Life Simplified: Expert Advice on Getting Organized

By Amy Trainum of Style Blueprint

Organization isn’t one of my strong suits … just ask my parents or any of my former roommates. I could care less if my personal belongings are scattered around or in a pile on the floor. Hunting for misplaced items has become routine — I’ve even had to resort to buying a few Tile Mates, which are tiny squares that attach to items like keys and beep to help you find them when they’re hidden. (If you haven’t heard of them, check them out! They are extremely useful and reasonably priced.)
Recently I decided to make a conscious effort to work on my organization and get things in order, except I honestly didn’t know where to start. So I took a guess — and purchased Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You’ve probably heard of it, as it’s had a lot of hype, which is probably why I fell for it. While I wouldn’t call buying it a big mistake, it was definitely a little overzealous to think I’d be able to emulate Marie’s organizational extremes. As I read the book I was constantly overrun with questions like “I need to talk to my shoes? And fold my socks because they need to rest?” If you’ve read the book, you know what I am talking about. If not, you won’t understand until you’ve read the book. I still can’t explain the theory for the life of me. Instead of feeling encouraged and up for the task of organizing — or as Marie says, “tidying up,” I felt overwhelmed and hesitant. Yet, I refused to give up. Instead, I went to professional organizer (they do exist, thankfully!) in Charlotte, Laurie Martin of Simplicity Organizers, to get her help and am so glad that I did. Laurie broke down the really important aspects of getting organized from where to start, what supplies to purchase, what to keep or get rid of and, most importantly, how to maintain everything once you get it in order.
I’ve found Laurie’s tips and tricks extremely helpful, and I know you will too!

Here’s to getting organized!

Where’s the best place to start when tackling an organization project?

Wherever is causing you the most trouble. If your closet is a mess and driving you crazy, start there. If your children’s things went from barely under control to unmanageable over the holidays, start there. If you’re worried that your tax records for 2016 are scattered to the winds, start in your office. It’s like asking the doctor what’s the best exercise. The right answer is “whichever one you’ll do.” The same is true for organizing.

How do you help clients decide what needs to be tossed or just needs a designated place?

By reminding them of the definition of clutter. Clutter is anything that is unused or unloved, anything that exceeds your storage capacity, and anything that if tossed, can be easily and inexpensively replaced should the need arise. Let go of clutter and find good homes for the keepers.

 

When in doubt remember clutter is anything that is unused or unloved. #teamdeclutter

What are some small daily steps someone can take towards getting organized?

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Digging out of too much stuff won’t happen in a day either. Like any big project, small, sequential steps get the job done. Can you consider a “spending detox” while you dig out of the excess you already own? Stemming the flow of new things into your home will at least keep you at even. Can you commit to filling one bag each day with either recycle, donations or trash? Another way to consider small steps is by vowing to spend 30 minutes each day on de-cluttering. If you live in a family, get all family members on board. By actively participating, they are more invested in the project, and as the old saying goes, “Many hands make light the work.”

What’s the biggest mistake you see people making while trying to get organized? How can it be avoided?

The No. 1 mistake is leaping before looking. It’s important to really think about WHY you’ve gotten into this situation before you strategize HOW to get out. The solution is to think before doing. The doing is very important, but it will be greatly enhanced by doing some soul-searching first.
Filing important papers is something we absolutely dread. What’s the best way to keep everything in order?

A place for everything and everything in its place is a good mantra for papers, especially. If you have a system (whatever system works for you — and letting them live in unruly piles is not a system), it is very easy to put important papers where they are easily accessed. Most people like file folders with clear labels. Put newest papers either in the front or back — consistently. Purge old papers that are no longer active or relevant. Start your new year’s tax file on January 1 so that no tax record is ever “homeless.”

Laurie says it’s important to avoid unruly piles like this.

Once a house or room is organized, what steps are imperative to keeping it that way?

