Gallery hanging systems can solve artwork clutter

When we lived in England, our home had picture rails mounted on every wall in the lounge (living room) and dining room and on at least one wall in each bedroom. At first, I thought it was odd. But, the walls were made of concrete covered with layers of plaster so when I tried to hang a picture by drilling a hole and sinking a plug, I almost broke the masonry bit, the plaster kept chipping off, and it was a big mess.

I purchased some equipment to hang my pictures from the rail at my local hardware store and hung my artwork. It was the easiest thing ever!

The following post (updated since it was originally published in 2007) talks about the ease and versatility of the picture rail system, something that I will install in our next home.

 

My father is a wildlife photographer. As his daughter, I have free access to his always expanding portfolio. I do not, however, have an always expanding supply of wall space to display my collection of his work.

To solve my conundrum and to keep my collection from getting out of control, I decided to turn the walls of the first floor of my house into an art gallery.

I started the project by installing an art gallery hanging system along the top of my walls. Cables slide into the tracks, and pictures hang from hooks that attach to the cables. I can hang multiple photographs on the wall at once, in any configuration, without having to hammer a single nail.

I currently have enough of his photographs that I can change the artwork on the first floor of my house three times a year. It does take some time to switch out the frames–I only have one set of frames that I use–but on the whole it is a pretty quick process. When the photos are not hanging on the walls, I store them in glassine envelopes inside an archival storage box. Having a limited number of pictures out at a time and the others stored safely in a small storage container keeps my collection of my father’s artwork uncluttered.

If you’re someone in a small space or who has a large artwork collection, you might want to consider installing an art gallery hanging system in your home. The system certainly worked for me.

Ten things to do in 10 minutes

I get frustrated when I work for eight hours straight and then finish the day feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything. It is as if I have been a hamster in a wheel, running nowhere. It’s times like these when I seek out small tasks that I can finish quickly to feel some sense of productivity. Often, too, small tasks are all that I can handle because I’m exhausted.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, feel welcome to tackle one (or more) of the following 10 uncluttering tasks you can do in 10 minutes:

  • Organize your sock drawer. Get rid of socks that are hole-ridden, stained, or without mates.
  • Clean out the cupboard under your kitchen sink. I’m not sure why, but in my home this is where all of my “I don’t want to deal with this right now” kitchen items land.
  • Round up all of your pet’s toys. My cats like to swat their toys under dressers and into closets. Once a week, I walk around the house with a yard stick, retrieve all of their toys, and return them to their toy basket.
  • Sort through your magazines. Decide which ones can stay and which ones should go.
  • Clear out your “to be watched” list. Check your favorites list on your Amazon Video, Netflix, and other streaming services accounts. Delete the movies and TV series you’ll never watch.
  • Start a load of laundry. Laundry and I are in a constant battle, and usually Laundry is winning.
  • Sit in silence and do nothing. I often forget to take time out of my day just to sit, collect my thoughts, and relax. Uncluttering my mind is just as important as uncluttering my home.
  • Straighten out the trunk of your car. Right now, there is a stack of wood in the trunk of my car. I remember how it got there six months ago, but I don’t know why it is still in there. It needs to find a different home.
  • Pull all of the extra hangers out of your closets. Hangers are like tribbles. They seem to appear out of thin air. I put mine in a grocery sack, toss the sack into my car, and then drop them off at the dry cleaner’s the next time I’m running errands.
  • Post a Freecycle ad. Find one thing you’ve been meaning to get rid of in your home, and create a Freecycle post for it.

Feel welcome to drop suggestions for 10 minute projects into the comments section–we would love to hear your ideas.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

In case of …

No one enjoys thinking about the macabre. But, as Benjamin Franklin so accurately posited in a 1789 letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

On Unclutterer, we’ve certainly glossed over the death topic. The truth is that we don’t enjoy thinking about it either. However, if you’re going to take the time to get your life organized, you would be remiss to ignore that there will be a point where you’re no longer here and others will need to find important documents and information to close your estate.

We call these our “In case of …” files. In mine, I include things like contact information for employees, server details, and passwords, and a key to my fire-proof safe where I store my Will and a copy of my birth certificate. The idea is that if something does happen to me, I want things to be easier on my close family and friends who are mourning. I’d rather them have good thoughts of me after my passing, not angry thoughts because they searched for hours trying to find my life insurance policy to pay for the funeral.

