Thirty-one days of organizing your home

sandwich board that says "difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations" with a potted plant next to it

The Zaarly home organizing challenge!

Post your organizing before/after photos, your in progress photos and your questions using the hashtag #ZaarlyChallenge every day we'll be checking out your pics and answering your questions. We'll even be giving away a thing or two! Come back to this post to read what the challenge is every day!

We’ve heard from lots of customers that they are looking forward to organizing their home during this unexpected social distancing. Right now, many of us might be feeling like we’re living in a science-fiction plot, we were reminded of a famous science-fiction book (and movie) of “Kipple”. Curious? Read on!

In Phillip K. Dick’s classic science-fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep (which became the classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner), our narrator tells us about “kipple.” As the legendary author writes, “Kipple are useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday's [newspaper]. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself.” Sound familiar? Are you looking at your counter or kitchen table and thinking “where did all this kipple come from?” The truth is that kipple comes from us. We just need to organize and declutter every so often—keep ahead of the kipple! The problem is that when we think of decluttering and reorganizing, we tend to think we have to do it all at once. That’s not the case, and it’s actually not as productive. You want to take as much time as it needs and not rush through it. So, while 30 days might seem like a lot, it is just right for most homes. Depending on the size of the house, you might need more or less time. Regardless, let’s look at the best way to declutter.

Day 1: Create a Plan

Get Organized so that You Can Organize

Before we organize the home, we need to organize or plans. Diving into a decluttering project is like grabbing something that looks granulated and white, not even checking if it is sugar or salt, and then guesstimating how much to use in that cookie batter. You’ll be lucky if those cookies came out of the oven perfectly and not little salt cakes. Organize what you will tackle and when. Walk around your home with a notepad and find the areas that need organization. Make sure you check cabinets and closets—anywhere you might have storage. The most neglected place? Under the beds. We like to utilize the space under the bed, but we hardly remember what we put there. So, your list might look something like this:

Kitchen

1. 7 cabinets

a.1 for pots and pans

b.1 for canned goods

c.1 for containers

d.1 for appliances

e.1 for cups, plates, bowls, and serving dishes

f.1 under the sink for cleaning supplies

g.1 with odds and ends

2.4 drawers

a.1 for eating utensils

b.1 for cooking utensils

c.For household needs (batteries, flashlights, etc)

d.Junk Drawer (we ALL have them!)

3.Refrigerator/Freezer

4.Countertops

5.Table/chairs

6.Pantry

Once you have these lists for every room, assess what needs the most attention, but prioritize based on necessity and most used. Turn first to your entranceway, kitchen, and main bathroom. List out which rooms you want to do from your most immediate concern to your least. Now, look at that list again and determine how many days you need for each room—remember to take your time! You don’t have to do one room per day. Instead, think of it more like 1 room per week. The kitchen should be a one week project (maybe even longer depending on the size of your kitchen).

After completing this…rest. This is your day 1! Congrats, you’ve already started. Now, here’s an example of an action plan you can use or adjust.

Pro Tip: get black trash bags for trash and white trash bags for donations. You don’t want to accidentally toss your old coats and donate your Taco Tuesday remains.

basket on a shelf that says "home is where the story begins"

Entranceway

Day 2: Organize coats and shoes.

Make sure they are season-specific, determine if you want to donate any. (Suggestion: Do this every season, but especially check to see which winter coats you don’t need or want before the season and immediately donate them to shelters or other donation centers).

Day 3: Purses, wallets, and backpacks.

Be sure to empty them out of the clutter. Even though a wallet is small, it still fills up with junk—mainly old receipts. But purses can fill up with more, and backpacks…well, just prepare for the worst - you WILL find goldfish crackers and probably something you were supposed to sign 6 months ago from your kid’s school.

Day 4: Entrance Closet (if you have one).

Again, is everything here season-specific? If it’s winter, you probably don’t need the beach gear. If it’s summer, you don’t need the snow shovels and salt bags. Keep those things in the garage or basement until you do want to have them ready to go. Better yet—if you can store those things in your garage and are still able to easily access them, don’t use the entranceway closet for them at all! Just coats, purses, and backpacks.

Pro-Tip: If you don’t have a closet, get a coat rack and a bench. Shoes go under the bench, backpacks and purses go on the coatrack to, or to one side of the bench. If your kids have a place where they can take on and off their shoes, they are less likely to kick them off in the middle of the living room.

modern kitchen with hardwood floors and stainless steal appliances

The Kitchen

Day 5: Tables and Countertops

It’s important that you tackle this first in your kitchen. You need clean countertops in order to have a staging area for the rest of the kitchen. Figure out where things need to go. Do you have a place for mail and documents? Are your appliances, like toasters and blenders, in order? And finally, wipe the counter down so that it is nice and clean. You’re going to put food there.