Set a timer, put your cell phone away, play some music, and spend 20 minutes (10 minutes for children) at the end of each day tidying your home. A designated time each evening will start you out on a fresh start for the next day. Daily tidying will prevent hours of organization overhaul. Follow the One In-One Out Rule. If a new toy comes in, an old one needs to go. Ditto with clothes and electronic gadgets. Remember, if an item exceeds the space available to store it, it’s clutter.

Best products someone should have in their home to prep and stay organized?

Label maker, file folders, clear lidded containers, drawer dividers and matching slim-line closet hangers will all make your life easier and neater. But don’t go overboard. And don’t buy supplies until you’ve done the first step in getting organized. Buying organization supplies might be an endorphin rush, but without serious thinking first, these purchases are likely to become more clutter.

Before buying a bunch of organization items, have a plan in place, and get rid of what you don’t need.

Favorite places to shop for organizational products to use in clients’ homes?

The Container Store, Target, Lowe’s and an office supply store. If you can’t find what you need there — consult Google!

 


Procrastination

 

When we willingly defer something even though we expect the delay to make us worse off, we’re procrastinating. (per Piers Steel) And most of us are guilty as charged. It’s so easy to find a distraction that doesn’t demand much commitment that avoiding a demanding task or project is commonplace. But dragging our feet doesn’t make the job go away. It only makes us feel guilty, inadequate and ultimately overwhelmed.

Procrastination has many faces. The thrill-seeker loves the euphoric rush of waiting until the last minute. The avoider often has unrealistic expectations or a serious case of perfectionism. The decision avoider feels that by dilly-dallying, he’s absolved of any responsibility for the outcome.

Procrastination might be a basic impulse, but it’s also bad habit. It’s costly and anxiety producing. Failing to file taxes on time results in fines. Late papers and projects can mean failing grades. Dithering over a decision often closes the door on options.

Here’s a procrastination conundrum: Avoiding the onerous task doesn’t seem to make people happy. This is what William James was talking about. Not doing something we know needs to be done is exhausting and defeating. In our heart of hearts, we know that “One of these days is none of these days.” Henri Tubach

So how can we overcome the tendency to dawdle? Try better planning. Set deadlines or have others set them for you and impose penalties for failure to comply. Expect interruptions- they’re part of life so give yourself enough time to complete the project even if the roof springs a leak or the dog goes missing.

Divide projects into smaller parts, each with better definition so the tasks are concrete and you don’t have to think about how to start. Restrict your options.   If you need to buy a new washing machine, determine your budget. Ask two friends for recommendations. Read several consumer reviews. Pick one that looks good enough- no expectation of perfection. Buy the darn thing!

Will power has been compared to a muscle that can be strengthened through exercise. Making now the time to act, paves the way for that pattern to more easily be repeated. You can become one of those people who accomplish things in a timely fashion. The best way to get something done is to begin.

 Getting Things Done by David Allen is full of time- management tips.

“The Thief of Time” essays edited by Chrisoula Andreuo and Mark White

By Robin McCoy

 

 

 

 

 


Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

 

garagesbasementsattics2

Perfect is the enemy of good enough. Maybe you want your living space perfect, but better might be good enough for your storage areas. Don’t sabotage your efforts by holding these areas to the same standard you desire for the living room or bedroom. A good rule of thumb- if it’s not climate controlled, don’t sweat the details. And if it’s not climate controlled, be careful about what you store. Memorabilia, off season clothes and paperwork don’t fare well in damp, temperature-extreme conditions.

When it comes to organizing, the garage suffers an identity crisis. Is it part of the house or not? Does it merit a high level of “spiffing “ or does anything go? Is it a place to park cars or is that fantasy thinking?

Regardless of how you view your garage, some organizing can be helpful.   This is a project to tackle when the weather is mild. Too hot or too cold and you’ve got a built-in excuse for quitting!

With garages, the contents may be different from what’s in your house, but the organizing process is the same. First, envision how you want your garage to function- what’s working and what’s not? Then, it’s time to roll up your sleeves.

Garage

Sort and Purge

Everything comes out and is separated into one of three piles- keep, donate or toss.

