Clearing out, Organizing, & Redecorating Room by Room | The Bedrooms & Office

June 1, 2011


Day 2 of the Great Clearing out, Organizing, & Redecorating Week!  Yesterday we went through the living areas and the kitchen, which was time consuming, but I’m afraid nothing compared to today.  Today might be the day that takes the most time out of all the days–in fact, today may spill over into tomorrow!  Today I’ll be tackling both our bedrooms (ours and our son’s) and our office.  For those of you who haven’t seen Luke’s room or our office, you maybe don’t understand what an undertaking this is.  What have I gotten myself into?

Here are the General Rules I Follow for All Rooms again:

  • 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!

The Child’s Room

  • I think, probably, the hardest decision for mothers of older children when going through their rooms like this is whether or not to do this with them.  And then, if you decide it would be better without them, how to get them away from their room so that you can do this.  Fortunately for me, I can plop Luke right down in the middle of his room and begin tossing his stuff in the “give away” pile without having to explain the concepts of not needing everything in the world and how it’s so much nicer to give things away!  Good luck to those of you with older children! ;)
  • TOYS: Go through every single toy your child has.  Does he play with it?  Is it too young for him?  Is it too old for him?  Does he have five of this exact thing?  Does it teach him anything?  Make sure you give away (or keep in the attic for your younger kids) toys that are still in good shape–there’s no need to throw them away!
  • The best way I’ve seen (and the method we use) to organize and keep toys put away is by using a 9 X 9 cubed organizer with cloth baskets in some (or all . . . or none) of the cubes.  This allows for organization, categorization, and it’s pretty cute, too!
  • I think the most difficult thing about weeding out toys is not being selfish!  I want my child to have nice things.  He has never even laid EYES on some of his toys, though!  He just really doesn’t need all this stuff!  I have to continually remind myself of that as I go through his toys.
  • CLOTHING: Pack up (if there are or probably will be younger children in your family who will wear these clothes) by size any clothing that is too small for your child and get those clothes in the attic!
  • Something wonderful that the ladies at my church do (with both maternity clothes and baby clothes): Put your initials on the tags of your baby clothes.  Pass them to families with younger children than yours.  If you ever need your clothes back, just ask for them, and since they have your initials on them, they’re not hard for those moms to find!  This has been such a blessing to us–kid’s clothing is expensive!  Either way, get the clothing that doesn’t fit your child anymore out of his room!
  • We have a dresser:  the top drawer is miscellaneous baby stuff, the second drawer is full with clothing Luke wears now organized by pjs, comfy pants, regular pants, and shorts.  The bottom two shelves are rather unorganized and are full of clothing that we’ve been given by others that are too big for him right now.
  • All Luke’s non-pj shirts (that fit now) are hanging up in his closet.  This allows for me to actually see what I’m working with.
  • In Luke’s closet we have an organizer that was meant to hang on a rod and organize towels and sheets and things, probably.  This is where I keep his shoes, socks, hats, bedding and towels (the socks are in a small plastic tub).
  • On the top shelf of his closet goes books (or special toys) that are too old for him right now.  Also, right now, I’m storing some baby food, swimmers diapers, big boy sippy cups, and plates there.
  • Other than that, it’s just a matter of traveling around the room and deciding whether or not each item needs to be there or not.  Once you’re done with going through the toys and clothes, it’s really quite simple!
  • Another category that is not yet in my son’s room, but might be in yours is craft items.  Either for play or school–the same rules apply:  Does it get used?  Does it work?  Are there five other items that are exactly the same?

