This is a guest post from Garret Stembridge at Extra Space Storage, a nationwide self-storage company that has 22 facilities in the New York metro area alone. January is Get Organized Month, and Garret has some timely advice for New Yorkers who need a hand with their organizational goals.
January tends to be an inward-facing month in New York. It’s too cold to spend much time outside, and personal improvement is on everyone’s minds as we all resolve to be better versions of ourselves in the new year.
We also have homes full of presents, wrapping and holiday decor that can start to feel stuffy, especially when it dips well below freezing outside.
What better month, then, to get organized? Here are five tips to get you started.
- Start small, and aim for quick wins to build momentum.
Like any resolution, getting organized becomes sustainable over the long haul when you see results early on. So, rather than tackling yourentire home over the weekend, go cabinet by cabinet, or desk drawer by desk drawer. The immediate feeling of accomplishment will give you the energy you need to go on.
In fact, Houzz’s Laura Gaskill recommends looking for stray items first that simply need a home. “Unless you live in a truly enormous home, there’s a good chance you can put just about anything in its place in 10 seconds,” she writes at Today. “Practice telling yourself it will take only 10 seconds to put the item away, and then count as you complete the task. Ten seconds is nothing!”
Karen Kingston at Sixty and Me has another smart way to break up your time: Work in 20-minute sprints. “Begin by choosing a small area that contains things you do not have any emotional attachments to — just a drawer, a shelf, a small cupboard or something similar,” she writes.
“Set an alarm to go off in 20 minutes and start decluttering. When your alarm sounds, stop and pay attention to how you feel. If you feel like you’re done for the day, that’s fine. If you feel like doing a bit more, set the timer for another 20 minutes and keep going.
“… The lovely thing about time boxing is that each small area you clear releases energy for you to do more. The stagnant energy that accumulates around clutter causes you to feel tired but when you start clearing it, this frees up stuck energy in your home and also energizes you.”
- Donate clothes and household goods you no longer need.
For an extra boost of energy and motivation, turn your decluttering energies into something that will help other people this winter, too.
“Winter is the perfect time to give back and help the less fortunate,” Extra Space Storage’s Dayna Hathaway says. “Go through your closets, collect all of the winter items you no longer need — coats, gloves, hats, boots — and pack them up to take to a local charity that collects clothes. You’ll make more room in your home, but more importantly, you’ll be helping others, which is a great way to spread good will during the winter.”
Don’t forget household goods and electronics, too. In addition to gently used clothing, Goodwill® Industries of Greater NY and Northern NJ, Inc. accepts gently used household goods such as kitchen appliances, cookware or portable radios — all things that could brighten another family’s winter. Find out what items Goodwill NYNJ can and can’t take in its website
Further, the nonprofit organization empowers individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment to gain independence through the power of work. Sales from its stores fund the free employment and training support services for adults as well as mentoring and afterschool programs for children and youth.
That’s why we included Goodwill NYNJ in our list of amazing New York charities last year.
- Set your workspaces up for maximum productivity.
The team at the NAPO-NY, the New York Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers, has a tip sheet for locals who need to declutter, and a couple of their tips deal with organizing your books, bills and mail.
Tackling these, or whatever else is in your workspace right now, is a good way to set yourself up for success in 2017.
First, NAPO-NY recommends organizing your books into a personal mini-library: “Grouping art books together is like designing your own private museum; having reference books in one place makes it super-easy to look up the odd fact. Now, anchor your bookshelves by putting the weightiest books at the bottom, and go up from there: novels, mysteries, travel, etc. It’s easy and fun to have a library that beckons to you, whether you want to re-read a favorite mystery or study up on Paris.”
With books sorted, they recommend setting up a dedicated space for organizing and paying bills. “Keep your checkbook, stamps, return-address labels and blank envelopes in a single, easy-to-access location, gathered together in a small rack that’s dedicated to this purpose,” the tip sheet says. “At bill-paying time you’ll write the checks, stamp the envelopes, and put them near the door to be mailed in one easy motion.”
- Declutter your schedule, too.
Don’t limit organization to the physical space around you. Pay attention to the more ephemeral forms of clutter that add stress to your life, particularly your own schedule. Look for ways to find a more optimal balance of work, social life and personal time, Molly Crane-Newman at the New York Daily News writes.
“Revise your current schedule and examine ways to reorganize it so as to create more flow,” she says. “If you struggle to make it to your job on time, try preparing for work the night before — pack your handbag or briefcase, and lay out your outfit for the next day.
“If you run a hectic schedule and can’t find time to keep fit, think of creative ways to blend an exercise routine into your day — maybe take a longer walk during a lunch break.
“Set aside time for relationships by planning ahead. Organize nights out with friends by setting up a group online so that everyone can compare schedules and pitch ideas about where to meet.”
- Get the kids involved.
This burst of productive work makes for an excellent teaching opportunity when little ones are around. If you have kids in the house, take time to include them in your organizing efforts. You just might build some important, lifelong habits.
Jayne Dowle at HouseBeautiful has a couple of natural starting points for younger children:
- Teach them to store like items in the same place. Place plastic toys all in the same container, arts and crafts materials in their own place, and clothes in their own dedicated place.
- Color-code the items you group together. “Even the youngest children can put away items such as crayons, cars and smaller toys into crates of a certain color,” she writes. “You could try red for craft materials, blue for dolls, green for cars and so on. This instills good habits to grow up with and can be adapted and added to over the years.”
Ruth Soukup at Living Well Spending Less has found that involving her own daughters in decluttering efforts teaches them some valuable lessons about trying new ideas, finding motivation to tackle a project, and developing that sense of responsibility that comes from ownership of something.
“Owning toys we want means we need to pick them up and keep our room clean,” she writes. “Getting clothing we want means it needs to be hung up and put away properly. Having a bike means it needs to be put in the garage safely at night, and well taken care of.
“Teaching children responsibility can be challenging, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it will become. Explain how moms and dads have to take care of the things they own, like your home, your car, your clothing, and more. Explain how kids have responsibilities, too, and they must keep their own things picked up, in order, clean and well cared for.
“It’s about teaching your kids how to value each item rather than tossing it by the wayside when they obtain something bigger, shinier or more exciting.”
Extra Space Storage is the second largest operator of self-storage facilities in the U.S. Since we were founded in 1977, we’ve taken the storage industry by storm with our commitment to customer service and our top-notch facilities. But we understand that storage is about more than a physical location to store your items – it’s a safe place to keep your possessions until you’ve reached your next phase and have moved on to a better tomorrow.