Day 6: Refrigerator and Freezer

Remove everything from the refrigerator, and clean it. Make sure you have designated areas for your items. Milk goes on the top shelf. Cold cuts and cheeses go in the left bin. Veggies go in the right bin. And so on. We also want to empty the unit because we need to inspect each item as you store them. First, obviously, check the expiration date. If it is past the date or if you know you won’t use it before the date, toss it. As well, even if the item isn’t close to expiring, if it’s been in your refrigerator for a long time, it’s probably better to toss it, especially if you don’t think you’ll use it in the near future.

Repeat with Freezer. Then wipe down counters.

Day 7: The Pantry

Do what we did for the refrigerator and freezer. Only this time, get a box so that you can donate some of your nonperishables and canned goods you won’t be using. And wipe down the counters.

Day 8: Cabinets (note: You might need a couple of days for cabinets, depending on the amount)

· Do the worst one first—the Tupperware. Make sure every container has a lid (the socks of the kitchen). If there is a container without a lid or vice versa, put it in the recycle.

· Now, pots, pans, and bakeware. Make sure the most used items are easy to reach.

· Plates, bowls, glasses, and mugs

· Cleaning supplies

· Everything else! If you have food, apply the same rules as before and donate what you won’t be using.

· Consolidate: If you cleared a lot of room in your pantry and you were using cabinets for food, see what you can move to the pantry. If you can clear a cabinet, move your small appliances from the counters to that cabinet.

Day 9: Drawers

It’s surprising how fast the drawers can get messy, but thankfully they are small areas. Make sure everything is orderly.

Now…get rid of everything in your “junk drawer.” It is literally called “junk.” There’s no need to keep anything that we label junk. If it isn’t, then put it in its appropriate place. Those soy sauce packets and chopsticks? Trash them. Menus? Either use a folder or trash them and just go to the restaurant’s webpage.

Bathrooms

Day 10: Kids/Main Bathroom

Which bathroom is used the most? In most households, it’s the one the kids share (assuming the master bedroom has its own bathroom). Organize underneath the sink first, then the medicine cabinet. Make sure the toothbrush holder is clean, and that you don’t need new toothbrushes. Finally, make sure each kid has their own bathroom caddy. If your children fight over shampoo or soaps, a bathroom caddy provides ownership, and they can keep them in their rooms. It also minimizes shower clutter. Instead of having bottles everywhere, you’ll have nothing. Brushes and hair products should also go into the caddy.

And if your kids use makeup, make sure they have a makeup case to store their products. This is another thing to get for each child, but you probably already knew that.

Clean the bathroom.

Day 11: Master Bathroom

Thankfully, this will be a lot easier than the kids’ bathroom. Follow the same rules, but don’t worry about the caddies. However, separate storage helps for you and your spouse. If it is just you…enjoy your private, well-organized bathroom.

Day 12: Guest Bathroom/Half Bathroom

If you have a guest bathroom, do this last. You probably don’t need to do much. Make sure soap is available and toilet paper. If there isn’t a cabinet, consider a toilet paper holder so that it is readily available if the roll runs out.

head of queen size bed

Master Bedroom

We want to start with your bedroom not just because it is the biggest, but so that if you have kids, they know their cleaning day is coming. We’ll get to more on that soon.

Day 13: Quick Clean.

Make sure nothing is on the floor and in its proper place. Make the bed. Vacuum. If you already do this regularly, you can go to the next day or take a day off. We recommend the day off for some self-care relaxation.

Day 14: Walk-in/Master Closet.

Okay. This might be painful. It’s time to take every piece of clothing you own and throw it on the bed. Here, we’re going to take a page from Marie Kondo’s book and think about what makes us happy. Have some donation and trash bags ready! Look at every item of clothing. One, do you actually like it still? If not, if it is usable, put it in the donation bag. But also consider if you are ever going to use it again. Sure, maybe you have a cool teal suit your grandfather passed down, or maybe you still fit in your senior prom dress, but chances are you will never wear them—donate them. They will serve someone else much better. And though we like to hold onto wedding dresses, you’ll make a younger, less fortunate bride-to-be’s day when they find a wonderful dress at a secondhand store.

Once you finish, immediately find a clothing drop off. There are units scattered all over now, in retail and gas station parking lots. Or bring them straight to a donation center—you don’t want the bags at home tempting you to pull items out!

Day 15: Dresser and Chest

The same rules apply here as we used for the closet, but it should hopefully be easier. And don’t donate underwear. Socks, yes. Undergarments, no. You might also find a few more “how is this even in here” items that are completely unwearable…trash!

If you have a Chest, maybe for linens, repeat the process.

Day 16: Under the Bed

Clear everything out and find better places for them. If you can’t, consider if you actually need the item—try not putting anything under the bed. Although, once it is clear, maybe put a cat bed, if you have a cat. They’ll love it. It’s like their own little bedroom.