Reorganize

All the keepers are stored with like kind, with most frequently used items being easily accessible. Open wire shelving is an excellent, affordable option for keeping things off the floor and in easy reach. Shelf height can be adjusted to accommodate your needs. If your budget permits, a custom installed garage storage system is as good as it gets.

Contain

When practical, use clear, lidded containers for storage.   Dirt and bugs will be minimized and small items won’t be lost.

Label

If you have a label maker, use it. If not, consider buying one. It’s a purchase you won’t regret.

Discard /Donate

Don’t sabotage your project by letting trash and donations linger. Call the city for an extra trash pickup and load the car with donations. If you’ve got a mountain of discards, using a professional rubbish removal service to haul it all away will be money well-spent.

simplicity-garage-promo2


The Domino Effect

A client’s perspective by Lauren Shapiro

Shapiro_Pantry-BEFORE-4

The worst part about going to the grocery store every week was the annoying task of putting things away. I say annoying because that is what it was – a skillful game of perishable item Tetris, trying to figure out how to cram soups, sauces, pasta, snacks, cereal, baby food, baking items, and any other random necessity my husband thought we needed at the store that week into our small pantry. I’ve tried to organize my pantry many, many times…but it always seems to become a giant mess in no time.

I’m not going to lie, I was nervous before Simplicity arrived to organize my pantry. I was embarrassed. But I was also extremely excited at the thought of having a professional organizer tidy my pantry. As you can see from the before pictures, I really did need help.

Shapiro_Pantry-Process

Once we pulled everything out of the cabinets and sorted into what seemed like a million bins and we got down to the actual act of organizing, I realized there was no way organizing was going to stop with the pantry. And then a thought came into my mind, you know the one where the person pushes one little domino over and about a zillion dominos follow? Well, that’s what organizing my pantry turned out to be: a Domino Effect.

Shapiro_Pantry-Process4

We started emptying drawers, cabinets on either side of the stove in the kitchen, cabinets under the island, and even the laundry room. Before we began, it all seemed overwhelming, but it was actually very liberating! As we sorted the items in the pantry, Simplicity organizers asked questions about which things I use the most, how I work in my kitchen, and of course the dreaded question of “When was the last time you used this?” Once we figured out what was going to live in the pantry, there was a ton of extra items that now needed a new place to go. The domino effect was highly motivating to start organize other areas.

BEFORE-AFTER2BEFORE-AFTER

It was amazing to see how much we were able to organize in just 2 1/2 hours. Perhaps even more important, I had a very real sense of how to tackle the never-ending struggle to stay ahead of clutter and mess. Thank you, Simplicity, for the help. I’m excited to ride the wave of dominos and bring order to other areas of my home!

By Lauren Shapiro

 


80/20 Rule for Closet Organization

 

Clothes and Accessories Swap Party

The Pareto Principle  (aka The 80-20 Rule)

This principle was first conceived in over 100 years ago by an Italian who observed that 80% of the land in his country was owned by 20% of the people. We’ve all heard in the classroom how 80% of the trouble is caused by 20% of the students. So what does this have to do with Simplicity? Actually, quite a bit:

We are all looking for efficiency in our over busy, over stuffed worlds. Figuring out what 20% matters- in what we own and what we do, would be huge. Even if it’s not 80% wasted time or unused possessions, most of us have a great deal of fat in our schedules and bloat in our stuff.

 

WhitleyCloset1

How you say?
How much of the contents of your closet never see the light of day?

How much of the stuff that lives in your garage, attic or basement should have been discarded or donated rather than boxed and stored?

How many of your children’s toys never come out of the toy box (if you were lucky enough to have them corralled to begin with)?

How much of the backlog of magazines, journals and papers will never be read?

How much of the stockpile of staples in your pantry will expire before being consumed?

How much of what’s on your calendar or agenda is productive, necessary and meaningful?

