for many cooks. I doubt this year will be any different. The magazines are already gearing up and doing all they can to remind us what’s on the line (and undermine our confidence).
But never fear, because they’re also promising to help us get through this day without trauma if we just follow their advice (aren’t they sweet). I have seen it all, but I think the best was the headline that read: Four Weeks to a Perfect Thanksgiving. Four weeks to prepare…seriously? The subtext is obvious – you should be going all out. More subtext – if you aren’t, you should try harder (but they’re just trying to motivate us, right?). There is even a Turkey hotline so we can make sure we’re doing it right. Ugh.
What does this all mean? The answer is painfully obvious. Expectations are going to be sky high for the balance of the year. The pressure is mounting to make us feel like we ‘should’ swing into full holiday mode – right flippin’ now!
But that’s the whole idea, and marketers will continue to up the ante over the coming weeks. They want people (and by that I mean women) to feel like they have to do and be everything….to everyone. Cook the perfect meal, buy the perfect gifts, decorate the perfect home, and generally attempt to be the ideal holiday hostess.
Trying to escape the onslaught of holiday marketing is an exercise in futility. No matter where we turn, we’ll will be a faced with a sense of urgency, and the pressure to do it all will be intense. Flack jacket, anyone?
So the big question is this: What can we do to prevent caving under all that pressure and stay true to our own ideals?
It’s a question worth answering, because the bottom line is this: unless we are ready with a plan to deflect the pressure, it will be way too easy to get caught up in the frenzy.
So here are four steps to take now that will help you reduce holiday stress:
1. Assess Your Situation
Has your life changed since last holiday season? If so, you may need to make some major adjustments. Now is the time to start thinking about what you might need to alter. A new family member, a relocation, an economic development; these are all things that could significantly impact how you celebrate. Begin planning for those changes now.
2. Reflect on the Past
Have you been happy with the way your past holidays played out? Did you enjoy your commitments? Did you feel too much stress? Maybe you felt like you spent more than was prudent. Perhaps you need to retire some traditions so you can welcome new ones. In any event, now is the time to get clear on what you want your holidays to look and feel like.
3. Hold a Family Meeting
Gather everyone around for a frank discussion about resources. Make it clear now about what you can and cannot afford. It’s so easy for expenses to get out of hand, and especially so during this time of the year. Talking about this early on will go a long way toward making sure no one is taken by surprise when you have to bring out that two letter word – No.
4. Share Your Plans with Family and Friends
If things have changed in any way, make sure you speak up and share the news. Be as open as possible about your plans. Maybe exchanging gifts with every family member has become too much of a burden. Whatever it is, big or little, share now so there are no awkward moments later. And don’t hesitate in voicing your desires, you may find you have plenty of company. Holding in feelings just leads to resentment – and that isn’t a jolly emotion.
(If you want to really set yourself up for a more peaceful season, be sure to pop on over and grab The Less Stress, More Joy, Save Your Sanity Action Plan – it’s free!)
If I could give clients one thing to think about when it comes to creating a clutter free life, I would ask them to reflect on this:
“Every possession is a responsibility.”
This simple statement explains why you can easily feel overwhelmed when you look around your home. What you’re seeing isn’t just your stuff, and it’s not just clutter either – you are looking at responsibilities. Each possession – not matter how small – is a responsibility in and of itself.
There is irony here – we so often think that acquiring something new will make us feel good. We equate having things, especially certain things, with success. We think feeling successful will lead to fulfillment. What a slippery slope that is. But we don’t realize it until we have lost our balance and fallen into the cluttered depths. Suddenly we are drowning in responsibilities and that feeling of fulfillment is no where in sight.
Now you might be thinking that I believe acquiring things is bad. I can understand how you could make that leap. To clarify, I think mindless acquisition is dangerous. I believe thinking that owning a certain item will lead to happiness is misguided. Things don’t create happiness – the feelings of happiness, success, and fulfillment come from within. This is why you have have to be mindful in acquiring new possessions. It’s so easy to try to fill voids with stuff.
The bottom line: Each item we allow into our lives requires some degree of time and energy. More stuff means more effort. That means you will have less available for the people and pursuits that are important to you. It’s that simple – you only have so much time and energy. If you spend it on maintaining possessions, you will have less to spend elsewhere.
The next time you consider allowing a new object into your life ask yourself whether you’re really willing to take responsibility for that item. If you don’t truly need it, or absolutely love it, why would you want to take responsibility for it?
Possessions should always reciprocate by providing value. Things that require more from you than they give back aren’t serving you well. Think of it like an investment – if you aren’t getting a good return then you need to let the item go.
