Organizing for the Rest of Us: 100 Realistic Strategies to Keep Any House Under Control

Organizing for the Rest of Us: 100 Realistic Strategies to Keep Any House Under Control

by Dana K. White

Organizing for the Rest of Us is a great book about reorganizing and decluttering your whole house. It contains tips, tricks, and practical ways to clean and organize your home easier, faster, and less time-consuming. By applying the strategies in this book, you’ll be able to have a clutter-free home with organized storage and a freshly renovated look.

Summary Notes

Shifting Your Mindset

“Decluttering is the secret truly organized people know even though they don’t know it’s a secret.”

There are three layers of a clean home: clutter, daily stuff, and cleaning.

Clutter is the first layer you must eliminate to have a clean home. This refers to anything that gets out of control in your home and makes cleaning difficult. Decluttering makes a house look, feel, and stay tidy. For overloaded homes, quick cleaning methods are ineffective.

The second layer of a clean home consists of everyday items. To clean and declutter these items, we must fulfill many duties daily, such as washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. When we make it a habit to clean things weekly instead of daily, we spend more hours excavating the whole thing, making us unable to do any other important things.

The third layer is cleaning itself, which includes dusting, vacuuming, mopping, wiping, and scrubbing. Once the first two are under control, dealing with the third is less of a priority, and it’s much easier to have a clean home.

When going through these three layers of a clean house, keep in mind that home maintenance is a continuous process. There is no beginning and end to this "project," so constant maintenance through performing small daily chores is necessary.

One beneficial way to keep your home from being cluttered and messy is to adopt the “having less” mindset. This will help us constantly focus on a home with fewer things, giving us a sense of peace, relief, and happiness.

Actions to take

Decluttering Basics

“Begin the decluttering process knowing when you’re tempted to stick something in a temporary home “for now,” you’re not actually decluttering.”

Eliminating trash is the first step in decluttering your home. Garbage is simple since it doesn't need much thinking. The next step is to sort the “easy stuff” - things that already have a place in your home but aren't there. When you return items to their proper locations, your home gets less visually overwhelming.

Every home has a “duh clutter,” or the things you keep even though you have no use for them, such as an old coat your child has outgrown. Since it’s difficult for us to throw such things away, it’s better to keep them all together in a box so we can easily get them when we want to donate them.

After clearing out a lot of the clutter from our cluttered environment, we should begin going over each thing one by one while asking two questions:

  1. Where would be the first place I would look for this item if I needed it? If you know the answer, you have found a place for that thing; but if you don't know the answer, move on to the second question.
  2. Would it come to me that I already had one if I needed this item? You probably would only need that item if you had looked for it.

The next step is to organize the items that are still there after the decluttering process. The best way to do this is to use containers and sort things into groups based on how they are used and how similar they are.

Finally, it’s critical to maintain order and avoid creating more clutter. We can accomplish this if we follow the "one in, one out" rule. It’s simple - before we put something new into a container, we must discard something first.

Actions to take


“Find the storage space, don’t add it.”

After decluttering, it is essential to organize things into specific containers. You can begin by finding a place for your stuff based on its usage and purpose (a place for stuffed toys, coffee mugs, socks, etc.)

The best way to avoid making more clutter is never to fill the containers too much. How? By putting things in the containers in order of importance. First, we'll put in our favorites and most important things. We'll do this until the containers are full but not overloaded. Then, whatever is left outside goes in the donation box or the trash.

We all have things we don't really need but love so much that it's too hard to donate or throw them away. In such a case, we need to choose a “keepsake” box for this purpose, but we should keep only what can fit inside.

Aside from the “keepsake” box, we may also have a miscellaneous box at home, where we leave random things that we will distribute ‘later.’ Usually, this ‘later’ never comes, and we just create more clutter at home. So, it’s important to slowly empty the "miscellaneous" box by giving each item a place in our home.

Actions to take

Cleaning Routines

“Solve your most annoying problem today, then solve it again tomorrow.”

Daily cleaning routines such as cleaning surfaces, removing clutter, and regular dishwashing help us keep the house in order and prevent chaos from accumulating.

People who have control over their homes make daily pickups. When you notice a small mess, it usually takes five minutes of quick tidying to fix it. But if five minutes isn’t enough, you can get other family members involved to get more done.

To be more organized, you should create a cleaning schedule. You can pick a certain day of the week for chores like laundry, cleaning the bathroom, mopping, dusting, and so on. It's best you can do one thing every day, but if that's not possible, find another natural reminder that occurs often enough to be effective. Perhaps you tidy up for an hour before watching a film, or you save the first and third Saturdays of the month for housework.

Housework can be stressful at times, especially when you need to clean the entire house. In such a case, a time limit is recommended. You can, for example, divide two hours into tasks - 40 minutes cleaning the bathrooms, 20 minutes dusting as much as possible, 30 minutes washing the kitchen, and 30 minutes vacuuming. Having a time limit will ensure you can finish everything you need to do within the time frame you set for yourself.

When doing housework, it’s important to determine which daily duties are the most important. This will help you know what to do when you encounter an awkward pause. Awkward pauses are those times throughout the day when you have a tiny and unexpected amount of unstructured time between tasks. Knowing what to concentrate on in stressful situations is important—for example, a two-minute break to load random dishes into the dishwasher or a five-minute pause to do your daily five-minute pickup.

Actions to take

Kitchen Cleaning & Organization

“My personal rule is that I can keep a box or a glass container if I can use it now. Right now.”