Maybe eliminating the 80% that isn’t used, enjoyed, productive and meaningful, could take you a long way toward accomplishing more of your goals. Activities and commitments that are “low value” or “no value” may need to go. The same is true of the unused, unloved, outdated clothes, toys, foodstuffs, and paper piles.

If you haven’t used something for a while, ask yourself why you are keeping it? Because I might need it one day, or it’s too much trouble to make the cull, are not good excuses. If you’re saying yes to commitments out of fear or embarrassment, reconsider your motives.

Remember, better the right 20% than the wrong 100%!

 

 

 

 


Tidying

NY Times recent article, Marie Kondo and the Ruthless War on Stuff 

STUFF

Photo illustration by Christopher Mitchell

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up; The Japanese Art of Decluttering by Marie Kondo has been a NY Times bestseller for months, sparking joy in some and outrage in others.   To say that Marie Kondo is a phenom and her KonMari method of tidying is a sensation is probably an understatement. When the NY Times and Atlantic Monthly are talking about tidying up, we all should be listening. And for that, we can thank Marie Kondo.

Get over thinking that ‘tidying’ is a quick, quaint go with a feather duster and a whiskbroom. It’s deep, transformational work. Whether you take all that Kondo suggests or just parts, it’s unlikely you’ll not glean something of value from some time with Tidying Up.

Magic

Kondo has many admirers- even some professionals. Despite the vitriol expressed by some in NAPO, Simplicity offers this contrarian view. These comments are from Anne and Betsy, two seasoned Simplicity pros.
“The NAPO women seem way too judgmental and critical. There’s room for all types of organizers is this world, maybe even the organizer who’s getting $100 an hour to organize your thoughts.” Betsy

“With all the different personalities and different brain types, we NEED a variety of approaches for our clients.  Their (the organizing pros quoted in the Times piece) attitudes were petty and were drenched with the stench of jealousy, pitiful really.  I don’t know why women are like that.” Anne

“I personally liked her book, even though parts were a bit weird. I would never talk to my belongings. But after reading it I was inspired in several areas like my clothes and books to purge some more.

Her method is extreme, but she will definitely weed out those who just want things organized. She wants to really help free people from their belongings, once and for all. Many people aren’t ready for that, but for those who are, the KonMari method may help.

She sparked joy with me” Betsy

“I do not talk to my belongings. If she wants to talk to her socks, good for her, they are her socks and she can talk to them if she wants.  Me, I’m just tossing them in my drawer or wearing them to get my work out on.” Anne

“I will say that her book has TRULY inspired people and really thrust the professional organizing industry into the limelight, and for that I am so grateful. I have had several clients who talk about how this book has seriously motivated them to take their work with Simplicity to the next level, and for that I am also grateful. I am totally on board with how her approach does truly seek to get to the heart of the matter, which is a matter of the heart.  She is working with her clients to free them from the burden of lack-luster lives packed with meaningless items they hope will give them meaning – it’s madness.” Anne

“Despite working as professional organizer for years, I still struggle with keeping my home organized, Her book gave me a new perspective in many areas and for that it made for a good read for me.” Betsy

“I like her.  I think she’d be super fun to work along side, or put in your pocket and run around with.” Anne

A few snippets from the Times article…

“NAPO women seek to make a client’s life good by organizing their stuff; Kondo, on the other hand, leads with her spiritual mission, to change their lives through magic. ”

“I think the NAPO women have Kondo wrong. She is not one of them, intent on competing for their market share. She is not part of a breed of alpha-organizer “solopreneurs” bent on dominating the world, despite her hashtag. She has more in common with her clients.”

“She leaves room for something that people don’t often give her credit for: that the KonMari method might not be your speed. “I think it’s good to have different types of organizing methods,” she continued, “because my method might not spark joy with some people, but his method might.”

Simplicity hopes you’ll read the full article (any maybe even the book) and see what comes upjoy or outrage or some of both. Don’t let the naysayers put you off “tidying” up.

