The hustle and bustle of the holidays can zap our energy. And, with Mother Nature’s snow machine cranked up, you might favor just hunkering down and waiting for January to go away. But since it is here in all its winter glory, and we are sequestered anyway, January provides a good opportunity to organize our households. That’s why this month’s projects focus on clearing the clutter and filing. Though not particularly glamorous, these projects can provide a measure of satisfaction in knowing you can find and store things quickly and easily.
Once you know what you have and where it is, you can compile a home inventory or update the one you already have. That can be next month’s project – so check back here in February for tips on how to document your belongings and why it is important to do so.
But first, some tips about winter safety around the house!
=> Safety outside your home:
- Use a roof rake to clear the eaves of snow, which helps reduce icicles and ice dams that can force water back into your home. Avoid any electrical connection to your home. Do not climb onto the roof. Do not break or knock off icicles.
- Be kind to your neighbors, pedestrians, and the postal person by keeping sidewalks clear of snow and ice. This might even be an ordinance in your community. Bundle up, and shovel with care.
- Consider helping a neighbor by shoveling for him if he is not able to do so.
=> Safety inside your home:
- Make sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that are properly installed and have fresh batteries.
- Burn only hardwood that has been cut dried for 6-12 months.
- Use a fire screen in front of fireplaces.
- Keep combustible materials (newspapers, drapes, furniture, etc.) away from fireplaces and space heaters.
- You should also have an easily accessible ABC rated fire extinguisher.
Project #1: Clear the Clutter
It’s human nature to collect stuff. Over time, closets, drawers, basements, and garages fill with all sorts of things that may or may not belong in those locations. Oh for a place for everything and everything in its place! So as not to be overwhelmed with the task of removing clutter, start small. Pick one closet or one drawer or a basement corner. Once you have tackled that area, you have some momentum and maybe even some enthusiasm and strategies for doing more. As you evaluate each item in an area that you want to organize, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I use it?
- When did I use it last?
- Would I use it if I could find it?
- Could someone else use it instead?
- Have I outgrown it?
- Is it out of style, obsolete, broken?
- Is it sentimental?
- Is it important?
The answers to these questions should help you decide what “pile” an item goes in: keep, give away, discard. For the things you have decided to keep, the challenge then becomes space for keeping. Examine the desired location to see how you can best use the space. You can dramatically increase storage space with shelving, hanger bars, baskets, and bins. Things that can stack make best use of vertical space. Measure and plan what you need before hitting the stores. Shoe boxes, a few drawer dividers or trays, zip-close baggies, maybe an accordion file, might work just fine! Tip: Put the most frequently used items in front or on top. Stow the seasonal or lesser used things in back or up in those harder to reach places.
Note: If your community has a hazardous waste program, please look into what they accept in case some of your discards can be dropped off and disposed of properly. The list could include old electronics, certain paints, various chemical products, and batteries. Post the list and designate a collection box in your home so you can continue this environmentally friendly habit throughout the year. (Here is what the Kalamazoo County Household Hazardous Waste Center accepts.)
Now, after all your good work, practice good storage habits to prevent further clutter!
Project #2: Filing
While you are going through your stuff, you might just find those appliance manuals, product warranties, home improvement receipts, even various important documents (insurance papers, house deed, property tax receipts, etc.) that are scattered about. This presents an opportunity to collect these papers, discard those for things you no longer own, and keep the rest in an easily accessible file, binder, or envelope.
Review those warranties and product manuals to check on recommended maintenance for furnaces, equipment, appliances, and tools. Mark your calendar to track scheduled upkeep, service, monthly filter changes, water heater maintenance, etc.
For more tips on organizing your important papers, visit Time Management Ninja or Good Housekeeping.