The dishwasher is our best friend in the kitchen, but if we don’t have one, there is one way to handwash our dishes. We should wash the dishes in the order of how dirty they are. The glasses and cups should come first, followed by the scraped plates, the silverware, and the pots and pans.

The next step is to clean the countertops, stovetops, and gunky dishes. Some tips that can help us clean them are to use baking soda to remove stains from countertops, a razor blade to clean a glass-top stove, and an old gift card to scrape dishes.

Now that we’re done with washing dishes, the next to discuss is cooking. When cooking from scratch, we need to use pots and pans and make messes. If you want to get more done, you should perform batch cooking. This is where you cook all your meals at once and freeze them. This way, you'll have to clean up less after each meal.

The pantry is an important part of any well-run kitchen. It helps us keep track of our food supplies. Stairstep shelves are a good choice because they are on levels, so we can see all our canned or jarred foods at once without having to take anything out. Lazy Susans turntables are the best solution for spice organization.

Actions to take

Bathroom Cleaning & Organization

“Dish soap (clearly labeled for the bathroom) and a non-scratch scrubby sponge work wonders.”

To keep a bathroom in good shape, you need to clean, declutter, and organize it regularly. First, you should wipe the bathroom every day to keep things from getting so dirty. Mold in the grout is one of the most common problems in the bathroom, but this can be fixed with six cotton balls and liquid bleach.

We can use some tips and tricks to clean faster and better. The first is to keep a scrub brush the size of a foot on the shower floor so we can clean it sometimes. The second is to clean the shower while we're in it with dish soap.

Preventing cross-contamination in the bathroom is important. To do this, we need to ensure that all of our bathroom cleaning supplies are clearly labeled so that we know what they are for and can keep them separate.

When organizing our bathroom extras, we should store them according to our needs. That means storing items where we often search for them and where we can easily find them when we need them. Extras can make a mess, so it’s good to follow the rule not to overload the boxes. For example, we should put cosmetics in a container about the size of a shoe box, and once the box is full, we shouldn't add more stuff until we use the one we have.

To keep the bathroom smell nice, it’s best to put a little of our favorite all-purpose cleaner in the toilet brush holder.

Actions to take

Living Room Cleaning & Organization

“Just because a space is empty doesn’t mean it is available to fill with stuff.”

One technique for creating a comfortable living place is prioritizing empty spaces. Our home should be a place to spend quality time with loved ones, not a place to store random items. For example, you need comfortable seating so your belongings won't overrun the family area. If you're throwing a party, there should be room to set up a couple more chairs. An ottoman, if available, should not be buried under a mound of unnecessary items but instead used as a place to rest tired feet at the end of the day.

If your living room has books that overcrowd the space, you may retain only the hard copies of your favorites and then switch to an e-book reader to reduce the space. Moreover, if you want your room to be clear, you should decorate the walls instead of the surfaces.

Your living room should not be a place for any storage, such as family games, stacked boxes, or bins full of craft supplies. If you remember this rule, your living room will always be clutter-free.

So far, we've dealt with discarding and organizing small things, but there are also big things in our home that we need to deal with, such as furniture and large decorative items you don’t like or need. Eliminating huge pieces of furniture generates significant amounts of space, which might be a huge step in transforming your house.

Actions to take

Clothing & Laundry Organization

“Embrace the place where you’d look first as any item’s true home, and accept the realities of the space you have.”

Your clothes can definitely get out of control very consistently, so you need to declutter your closet. Your laundry routine can help determine which clothes to remove from your home. If your clothes are always clean, you can get rid of them quickly. When everything is clean, you'll see which pieces of clothing you never wear and remove them from your closet.

Hooks are a great way to organize small things like jewelry, hats, scarves, etc. Hangers are an excellent option to keep our wardrobes sorted and organized. We can also use a color-coding system for hangers by giving each family member a different color. This is especially helpful for kids' clothes.

In terms of laundry, remember that using laundry baskets will just cause a pile. Laundry that is kept under control is consistently washed, dried, and put away. There isn't a need for clean laundry to sit in baskets. Clean clothing laundry baskets serve as procrastination zones. If you get rid of your places to put off clothes, you'll be more likely to put clean laundry in the closet immediately.

Aside from this, you should also keep in mind not to leave your laundry in the dryer for too long, as it will cause the clothes to smell bad. However, if this happens to you, wash the clothes again and add vinegar to the machine to eliminate the bad smell.

Actions to take

Sentimental Clutter

“One of my best strategies for letting go of sentimental stuff is to use it.”

Sentimental clutter is the most difficult to clear up. These items signify a time of life that has passed, such as old toys or outgrown clothes. We cannot retain everything, so we should stick to the rule: “I may keep one item from this category.”

We find it hard to give up some things because we haven't used them enough. Putting emotional items to good use is a great way to avoid holding on to them. By using things like a burp cloth, coffee mug, or blanket, you will eventually be ready to get rid of them because they have fulfilled their purpose.

If you find it challenging to discard photos, you may use containers in this situation. You can determine the amount of space in your house dedicated to photographs, as this will serve as the upper limit for your collection. You should start by placing your most cherished photographs inside your picture storage container. Digitizing old images is another effective method for getting rid of them.

Since decluttering sentimental items is an emotionally difficult process, you should never begin with the items you are most attached to but rather with those less meaningful ones. This way, you'll gain a better decluttering experience and realize how great it is to live in a home with fewer things. This experience will let you see the most sentimental things differently and remove them more quickly. Alternatively, you may clear up enough space in your house to make room for the things you cherish and give them the honorable place they deserve.

Actions to take

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