If you’ve never put together an “In case of …” file, the best place to start is by visiting a lawyer to draft your Last Will and Testament. This document will include answers to all of the big questions: custody of children, property disbursements, where you want to be buried, etc. After you have this document created, you’ll then need to pass along the name of your lawyer to at least two different people — someone who lives near you (spouse, partner, close friend) and someone who lives in a different part of the country or world — and then store this document safely (such as in a UL 350 fireproof safe).

The rest of your “In case of …” file will be up to you in terms of its contents. Are there people who would need to be contacted at your job? Are you the primary care provider for a child, sibling, or parent who may need to receive immediate attention before the reading of your Will? Do you have bills that have to be paid? Look at your life and identify all of the places that could be stressful for someone to handle if you weren’t there to help. Now, provide information on those issues and put it in your “In case of …” file. It won’t be a fun process while you collect the information, but afterward you’ll have a peace of mind that things will be okay in case something happens.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

What to do if you are organized and your partner isn’t

I have a friend who is a psychologist who specializes in family therapy. One of the reasons I love this friend is because she doesn’t seem to mind my endless supply of psychology of clutter questions. I’ll ask her a question, she’ll think about it for a week, and then she’ll provide me with a brilliant response.

A few months ago, I asked her to assist me with constructing a post to help mismatched couples. When I say “mismatched couples,” I’m talking about couples where one of the people in the relationship is clean and organized and the other person in the relationship is messy and disorganized AND at least one of the two people has animosity about the difference. (If no one seems to mind, then the pair isn’t mismatched.) The following advice derives from the conversations we’ve had on this topic since I first posed the question to her. If you’re a part of a mismatched couple, hopefully we can be of assistance.

  1. When considering moving in with someone (romantic or otherwise), a person’s level of order and cleanliness should be part of the equation. Similar to how in pre-marriage counseling couples are asked to discuss finances, living arrangements, and household expectations also should be discussed. No one should be surprised six months into a living arrangement that his or her partner/roommate is messier or cleaner than one had hoped.
  2. If you’re already in a living arrangement and are disappointed by your partner/roommate’s level of order, you need to have a conversation. Yelling and passive aggressive behavior is not productive and damages the relationship. Having a calm, sincere, and respectful conversation has the possibility of yielding powerful results.
  3. It is good to have ground rules for what to do when frustration takes hold. Here are some productive rules you might consider establishing:
    • No nagging. Treating someone with disrespect is never a good option. Either the person honors what you say the first time you say it, or they don’t. All nagging says is: “I believe you are an idiot and I think I have the right to constantly tell you that you’re an idiot.” No one responds well to that message.
    • No backpacking. Set a time limit for how long after something happens that it can be discussed (like two weeks). If you don’t bring up the frustration within that time limit, you have to let it go. You can’t fester or stew on a frustration. Also, if you’ve already discussed something, you can’t bring it up again. The reason it’s called backpacking is because it’s like people carry around another person’s wrongs in a backpack and pull every wrong out of the bag when there is a disagreement. Don’t backpack, it isn’t fair.
    • Discuss the real problem. If you’re upset that your spouse repeatedly leaves dirty dishes strewn about the living room your frustration has very little to do with dirty dishes. You’re upset because you believe (s)he doesn’t care about the cleanliness level in the living space. So, talk about the real problem and use the dirty dishes as an example of how that lack of caring is expressed.
  4. Often times, the person who is messier doesn’t care one bit if the living arrangement is disorderly or orderly. When this is the case, and if you’re the one who prefers a more orderly home, prepare to take on full responsibility for cleaning up after the other person. Happily do the work because you’re the one who gets the sense of joy from an organized space. If a pair of shoes in the middle of the living room floor annoys you, just move the shoes to a location that doesn’t annoy you. The five seconds it will take you to move the shoes are less than the time you will be angry over the shoes if you don’t move them. The children’s book Zen Shorts beautifully addresses this topic.
  5. Maybe the problem is that there aren’t any systems in place to deal with the mess where it happens. For instance, my husband stores his wallet in a valet in our bedroom. I store my purse in a cube near the front door. He puts his wallet in his pocket first thing in the morning and takes it out at night before he goes to bed. I only grab my purse as I’m entering and exiting the house. If my purse were supposed to be stored in a valet in our bedroom, I can guarantee you that it would never be in the bedroom. It would be on the dining room table or living room floor or wherever I conveniently dropped it. So, a storage cube near our front door is the best place for my purse because it’s a storage location that works. Think about how you live and find solutions that meet your actual needs.
  6. Designate “clean rooms” or “messy rooms” in your home. In my family, we insist that all public spaces are clean rooms. This means that rooms visitors will see when they come into our house must be free of clutter. Visitors rarely come into our office, though, so the rules for this room are less stringent. Things can’t be dirty (no food or bug-enticing items), but if objects are left out of order in this space it’s less of an issue. A once-a-week cleaning is more typical in our messy spaces.
  7. Finally, if you’ve tried all of the previous options and nothing is working for you, try seeking outside help. This help can be in the form of a professional organizer or maybe a couple’s counselor. If you’re in dire straights, you want to work with someone who isn’t a part of your relationship and can see it more broadly. I don’t recommend using a friend or family member for this task — if you do, the other person will believe that you’re ganging up on him or her, and that won’t be productive. Also, professional help could be in the form of a cleaning service coming into the house twice a month. Let someone else handle the deep cleaning so that the light work is less of a burden.