The Master Bedroom

  • I read once that the master bedroom should be an oasis.  That there shouldn’t be a lot of junk piled up in the corners. That it should simply be simple.  I’ve tried to follow that idea, although, as life happens it gets rather difficult.
  • Get rid of extra stuff.  The only things that should really be in the master bedroom are a bed, a dresser or two, night stands, maybe a sitting area if your room is big enough, and clothes in the closet (I’m probably forgetting things, I know).  I guess my point is: fold up those clothes and put them away!  Collapse that ironing board and put it in the utility room where it belongs!  Unpack those last three boxes from the move or tape them up and put them in the attic (or get rid of whatever is in them).  The Master Bedroom should not be a catch-all room.  It should be an intimate, simple place of solitude! Now, before I go on, I understand that this is not practical for everyone.  I’m thinking of two of my dear friends who are both living in one-bedroom situations right now and so they just can’t do what I’ve described above.  However, I think that even with a pack ‘n play and a crib crammed into your bedroom you can still get rid of the extras and make your room as sweet as possible.
  • Go through every drawer and every closet and weed out things that don’t matter.  If you have things in your bedroom that don’t really belong there, try and find another place for them to go.  Get some of those under-the-bed storage boxes to store things out of sight if you need to.  Or, think about whether you really even need those things.  If not, get rid of them!
  • CLOTHING: Think practically.  How many tops and bottoms do you REALLY wear.  Keep those.  Which four pairs of shoes do you wear regularly?  Keep those.  Which clothing do you like but know you’ll never wear?  Give it away!  Which pieces are you waiting to wear once you’re a size 2?  Now, there are two rules of thought on this one:  Some people say to get rid of everything that is too small because it’s depressing.  Well.  That’s a lot of clothing for some of us.  The other group of people says to keep it all as motivation.  For me, I packed all my pre-pregnancy clothes up and store them in my extra “craft” closet.  Every month or so I go through them and pull out the stuff that finally fits. That way it’s out of the way, but close enough to grab if I want to look through it.  I DO, though, have one item that I love that I REALLY want to fit into again hanging in my closet as motivation.  So I guess I don’t really know how I feel about clothing that doesn’t fit.  Either way, if you don’t wear it, get it out of your everyday closet!
  • How many “comfy pants” and over sized shirts do you really need?  You know you really only like one pair of pants and two or three shirts.  Give the rest away.
  • I believe there’s another category of clothing that we haven’t talked about yet: items we don’t really even like.  WHY am I hanging onto that huge cream sweater?  Is it because I saw Cindy Crawford in a sweater once just like it and liked the way it looked on her?  Well, let me tell you: every time I try to wear it, it still looks the same: horrible.  GET RID OF EVERY ARTICLE OF CLOTHING THAT YOU DON’T JUST LOVE!  Why are we wearing stuff we don’t like!?  Even worse, why are we hanging on to stuff we never wear because it looks awful!?  Give it to someone else–it might look fabulous on them!
  • Separate your winter and summer clothing.  This is a bit difficult in a climate like Texas where for six months out of the year you might need gloves and a jacket one day and a tank top the next, but it’s worth a try.  It frees up your closet and makes everything more SIMPLE!  Put the clothing you’re not wearing in the attic & out of the way!
  • One idea is to bag all the items you don’t wear, think you won’t wear, or kind of want to get rid of but aren’t sure about and store them for six months to a year.  After a certain amount of time, get that bag out and go through it.  Are you in love with this item?  Did you forget you had that item and you wish you had known because you would have worn it a million times?  Keep them!  Do you still not like that item?  Can you not believe you ever thought you MIGHT like this item?  Give them away!  This way, you get them out of the way AND you give yourself a second chance at keeping them!

