We had a little bit of perfect storm recently with work, health issues, school and activities starting, parties, and just stuff. I decided that the girls had to come first, and took a little blog break. At the same time, I’ve put a lot of effort into getting the party supply craziness under control and making my house livable again. So let’s kick things back off again with a post on how to tame the clutter and get your house party ready.
So we all have our talents. I’ve always thought of myself as naturally organized, but having kids has kicked my clutter-free butt. When the girls were young, I picked up everything every night. You couldn’t tell, because with twins, there was still so much equipment everywhere. When they got old enough to sing that AWFUL Barney clean up song, I got them picking up after themselves.
But then came the age of playing with multiple toys at one time, and smaller and smaller toy parts, and fights. Oh, the fights. We morphed from being a family that put away one game before getting out another, to being a family where one child would run out of the playroom crying and all the stuff got left all over the floor. When that happens over and over, the stuff gets out of control.
Then I added the party stuff, and all of sudden, we were a family running three small businesses out of our house. So I became a devotee of Fly Lady and embraced the ideas of (1) cleaning in 10 minute spurts and (2) purging the junk because “you can’t organize clutter.”
I finally decided to call in the big guns.
Enter Becky Kutz of Home Solutions by Becky. It turns out that Becky’s house is the same floor plan as mine, so we had a little Freaky Friday moment when she toured my house and then invited me to tour hers to see how she keeps her home organized. Becky is kindly letting me share her best tips so you can get your house under control, too. (Wait, your house is magazine perfect? Oh please. If you haven’t hidden dirty dishes in your oven, I’m not sure we can be friends.)
Now, one reason I needed Becky was because my party stuff had no dedicated home. My husband is a pack-rat, which left no space for my business. I can’t get him to throw out pay-stubs from his first job. All I could do was start with my stuff and hope to inspire him.
1 – Put all your stuff in one staging area.
O.K. When Becky told me we were going to un-store all my party stuff and carry it to the basement playroom, I thought she had lost her mind. Some of it was organized and now I was supposed to un-organize it? But Becky was the expert, and if my way had been working, I wouldn’t need Becky, you know? So we spent a solid day carrying everything to the basement, with my two girls helping.
2 – Do a rough sort by category.
This part was easy for me. Becky brought 3″ x 5″ cards and a Sharpie and we made as many labels as we needed to. As we brought each new item to the basement, we put it in a pile. My piles were mainly by party kit, so “Wizard of Oz,” “Vintage Tea Party,” “Flower Fairy” … you get the drift. Other things were organized by type, like “Cake Stands” or “Cupcake Liners” or “Adhesives.”
3 – Assess your storage needs and go shopping.
The piles will tell you what size storage containers you need, and how many. I already knew from trial and error what type of containers I wanted. Without question, they had to be stackable, clear plastic on the bottom, with a lid that clipped on. The lids that snap on break my fingernails and make me mad. The containers can get expensive, but fortunately, Target was having a sale. Becky told me to buy more than I thought I needed and she was right. Some party kits required multiple containers, and I also needed some to grow on.
4 – Containerize and label.
“Containerize” is Becky’s word for packing away all your stuff. As I did this, I also took inventory of my party kit containers, so I’d know if I needed to shop for more vintage tea cups, for example. Each container now has a packing list, so I can tell at a glance if I can fill an extra large birthday order. Becky brought her label maker and taught Baby B how to use it. She became our label queen.
5 – Stack ’em up and move on to the next project.
My husband is still working on clearing out a party room for me, so in the meantime, I have all my party containers stacked in corners. It is so much easier and faster for me to find things now. One day, they’ll have a home, and in the meantime, I’m just grateful to be more organized.
The Best Parts
I can’t even tell you how much time it ultimately saved me to have all the party supplies in one place to truly assess my needs. It would never have occurred to me to take that step.
You will feel so happy after the first step of consolidating your stuff in the staging area. I got my dining room back. Not that we use it much, but it’s pretty again and now I don’t have to be embarrassed to answer my front door.
Labels are the bomb. (Does anyone still say that? I am so out of it.) Before starting the Becky project, I was the girl saying, “I could have SWORN it was right here?!” It took me forever to find supplies, and sometimes I couldn’t find them, so I’d re-purchase them, which wasted my money and my time — two things that are always in short supply. Now, I can actually find things and don’t have to rely on my tired brain.
The girls now have an “upstairs basket.” I’d always resisted this idea because I thought a basket that lived on the stairs would attract clutter that never made it to its real home, but as we know, my way wasn’t working. Now, the girls fill up the basket, and once it’s full, they take it upstairs and deposit all their stuff in the correct places.
Organizing is a germ. It’s catching. After we tackled the party stuff, I cleaned out kitchen drawers, made a cereal shelf in my pantry, and purged about 100 books from my library. None of those projects took long at all, and they felt so good. I even sent the girls to clean out their bookcase, and they did a bang-up job. (I was the problem there … it seems there are a few books I can’t let go of on their behalf. Anyone else adore The Lonely Doll?)
Becky’s system works with paper clutter, too. After I could see my dining room table again, I used it to stage all my paper clutter. I covered the table in piles of paid bills by payee, the girls’ special schoolwork, a to-do pile, a recycle pile and a shred pile. (If you don’t own a cross-cut shredder, it is worth every penny.) Once I’d made it through all the piles, it was simple to stash stuff away in manilla folders and then in our filing cabinets.
You know that scene at the end of The 40-Year Old Virgin where Steve Carell sings “Let the Sunshine In”? That’s me and my now-absent clutter. Here’s a sneak peak of my newly decorated living room — more on that process to come soon!