178: 30 days to organize yo’ stuff

178: 30 days to organize yo’ stuff

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When stepping in to a new year, it’s common for folks to resolve to be more organized. But you know that’s not going to stick unless you’ve got an honest plan behind it, so here is my offering to you: a list of thirty things you can spend the next month organizing. But more than that, it’s an honest explanation of why our living spaces get so crazy messy. Let’s talk manageable focused tasks, and get these houses under control.

Sorta. Kinda.


Why am I making this list?

It can’t be that hard to figure out what to clean and organize, right?

Well. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got your “normal cleaning routine”—sweep, vacuum, dishes, wipe off the counter, laundry, clean the bathrooms—that you do all the time. And you may notice when you’re in the bathroom that your drawer is a mess. And you may notice in the kitchen when you reach for a cookbook that everything is all shoved in the shelf all willy-nilly. But you push that away in the back of your head because you’re busy doing your regular cleaning. You will get to it when you’ve got time aside from your regular cleaning.

But you never get to it. Because your regular cleaning never goes away. 

So I made this list. The purpose of this list is focused, manageable tasks that generally take 10 or 15 minutes. So when I find myself with a little extra time, I can choose something from the list and attack it intentionally so it gets done. Ten minutes spent organizing a bookshelf will get more accomplished than 45 minutes of trying to do ten things at once.

Side note about why houses get messy

This is a hill I will die on: the cleanliness of your house has nothing to do with whether you are home or not.

I’ve had people who tell me they thought they’d have a cleaner house when they started working from home because they were always home and they’d be “right there” to pick things up. But the irony is, if you’re always home, you’re… you know, always home. To make a mess because you’re in the space. Houses get messy. Either because you’re in it all the time and living life, or because no one is ever there long enough to pick up the messes that do get made before they have to rush to the next thing. Life is messy—I don’t care if you work from home or work outside the home. 

Regardless of how often you’re home or not, hopefully this list will help you out.

Tips for using this list

Remember, the purpose of this is focused, manageable tasks that take 10 or 15 minutes.

This is my list I made over the last couple months. There are things on this list that might not apply to you because you don’t have them in your house. There are things on this list that might take longer for you because you have more of them, or they are bigger in your house than they are in mine. Use this list as a guide.

While you’re going through this list, make note of other things that come up to clean/organize… but put them on the bottom of the list. Don’t divert from what you’re already doing.

When you attack this list, remember the phrase, “don’t put it down, put it away.” Many times the reasons we have to do all this organizing in the first place is because we put things down, we don’t put them away. Instead of taking three extra seconds to put something where it goes, we just put it down where we are (the counter, the drawer, the table, next to us on the desk). So try to keep in mind—not only as you’re going through this list, but as you are going through your day to day—don’t put it down, put it away.

30 Days of Organizing, In No Particular Order

1. Bookshelves: (including cookbooks) Get rid of the books you’re not reading, group books by subject (fiction, homesteading, medical, etc). And stop setting random items on the edge of the bookshelves! That’s not where they go!

2. Spice cabinet: Combine containers, take stock of what you have/need, get rid of old spices that are clumped together.

3. Kitchen drawer(s): Can you find the things you need in your kitchen drawers? I organized my kitchen so that the top drawer under the counter that I do most my prep work at contains the items I use most often. Also make sure that drawers that contain items (for instance, ziploc bags or aluminum foil) are fully stocked.

4. Kitchen cabinet(s): I had a cabinet full of old china dishes that I don’t use. And yet, I’m always going into the basement to get my wok and the Instant Pot. Why are the dishes in the kitchen cabinet when I don’t use them? Let’s do a little switcheroo and pack the dishes up in the basement and bring the wok and Instant Pot upstairs!

5. Pantry: Organize what’s there, put similar items together, take stock of what you need more of. Again, make sure shelves aren’t just a place to set random things.

6. Bathroom closet(s): Bath towels, toothpaste, extra shampoo and toilet paper, Kleenex, makeup, cleaning supplies—I don’t know what you keep in your closet but take ten or fifteen minutes to straighten it out.

7. Bathroom drawer(s): I have four bathroom drawers to organize, and one of these drawers became a secondary list item to devote more time to because it was our “medicine/first aid” drawer and needed some special attention.

8. Blanket closet: My head goes to flat and fitted sheets with their pillow cases on one shelf, quilts and other blankets on another shelf, etc. And those old baby blankets that no one can use but they’re taking up space? Put them somewhere else.

9. Bedroom closets: When it comes to clothes and shoes, go through what’s there quickly. 10-15 minutes is all you should need to determine whether it’s something you’ve worn in the last year. If you haven’t, out it goes.

10. Nightstands and end tables: Clear off the pony tail holders, pens, books, notebooks, earrings, and dust that has collected.

11. Baseboards and heat vents: For me, this means dusting and getting rid of dog hair on the surfaces that are beneath me (except the actual floor). Run a rag along these things and clean them up!

12. Door frames, window frames, picture frames: For me, this means dusting and getting rid of dog hair on the surfaces that are mostly above me. Again, grab a rag and wipe these surfaces down.

