In a previous post (July 2019), I described minimalism and my beginning progress on that road. To repeat a quote from Joshua Becker of the becomingminimalist.com blog, “minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” Initially, I wondered what it would look like and how it would feel to declutter the things I did not use. Slow and steady progress has marked my experience. I am hoping to find clarity toward future goals as a result of the decluttering process. (Click on Read More to continue.)
I have wanted to write a post about minimalism for a while now but found the prospect daunting. Minimalism seems like an intriguing lifestyle but I don’t really grasp what it’s all about. In my mind minimalism means painting my walls white, reducing my furniture to half (all white) and having no hobbies or interests (hence none of the supporting stuff). That scenario has seemed unrealistic to me in the past. Curious though, I recently delved deeper into the philosophy of minimalism. Here are my new understanding and personal thoughts. (Click on Read More to continue)
Have you finished the first step by removing old files and folders? Now it’s time to make a second pass to organize your personal files. Follow these tips to make them orderly and self-explanatory.
1. FILES AND FOLDERS
Ready to declutter your computer files? If not, here are some great reasons to decide to get started:
The process can be done piecemeal for manageability and repeated on a regular basis to keep the computer running smoothly. (In an upcoming post, we focus on organizing files.) Click on "Read More" for decluttering steps.
PLASTIC, METAL, SOLID WOOD OR COMPOSITE WOOD?
What do I need? What should I buy? What are my choices?
The single most transformative product that I suggest to my clients is a set of freestanding shelves. When the floor is littered with stuff, the fastest way to pick it up and get it organized is via a shelf unit. Shelves are my secret weapon. I appear completely clever when I suggest the perfect set of shelves. A shelf unit is a great way to sort, organize, condense and clarify a bunch of stuff. Shelves are especially useful for someone who is visually oriented, i.e., he needs to SEE what he has. The following information may be elementary to some, but if you are unfamiliar with shelf units this is a primer on their characteristics that will help you decide the best type for your needs. There are more examples on my Pinterest board, “Utility Shelves”, at www.pinterest.com/carolmartinward/
Shelving units are available locally and on the web. There are many options and your choice depends on what you are storing (and where). Do a little research then go for it. If your shelf unit turns out to be unsatisfactory for the intended purpose it can always be moved to a different location for a new life. The characteristics to consider are: material, size, quality, and function.
First, material. There are plastic, metal, solid wood and composite wood units. Plastic is a great choice for basements because it does not rust in dampness. Plastic is also lightweight. Metal tends to be stronger but strength really depends on the design and quality. Metal shelves are a good choice in the garage or basement to hold heavy bulky items as they generally withstand more weight. Solid wood (pine, oak, cherry) is pricier but prettier. Solid wood shelves are a perfect fit for a family room or bedroom. Shelves made of finished plywood are also a good, strong, choice that goes well in living areas. The composite wood options (chip board, particle board, medium density fiberboard - look up differences if you really want to know) are economical, tend to look fairly nice in living areas and are available in many sizes and configurations. These can be “cheap” in that the wood material can tear or break at the cam and bolt fasteners and are difficult to repair. They also tend to be dense and, therefore, heavy.
Second, size. Really think about the purpose of the unit so that you are not disappointed. Plan what will be stored on each shelf unit; ideally similar items are grouped together on each shelf and unit. Measure and count existing bins to estimate space required. An average size for a plastic unit that works well for general storage is three feet wide by six feet tall by eighteen inches deep (front to back). Of course the size will depend on your available space. A common size for a metal unit that holds larger, heavier contents can be more like five or six feet wide by six feet tall and eighteen to twenty-four inches deep. This sounds awfully large but when you have multiple large bins it is exactly what you need.
Third, quality. Read the product information to determine whether each shelf will support the intended items without sagging. Units are rated for maximum load per shelf, for example, 50, 100, or 250 pounds. Look at a display if possible to see if the material looks sturdy. Often the relative cost gives you an idea of quality. Buy one and try it out before purchasing multiple units. Purchase the best quality you can afford because you will appreciate it for years to come.