If you’re a part of a mismatched couple, what effective strategies have you employed? I’m sure that everyone could benefit from reading your positive results in the comments.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Hire someone to run your errands

My friend is an executive assistant. Over drinks one night, I asked her what an executive assistant does. She responded that during her morning she drove to her boss’ house and fixed a power generator, she picked her boss up some lunch on her way back to the office, she returned phone calls for her boss for an hour in the afternoon, got coffee for her boss and a visiting international celebrity around 3:00 pm, and then dropped off her boss’ dry cleaning on her way home from work.

I told her that I needed an executive assistant, and she agreed that she needed one, too.

Errands tie up a great deal of our time and keep us from living in a stress-free home. In fact, stuff related to errands that I need to run often clutters up around my front door — clothes that need to go to the dry cleaner, books that need to be returned to the library, bikes that need to be serviced, etc. — and sits there nagging at me until I can spend four or five hours doing a bunch of errands I don’t really want to do.

In many large communities, there are companies established to provide personal assistants and errand runners at hourly rates. An internet search of your area might turn up a list of names. Check out customer reviews, and then take advantage of your own personal assistant.

If, like me, you live in a place without these companies, offer to pay the neighborhood high school kid $50 a week (plus fuel for the car) to run all of your errands for you. Open a pay-in-advance credit card with limited funds for the hired hand to use when picking up your dry cleaning and repaired bike. After one week of working for you, I doubt that you’ll even miss the $50.

Think about adding an extra $20 or $30 for the kid to also mow your lawn or shovel your snow. You can spend the free time enjoying the extra time in the company of your family or cleaning out your dusty attic. Regardless of what you do with your time, though, that cluttered pile of “things to do” next to your front door will be gone.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

Keep your gardening tools together

Since we moved to our new home, there are still things that aren’t organized the way I want them. I’m not a huge gardener, but I do have a handful of tools that I use to keep my yard in order. Those tools are scattered throughout a few locations and tracking them down is rather annoying. I then remembered seeing a couple of gardening tool organizers that would probably solve this problem.

As a very novice gardener I don’t need anything too extensive so this Bucket Caddy is probably the right thing for me. It is a simple solution that will keep all of my tools in one place for easy access.

For those of you who have a larger garden or spend more time gardening, check out the Sunnydaze Rolling Cart. It has a lovely seat so you don’t have to kneel all the time, two spaces for tool storage, and it is easy to move around due to the wheels.

I will most likely go with the Bucket Caddy. It will take up less space when not in use and I can hang it on a hook or place it on a shelf. Although, if I were a gardening enthusiast, it would be nice to have a seat on the Sunnydaze Rolling Cart.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Streamlining your morning routine

My friend Brittany has a problem. She can’t get out of the house in the morning on time. No matter how early she wakes up, she can find a reason to be late. Laundry, phone calls, or lost objects are common time sucks.

“I dawdle,” Brittany reports.

Brittany doesn’t have a big issue with her lack of promptness, but her boyfriend who carpools with her does. Most days he makes her lunch while he waits for her to get her act together. She admits that she doesn’t even figure making her lunch into her morning routine any longer, if she were responsible for it, she’d be even more tardy.

“He likes having something to do while he waits for me,” she rationalizes.

Her lateness is starting to wear thin on her boyfriend, however, so she turned to me for advice. She asked if I could help her streamline her morning routine so that she could start getting out the door on time.