13. Game cabinet: Our family used to play a lot of games. But most of the games currently in our game cabinet are games we don’t play anymore because our kids outgrew them. Time to pass some of those games along and organize the games we still do play.

14. Passwords: I don’t know how you keep track of your passwords, but make sure they’re in a place that is orderly and safe. And make sure the password you’ve notated (however you save them) is the most recent password that actually works.

15. Stamps/addresses/greeting cards: If you like to send snail mail, make sure that mailing addresses are in your address book, not just written on a piece of paper and tossed on your desk. Do you have stamps? Are you stocked on birthday cards?

16. Desk: Some people work better in a mess, and know where stuff is in their mess. You have to decide for yourself what kind of chaos makes sense for you, but spend a good 20 minutes one day getting your desk under control.

17. Cable management: Can you imagine saying this phrase to someone 30 years ago? This task might mean storing the charging or transfer cables you’re not using—the same cable can now be used for so many devices! Cable management might also mean tackling the tangle of wires that’s under or (gasp) on top of your workspace.

18. Top of the fridge: On the top of my fridge are Tupperware containers to return to someone, my husband’s lunchbox, egg cartons, and… gift cards? Sometimes what’s on top of the fridge is really random, and doesn’t need to be there.

19. Underneath the bed: I have drawers under my bed. Do you know what’s in them? A swimsuit and some nylons I haven’t worn in ten years. Why are those things taking up space under my bed?

20. Cobwebs on the ceiling: Vacuum the corners and edges of your ceiling. I don’t know why but it seems we’ve always got dust covered cobwebs in the corners of our ceiling, and sucking them up is a quick way to spruce things up.

21. Organize the freezer: Make a list of what’s in your freezer so you know what food you’ve got to work with. It makes menu planning so much easier, and (in the case of a chest freezer) keeps you from forgetting the food that sometimes falls to the bottom.

22. Go through the fridge: Clean what spilled, throw away what’s expired, combine what has two bottles or jars open.

23. Junk drawers: The purpose of a junk drawer it to put stuff that doesn’t really have another place in the house, but if we’re honest, many of us probably toss a lot of things in there that actually do have a better spot to call home.

24. That place you set stuff (“the pile”): In our house, the pile sits on our kitchen counter. It’s mail, it’s a mini nerf gun (don’t ask), it’s a couple screws and a hook, a roll of duct tape, and a newspaper. The pile is where people set stuff for just a minute instead of dealing with the item and putting it where it needs to go. Aim to make this pile as small as possible.

25. That place you shove stuff (“the room”): When my husband I were first married we had a two bedroom house, and that second bedroom was the room to shove stuff in. When we found out we were having a baby, it was time to attack that room. And oh my word, the stuff that was in that room? Stuff that had just been shoved in there instead of taking two minutes to put it somewhere it belonged, or consider whether it was even something we needed to keep.

26. The shoe pile: I live in a house of men who wear size 14 and 15 shoes. Y’all. It doesn’t take much to create a mountain of shoes that I want to dropkick to the other side of the house. Keep the shoe pile under control so no one trips.

27. The coat closet/hooks/glove rack: Do the gloves have matches? Do you need 14 coats hanging in the closet for three people? Do you need winter coats/winter bibs out in May? 

28. Perimeter of house: I’m talking about that brick pile by the door that hasn’t been moved yet, the stubborn tree root that needs to be pulled so the garbage can can sit where you want it to sit without being cockeyed, and the welcome mat that is in pieces and needs to be replaced. Walk the perimeter of your house and take care of what’s there.

29. Your vehicle: Okay, it’s not in your house, but some people spend as much time in their car as they do in some areas of their home. Therefore, take a look in the glove box, on the dash, in the cupholders and the door pockets. Are tote bags taking over your backseat? Does your first aid kit need to be restocked? Is your most recent insurance card where you think it is? 

30. Extras: All the things you figured out you need to add to your list while you went through the last 29 days? Day 30 is where you can make that list… to attack next month.

Maybe you need to break down one of the items I listed here into three different days. Since this list is supposed to be manageable tasks, maybe bathroom closets needs to be three days for you, because you have three bathrooms in your house and the closets are out of control. Or maybe in organizing one of your closets, you have to add a second day to organize the things you took out of your closet.

Maybe “under the stairs” is an area for you. Maybe “pet area” is something that needs to be tackled. I didn’t say anything here about the laundry room or the entry way or the gun closet or the second office or the reloading area or the sewing area. Maybe you need to add something like “go around the house and make a list of what rugs/blinds/curtains/fans need to be added/replaced”. Maybe you need to add a day that is “go around the house and make a list of unfinished projects – the trim boards on the windows, touch up paint, a new railing for the back step.”

The key to organization is keeping it manageable

Again, the purpose of this 30 day list is to keep the tasks focused and manageable so you can slide them along the cleaning and organizing you’re already doing.

You know, the cleaning and organizing that never goes away and that you never get caught up with.

— Amy Dingmann, 1-4-22

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