Clutter Control 101 for Single Moms
By Melissa Chapman
Unfortunately, the average mom wastes a solid ninety minutes a day looking for lost or misplaced things. If you happen to be a single mom with a jam-packed schedule, with barely 10 spare minutes a day to catch your breath- it might be wise to institute some helpful, clutter control habits.
No, this is not about maintaining the perfect “Martha Stewartesque” home, with every nook and cranny tidied neatly and alphabetized, rather it’s more about preemptive organizing so that ultimately, you can be in control of your stuff – as opposed to your stuff controlling you!
“The very best part about developing more clutter-free habits is that as a Mom you know you are passing down good life skills that your children will need,” says Jamie Novak, professional organizer and author of 1,000 Quick and Easy Time Saving Strategies.
So just how can single moms organize and de-clutter in a smaller space? According to Novak, small space is not usually the challenge, wasted space is, and we often don’t notice areas where we can take advantage and maximize the space.
Here are Jamie Novak’s ideas to best maximize the space you’re in and keep your home organized and clutter free:
Go vertical! Whenever possible hang things on the walls. Also consider floor to ceiling furniture instead of furniture that stops halfway up the wall. Wall shelving, shoe bags, and the clear plastic over the door bags with eighteen to twenty four pockets are fantastic storage savers! Hang one in the play area for toys, one by the front door for everyday accessories like cell phone cords and mail. Try one in the kitchen pantry for packets and spice bottles. You can even put one on the back of the bathroom door for hairbrushes and makeup.
Whenever possible opt for multifunction furniture. A standard coffee table does its job, but when you have a drawer and basket slide underneath it now offers functional storage as well. A living room end table is nice, but a small chest of drawers would do the same thing while giving you lots of more storage space. And think of an ottoman that has a lift off lid, even backpacks could easily fit inside, out of the way but stored nearby.
Mail. It can be all too easy to let the mail pile up on the kitchen counter. Instead bring the mail in when you are going to sort it over the recycling bin or shredder. Flip through it and put each piece where it belongs; resist the urge to set the pile down.
Everyday items. “Who hasn’t walked out of the house and forgotten their cell phone or keys?” says Novak. “Having a home for all those everyday items is essential to saving time, especially during the morning rush.”
Create a small leaving station near the door you use most often. It can be basket, drawer, or shelf. Place only the everyday items needing to go in and out. This way you’ll always know where your sunglasses are!
Children’s outfits. Avoid those debates about what to wear by organizing the clothing by category, long sleeve tops in one drawer, short sleeves in another. Then have your child choose five outfits for the week, put them together with any accessories and you’re good to go!
Family notebook. This three ring notebook is kept on the kitchen counter, and will store all your necessary papers. Homework papers due later in the week, school address list, babysitters’ phone list, play date contacts so that it’s all at your fingertips.
The kitchen. Create a grab and go section complete with nutrition bars and snack pack size goodies so anyone can grab one and go instead of digging through the pantry.
Make lunches when you make dinner so you can clean up once instead of twice.
Make sure you can find leftovers in the fridge by designating a single shelf for them so you know where to look.
Make a leftover wrapping area so you have foil, lunch bags and plastic ware all in the same place.
Tip: Keep clear wrap in the freezer, when its cold it can’t stick to itself.
Memory items. “Saving everything means the good stuff is lost in the mess,” says Novak. “Think of how you’ll feel when you are able to give your child a box of memories instead of shopping bags full of junk.”
Get several, large unused pizza boxes which are sturdy and they stack well under beds and sofas. Label the outside of each one with your child’s name, the school year and date. Then add to the box as they create artwork masterpieces, get a good grade or have a first like writing his or her name in script for the first time.
Involve your child in the process of deciding what to keep which will help your child develop the tossing muscle. If the item is too large to fit into the box, like a life-size drawing or 3-D diorama, take a photo of your child with the item, keep the photo and toss the item. Just keep the current pizza box handy so you can add to it.
Okay so now that you’ve gotten on-board the “get organized; declutter train how can you encourage your kids to do the same?
“To ensure that your child is able to follow through with any of your organizational requests you need to keep it simple and avoid long lists of things to do,” says Novak. “Instead list one or two tasks at a time, say it in as few words as possible and keep it short and sweet.”
Novak suggests that single moms try adding incentive, not bribery, to their requests. Say something like “as soon as your toys are put away we can go outside to play.”
Always be sure to recognize and celebrate successes with phrases like; “Wow, you did a great job putting that away I’m so proud of you.”
Make sure your expectations are clear. It is not helpful to say,” I’ve asked you a million times not to make a mess in your room.” Instead say something like, “by Sunday bedtime I need this room to be clean so we can have an organized school week.”
Jamie Novak has successfully organized hundreds of households across the country in her fifteen years as an in home organizer.
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