The first step in streamlining your morning routine is to discover how you’re spending your time. In my friend’s case, I think that her boyfriend might be a better person to track her morning processes. Either way, keep a log of how you spend your time from the point you wake up until you arrive at work. Keep this log for two or three weeks so that you get an accurate view of your typical morning. How long does it take to shower? Choose your clothes? Hunt for items you need to drop at the dry cleaners, post office, or child’s school? What throws you off track?

After you have a log of what you do, you’ll need to evaluate the information you’ve collected. What are the activities that you do every day that you can’t avoid (things like showering, teeth brushing, getting dressed, and commuting fall into this category)? List these items and their time requirements on a sheet of paper. If your commute time varies, find the average length of your commute times over the two or three-week period and use that number. Now, do the obvious and add up these numbers to make sure that you’re waking up at least early enough to achieve these essential tasks.

The next step is to evaluate those other tasks that don’t have to be completed in the morning. These are tasks like picking out your clothing, making lunches, collecting things together, or hunting for your daughter’s pony tail holder. Could any of these tasks be relocated to the evening beforehand? Could you make all lunches for a week on Sunday afternoon? How much time are you wasting every morning doing tasks that don’t have to be handled before work?

Here are some other questions to ask yourself:

How many times are you hitting the snooze button on the alarm in the morning? Do you need to move your alarm clock to the other side of the room? Resolve not to hit the snooze at all? Go to bed earlier?

Do you routinely pick out your clothes the night beforehand so that you can make sure your shirt is ironed, you know where both shoes are located, and your socks match? Do your children go through the same process?

Do you have a spot in your home where you put all items that you’ll need for the next day? Do you have a basket where your child puts forms that have to be signed for school so that last-minute tasks are kept to a minimum? Do you keep your keys, wallet, watch, and cell phone in a valet, purse, or on a landing strip so that you don’t have to hunt for them?

Do you take the time to read the paper in physical form when it might be easier to download a digital version and read it on an e-book reader or your iPod/cell phone on the subway/bus? Are you stopping to buy coffee every morning when brewing it at home would reduce the time involved (and the price tag)?

In the drastic measure department, do you need a different job that doesn’t care what time you get in to work? Is there a family in your child’s carpool that routinely makes everyone else late that you could tactfully un-invite from your carpool?

Once you work through this process, you should have a clear view of what is keeping you from arriving at work on time. Now, you have to take the steps to streamline your schedule and get your morning routine running on time.

Good luck to my friend Brittany and to anyone else trying to get your morning routine on the right track!

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Establishing routines

One of the best ways, in my experience, to stay ahead of the game and keep your home from being overrun with clutter is to establish routines. Every household works differently, so develop a set of routines that is practical and effective for your living space.

Here are some ideas for routines that you can develop for your home:

Car — Each time you leave your car do a quick check to see if there is anything that doesn’t belong in your car. Then, once a week, do a check under the seats for dropped wrappers, coins, etc. I do the full check on Saturday mornings before I run errands.

Laundry — You’ll want to have a weekly schedule for washing bedroom sheets and bathroom towels (I do these on Thursdays). Additionally, you’ll want to plan for doing the laundry once a week if you’re single, twice a week if there are two or three people in your home, every other day if there are four people, and everyday if five or more people occupy your house. I suggest putting the load of laundry in to wash before work, putting it into the dryer after work, and folding it and putting it away after dinner.

Home Office — You should have routines in place for filing, clearing off your work space, and addressing to-do items. I promote filing items as they need to be filed instead of collecting a pile to file all at once (piles = clutter). Every Friday, I make sure to clean off my desk and review my next week’s goals.

Banking — One day in your schedule needs an hour dedicated to paying bills, organizing receipts, depositing checks and taking care of your finances. Once a month, add in balancing your accounts to your hour of banking responsibilities. I do this on Fridays because my bank has extended hours on this day if I need to contact them.

Deep Cleaning — The best way that I’ve found to tackle cleaning is to give each room a day of the week (Monday is living room, Tuesday is family room, Wednesday is bedroom, Thursday is bathrooms, Friday is kitchen, etc.). I’ll dust, clean the floors, and do other chores for 15 minutes to half an hour everyday per room instead of a five-hour, full-house, cleaning session all on one day.