In theory this should be easy, but in reality it can be a challenge to let go of perfectly good things. Here’s something to help ease the discomfort – whatever you let go of frees up space in your life for something even better. What will your something better be?
The paperless society has yet to become a reality, so managing the inflow of paper is something we all have in common. Dealing with paper is a stressful issue for most people. Each piece of paper necessitates a decision. If you feel at all unsure, you might choose to delay making decisions. It’s a common coping mechanism. Saying ‘I will get to it tomorrow’ might bring relief for the moment, but soon that tactic backfires. Before long you will find yourself inundated by piles of paper. The whole idea of paper organization may seem as far fetched as pigs flying.
Paper clutter creates a real unease. Have you missed something critical? Is a bill going unpaid? Have you offended someone because you didn’t RSVP? So many things could be lurking in your piles.
The truth is you are only a system away from organizing and managing all that paper with ease. Using the right system will make you the master of all the paper that enters your space. Ready to get started?
Step 1: Dedicate a place to corral all incoming paper. A single collection point means you won’t need to wander around looking for stray paper. All paper, no matter the source, should land here. Choose a location that is convenient and feels natural. Ideally you should be able to easily access it even if you hands are full. Work with any habit you already have in place. For example, if papers normally land on the kitchen counter, you may want choose to dedicate a section to paper. Once you’ve chosen a location, add a container. The container is important in that it will contain your papers so they remain in one place. I know that sounds ridiculously elementary, but containerizing stops paper from the unwelcome spreading and overtaking of surfaces.
Step 2: Get acquainted with the the four possible decisions. In the broadest sense, there are only four choices for any piece of paper that enters your space. You will:
- Release it:You don’t need it, so you recycle or shred. It doesn’t belong to you, so you pass it on.
- Act on it: It requires some action on your part. Falling into this category are things you need to pay (bills), read (HOA newsletter), use (coupons), respond to (invitations) or think on (summer camp brochure).
- Reference it: These papers don’t require action, but they have information you will want to refer to in the future. Types of things that fall into this category might be sports schedules, school handbooks, manuals, takeout menus, phone lists, and so on.
- Archive it: These are things that you will you will not need to reference regularly, if at all, but must be kept for legal, financial or historical reasons. Things that fall into this category might be tax returns, tax receipts, loan documents, home improvement records, property deeds, birth certificates, and so on.
Step 3: Decide how you will house the three categories of keepers. What is your paper personality? Do you like to see things on display? Do your prefer to have paperwork hidden behind doors? Or maybe something in between? Are you a natural piler (piles are not necessarily bad, it’s how they are managed, or more aptly mismanaged, that can cause problems) or more of a filer?
The is no ‘right’ way to house paper. It needs to work for YOU, so let go of any ‘shoulds’ and start thinking about what would feel comfortable. This really is a critical step. If you choose a method that feels counter intuitive it’s highly unlikely that you will use it for very long, if at all. Remember, while file folders are very useful, they are not the only the only way to store paper. Don’t feel that you have to take a traditional route. You are free to get creative.
Online Workshop Alert: If you are ready to end paper clutter and get your papers organized for good, the Paper Organization Online Workshop is for you – it takes you through the entire process of organizing and managing paper efficiently and effectively. Imagine no more paper clutter, no more paper related stress. Imagine always being able to find what you need when you need it. How great would that be?! The Paper Organization Online Workshop will make it a reality. Guaranteed. The workshop offers a no risk sign up, so you have nothing to lose (except stress) and everything to gain.
In Part 2, I will let you in on why you don’t need to keep nearly as much as you think you do. Get ready to be empowered to discard with confidence!
In the meantime start corralling your paper. If are you wondering about storage options or anything else surrounding the issue of paper management, leave your question in the comment section, or drop me a line here. I will respond to all inquiries. If you have a system that works well, please share your tips!
Clutter, silently it creeps into our lives little by little overtaking every horizontal surface. Soon we are completely inundated by it. It takes some conscious effort to control clutter.
Feeling overwhelmed by clutter is natural. We want it gone and we want it gone now! Clutter keeps us from performing our work duties with ease, stops us from truly enjoying our leisure time and costs us financially every single day.
Clutter doesn’t happen overnight and it won’t go away overnight. However, with a plan of action, we can get it under control and keep it that way for good. No more clutter means no more frenzied searches for those very necessary but always elusive items, no more duplicate purchases, no more missed opportunities. Freedom from clutter is possible and it feels fantastic!
Follow these simple steps and you will be on your way to controlling clutter it for good.
