2015 and our 52 Weeks To Organized Video Challenge are about to be all wrapped up. This week's video in the series is all about maintenance, the most important yet least remembered part of organizing. All year long I've given you ideas about how to organize certain spaces in your home and small tips to keep it up. But let's really dig in deep to the concept of maintaining your spaces - it's the best way to stay organized once you are there.
Now there are definitely daily maintenance chores that everyone should do - wipe the kitchen counter, put dirty clothes in the hamper, make your bed, wash the dishes, and all that. A few minutes each day will keep your home surfaces quite presentable so that you don't have to do a marathon clean and organize each weekend or once a month. However, there are other larger maintenance tasks that need to be done at certain times of the year. Taxes, updating your wardrobe, and home repair chores come to mind.
The easiest way I know to set maintenance reminders for these bigger tasks is to use the change of seasons. Think about it - every time the weather changes you need different clothes, you eat different food, you play different sports, and you decorate for different holidays. Use these changes of weather and habits to remind yourself that it's time to run a maintenance cycle. It's kind of like Mary Poppins blowing in with the wind, bringing about great changes, and then swirling back out again when everything is put in order. Sometimes we just need a blustery wind to put things right as rain again.
Maintain your files
Stay on top of action items, keep filing time to a minimum, and simplify your taxes
Reading the mail each day, handling the papers that require action, shredding/recycling the waste, and filing the archived items you need to keep permanently are major tasks but ones you must do daily or each week to stay on top of things. The last task - actually taking the time to file your paperwork after handling it all - is something that a lot of people put off. You've done the major paperwork so when it comes time to finish up the last 10%, well, eh, let's do it later.
I have found the Family Command Center that I use to be the best way to solve this problem. The monthly folder system keeps me from filing items, only to have to go back and purge them a year later from my filing cabinet. Plus my tax paperwork is saved in a folder all year, with no need to hunt for it come tax time. Best of all is my "To Be Filed" folder is kept so small that I only need to actually file away these items once a year. Once a year! In January/February, I file my taxes, file away archived items, and purge the active files in my command center all during tax time.
Maintain your closet
Keep an empty donation box, switch out seasonal clothes twice a year
Keeping an empty donation box in your closet, ready to go when items don't fit, get stained, or ripped, is the easiest way to purge your closet without even trying. Switching out seasonal clothes in the summer and winter also gives you an opportunity to try things on twice a year and reevaluate your wardrobe while switching in the appropriate seasonal pieces. Remembering to keep clothes off the floor seems like a no-brainer, but it's easy to fall into that bad habit if some are already there. So check the closet floor each night and make sure nothing is amiss. 2 minutes each night is much easier than 1 entire Saturday for 8 hours.
Maintain your pantry
Check all expiration dates twice a year, spring and fall
Straightening up your pantry each time you bring new groceries in is a quick way to keep it looking good. Even more than that, it keeps your family healthy because the last thing you want to do is serve them spoiled food. Remove excess packaging (empty individually wrapped items into a basket/bin), wipe up crumbs, and sort all items into categories each time you come home from food shopping. Also twice a year, check all expiration dates on canned goods and baking supplies. Doing this seasonally as you start to change your cooking habits for warmer/colder weather is a good time to take care of things.
Maintain your toys
Set a threshold for each category and purge/donate before birthdays and holidays
Keeping toys/books/other kid items tidy can seem like an everyday job and that's because it is. Every day really is how frequently things need to be straightened up and often it's several times a day, each time your children transition to a new activity. Setting thresholds for the amount of each kind of toy is up to you and your storage spaces. If you only have 1 bookcase for children's books, then that's it. So when birthdays and holidays roll around, the purging of babyish, broken, and not loved items is a necessary task before the new items come in. This keeps the floors clear, makes sure that all toys are being played with, and keeps your sanity in check as well.
Maintain your clutter
Switch out home decor and warm/cold weather items (like sheets, pillows, curtains) seasonally
Different weather patterns and holidays are yet again a good time to switch out home decor and other items like sheets, pillows, and curtains. When the heavy drapes get hung in the bedroom, it's a good time to reassess what's on your nightstand, on top of your dresser, or any item that rests on a surface like a table top or desk. Sometimes we leave items in places simply because they've always been there, but it might not make the most sense for the flow of your home. Especially if you haven't used/admired/noticed an item all season, the weather is a good indicator that it's time to freshen things up.
Keep on top of your daily maintenance, but don't forget about the big seasonal maintenance jobs, too. It's worth it to keep your household running smoothly, to be proactive with your organizing, not reactive with "enough already!" weekend-long cleaning binges. Keep it up and you'll have time to "go fly a kite" instead of picking up a messy playroom.