Yard — During the warmer months, walk through your yard looking for children’s toys, fallen branches, and any other clutter that can find its way into your yard at least twice a week. If you mow your lawn, do this walk before you mow. If you have someone else mow your lawn, do this check the evening before the lawn maintenance people arrive. During the winter, you can probably reduce this check to once a week or once every other week.

Closets — As discussed in previous posts, go through your closets every six months to purge items that shouldn’t be in it any longer. Do this for linens and other storage closets, in addition to your clothing closets.

There are dozens (maybe hundreds) of other routines that you can establish in your home to keep it clutter free. Think about your home and create a schedule that you and your family can work with to keep clutter reduced. Remember, too, that even though it feels like you are doing work on your home everyday, when routines are in place you spend less time overall on organization. Plus, your home will always be in a state of order, which will cause you less stress and will be presentable if an unexpected guest decides to drop by for a visit.

If you have effective routines established in your home, feel welcome to share these in the comments. The Unclutterer team loves to hear about innovative ways people are keeping their homes clutter free.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

Reader Question: Screw nail organizing solutions

A reader recently sent in a request:

Do you have any suggestions for your father to organize all his screw nails? He’s been using margarine containers but their round and waste space. And, they break easily.

If you haven’t guessed, the reader is my mom. I thought if my dad was looking for screw nail organizing advice, then maybe other readers were too.

I know my dad. If he finds stripped, bent, or rusty screws in his collection, he throws them out right away. He has already sorted his screws into margarine containers by type, length, and head type. If you’ve got a collection of screws, nails, bolts, or other types of hardware bits, I suggest you use an inexpensive solution such as margarine or yogurt containers to sort your screws first. Once you see how many and what types you have, then invest in a permanent organizing system.

One of my favourite organizing solutions is the Stanley Deep Bin Professional Organizer. The little yellow compartments can be removed individually and taken to the work area. They can be easily rearranged within the main case and it is easy to see and access the items. The container itself can be stored flat or upright in small, narrow spaces. You can turn it upside down and shake it and the objects stays in their own container. A small parts organizer with adjustable dividers can useful too but you must take the whole container with you when you do a project. It is also a bit more time consuming to re-arrange the contents.

Many people like cabinets of mini-drawers. In most models the drawers can be removed allowing you to take an individual drawer to a work area. However, they can be somewhat difficult to use if you have large fingers. Because it is difficult to see the entire contents of the drawer just by looking in the front, you may forget that you have certain parts or pieces that are stored at the back of the drawers. Personally, I loved the mini-drawers that I had — until the moving company packed it upside down in box and all the small parts fell out all over the place, getting lost in the packing paper and causing me to re-organize everything on arrival at our new home.

Plastic Storage Stacking Bins are another ideal option for hardware storage and organization. These sturdy bins can be stacked on your workbench or be hung on a wall-mounted rail. You can take the one you need to your work area and easily place it back where it belongs. Dividers are available for these bins to help you increase storage space. They have no lids so it is easy to access the parts you need even if you have large hands/fingers. However, because they have no lids, it makes it very tricky to transport your hardware from one job site (e.g. your home) to another (e.g. your cottage).

These are my top three ways to organize small bits of hardware but there are many more. Please feel free to share your favourite organizing system.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Not all charities want your stuff

Imagine for a moment that you’re a 20-something female who lives in downtown Chicago. You live in an apartment that was big enough for you when you moved into it, but over the last year you’ve accumulated so much stuff that it’s starting to feel too small. You decide to get rid of clutter and you head to your closet to see what can be purged there.

You end up collecting two garbage bags full of clothes that are in good condition and can be worn again by women in need of casual and business clothing. You decide that a women’s shelter would be a great place to take your clothes.

You visit one women’s shelter and they don’t want your things. Then you go to a second and they won’t accept them either. You decide to pick up the phone and see if a third shelter will take your clothes, but no luck. Finally, on your fourth attempt, you reach a women’s shelter that is interested in your clothing. As you drive to the fourth shelter, you think about how you never imagined giving away nice clothes was going to be such a difficult task.

The above scenario is exactly what happened when one of our readers tried to donate clothes to Chicago-based women’s shelters. What was it that was wrong with her clothes? Why didn’t the women’s shelters want her things? The shelters didn’t want her clothes because they were sizes 4 and 6, and the shelters needed clothes in sizes 12 and larger. They appreciated her offer, but couldn’t accommodate the donation.

Right product, wrong size.