1. Gather nine good sized boxes, bags or bins, and label them:
- Current Use,
- Memorabilia (to be properly archived)
- Return/Borrowed (to be given back to rightful owner, or moved to a more appropriate location)
- Seasonal (to be stored elsewhere)
- Six Month Test
2. Decide how long you will work. A few hours is ideal, longer than fours hours and you risk losing focus and energy. But don’t let lack of time be your excuse for letting clutter pile up. You can accomplish a lot in blocks of fifteen minutes. Set a timer; knowing that you will stop at a preset point will alleviate the angst of getting started. Most CD’s play for about an hour, so they are a good choice when you can dedicate that much time. Listening to something enjoyable can take the edge off the “ugh factor” that is often associated with decluttering. Consider treating yourself to something you really enjoy listening to and reserve it just for your work sessions.
3. Choose a focus area. Ask yourself where you spend the most time looking for misplaced items, or which area causes you the most stress. Maybe it’s the clutter in your kitchen or perhaps your bedroom is the place where your de-cluttering efforts would have the greatest impact. Choosing an area such as this to start in will give you an immediate and appreciable return on your efforts. Pick a specific starting spot, such as a drawer, shelf or cupboard, in your focus area.
4. Now it’s time to start sorting. Remember to completely finish one area before moving on to the next. As you take out each item ask yourself:
a. Have I used it in the last six months?
b. Do I plan to use it in the next six months? (“I might need it” doesn’t count, it must be a real plan)
c. Do I really love it? (Would you buy it again?)
d. Does it have serious sentimental value? (Serious means you would be genuinely upset at its loss)
If you can’t answer a resounding yes to at least one of these questions, then the item needs to leave your space. Donate, toss or recycle it. If you are really in doubt, place it in the six month test box. This box will be stashed away for six months. If at the end of the six months you haven’t needed the items or can’t remember what’s in the box you need to let it go. All other items should go into the appropriate category (see Step1), and be dealt with accordingly. The only exception to this process are the items that you must keep for legal purposes.
5. As you fill each box, take action with it. For example, if the donate box is full take it to your car and schedule time to drop it off (intentions that aren’t scheduled rarely get done). It takes effort to keep on track, but it’s well worth it.
6. As you put away your Current Use items, make sure you are placing them in the appropriate area. It’s counter productive to put something away in a spot that doesn’t make sense. Just because it came off a shelf or out of a particular drawer doesn’t mean it should go back there. Ask yourself where and how you use the item. Make it accessible for those scenarios. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. If you always write letters in the living room, put your writing supplies in the living room. If you clip coupons in bed, put scissors in your night stand. Whatever you do, make it intuitive to you. If your child likes big bubbles in the bath every night and you’ve resorted to using the egg beater to make that happen, put the egg beater in the bathroom. Buy a second one for the kitchen if it’s something you regularly use, if not, don’t feel obligated to replace it. Things you have and don’t use are clutter.
7. Put everything back in its home after you use it. If you have made your items easily retrievable, you have also made them easily returnable by default. There is joy to be had in using something, and putting it away properly. Knowing that you are on the path to long term organization will bring a great deal of satisfaction to your life.
Soon you will be able to relax and enjoy the calm that freedom from clutter and disorganization brings!
Need some help decluttering? Be sure to check out Clutter Control 101. It’s an online workshop that will take you through the entire process of controlling clutter.
The easiest way to jump start the clutter clearing process is by harvesting the low hanging fruit first. We all have low hanging fruit, it’s the stuff that’s obviously past its useful life – the stuff that’s broken, old, outdated or no longer used.
Start your harvest by taking a walk through your house and toss/recycle whatever is obviously rubbish. You might think I am being presumptuous in assuming you have some garbage and/or junk lying around. But based on my experience almost everyone does (including yours truly – a couple of empty boxes have been hanging in my office for days, last months New Yorkers still linger in the magazine basket, I could go on, but you get it, we all have some low hanging fruit and I must go on a harvest as soon as I’m done posting this!).
Low hanging fruit is even more likely to exist when you have excess clutter, because junk easily blends into the cluttered landscape. Now let me be clear here, I am not suggesting anyone would purposely toss garbage around their home. I mean things like the broken beyond repair umbrella that’s been sitting in the hall closet forever, the remote that powers nothing since you upgraded to the universal gadget, last week’s newspapers, the sneakers your dog chewed just enough so that are no longer wearable. You should be able to dispose of these things with ease since it’s highly unlikely they will hold any real emotional attachment. So, what are you waiting for? Go on a harvest right now!