My blog readers have one consistent question after they see my before-and-after gallery: “Does anyone actually maintain his or her space?”
The organizing process has several phases; the final phase is maintenance. Typically, when you reach the last phase of anything, you start to see light at the end of the tunnel because the work is almost completed. But in the organizing world, the work has just begun.
Once you have sorted, purged and set up a freshly organized space, you need to carve out small blocks of time to maintain it. Half of my clients are able to do this on their own, and the other half prefer that I return and give them a boost. It’s like having a personal trainer – but for your junk.
To maintain a space properly, you’ll need to give yourself a few weeks to see how your new system is working. If you notice that you need to make some tweaks, get to them right away so that the entire system doesn’t fail. For example, if you recently organized your garage but feel like it would be a great addition to invest in shelving, don’t sit on that thought. Go for it before the items that need to be stored on shelves become a pile on the garage floor again.
Once the space starts to feel like it’s running smoothly, you’ll want to maintain it little by little each week. Remember, the space is freshly organized, so you won’t spend as much time sorting and purging the clutter. Small efforts such as putting laundry away and clearing the kitchen counters each night will reap great rewards as the weeks go by. You’ll find that you won’t need a major overhaul every six months, only a small tune-up here and there.
Scheduling a regular maintenance session to sort, toss and clean spaces such as pantries, refrigerators and makeup drawers each quarter will take a bit longer but will yield cost-saving results. These are areas for which clients tend to overbuy.
Schedule refrigerator and pantry maintenance around your children’s school or vacation calendar, before the holidays and after the new year. Makeup drawers and vanities should be maintained seasonally, as makeup trends change and medication needs for colds, flu and allergies come and go. Always have cleaning products handy so that you can wipe out bins, baskets and drawers.
With our amazing climate, we don’t have to do much of a wardrobe swap for the seasons, but it doesn’t hurt to sort through your closet twice a year. I keep a donation bin in my closet so that I can purge when my gut tells me to. I also do a big overhaul before I go on vacations. It sounds crazy considering there is so much to do when preparing to travel, but if I don’t want to pack it, I probably don’t love it. I pack my suitcase three or four days before I leave for a trip, and I schedule enough time to try on and purge what doesn’t make the cut.
A spring overhaul for garages and storage closets will be worth its weight in gold. These areas are often out of sight and can fall victim to the old “shove and shut” habits. Coordinate the maintenance sessions with the free bulk trash pickup that you are allowed each year, and schedule a donation pickup from Hope Services while you are at it.
Overall, try to find a schedule that helps you live a more organized and stress-free life. If you aren’t sure where to start, I recommend opening your refrigerator right now. Pull everything out, toss expired items, wipe down the shelving, create a system with the items you are keeping and make a shopping list of items you need to stock up on. Hopefully, this quick project will give you the momentum to continue to organize and maintain the rest of your home.
Amanda Kuzak is a Los Altos-based professional organizer and estate liquidator. For more information, visit kuzakscloset.com.