Fourth, function. What you will store on the shelves determines the best material and surface. Think about the types of things you want to store: linens, bins, large items, cleaners, pantry items, books, toiletries, food, or small appliances. Then determine the best fit. Think scale. I often see small, rickety plastic units in garages where sturdy, large, metal units would make more sense. Wire shelves are okay for boxes and bins but exceedingly frustrating for small items that tip over or fall through. However, wire shelves can be fitted with thin, rigid plastic liners to steady small items. In fact, some units come equipped with them. Regarding cleaning, wire shelves and honeycomb plastic shelf surfaces collect less dust so require infrequent cleaning. A solid shelf surface (plastic, metal or wood) collects dust but on the positive side will contain spills.
Here are some examples for deciding what to purchase for particular situations.
--If you want to organize bulk kitchen supplies in the basement, choose a plastic unit three feet wide with a honey comb type shelf surface. The shelves should be twelve to eighteen inches deep so all items are visible and none get buried in the back.
--To organize equipment stored in the basement choose metal shelves that are eighteen or twenty-four inches deep to easily accommodate bins, holiday décor, camping/sports equipment.
--To organize books, toys, or clothes in a child’s room, choose a composite wood unit two feet tall by three feet wide with one foot square compartments. For safety, make sure to take the time to secure all units to the wall using a strap or bracket.
As mentioned above, a shelf unit can be the turning point in getting a space organized. Shelves facilitate a key organizing concept: declutter the floor.
In probably 90% of my work, clients are in fact responsible for the clutter in their homes. I help them declutter their spaces, find storage solutions and develop habits to maintain the organization. Today, though, I want to talk about the remaining 10% of the cases where home design is to blame for clutter. By that I mean: there are too few closets, storage is in the wrong place, windows and doors are located in inconvenient places, rooms are wrong size, or there was little thought put into how someone would actually live in the space.
We all know that older homes were short on closets. However, many newer homes, though quite large, are designed poorly for the way families live. For example, open floor plans look impressively spacious but are difficult to get organized. There just doesn’t seem to be any place to put the things people use on a regular basis. Many homes have expensively outfitted kitchens with no convenient place to put trash and recycling bins. Some homes have been modified by homeowners without sufficient thought to the consequences of the placement of the new deck, sun room or garage. The result is an expensive, unused space. By far the most common challenge for homeowners that I see is in making the most of their entryway spaces. The front door is oftentimes equipped with a closet, tiled floor and space for transitioning into the home from outside. However, the back door (the one that gets the most use) often has little to no conveniences. And what makes matters worse is that people do not realize that this is the cause of clutter in the area.
Here are some ideas to consider. Whatever entry is most often used should have convenient drop off spots for groceries, backpacks, coats, shoes and purchases. The ideal house has a mudroom for this purpose that is located between the garage entry and the house proper. If your common entry lacks these organizational systems try to emulate them as best you can. The first thing to do is to be aware of the problem. You will be able to tell if shoes are in the way, coats have no place to be hung, bags are tripping hazards and it generally seems like extra effort to transition from outdoors to indoors.
If there is no closet, create a place where will you hang coats and put outdoor shoes. This need be only large enough to handle the most often used outdoor gear. Purchase a coat rack, wall hooks, shoe rack, and/or bookcase for coats and shoes respectively. Make space for a table, bench, cubbies, or hooks to temporarily deposit backpacks and purchases. You may need to take time to rearrange other furniture to make the area workable. Place function over aesthetics in designing this space. You, and your family, will appreciate the effort. By the way, this area is the key location to place reminders such as school papers, lunches, and store returns; to hang keys; and to display shopping lists so they are not forgotten. Make a place for these reminders by installing a bulletin board, shelf or hanging clipboard. Remember to include a large sturdy mat on the floor to keep dirt, water and debris from tracking into the house. With a little forethought this area will keep you organized, your house clean, and transitions efficient. Let us know how you solved entryway problems.
Visit our Pinterest board for "Home entry organizers" at: www.pinterest.com/carolmartinward
Carol Martin-Ward, encouraging practical ideas for easy organizing