Day 17: Desk and Additional Storage.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to go through every single piece of paper…yet. We’ll get to that. For now, make sure your desk is clean and everything has a place. If you have a lot of paper, put them in a bin and save them for another day. If you have more storage, see what is inside. Generally, we buy more storage to store more clutter. If you can donate, sell, or trash additional storage, do so—we want less temptation to store junk!

one lonely orange lego

Kid’s Bedrooms

For the most part, we’re going to repeat the process from the master bedroom, but depending on the age of the child, you’ll have to organize in different ways. If you have more than one child, that’s okay! Get each one started on the task, and bounce between them every five minutes or so, or if one of them calls for you. If you have a teen and a younger child, stay with the younger child and check on the teen sporadically.

Day 18: Quick clean. Watch out for loose Legos!

Day 19: Closet

Day 20: Dresser

Day 21: Toys and hobbies

Here’s where the age of your child impacts the organization. If you have a younger child, you’ll want to decide where the toys will go. The Toy Chest is one of the greatest inventions in human history. Get them in the habit of using it.

For teens, we want to match the storage with their personality and hobbies. If your teen loves reading, you’re in luck—all you need is a bookshelf, and you can create a reading nook in the room so that books all go in one place. Video games? Similar, but store them next to their tv if they have one. Sports trophies? Put up shelves.

Day 22: Family Room

Thankfully, family rooms are often a lot easier because we don’t store as much here. The most troublesome areas are generally the coffee table and the media center, but be sure to organize other storage areas, such as breakfronts, if you have them. Donate what you no longer use.

Day 23: Dining Room

Another easier area. If you have a dining room, you most likely have a breakfront or a clutch for fine china and items you only take out when you have guests. Be sure that nothing is on the table!

Day 24: Linen Closet

Make sure everything has a shelf, and everything is folded.

Day 25: Laundry Room/Area

Even if your washer and dryer are in the garage or basement, treat the area as a separate room. Use shelves for different needs and label them. And make sure that your detergent and other chemicals are out of reach for small children.

Day 26: Paperwork

Good news! You finally get to sit down. Bad news—all the mail and paperwork you’ve collected over the past 24 days…it’s time to go through them. First, have folders and labels ready. Invest in a filing cabinet too. Collect unneeded paper and mail in a bin, and then take it to a shredding service. Some communities even have free shredding.

The Garage

Day 27: Declutter and Donate

Garages can get out of control very quickly. So, what we want to do is spend one day just getting rid of things we don’t need. Toss anything broken beyond repair, unidentifiable spare parts, and trash.

Now…start going through the discarded hobbies of yesterday. We need to clear the garage of those items you purchased because you really wanted to start a new hobby, used it once (or not at all), and then stored it into hobby graveyard—the back of the garage. Donate it all, or, if it can’t be donated (why did you try making your own Kombucha and why did you keep it?!?!), throw it away.

Day 28: Organize

Everything remaining should be things you absolutely need or use. If you don’t already have garage shelving, make sure you get some. Each shelf needs a purpose. The most common:

· Tools

· Sporting equipment

· Seasonal decorations

Pro-tip: If you have the space, leave a free shelf so that you can store one season’s decorations before taking out another’s.

· Grilling equipment

· Car equipment

Label each shelf even if it is obvious. When everything is in its place…sweep. If all works out, you can actually park your car in the garage!

Basement or Attic

If you have and utilize your basement or attic for storage, apply the same principles here that you did for the garage.

Day 29: Declutter and Donate

Day 30: Organize

Day 31: CLEAN!

Living room with two vertical windows, curtains, a sofa and art on the wall.

How often To Organize?

Once you get your house organized, stay ahead of it as much as possible. But some things can’t be helped. Do a complete reorganizing month maybe twice a year, but do small projects every season, like closets and drawers. Other areas need more love, especially the kitchen—organize and go through your refrigerator and pantry once a week.

And finally, don’t beat yourself up if/when your house gets too cluttered again. It is hard to constantly keep things organized. If you don’t have the time or don’t want to do weekly cleanings, we have amazing service providers who can help you clean and organize your home. For big projects, such as the garage or bedrooms, consider hiring them to help you. It’s like hiring a life coach — but to get your pantry in order (which seriously can make your life feel a lot more put together).

Our organizers can even help virtually! They would be more than happy to set up a time to walk you through the organizing process and give you ideas! It’s like hiring a coach

Reach out and chat with a pro, today!

And once you are finished, Relax and love your home.

At Zaarly we are here for you! Our entire company is up and running (remotely) and we are committed to having the same great customer service you've come to expect. Reach out to us if you have questions or concerns at [email protected]
If you need to reschedule appointments please get in touch with your service provider.

Stay safe. Stay vigilant. Stay home (if you are able).

laptop with teal headphones on it and a sign that says "youv'e got this"