By Robin Mcoy

 


Mindful Technology

Mindful Tech

“It is not what technology does to us, it is what we do to technology. Used skillfully, it can improve and enhance our lives beyond our wildest imagination. Used unskillfully, it can leave us feeling lonely, isolated, agitated and overwhelmed. Get smart with technology, choose wisely and use it in a way that benefits both you and those around you.” ~Headspace

Ever since a cell phone was first thrust upon me as a young professional in the 90’s, I’ve been somewhat vexed by technology. I resented the thought of 24 hour availability. And, as a 20 something at the time, how could I maintain my aloof nature if I could always be tracked down?

Decades later, I’m slightly less aloof but still maintain a love-hate relationship with the technology that saturates my family’s life. We own “i-everything” it seems, and are far too often in front of or behind a large or small screen. Much of my day is spent online purveying health, nutrition, eco-wellness and spiritual wisdom through our Spunky Avocado website, blog and social media. At the end of the day, everyday, I’ve been finding myself actively squelching the urge to calculate just how much of our precious time as a family had been mindlessly spent on our many devices.

I decided it was time to confront the ugly truth and take a deep, honest look. What I found was that despite all my efforts to get my family out into nature, to travel, to have great experiences and quality time together, we were way out of balance in terms of our collective technology use. It was also clear that in order to make changes to our family’s bad habits, I would first need to address my own. So in an effort to bring it all back to a place that felt balanced and productive, I put on my researcher’s cap and and dug in. Here is what I have found to be most helpful.

Technology

Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a psychologist at Stanford University, helps us identify when technology is having a negative impact and too much control over our life (click here). She suggests that any of the following indicates an unhealthy relationship with your technology:

  • Separation anxiety when you aren’t sure where your phone is.
  • Physical discomfort when you haven’t checked your device in a while.
  • Intimacy with your device. For example: Do you sleep with it? Does it call to you in the middle of the night? Do you check it as soon as you rise in the morning?

If you recognize yourself or a family member here, don’t despair. It certainly hit home with me. But, with some simple and sustained practices, you can adopt a more mindful approach to the use of your technology.

  • Start by taking a serious look at your own tech consumption habits. Pay close attention, be honest and consider these questions: Are you using it in a way that is productive? Is it moving you forward in your life? Do you find that a simple check-in on social media results in an hour of lost time? Does it ever leave you feeling anxious, unsatisfied with your life, or ruminating? Does it leave you with a smile and a feeling of connection? Are you spending money that you regret spending? Is it distracting you from your life and the people you love? Does it keep you from being physically active? Do you feel like it is time well spent?           This purposeful attention to the way your tech time makes you feel will allow you to better evaluate its impact on your life. Instead of allowing yourself to be on device autopilot, you can instead approach technology with mindful awareness.
  • Set your intention, daily, for your technology use and it can become an effective tool in your life rather than a time suck or even, an addiction.
  • Turn off notifications and alarms that aren’t absolutely essential; all those alerts keep us from being in the present moment. Set specific times where check-ins occur and hold yourself to those times. Set an alarm, if necessary.

Further, in an excerpt from Elizabeth Millard’s article Intentional Computing in Experience Life Magazine (click here), she suggests the following 5 techniques for upping your mindfulness game:

  • Breathe when you log on, notice if youre holding your breath. Breathing slowly and evenly releases physical tension and helps you be more restful and alert when you engage with information technology.
  • Take advantage of software that helps you avoid disruptions when you want to focus. Some applications turn off email and chat notifications or block time-wasting websites. Consider apps that can help you be more productive and creative.
  • Programs that keep you on task are great, but youll benefit most from disciplining your mind. Learning to sit and count your breath is a starting point for noticing your tendency to get distracted and for staying on track.
  • Log how much time you spend with your devices each day. If you would like to refine your usage, experiment with different choices communicating in person instead of via email or limiting social media to certain times, for example.
  • Unplugging altogether (for an evening, day, or week) lets you slow down from the fast pace that technology enables. Return from your digital sabbath rested and with a fresh perspective that supports creativity and connection.