The Office

  • If there are items that just seem out of place in your home (like musical instruments, for instance), consider making the office a multi-purpose room.  Make a corner of the office the “Music Room.”
  • THE OFFICE SUPPLIES: I was dreading this room.  There is just so much.  JUST SO MUCH STUFF.  Stuff that seems useful but we just never seem to use.  I mean, we have five boxes of do-it-yourself business cards.  WHY?  There are more index cards and envelopes and sheet protectors and loose-leaf paper and random binders than anyone anywhere has ever needed.  Why is this stuff so hard to get rid of?  Because it’s expensive and there’s always the “what if” factor.  Well.  This might surprise you.  This stuff is useful when you need it.  And expensive.  And if you really think there might come a day where you will need 250 sheet protectors (and I believe there might be!), then at least ORGANIZE them.  Throw away the worn, nasty items and keep the good ones.  We bought a build-it-yourself organizer chest from Target and it holds all of those random things.  In addition, I’ve placed baskets inside the organizer to hold the bazillion post-in notes and index cards we own.  Make sure you get rid of (give away) items you aren’t going to use (think about how we live in a digital age–lose-leaf paper really isn’t so useful for most of us anymore!), but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hanging onto useful items in an organized way!
  • THE COMPUTER DESK: Test all the pens and markers.  Throw away the ones that don’t work.  Use desk organizers to keep your pens and stamps and envelopes and whatnot in order.
  • Go through every drawer, every surface.  Throw away all those little pieces of paper, file the important papers, make one “to do” list instead of keeping up with a billion sticky notes, etc.  Remember: simplify!
  • If you have the time, go through your computer and trash the documents you don’t need.  Organize your computer!  It’s an awesome feeling.  Get icons off the desktop (they take up memory).  Organize your documents in sub-folders that make sense.  Consider investing in an external hard-drive to hold old documents you need to keep but don’t need on a regular basis.  This is a great way to store photos, too!  Photos take up so much room–store them on an external hard-drive and get them off your computer!  Don’t forget to empty your trash!
  • Go through all your CDs and CD-ROMs.  Woah.  Can you even USE that Oregon Trail game on your current computer?  Give it away to someone who can or try to sell it.  Organize your CDs in a binder.  Go through all those cords and connectors and power supplies.  Get rid of the ones you can’t even use.  Check out and see if you can sell your old electronic items!  And then put all the cords you need to keep in a plastic tub or basket and put it in the closet.  We use a plastic three-drawer organizer.
  • THE CLOSET: Why are office closets so disorganized?  Invest in some baskets or clear plastic tubs to organize all the random stuff you need.  Consider storing some of the big stuff that’s just lying around the office on the floor of the closet.  On the top of our office closet, Tim has turned a few of those plastic egg crates sideways to store his school binders.
  • THE BOOKSHELVES: I love organizing books.  It’s weird, I know.  We have our books organized in seven different categories: Christian Living, Fiction, Biographies, Theology, Commentaries, Reference Books, and Bibles.  Within each category the books are organized in whichever way makes the most sense (alphabetical by last name of author, topic, book of the Bible, etc.).  I am currently looking for a program to categorize our books, but if I can’t find one I like I’m going to simply use an Excel spreadsheet in which we can search for any bibliographical information as well as keywords that I ascribe to each book.  I know.  I know . . . Does anyone know of a great book categorizing program?
  • To add interest to your bookshelves arrange a few books every once in a while on their sides.  Or leave a space for a picture frame or a book end.  Remember, though:  Keep it simple.  Too many “cute” items starts looking crammed.
  • I almost forgot: As you organize, weed out!  Give away or sell (Abe Books is a great place to sell and buy!) books you don’t like, want, or need.
  • ARTS & CRAFTS: My “craft” closet is actually a closet in our bedroom, but I thought it would be most appropriate to talk about it here.  Going through arts and crafts is a lot like going through office supplies:  “Well, I don’t use it NOW, but I MIGHT want it next week!”  It’s really hard.  Anything broken, used up, dried out, or ugly (why do I have stickers that I don’t like–I know I’ll never use them for anything?!), get rid of.
  • Keep similar items in baskets.
  • Use some of those binders and sheet protectors to store items like stickers, colored paper, etc.
  • THE FILING CABINET: Blah.  The first thing I do when I go through our filing cabinet is to take EVERYthing out of it.  I sit on the floor with all the folders scattered around me and I just dig in.  Do we even need this folder?  Why is this folder unmarked?  Why do we have three folders marked “taxes?”  I begin with the important stuff: Taxes, House (mortgages/leases), Car, Insurance, Hospital/Medical Bills, Tickets, etc.
  • We have a folder marked “Warranties/Manuals” for every single warranty or instruction manual we’ve ever had.  This is the hardest folder to go through because sometimes I just can’t remember if we even have some of the items we have manuals for.  If we don’t, the manual gets trashed.
  • Throw away everything in the cabinet that doesn’t need to be held onto.  There’s really nothing (after the important stuff) that needs to be held onto, probably.
  • DON’T ACCIDENTALLY THROW AWAY IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS!!!  In fact, it might be a good idea, after you’ve made your trash pile to go back through it again just to be sure.
  • Consider getting a locked fire box to store REALLY important documents (passports, marriage license, birth certificates, social security cards, citizenship papers, shot records, etc.)

Memory Items

I’m assuming that in one of the rooms we’ve been to (either yesterday or today) there is a chest or a trunk or some boxes with memory items in them: yearbooks, wedding memorabilia, heirloom jewelry, quilts, blankets, dresses, old journals, obituaries, old photos, etc.

