There is no better time than right now to reclaim your home from the winter clutter. Those piles that have been staring you in the face all these long months finally need your attention. The process can often feel daunting, overwhelming and formidable. It’s easy to turn off the lights, shut the door and hope that the mess cleans itself up.
Here are my ten favourite tips that can be applied to any space, regardless if you’ve never touched a basket in your life or if your closet looks like the Home Edit. Let’s get started!

Start Small
Don’t panic – you can totally do this. Yes, the garage looks like it’s going to break through the rafters. Ok, maybe the basement mess is starting to creep up the stairs. Don’t look at the whole but try easy, simple tasks. One box, one drawer, one piece of paper at a time. It’s ok if you don’t tackle all the filing in one sitting – in fact, I recommend not to! Set a timer for 15 minutes, put on some energizing music and just do the work. Any progress is progress – no matter how small!

Sort it out
When tackling an area, make sure to clear some space to work. Use shoeboxes, plastic bins, banker boxes – anything that will keep your piles separated as you sort. You don’t want to have to re-do all your hard work, so make sure you keep your sorting area contained!

Create narrow categories
Categories should be simple and natural, but not wide enough to include all the things. Instead of creating a bin for “electronics”, narrow it down. Inside a basket of electronics, separate chargers, adapters, old phones, cords, USB sticks, etc. This makes it easy to find when you need that one item.

Use small storage
We love those big rubbermaid bins, don’t we? They’re cheap, enormous and we can stuff everything in there and feel accomplished. I love using them for bulky items in the garage (think Christmas lights or pool toys). But if they get too full, they are so heavy that the mere thought of searching inside stops us in our tracks. Opt for smaller, more manageable storage. I love using a shoebox size (4-6L) because they are easy to see inside and simple to store.

Label your heart out
One of my client’s spouses called our labelling system “fancy”. Maybe that’s true. But if you’ve put all that time into creating a great system, don’t you want it to work? It doesn’t have to look professional – it just has to be functional. It will remind the whole family what needs to go where! If you want kids (and spouses) to stop asking you where it is – it’s all in the label. My favourite is this chalk tape & a sharpie paint pen!

Create the system before you buy
With every new organizing trend, our hopes sail high that a bin or a beautiful basket will fix all our problems. Six months later, they are piled high with the clutter they were meant to store. Find the right system before you invest in nice bins. Figure out what works with simple containers (I love using cardboard or old tupperware) and then reward yourself with a pretty system.

Resist the urge to collect
Everything looks great in the store. It looks even better when it’s on sale. But will it look the same in your house? When you’re tempted to buy, ask yourself the following: Where will it live? Do I already have one? Is it worth replacing what I already own? It’s ok to buy something new – but swap it out, don’t add more!

Be OK to say No
You are the manager of your household and you are in control of what comes in. You got that mug at a bridal shower, but you kinda hate it. It’s ok to let it go! It’s acceptable to ask for receipts, to return what you won’t use and to re-gift. If your BFF knew that mug was bringing you down, wouldn’t she tell you to donate it? Be ok with saying no to more stuff.

Create boundaries & expectations
“If I lived by myself, this house would look amazing.” I know, friend. But we live with other humans. We must create boundaries and realistic expectations for our family members. If you’re tired of picking up toys in every room, then it’s your job to limit where the kids can have their stuff. Communicate what you expect and then gently guide others to help maintain the system.

Organization isn’t magic
In any home that I’m in, my parting words are the same: we’ve done the work, now you need to maintain it. Every good system needs ongoing upkeep. Reevaluate your systems if they aren’t working for you. Rework it until it’s functional.

Social Media vs. Reality
We would all love picture-perfect homes. But guess what – perfection is a myth! It’s not attainable and it’s certainly not liveable. Your home should be functional, refreshing and allow you to recharge after a long day. Don’t create expectations that can never be met.

Remember that any progress is progress – start small & make your way through the “overwhelm” to find relief!

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About the Author: Sara Verwymeren

Sara Verwymeren is originally from Long Island, New York and has been in Winnipeg since 2011. Her love of organizing transformed into a career after helping numerous friends and family members de-clutter their homes.