There are a few major things in my life that motivate me to keep my home in order. First up: working from home. I love walking downstairs to work every day to my studio! When I come “home” at the end of the day (walking back up the stairs), I want my living space to feel refreshing. To me, that means it should be orderly and clean. Secondly, a major motivation for me is the simple fact that we live in a town home. We don’t have a big house, so it is easy for just a few small things to leave a room feeling cluttered. I am constantly cleaning out and donating items to keep the amount of stuff we have to a minimum. Lastly, it’s stewardship. I believe I am called to manage every area of my life well. God’s the owner, I’m just the manager, and yes – this even applies to our home!
I’m excited to share with you The Rays 10 systems for Home Organization. No matter how big or small your home, and no matter how organized you are at this moment, if you just apply one or two of these systems, you’ll feel more organized in no time!
Before I begin, I want to point out something very important:
Living an unorganized life is not a clutter problem: it’s a behavior problem.
The truth is, we are usually too lazy to pick up that item and put it away, we just don’t want to sit down and make a budget, we love purchasing sparkly new things in the store that are “fresh and new.” But if you really want to know my secret to living an organized life, it boils down to two things:
1. Being content with what you have
2. Doing the work to maintain your home on a regular basis
Keeping those two very important things in mind, here are:
The Rays 10 Systems for Organization
1. Household routines
We have implemented regular household routines for cleaning and clearing the clutter. My favorite of all these listed is our “Sunday household reset day!” Each Sunday I do laundry, grocery shopping, I wash our sheets, and we sit down to discuss our week ahead. It leaves you feeling ready to go on Monday morning.
• Major house clean outs. We do this 2-4 times a year to get rid of a ton of junk. We just had a yard sale for our spring clean out! Last year, I gave a lot of clothes and household items to a local ministry.
• Household cleaning day, toilets and all.
• Budget meeting happens at the end of each month, just before the new month begins.
• Sundays = household reset day for the Rays! That includes laundry, calendar meeting, groceries, and mail folder emptying.
• Get and file the mail
• Put all dishes in the dishwasher prior to bed
2. Mail folders
Pictured below on the left: these 3 clear containers hold our “mail folders.” I have to admit that these mail folders are a result of my husband’s genius, not my own! As soon as we get the mail and sort it, we place it in the following folders which are tucked away out of site:
Once a week, we clean them out by filing them, shredding them, putting dates in our calendar, tossing trash, recycling, etc. This is THE BEST system to prevent mail from piling up on your kitchen table!
3. Filing system
It’s a wonderful thing to have a good filing system for your bills and your life. We have a file for almost everything, including:
car insurance, bank accounts, life insurance, hoa, Winston, investments, giving, vacations, water bill, gas bill, etc.
Our filing cabinet is also tucked away out of site. We clean the files out and shred them, then store important documents every 2 years or so.
4. Consignment / donation box
Keeping a consignment/donation box in our garage (or a closet) all year long has provided us an immediate place to deposit unwanted clutter. As you accumulate things you don’t want, as that dress goes out of style, as you realize you’ve been holding on to that colander because it was a gift but you really hate it…. put it all in the box! We love regularly contributing to With Love From Jesus – a wonderful ministry that accepts everything from clothes to household appliances. I also have an account at my local consignment store for name brand items or expensive appliances we simply don’t use.
5. A place for everything
We have a designated place for the following items, which have significantly cut down on tabletop clutter: keys, mail, recycled paper, envelope system, stationery, stamps, pens, return address stamp, scissors, grocery list, remote controls, Winston’s leash, etc.
The list goes on and on! But you get my point: these are the little items that can clutter your countertops and leave you feeling like a level 4 hoarder. Just designate a place that you and your spouse / roommate / family all know about, and declare it out loud several times so everyone remembers. Then if you can’t find an item you set down on the counter, it’s very likely your spouse place it in it’s designated spot! We always check the spot first, and I cannot tell you the last time we lost our keys or misplaced a wallet.
Below: our remote control (and video game control) holding place, next to a candle and my quiet time books for my morning routine.
6. Gift basket
Many people feel guilty about re-gifting items. I am not one of those people! Stuff is stuff, people. If I don’t use it, I’ll just regift it or donate it or sell it. I’m blessed to be a blessing, and I want to be generous with everything that flows into my life: money, stuff, clothes, all of it. No hard feelings to the givers – I sincerely do appreciate every gift I am given! But I feel trapped and stifled when I hold onto clutter for guilt reasons only. If it’s a nice, unused item, into the gift basket it goes! This is great option for items that are very nice that you don’t want to donate. It might make a lovely wedding gift or birthday gift!
7. Personal photo archive
This one is highly personal, so I suggest that you do something that works for YOU. As a photographer, this sadly the last thing that gets accomplished each year. Most of the time, we photographers are so concerned with other peoples photos that we neglect our own. That’s why I decided to overhaul my photo storage system about a year ago!
Here is my process for my personal photo archive :
1. Edit photos as I take them throughout the year
2. Back them up on my personal photos external hard drive
3. Print a few 4×6 photos of my favorite images from each event (i.e.: 10 photos from July 4th, 5 photos from Will’s birthday, 15 photos from our anniversary trip, 7 photos from Nicaragua, etc)
4. File my personal photos in my photo storage boxes by date
This leaves me with my personal photos in 2 places: the external hard drive which holds all final JPEGS only, as well as prints from our favorite memories and adventures from the year, organized by date. If I’m honest, I NEVER go look through my photos on my hard drive, which is why I don’t keep the RAW files, and I only take time to print just a few from each trip. Picturing the end of our lives, I would like to know that there’s one shoebox of photos for every 5 years. Not too much, but just enough to remember the really good stuff.
My next project? To make an Artifact Uprising album every 5 years of our lives and marriage together.
8. Trash bags are your friends
If you don’t like it, if you don’t use it, if no one else would want it – just throw it away. ‘Nuff said.
9. Eat all your food.
This might seem silly to some, but nothing bothers us more than finding a never used can of food that has expired. We hate wasting food, but that’s what happens when your pantry gets over cluttered! So, we do our very best every month to plan wisely and eat all of our food. We also will regularly make a big batch of soup, and will freeze most of it to eat later. Yes, our pantry and fridge seem a little bare at the end of the month, but it feels good to know that we didn’t waste anything. I know this can be challenging for larger families, so if you have any advice – leave some comments below!
10. The budget (STOP buying stuff!)
If you create a budget and stick to it, it limits your spending. If you limit your spending, you limit the amount of things that make their way into your home. If you limit the amount of things that make their way into your home, you limit your clutter.
It’s really common sense: the best way to stop the clutter from accumulating is to simply STOP BUYING STUFF! But let’s be honest – this one can be the toughest. It take self discipline and creativity within your home to keep it feeling fresh. It can be challenging, but it is so worth it!
Finally, I leave you with a list of our “unspoken rules” that we live by. We don’t really ever discuss these, but we simply do them. They are simple rules that have just developed over time in the course of our marriage. Do you have any unspoken rules in your house?
The Ray’s unspoken rules:
If something is left on the stairs, you grab it and take it upstairs. No matter who it is, no matter whose stuff it is!
If it takes less than a minute, do it immediately.
Always take everything out of your car every single time you come inside: water bottles, every little piece of trash, receipts, coffee tumblers, books, briefcases, photography equipment, jackets. Anything that goes in your car must come out! Our cars stay clutter free this way.
Check your mail folders regularly.
Always ask your spouse before throwing something of his/hers away.
Communicate about who is doing what household chores.
I am curious: What did you find most helpful? And please leave a comment letting me know what you do for home organization! I’d love to hear it.
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