Moms Q&A: Tackling Clutter in the Home

Stuff happens...and our Moms Council shares how to deal with it.

Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council—Susan Masone, Siri Heinrichs, Cristina Fowler, Christine O'Brien and our intrepid columnist Lauren Kim—takes your questions, gives advice and shares their solutions to the problems vexing all of us.

Have a question you would like to share, or just want to provide your opinion on the question of the week? Head over to the comments section to do just that.

So grab a cup of coffee and settle in as we start the conversation today with the following question:

Clutter: How do you tackle it in your home?

Susan Masone: I keep up with it every day. Almost to the point that it is an obsession. I never let anything sit from one day to the next. Whatever we are wearing today will be washed, dried and put away by the time I leave for work in the morning. I always feel if I let it go until the next day. I will have twice as much to do.

Siri Heinrichs: In general I don't allow clutter to accumulate in my home. I'm pretty anally organized! I spend about 45 minutes each night straightening up all the visible areas of my house — that is probably the big key to avoiding clutter: That, along with having a place for everything and dealing with things right away if possible. I have an “in box” at my desk with a folder for different items (e.g., bills to be paid, items to be filed away, items requiring data entry into Quicken, receipts, coupons, etc.).. I can stick items in my in-box and then about once a week I sit down and sort through them. For our mail, I “process” it right away. I toss the envelopes and other flyers that come with bills, and put most of the mail (sad, really) into the recycle bin. Same goes with the newspaper. If it sits for more than a day I put it in the recycling bin.

 As for kids' clutter, we have bins, bins, and more bins. Each bin has a label with a picture of the items (for non-readers) and a word label for the item. I ask the kids to pick up their stuff a lot. In general, they pick up every time we are getting ready to go somewhere. My mom
once said it's nice to come home to a neat house, and she's so right. I could go on and on with this topic...I've even thought of starting a
professional organizing business once the kids are all in school full-time. I do have one closet upstairs that is a mess, I keep shoving in blankets and pillows, but one day soon I'm going to pull everything out (another great tactic) and put it all back where it goes. I actually look forward to this type of project!

Lauren Kim: Siri, it sounds like you have a good system. I could sure use someone like you in my house! And Susan, your house probably would be nirvana for me — it sounds quite organized! My husband and I let a lot of things go when we had our twin girls a few years ago. So, lots of things have piled up, not to mention that we have our own childhood items and things that belong to other family members stored in our basement. That, coupled with the tons of magazines that come into our house (and don’t seem to ever leave) and an abundance of toys, make for one messy house. I am currently in the process of trying to clean out the basement to turn it into a kid-friendly (although unfinished) space.

But because there are a lot of things in the basement, it makes it one very hard process! But I hope to move much of the stuff that’s basically in permanent storage to one side of the basement to turn the majority of it into an organized storage and play space. I have made slow gains over the summer so far, so we will see how it goes!

Cristina Fowler: As many of my family and friends know, in my house, there is a place for EVERYTHING! So much so, that during family parties at our home, if your drink or plate is left unattended or looks almost finished, I will trash it. The same concept applies with toys, clothes,"things"....you name it. I try to have a box or an area or room where everything can find a place it calls home. Children’s school work gets collected in a bin.

At the end of the school year, we go through the work and keep what is worth keeping and recycle the rest. All toys belong in the toy area. We have a secret weapon in the form of a 2-year-old lab. If a toy is not put away, our energetic lab will make great use of it as a chew toy. This keeps my children very vigilant in keeping their toys safe. Clothes and laundry are all confined to a series of baskets and hampers that I swear, multiply without much effort. All in
all, this is very much a team effort. At times, I am the only member of this team, but for the most part, everyone in the house pitches in. The key is to have baskets and bins in every room. Fill it with clutter and purge the bins monthly. This works for me. Hope it works for you too!

Christine O’Brien: I don’t know if I’m the right person to ask for advice, since clutter is winning the battle in our house. It seems impossible to keep up with the paperwork and “stuff” that just seems to grow like weeds. Being a sentimental person certainly does not help the sorting process, and more items seem to stay than go. When
sorting, the kids and I find it helpful to ask ourselves if we still really need the item and then try to figure out the last time we used it. The next step in the decision process is to see if the item would be useful or appealing to someone else. If the item can be used by someone else, we either pass it along to a relative or friend, donate it to a charitable organization or hold a yard sale every few years (which the kids really enjoy being part of). Clothing is a bit easier to sort out as we do it at the beginning of every season. To keep more “stuff” from coming back in, I try to ask myself if I really “need” the item before purchasing it. I’ve try to pass this lesson on to the kids as well. I would love to hear how others manage clutter in their home!

Zaina ByThavas July 10, 2011 at 09:53 PM
If you are looking for storage space for your clutter, there is a very useful site that will allow users to 'share' storage space rather than give in self-storage units. It basically matches up everyday people who need storage with everyday people who have dormant space like empty garages/sheds/basements, etc. On one hand it makes the person with space a little money and on the other hand, it saves the storage user money compared to self-storage facilities. http://sharemystorage.com/cr6dg
Michael February 18, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Good afternoon. I wanted to write and introduce myself to your group. I am the owner of Maidpro Hightstown - a new cleaning service that serves Hightstown & East Windsor. I would love to promote with your group and even offer a free cleaning to a lucky member! Please let me know if this suits your groups needs and I look forward to working with you in the near future. Best regards, Michael Ciaccio


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