  • First, consider why these precious things are packed away for no one to see.  Why don’t you re-purpose that beautiful scarf your grandmother wore?  Why not actually wear some of that jewelry?  What good is that afghan doing in this chest?!
  • Pull all of your memory items together in one spot and go through them.  Do you even remember where this napkin is from?  Or why you have it?  Or if it’s a special napkin in the first place?  THROW AWAY things you don’t remember!  Other items you may remember, but maybe they’re just not that important to you anymore.  That’s okay.  Really.  Throw them out.
  • For things like yearbooks and old photo albums, put them in the bookshelf or on an end table for others to look through.  People love stuff like that.
  • If you have a billion random photos, ORGANIZE THEM.  This may be another week’s project in and of itself.  Organize them by date as best you can.  Maybe take them to your parent’s house and get them to help.  Throw away photos of thumbs or photos of people you cannot for the life of you remember.  (If they’re not meaningful now, how much less meaningful will they be in 20 years!?)  Count how many really good photos you’re left with and buy photo albums that will hold all of them.  Keep them in your bookcase with the yearbooks or in your living room for people to look through.  Tim and I each have an album in our living room of our photos growing up (ok, I have two).  Then we have an album of photos of just the two of us together. And then we have an album of our wedding.  Finally, consider scanning all your photos and storing them digitally on an external hard-drive.  That way you can get rid of the original prints (I know it’s hard, but you CAN.)  Oh, and p.s. You can get rid of all those boxes of negatives now. ;)
  • Finally you’re left with the memory items that you want to keep but don’t want to use or display.  Buy something (or re-purpose something you already own) to be The Memory Chest.  We have an old wicker chest from Tim’s side of the family that has all our memory items in it.  For you, it might be something much smaller.  Maybe even a shoebox that you decorate.  Be creative and make it special.  Then, rather than sticking it in the attic or the closet, keep it out and look through it when you’re feeling nostalgic!

Music CDs & Movie DVDs (oh, yeah, and cassettes and VHS tapes)

  • First, when it comes to cassettes and VHS tapes: get over it.  They’re not like records where the music sounds better or anything.  Consider figuring out how to convert your cassettes and VHS tapes to CDs and DVDs.  Or realize that you don’t really need to hang on to your cassette of Cooleyhighharmony (which for some unknown reason Spell Check doesn’t recognize!??!).  Instead, if you do ever want to listen to it, for about $10 you can buy it on iTunes.  Or listen to it on Grooveshark for free!  Either way, you really do not need those old tapes.  The same goes for VHS tapes.  We have Netflix and iTunes and Hulu now.  The only exception in my mind are home movies, and I would suggest getting those converted to DVDs pronto!!!
  • Consider putting your music and movies on an external hard-drive.  This (obviously) takes up much less space and having them digitally makes more sense now anyway.  I’m not entirely sure how to do this, but I know it can be done.  We’re in the process of getting this done and I’ll come back here with an update once we have.
  • Sell or give away movies or music that you just don’t like anymore.  There’s really no point in keeping stuff you never listen to or watch.
  • At any rate, if you decide to keep all or some of your DVDs, CDs, cassette tapes, and/or VHS tapes, ORGANIZE THEM!!!  The best way to do this is with wall mounts (or shelves)–this gets things off the floor.  If they need to be stored in your living room, though, end tables with doors or baskets with lids would be nice, too.  Organize them by category, or artist’s last name, or alphabetically by title, or chronologically–it doesn’t matter.  Just do it! :)

Other collectibles . . . and things from your childhood . . .

I don’t collect anything, but I know other people do.  I also don’t tend to hang on to things like all of my Barbie dolls and all their clothes and vehicles and homes and pets and other things just in case I ever have a little girl who likes Barbies, but I know other people do.  Be selective in what you hang on to.  Maybe you don’t need to collect stamps and baseball cards and state spoons and shot glasses and magnets and coffee mugs.  Maybe you can just be REALLY awesome at collecting one of those things.  Or maybe just keep the really great items.  (Sell the other collections or items!)  Maybe instead of saving all of your action figures, or Barbies, or Hot Wheels, or Thomas trains, or Legos, or Beanie Babies, or POGS to give to your kids, maybe you just keep the one or two really great ones from each category.  Then box those great ones up until your kids are old enough and store them in the attic. (Give away or sell the other ones).  The point is: it seems like this stuff is really important now, but maybe it’s not so important?  I don’t know because I’ve never really collected or hung on to anything–it’s just something to think about.

One last note: Don’t feel guilty for getting rid of gifts.  Whoever gave you that gift–no matter who they were or where they are now–gave it to you to be a blessing to you.  If it’s no longer special to you, or useful to you, that person, I hope, would WANT to you give it away or get rid of it (depending on what it is).  Do not keep things PURELY because you don’t want to disappoint a loved one.  (There are exceptions to this, of course . . . )

Have I missed anything?  If there’s something in one of these rooms and you just don’t know what to do with it, ask!  Maybe I or someone else will have a brilliant idea!

Oh, and I appologize for getting Motownphilly stuck in your head. ;)

Next time: Utility rooms, dining room, and bathrooms.  Yikes.


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