Clearing out, Organizing, & Redecorating Room by Room | The Living Areas

May 31, 2011


I know it’s practically the summer and I’m a bit behind for the annual “Spring Cleaning” wave, but what are ya gonna do?  No time like the present to get your home in order!  I really love clearing out, organizing, and redecorating.  Sometimes I go a bit overboard and get rid of things I really should have held onto (sorry about that Sega game system, honey!) Nevertheless, this is the week for going through my home and I thought I would lay out my plan for you in case you too have been bit by the organizational bug!

The thing I am most interested in this week is to Simplify my life.  Why do I need three sets of mixing bowls?  I don’t.  Why do I have three shirts that really are exactly the same?  I don’t need two of them (at least).  Do I really need seven picture frames on that one surface?  No.  Would it look neater, cleaner, and better with just three?  Yes.  Or none?  Yes.

This is going to be hard work (although it may not seem like it right now)–it’s really difficult to get rid of things we think we need.  The truth is, though, we really don’t need much of anything.  So, with all that being said, join me in my week of clearing out, organizing, and redecorating–that is, SIMPLIFYING–my home! If this week is no good for you, plan four or five days in the next month in which you could follow this, or your own, plan of attack–they don’t have to be consecutive! 

Here’s my Plan of Attack:

  • Tuesday (or Day 1): The living areas–living rooms, family rooms, dens, and kitchen. My living areas are a living room, kitchen nook (with a rather large stuff-collecting table), and kitchen.  If I had more living areas, I would probably split this day into two, which you may need to do!
  • Wednesday (or Day 2): The bedrooms & office. We have two bedrooms (ours and our son’s) and an office.
  • Thursday (or Day 3): Utility rooms, dining room, and bathrooms. We have one utility/laundry room and one bathroom.
  • Friday (or Day 4): Outside and Garage (or do this Saturday if the hubby wants to be involved) & anything I forgot about when I made this plan. :)

To get started, here are some General Rules I Follow for All Rooms:

  • I always have a trash bag with me.  That way if there’s something I want to throw away I can do it right then.  This eliminates the second-guessing and the huge trash pile in the middle of the room.
  • In addition, always have a second trash bag, a box, or a special place in the room to put things that I want to give away.  These are things that I know a certain person or family could use or would want.  When I’m done with a room I move those items that I’ve cleared out from that room to a central place in my home and bag them up (I use old grocery bags).  The name of the person or family goes on the bag and those bags get put in my car.  Then the next time I see them I already have their bag in my car! The same goes for things I’ve borrowed from others that I find when clearing out my home.
  • If I’m planning on having a garage sale I’ll have a third trash bag, box, or special place to pile items to sell in the garage sale.  Again, when I’m finished in a certain room, I’ll move those items to a predetermined “garage sale” area of my home (sometimes a bag or box to be put in the attic if the garage sale will be several weeks from then).
  • I always start at the door of whatever room I’m clearing out and work my way clockwise until I end up back at the door again.
  • I make a list as I go of things that Tim may not want me to get rid of to ask him about later.
  • I try to just make a decision right then and there about everything I touch.  There’s really only five categories I work with: keep it, toss it, give it away, garage sale, and ask Tim about it.  If an item lands in the “keep it” category but is in the wrong room I immediately put it in the proper room.
  • If I haven’t used an item for over a year (and it’s not something that logically doesn’t need to be used in that amount of time–for instance, it makes sense to hang on to pregnancy/baby stuff if you’re planning to have more children even if you haven’t used it in over a year) then I get rid of it (throw away, give away, or save for garage sale).

One last note before we get started: You must be in the mood to do this.  If you’re not in a “clearing out” mode, it’s just not going to work and you’re going to spend all day going through a room and when you’re done it’s going to be exactly the same.  Make sure you actually want to clear out your home!

Remember:  The name of the game is Simplify!

Living Rooms, Family Rooms, & Dens

  • These are the rooms we spend the most time in and so we want them to be pleasant.  You want people to want to relax in these rooms–to feel at home.  There’s a fine line between comfortable & homey and posh & stale.  While you want these rooms to be comfortable, you don’t want them to be sloppy.  On the other hand, you want these rooms to be neat, without feeling like you’re in the lobby of an ultra-modern hotel.  Keep this in mind as you go through your living areas.
  • Clear seating areas–people should be able to sit on chairs.
  • In these areas there really shouldn’t be stuff out all over the place–that includes items you might call decorations.  Of course there are always exceptions–or times of the year when this just isn’t practical, but for the most part, stuff should be put away (in book shelves, baskets, cabinets, and trunks).
  • Limit the number of decorative items on each surface.  If you just can’t part with any of those 10 items on your entry-way table, then rotate them in groups of three or four every month or something.  The fewer things out, the less clutter, the more simplified.  Every space does not need to be filled.  Limit yourself to only using really special items or very profound items to decorate.
  • The same goes for the walls.  Every wall space does not need something on it.  One large item on a wall will usually look cleaner and better than a million tiny pieces.
  • PILLOWS.  I love pillows.  I really do.  However, lining my couch with ten pillows isn’t the best look when trying to simplify.  Limit the number of pillows on each couch or chair!
  • If there’s a computer or writing desk in these rooms, go through every drawer, every surface.  Throw away all those little pieces of paper, organize all those CDs into a binder, file the important papers, make one “to do” list instead of keeping up with a billion sticky notes, etc.  Remember: simplify!
  • Really, in the end, these rooms should be fairly bare.  Bare maybe isn’t the best word–I guess I mean “not cluttered.”  These areas of your home should be the simplest-looking.  Store the things you do in these rooms in baskets (I love baskets) or trunks or bookcases–not on the coffee table (although, maybe in a big basket UNDER the coffee table would be nice!).  The more simple it looks, the more simple you’ll feel and trust me–simple is a freeing way to feel!