My community is currently holding a book drive for the area prisons. I planned on donating a bunch of fiction books to it until I realized that the book drive was for specific types of books: atlases, textbooks, and travel guides. I haven’t owned any of these types of books in years, so my fiction books are still on my shelves waiting to be donated to the next library book sale.

Many charity shop locations don’t accept electronics or exercise equipment. Unless a public library runs an annual book sale to raise money, they may not want your book donations. Many food pantries are only interested in specific types of dried and canned goods.

The lesson in all of this is that you should pick up the phone and call your local charities or research them online before making donations. Investing the time up front to learn what your community needs will save you from driving around town and giving yourself a headache. Also, the needs of charities change over time, so don’t assume that just because they accepted or didn’t accept one kind of good in the past means that they will continue to need or not need it in the future.

Finally, if you can’t find an organization in your community that needs your donations, jump online and research national organizations. As is the case with electronics, there are numerous national groups that will accept what your local charities may not be able to accommodate.

**
On a sort of related note … this cartoon makes me smile.

 

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Declaring laundry bankruptcy: How to use the laundromat to get your laundry routine under control

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a laundromat. I won’t divulge too many details, but the words “broken” and “dryer” and “angry” would aptly belong in a statement about why I’m in my present location.

Since I’m trying to look on the bright side of this situation, I’m reminding myself that all of my clothes will be washed, dried, and folded in less than two hours. If I were doing my laundry at home with just one washer and one dryer, it would take me close to two days to get my mountain of clothes under control. (This particular mountain being a direct result of the “broken dryer” mentioned above.) If I were to wait to do my laundry until after the new dryer is delivered, I then would have to walk up and down the stairs about 20 times and I would be tied to my house since I’m not too fond of letting the machines run when I’m not at home. So, instead of doing this mess in a couple days, I’ve declared a laundry bankruptcy and headed to the laundromat.

If you’re someone with a mountain of laundry who is having a problem getting your laundry situation under control, I think that the laundromat bankruptcy plan is a good plan to follow. Go once to the laundromat, get all of your clothes washed, and then get started on your new laundry routine at home with a clean slate. To complete the laundry bankruptcy plan you can do your laundry yourself, or you can use the Wash-Dry-Fold service that most laundromats offer.

I have friends who don’t have washers and dryers and they exclusively use the Wash-Dry-Fold services in their neighborhoods. One friend of mine who lives in New York’s West Village has found that it is only $4 more to have his laundry done for him than if he were to do it himself. His believes his time is more valuable to him than $4, so every Monday he makes a trip to the Wash-Dry-Fold on his way to work and picks his clothes up that day on his way home. My local Wash-Dry-Fold charges $1 per pound of laundry with a minimum $10 purchase.

There is something simple and wonderful about using the laundromat as your first step in getting on track with a home laundry routine. If you find yourself under a mountain of clothes, it is definitely worth considering. Also, if you don’t have a washer and dryer in your home or you have a set you don’t use, you may want to consider using the services of your local Wash-Dry-Fold. You may find that the expense of the service is less than the amount you value the time you could spend doing something else.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

The landing strip

Although it’s one of the cornerstones of an organized home, I’m amazed how many folks haven’t heard of the “landing strip”. The concept it very simple. Organization comes from things having a place and being in their place and probably the time when this rule is least observed is when we come home. We arrive from work exhausted, often carrying our work bags, groceries, and the mail. All we can think of is changing into jeans and slippers. We just toss down our things and later we’re too preoccupied to tidy up. If instead you have a place to “land,” and a routine for doing so, you’ll avoid disorganization.

A landing strip in your home should be at the entrance you use most often. The idea is that when you come in, you stop here first and unload. A small table, sideboard, or credenza will do. Your landing strip should have a designated place for everything, so when you come in all you have to do is put everything in its place. I like to use a large unbreakable bowl for my wallet, keys, cell phone, and watch. On my way out again, I know exactly where I’ll find them — no wasting time hunting for my keys. Hooks on the wall or on the side of the furniture are great for bags — just drop your bag on the hook and keep going.

An inbox or mail holder is also a must. When you come in with mail, you’ll have a place to put it. Don’t bother sorting through it. Anything that needs your immediate attention would have come certified, so wait until you have time to process it properly. Once a week, grab a cup of coffee and go through all the mail, tossing out the junk mail and paying bills right then and there. By batching the mail sorting to once a week, you save time and you reduce the stress that comes from feeling like you have to address each piece of mail.

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.