Additionally, there are very useful apps which help keep track of how time is spent on devices as well as those that help with mindfulness in general. Headspace is my favorite but here are a few articles that will help you choose the one that is best for you: here , here,  and here.

At the end of the day, I want to know that technology has enriched my life and the life of others through me. I also want to know that I’ve been a good model of healthy tech habits to my kids. Waking up to my own less than perfect practices has been a gift.

You might also enjoy this Spunky post.

 

Sources:

https://experiencelife.com/article/intentional-computing/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/technology-mindfulness_b_2526737.html

https://bewell.stanford.edu/mindful-use-of-technology

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-some-headspace/201307/the-mindful-use-technology


Preparation is Key in the Kitchen

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Ben Franklin

Checklist

Failing to prepare, procrastinating, putting off until tomorrow what should be done today…
These are all strategies for disorganization, chaos, waste and heartache- outcomes that few seek. So why do we do the very things that sabotage success we crave? The answer is at least in part-we’re human and we’re creatures of habit. In our busy lives and fast-paced world, there always seems to be more to do than time to do it. Putting things off is a coping mechanism.

But preparation skills can be learned, practiced and habit-forming. And in the process, life becomes calmer, simpler and happier.

Consider these possibilities for success through preparation in the kitchen and pantry.

Grocery Store

Plans meals and keep a grocery list (easier than ever with technology) rather than impulse buying and not having anything that constitutes a meal. Shop less often but more intentionally.

Prep groceries when you unpack them. This means rotating your pantry stock, washing greens and cleaning veggies, unwrapping or unsealing the bottle or jar before you put it in the fridge. Spending a bit of time on the front end pays off handsomely on the back end.

Take stock of your pantry. Mystery jars outdated spices and cans all can be discarded. Food gifts you’ll never use can be donated to someone who will. Be ruthless. If you can’t fathom making a meal of something in your pantry, let it go. And don’t ever buy it again.

If you’re a small family, do you really need the jumbo-sized, discount grocery store? Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean it’s a good value.

Not every meal has to be a gastronomic masterpiece. Ingredients for your go-to meals should be staples. If the ingredients are on hand (and prepped), eating at home is quicker, tastier, healthier and cheaper than blasting through the fast food drive thorough. And home cooking results in leftovers, which become the basis for lunches or subsequent dinners.

We’ve gotten in the habit of eating out. It’s dealt our pocketbooks and waistlines a blow. At Simplicity, we encourage you to get in the habit of eating in!


Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Thanks to Simplicity, the documentary, Minimalism, was recently screened in Charlotte to a full house. And a full house, or more specifically, an overly full house is exactly what the film was about.  My husband and daughter were my sidekicks for the evening-one, enthusiastic and one a bit reluctant.  But when the lights came up, we all agreed that Minimalism was thought provoking, inspiring and a bit guilt-inducing.

Minimalism

The film documents the two Minimalists’ odyssey.  From more is more, to less is more. From keeping up with the Jones, to charting one’s own path. And from piles of unused stuff, to owning just enough. Their journeys resulted in freedom- financial, emotional and physical.  And their mission now is not to climb the corporate ladder, in the right suit with the right gadgets, but to inspire others to consciously examine what they own and why they own it.  For the movie trailer click here

Less

In the spirit of Simplicity, each of us gives our single most important lesson from the film.

From the 30 year old:

Only hold on to things that bring value to your life.

There isn’t just one template for how to deal with possessions.  Each of us has our own threshold for what is enough and what brings value to our life.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A collection of snow angels might make one person grab a trash bag but for someone else, it could be a treasured and tangible connection to a loved one. And how do you measure the value of something?  Do you use it?  Do you have space for it?  Can you afford the time or money it would take to replace it if you ever decided you needed such a thing?  No matter the value in absolute monetary terms, if the object doesn’t bring value to you, let it go.  Paradoxically, your life will be enriched by having less.

From the 60 something male:

A big change is easier than small one.

