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Cheat Sheet

Organizing Do-It-Yourself For Dummies

What do you need to do before you start to organize your home? Prepare yourself for the process or organizing your stuff both mentally and physically — read up on the five fundamental steps of organizing a room, collect all the stuff you need before you tackle a room, familiarize yourself with a few basic carpentry techniques, and put some simple sorting tips to good use.

Organizing Any Room in Five Easy Steps

Has the clutter really piled up in your living space? Do you have a room that you are ready to reorganize? Use the following five-step approach to ensure that you cover all the bases when organizing any room.

  1. Determine the goal for the room.

    Before you begin sorting through your clutter, take a few moments to articulate the specific goal for the space. This step helps you define the desired function of the room and stay on track. For example, “I want a living room with enough seating for family and guests and enough storage for our books, games, photo albums, and movie collection.”

  2. Identify the limitations of the room.

    Make sure your goal for the room is realistic and takes into consideration any features of the room that you can’t change, such as its size, layout, dual function, and so on. For example, you may have your sights set on creating a tropical island guest suite, but you still have to account for the fact that the room is also a home office.

  3. Sort the room into four categories:

    • STAY: This item is in good shape, is used frequently, and will definitely stay in the room.

    • MOVE: This item doesn’t support the goal of the room and needs to be moved to the proper room in your house.

    • SHARE: This item is in good shape but hasn’t been used in at least a year, is a duplicate, or is cluttering up your room. Share it with a friend or donate it to charity.

    • GO: This item is trash, plain and simple.

  4. Build and install your projects.

    Which organization projects will help you maximize the function of your space? Build one or more, as determined by your space.

  5. Reassemble your room.

    Return all the items to your room and add the finishing touches.

Essential Tools for Home Organization

Organizing is hands-on work! You can save valuable running around time by assembling a few basic tools before you start an organizing project. To take a room from cluttered to cleansed, you need the following tools:

  • Sorting tools: You can probably find these tools lying around your house! For sorting, you need four large bins. Purchase paper in four different colors (like neon yellow, green, orange, and pink), and using a dark-colored marker, label the signs with large block letters: STAY, MOVE, SHARE, and GO. As your SHARE and GO bins fill up with items, periodically transfer the contents to trash bags. Label your trash bags so your SHARE pile doesn’t end up in the trash.

  • Installation tools: You can accomplish most projects with a hammer, Phillips screwdriver, flathead screwdriver, measuring tape, level, and drill. Spending $50 at the local hardware store can easily round out your tool collection.

  • Finishing tools: When it’s time to put your items away, select the proper containers (such as bins, boxes, or baskets) based on the size and characteristics of the items they’ll contain. You can save money and be eco-friendly by repurposing existing containers such as shoe boxes, crates, or canisters. And don’t forget to label each container.

Handy Carpentry Techniques for Home Organization

Tool belts, and those who wear tool belts, can be intimidating. But a few carpentry tips can help you organize your home.. Here are a few carpentry techniques frequently used during home organization:

  • Finding a wall stud or ceiling joist: Wall studs are vertical wood beams generally located every 16 inches behind drywall. (A ceiling joist is like a wall stud but located, of course, in the ceiling.) A stud finder operates like a metal detector, beeping or flashing when it locates nails or screws in the wall studs. Other techniques for finding studs are to knock on the wall (hollow drywall sounds different than solid wood) or to note the placement of electrical outlets (they’re installed in wall studs).

  • Using a level: A level is a device with an embedded bubble that indicates whether the item is . . . level. This handy tool can be used horizontally or vertically to help you hang an item level or plumb (perfectly vertical).

  • Using a screwdriver: To install any screw, simply select the proper screwdriver for the screw (either flathead or Phillips), and twist in a clockwise (to the right) direction. To remove the screw, twist in a counterclockwise (to the left) direction.

  • Using an electric drill: An electric drill is a handy power tool used to drill holes into wall studs. For a strong installation, begin by selecting a drill bit that’s slightly smaller than the screw required for the installation. Use a pencil to mark the spot where you will drill your hole. Ensure the drill is in “Forward” mode, and apply even and consistent pressure to the marked spot as you pull the trigger, noting resistance as your drill bit enters the wall stud. Remove your drill by gently retracting it or by using the “Reverse” mode.

Sorting Tips for Organizing Every Space in Your Home

Deciding how to store things is an essential part of organizing, and the following tips and guidelines will help you make quick and effective sorting decisions as you organize different areas of your home:

  • Entryway: Trim your collection of scarves, hats, coats, and other items of clothing to those that are used daily or weekly and are in season. Transfer excess accessories to a nearby coat closet or seasonal storage, or donate them.

  • Living room: Lose the knickknacks! Display only your most prized possessions and store or donate the rest. Donate old books, movies, DVDs, and video games, and store the discs you do keep in media folders (recycle the plastic jewel cases).

  • Kitchen: The main source of frustration in a kitchen is overstuffed cabinets and drawers. Donate duplicate gadgets, infrequently used dishes and drinkware, mismatched storage containers, and appliances you don’t use. If you just can’t bear to part with an item, consider relocating it to the garage or basement for long-term storage.

  • Closets: Clothing storage is at a premium. If the item hasn’t been worn in the last year, doesn’t fit well, or is out of style, it’s time to donate it. Be firm with yourself and you’ll see results.

  • Bathrooms: Throw away any expired products and those that are no longer used. Donate items that are still in their original packaging and have been sitting on your shelf for more than 6 to 12 months.

  • Office: Any paperwork that you can locate on a Web site, in a reference book, or via e-mail should be recycled. Clever filing systems help you minimize the inflow of paperwork and reduce your existing paperwork piles.

  • Kids’ spaces: Teach your children the concept of “One in, one out,” and assist them with that organization process each birthday and holiday when new toys and other items come into their lives. Similarly, select a reasonably sized container for your children’s stuffed animals, and fill it with items. Anything that doesn’t fit should be donated. Also donate clothing that your child has outgrown, or transfer it to long-term storage on a regular basis.

  • Laundry room: Do a quick check of your laundry products to make sure you aren’t storing any empty containers. Remove any items that aren’t laundry related, such as photo albums, books, gifts, or projects, and return them to their appropriate homes.

  • Garage: The main culprits in the garage are old sporting equipment, décor that no longer suits your needs or taste, extra furniture that likely will never return inside your home, and boxes of old clothing. Donate these items to free up the space.

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