Professional organizer Linda Isom has organized her own home and was a featured organizer on this week’s episode of A&E’s Hoarders, called "Eileen/Judy." (Read more about it by clicking here.) “In a nutshell, an organized house is an enormous time saver,” said Isom. “The general structure to the home influences children’s behavior, has a positive effect on your psyche, and makes it much easier to get things accomplished.” Having loads of clutter experience Isom has a few tried and true tips to share with us.
1. Make a "go-backs" basket
One of our favorite ideas from Isom is the go-backs basket. Often movie rentals or rebate coupons sit in the house for weeks, and sometimes they make it to the car where they sit . . . for weeks. Isom utilizes a regular basket or bin to keep near the door. Place items that need to go to the recycling, rental store, or post office right in the bin. On your way out the door in the morning, carry the box to your car. As you drive to work, carpool, or run errands, you will have everything with you to deposit. At the end of the day, sweep your car of anything that does not belong: kids’ toys, magazines, those really pretty but really uncomfortable new shoes you tried to wear all day at work, and drop those in the bin to bring back inside.
2. Use a timer
Set a timer in small segments, such as five or ten minutes, and have your children work on cleaning in categories of "like" items: picking up laundry, toy cars, or books. They may even enjoy trying to “beat the clock.” They’ll soon begin to clean things up in less than half the time it would otherwise have taken them. Breaking it up into small projects with "like" items also helps the child understand how to break down the mess in their minds so it's easier to clean.
3. Clean one room at a time
Sometimes focus is hard, but clearing one room at a time is essential for getting things done and not becoming overwhelmed. Isom suggests grabbing an empty laundry basket and placing items that belong somewhere else in the basket as you find them instead of taking them directly to the other room and becoming distracted by what needs to be done in there.
Continue until the room is finished, then, once one room is clear, return the items to their proper places.
4. Keep younger children entertained in the meantime
Cleaning while you have little kids underfoot can often be a challenge. Isom suggests setting the little ones in a separate, already clean room with toys they love but that won’t cause a mess or too much clutter. That way, you control what they play with. If this still doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to turn on the TV for a little while. “I’m not for allowing television to do the babysitting all the time,” Isom warns, “but with half an hour in front of Dora in order for you to have sanity, your children should be just fine.”
5. Teach your older children to help—repeatedly
For older children, Isom says, “Don’t have a perfectionist attitude: allow time to teach your kids to do chores and do things around the house.” Adults go through training at a new job, being shown how to perform the task and going through follow-up evaluations until they can complete the task solo. Children are no different. “I’ve been teaching my son to wipe the table after dinner. It took me showing him 15 times to be able to wipe it the way I wanted.” Having your children involved in chores teaches them to follow instructions, complete a task, and take pride in ownership.
6. Make the decisions beforehand; buy containers and know where you are going to store something before you buy
“The thing I can’t stress enough is stress doesn’t come from clutter; it comes from not knowing what to do with it,” Isom says. Everything in your house should have its place. Knowing where to store an item before you bring it home will keep the clutter at bay. If you don’t have a place in mind, pick up a container with the item when you buy it. If you don’t use it in a while, purge it. That way you now have a new space for the items you need.
For more information or tips from Isom, visit her blog at clearingspacebydesign.com.