As counter-intuitive as this may seem, there is neurobiology supporting it. Often the trigger or nudge is more compelling for a big change than a small one. We evolved as horders. Stockpiling worked in times of scarcity when basic needs were hard to meet but our biology betrays us now.  Biology begets “buyology.  With small changes rather than a sweeping change, there can be a feeling of continual deprivation.  It’s like the addict who needs another hit. And this need for more precludes the feeling of contentment from having the “luxury of enough”.

From the 60 something female:

You think you own your stuff but your stuff really owns you. 

We’re hardwired to feel loss more strongly than we feel gain. Letting go of things is more painful than acquiring them is pleasurable.  We’re wired for dissatisfaction.  Advertising and social media feed that dissatisfaction. Dubious claims of ‘New and Improved’ render the existing version unsatisfactory.  Keeping up with the Jones is exhausting and expensive. We live in a junk culture where ‘more is more’. The cheaper, the better is the lifeblood of mass retailing. We can turn that around when buying fewer things, but better things becomes our habit. Remember the Chinese proverb, “Buy the best and you only weep once”.

Here’s one final thought from the film. You can never get enough of what you don’t really need because what you don’t need, no matter the quantity, will never satisfy.

And lastly, a possible mantra for those on their own minimalist odyssey-

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”  Hans Hofmann, German abstract expressionist 

By Robin McCoy


The Playroom: Where Fun Meets Function

Less is More.  This is a good lesson for children to learn early in life.  And toys are a great place to start.

Playroom

An organized play space is a functional and attractive alternative to the chaos that reigns in many homes.  If a dedicated playroom isn’t available, a corner of the family room, bedroom or kitchen can be a good substitute. For toddlers and young preschoolers, the more visible and central the location, the better.

Regardless of where playthings call home, avoid having more toys than space permits.  If you’ve already exceeded your limit, purge now, before the birthday party or holiday gift-giving season approaches.  If you’re at comfortable capacity, adopt the “one in-one out” rule to avoid overload.  Make sure your child has in mind which toy from home is going to leave before a new one is purchased.

Weed out age inappropriate toys.  For toys your child has outgrown, contain and label for younger/future siblings, share with friends, or donate to charity. Overly advanced games and toys will be frustrating. Store them until the appropriate time – and if that time is years away, consider letting them go.  Purge anything that is broken or missing pieces or that your child no longer enjoys.  If you have the luxury of additional storage space in your home, consider a toy rotation.  Keep only a portion of the age appropriate toys in circulation at one time.  Every few weeks, stash a portion of what’s in play, and substitute a few items from storage.  Make sure the toys that are being stored are clearly labeled and are very accessible.  This is almost as good as a trip to the toy store!

Establish activity centers. While the floor is great for blocks, Legos, and train sets, you’ll need a table and chairs for puzzles, crafts, and doll tea parties.  Don’t skimp on containers or chaos will be back in spades. Open shelves and lidded clear plastic containers are a good choice.  Ziplock bags work well for individual puzzles or games with many small pieces.  Avoid large baskets and bins, which quickly become catch-alls for unrelated toys.

If your children are old enough, allow them to be involved in the process.  Label containers or shelves so everyone will know what belongs where.  Printed word labels are appropriate for older children, while picture labels for younger ones will facilitate cleanup. If your child is learning another language, bilingual labeling is a good way to reinforce foreign vocabulary.

To summarize:

Designate a play space with several activity centers.

Ensure toys are age and space-appropriate.

Contain and label.

Fun meets function!

Looking for inspiration to declutter and serve the community?

This year, Simplicity Organizers are teaming up with Augustine Literacy Project and Freedom School Partners, to host their annual book drive in the month of May. We are encouraging the community to donate gently used children’s books (Grades K-5) to the Read a Book, Give a Book celebration. This year we will donate the books to Montclair and Rama Road Elementary schools in hopes that every single student will be able to take home several books to read over the summer! Please email us to find drop off location in your area.

Charity sites that accept toys and school supplies: