Organizing Professionals Dish on Cleaning House — and How to Keep It Tidy
Do you live in clutter or cleanliness? Are your kids rooms organized or disaster zones? As spring kicks off, it’s a perfect time to dive into all the closets, drawers, boxes and bins in every room of the house.
And cleaning isn’t just for cleaning’s sake — it’s actually beneficial to your health to go home to an organized space.
“There have been so many studies on the effects of clutter on your wellbeing and your clarity,” says Megan Ludvinsky, professional organizer and owner of About Space. “So many people actually cannot focus in a cluttered space; it gives you anxiety. Not being able to find something makes it really hard to focus and complete a task.”
About Space, which is based out of Maumelle, is a professional organizing and personal concierge service. And while it’s Ludvinsky’s job, she knows it’s not realistic to be 100 percent clean all the time — but she does love an organized space.
“I brings me joy to make things clean and uncluttered and serene,” she says.
Similarly, KonMari certified consultant Sue Fehlberg, who runs decluttering and organizing business Tidy Nest, sees the happiness that an organized space can bring.
“I think people are so overwhelmed by their lives and how busy they are … So to be able to come home to a place that’s peaceful where they can relax and rest, I think that’s what people are looking for now,” says Fehlberg.
Fehlberg practices Marie Kondo’s methods, which became increasingly popular after the debut of Kondo’s Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” at the start of the year.
Though different organizers like Fehlberg and Ludvinsky utilize different methods, they share a common goal: to help people feel in control and eliminate the clutter from their lives. While that task may seem overwhelming, there are steps anyone can take to get organized and then stay organized.
Here are some of their advice on teaching kids good habits, figuring out what to get rid of and more.
About Space, About Place
Ludvinsky uses these concepts throughout each home she organizes. They’re simple ideas, but when followed, it’s easy to figure out how to put things away and maintain the organization.
1. Store Like with Like
Ludvinsky says a simple illustration of this is a silverware drawer: forks with forks, knives with knives and so on. It’s much easier to find things when they’re stored together. For example, keep all your scissors in one spot instead of scattered in drawers and bins in different rooms.
2. Have a Home for Everything
Everything needs a place to belong. For example, if you have a designated bin for your kids’ sporting gear, you’re much more likely to put it away rather than letting it pile up on the laundry room floor.
3. Put it Away
It’s as simple as it gets, but as Ludvinsky says “Once you add one piece of clutter, it gives birth to more clutter and more clutter and the clutter will multiply!” Don’t delay in putting things away and you’ll stay on top of the mess before it can even begin.
How to Tidy KonMari Style
Fehlberg follows Marie Kondo’s six rules for decluttering and organizing. Even if you’re not on board with Kondo’s entire process, anyone can take bits and pieces and use these as guidelines for getting neat and tidy.
• Commit yourself to tidying up.
• Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
• Finish discarding first.
• Tidy by category, not by location/room.
• Follow the right order: clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous and then sentimental items.
• Ask yourself if it sparks joy.
Following these rules, there are two basic steps that you should take if you’d like to organize the way Fehlberg teaches:
Begin by going through and picking up every single item and deciding if it “sparks joy.” Fehlberg says it’s important to gather items from across the house into one spot. So, for example, when starting with clothes, take everything from under-the-bed storage, dresser drawers, closets, etc. and combine it.
“You start from a place of abundance so you see that ‘oh, I have plenty of things. I don’t have to worry about getting rid of too much,’” Fehlberg said.
If an item sparks joy, keep it. If not, discard or donate it. Fehlberg defined “spark joy” as something that’s “useful or beautiful.”
“Our potato masher is not beautiful, but mashed potatoes are beautiful,” she said, laughing. “So if it’s useful, that can be a way it sparks joy for you.”
After you’ve narrowed down your items to only things that spark joy, it’s time to store them in a way that makes the easy to access and see. With clothing, it’s essential to organize drawers in a way that keeps everything visible.
“The main thing you’re doing is folding things into rectangles that can stand up on their own, and then you file everything vertically in your drawers,” Fehlberg said. “You’ll really be able to see everything at once and not have to … grab things from the bottom.”
Want to learn more about how to clean KonMari style? Fehlberg is teaching a free workshop at 1 p.m. on April 6 at William Laman Public Library in North Little Rock. She’ll demonstrate folding techniques, share organization tips and answer questions.
5 Tips for Keeping Kids’ Spaces Clean
1. Use Picture Labels
Label toy bins with photos or clip art rather than words so that kids actually know what goes where! Using bins without lids is also easier for little hands that don’t need the extra step of taking off a lid (and then putting it back on).
2. Teach Clean Habits
“I don’t have a no-shoe policy in my house for adults, but when we come in, my kids are usually covered in mud or sand or something else,” Ludvinsky said. “So they take their shoes off and I don’t even have to ask them anymore!”
There’s a rack at the door where her kids know shoes should be placed and now it’s just part of the coming home routine. Any parent can help their kids create clean habits, whether it’s putting dishes in the dishwasher immediately after eating or closing drawers in the bathroom after getting ready in the morning.
3. Don’t Micro-Organize
Keep the categories basic. In the toy room, for example, stick to “stuffed animals” as the category for a bin rather than separating into “teddy bears” and “Beanie Babies.” The easier it is, the more likely kids are to follow through on cleanup.
4. Use Artkive for Paper Keepsakes
Artkive is an app that allows you to photograph artwork, cards, certificates, etc. and save those images digitally rather than holding on to every physical keepsake. The app also allows you to print a hardcover book of all of those images once you have a collection compiled.
“If they’re not framers, they probably don’t belong in your house,” Ludvinsky said.
She restricts sentimental items to only keeping pieces that fit in one box about a cubic foot in size for each member of the family.
5. Try a Santa Takeback
It can be hard to say “no” to new things coming into your kids lives — and toy bins and closets. That’s why the Ludvinsky family practices a “Santa takeback” each Christmas.
“At our house, Santa takes old toys and gives them to other little kids; we have a one in, one out policy with our toys,” Ludvinsky says. “The more they give, the more Santa is inclined to give back.”
She has also had honest conversations with grandparents and friends about not gifting “stuff” to her kids but rather experiences, which helps cut down on clutter.
Getting Kids Involved
In order to teach kids to stay clean and organized, parents need to model that behavior themselves.
“Just clean and put away things as you go,” says Ludvinsky. “Those are habits that are hard to make and sometimes hard to break if you’re not doing it the right way.”
By involving kids in the decluttering, cleaning, and organizing processes, they’re much more likely to help maintain that level of tidiness. Fehlberg said she recently worked with a 3 year old to go through her things and decide what to keep and what to donate. She recommends saving toys for last, since kids generally have more of an emotional attachment to those than to other items.
However, she says that you’ll be surprised how many opinions your kids have about their things.
“Definitely involve your kids,” Fehlberg said. “We just worked with a 3 year old and she got rid of probably half of her clothes. She would say ‘no, I don’t like that,’ and her mom thought she would want to keep everything.”
However, Ludvinsky warned against letting kids have too much control. Asking questions to help them decide what they truly want to keep and what can go is helpful, in her opinion.
“I think most kids under the age of 10 can’t decide what’s a real keepsake — they’ve got 10 favorite trucks,” she said, laughing. “But I think it’s good to ask them things like ‘How often do you play with this?’ because I’m always trying to get my kids to think about stuff differently.”