The Kitchen

  • This is a very intimidating room.  There’s just a lot in there hidden away in the deep recesses of the cabinets.  Never fear.  Plastic tubs (or baskets!) will soon become your best friends!
  • Begin with the fridge.  It’s the nastiest place in the whole kitchen and the place where you will be able to get rid of the most, therefore, getting you in the mood to get rid of more.  Start either at the top or the bottom and work your way systematically to the other end.  Check every single expiration date and throw away everything that’s expired.  When you come to Tupperware or to-go boxes from restaurants, if you can’t remember the exact day you made the dish or ate out, it’s probably too old–throw it out.  Take a deep breath and look in the drawers.  Anything with mold or anything that’s a distinct different color than it was when you bought it should be thrown out.  Once everything that needs to go is gone, organize your fridge!  I keep fruit all together, dairy all together, and veggies all together.  On the shelves I try and put things together that will be used together.  Same goes for the door shelves.  Now would be a good time to clean the inside of your fridge, probably. ;)
  • Don’t forget the freezer.  Things don’t stay good in the freezer forever.  Get rid of frost-bitten items and organize your freezer in a way that makes sense for you and your family.
  • Next, hit the pantry.  Just like the fridge, throw out everything that’s expired, or moldy, or discolored.  Also get rid (or give away) things you don’t use anymore.  Then go through and organize it!  I have my seasonings (they really should be in a cabinet or pantry–not getting all the light they get from being on your counter!), vitamins, essential oils, supplements, and recipes together on one shelf.  Then I have all my bread, bagels, pasta, tortillas, etc. together.  Next I have pretty much everything else (chips, cans, jars, flour, sugar, beans, and baking items I use a lot) on one large shelf.  Then finally at the bottom I have the things I rarely need (mostly large bulk containers of things I use a lot, granulated sugars, that strange Indian spice I use for that one recipe, etc.)  This organization works for us–spend some time organizing your own pantry in a way that will make your time in the kitchen more effective.
  • On to the cabinets!  Before your even open a single cabinet, think about the gadgets, appliances, pots, and pans that you actually use on a regular basis.  Maybe even make a list of them.  As you go from one cabinet to the next really analyze whether or not you use whichever items you come into contact with.  This is where it gets really difficult.  Doesn’t every woman have a great garlic press?  Well, do you ever use yours?  Do you think you will in the next year?  This is where it gets tricky.  Don’t be too quick to get rid of staples, but also don’t hang on to something just because you feel you must.  Here’s a list of the kitchen gadgets that I was able to get rid of today (in parenthesis is the item that I use instead):
  1. Blender (I have a Magic Bullet with a blender attachment)
  2. Small food processor (Magic Bullet)
  3. My second and third set of mixing bowls (I have a great set of 12 glass bowls that range in size from about a 2-inch diameter to 14-inches)
  4. The plastic bowl we eat popcorn out of (the largest glass mixing bowl)
  5. Excess Thermos and water bottles (I kept four)
  6. Coffee mugs we don’t like and so, never use (I kept . . . a lot . . .)
  7. a cheese slicer that never really worked (we have knives)
  8. a deep fat fryer (I don’t want to fry food anymore)
  • Have you used your fine china since you got it?  Do you really only use it once a year?  Then why is it taking up space in your kitchen cabinets?  Could you maybe pack it up in a tub or box and store it in the attic?  It’s really not that difficult to get things down from the attic–you’re going to be up there getting the Christmas decorations anyway!
  • The most useful thing that I’ve found in organizing my kitchen is using baskets!  Plastic baskets or tubs work very well.  I have some in my pantry with oils and supplements in them.  I have some in my cabinets with glass jars in them.  I have others with Tupperware and aluminum water bottles in them.  I have one in which I keep all my Magic Bullet, egg beater, and KitchenAid mixer pieces.  Think about where in your kitchen you might be able to use baskets–I’m sure it will help you stay organized!
  • Don’t forget under the sink, over the fridge, and under the oven!  Who knows what’s in there!?  If you’ve forgotten you own the things there, get rid of them!

Whew!  What a busy day.  If feels great, though, to have a clean refrigerator and pantry.  It’s wonderful to only have the gadgets in my kitchen be those I use.  I love simplicity!!!  Questions?  Comments?  Advice?  Make sure to let us know by leaving a comment!

Next time: How I clear out and organize the bedrooms and office.


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