Month of Clean: Deep Cleaning Tips from "The Sole Organizer"
Month of Clean: Deep Cleaning Tips from "The Sole Organizer"
By Derika Crowley
De-cluttering is an art and in order to master it, it’s good to get insight from those who have successfully made it a lifestyle. I came around The Sole Organizer on IG and fell in love with her approach to tackling clutter. She has a ton of resources on how to make the most of a small space (and keep it clean), so we wanted to reach out to her to learn more about her de-clutter method and how we can applied that knowledge to our home.
When de-cluttering through years of stuff, what’s a good starting place in order to let things go?
I believe the first step to de-cluttering years of belongings is to be intentional and commit to the process because de-cluttering isn't a one time thing. So, having a strong mindset will be your guide to keep pushing forward because in all transparency, de-cluttering is not an easy task. It's quite possible that it will become challenging and even emotional to part with items that you use to love and enjoy for so many years. Therefore, having that mentality will keep you focused and grounded on the mission at hand. Once you have done that then a great starting place is to tackle the most challenging area(s) or item(s) which you can determine by assessing if it weighs you down, you feel overwhelmed or you're just tired of the clutter and want to take immediate action. So, I recommend to start there to complete the hard task first and then work your way down. The end result will be amazing because you will be able to visualize your progress.
What are some ways to determine what to keep and what to toss when it comes to papers (bills, old letters, etc.)?
Many people tend to hold onto paper such as bills, receipts and taxes for way too long. There are also sentimental documents such as letters or cards that may have special messages written inside which could be hard to part with.
So, for receipts, I recommend tossing them once you have verified with your bank or the purchaser that the transaction was approved. For paperwork such as taxes, the IRS.gov states to hold onto paperwork for about 3 years and 7 years if there was a claim or an issue. Once everything has been resolved then the taxes can shredded. The same applies to bills but you want to ensure that they have been paid and there's no balance. I like to write down on the physical bill that I have in my possession or make note of the date, time and possibly the person I spoke with to document that the bill was paid.
After it has been confirmed, then it’s fine to toss. I like to shred to ensure all personal information is destroyed. For sentimental love letters and cards, you can frame these or store them inside of a binder with laminated sheets to protect it. It’s always nice to look back on heartfelt messages from time to time which can make you feel good and increase the feeling of gratitude.
If we have a small space, what are some ways to carve out special places to work, sleep, eat and whatever else...when you don't have multiple rooms to work with?
I once lived in an apartment space that was 480 sq. ft. First, it’s important to determine how you want to setup the place and then go from there. You can use a closet rod and a curtain to separate a space and it also provides a touch of decor. Be sure to also use items such as end tables, ottomans and a sectional couch to create definitive sections so that it’s clear how the space will be used. Many people view living in a small space as a challenge but I thrive off of getting creative and thinking outside of the box on how to organize and decorate the place. Another important factor is maximizing wall-space as much as possible. Many people neglect that their wall-space which can be adorned with shelves and hooks. If someone is worried about damaging the walls or drilling holes then I have used many adhesive products such as Command Hooks or InterDesign products that can be removable.
What are some organizing products you love right now?
I have many organizing products that I love because the right organizing products can make life simpler and less stressful. However, right now, I am loving the fridge and freezer bins from The Container Store which allows me to organize my items within the fridge and freezer.
These products not only provide order to a chaotic fridge and freezer space but it can also reduce the amount of food waste because you’re able to view what you have as opposed to items being hidden way in the back that have the potential of surpassing its expiration date.
I love to travel and packing cubes are a must have which protects and organizes my outfits while in transit. When traveling, I tend to use only two carry-on bags and by-pass paying for luggage fees and the packing cubes are expandable and fit nicely inside of my luggage. I also use resourceful and eco-friendly, reusable silicone bags to store my TSA approved liquids. This helps TSA to quickly view the contents and prevent a bag search but most importantly it makes traveling stress-free.
Should we clear out our closets every season? If so, how can store them if we have a small space?
Yes! I definitely recommend cleaning out your closet every season. When entering into a new season you will look back and see what clothing items worked for you and which ones didn't which is why it's the perfect time to edit your closet. However, if space is limited then I suggest using hanging bags which can be placed directly inside of the closet and hooked onto the closet rod. There are different variations of hangings bags so select one that suits your lifestyle and then store out of season clothes at the bottom of the bag and in season clothes at the top. I also recommend storing out of season clothes in the back of your closet inside of garment bags.
I also tend to store items underneath the bed so if you have space to do this then use storing bags that will secure and protect your clothes. To ensure my clothes maintain their freshness and quality, I place scented dryer sheets and sachets in the areas that my clothes are being stored. When it's time to switch out the clothes they smell fresh! Once you incorporate these products and systems into your closet space then it’s easy to rotate your clothes when the season transitions.
Do you recommend having a "junk drawer"?
Personally, I would not recommend a “junk drawer” because you may get into the habit of just throwing things inside of the drawer and could end up forgetting what’s in there. I recommend finding a specific home to store each item. However, if you require a drawer to access items quickly then use drawer organizers which will create sections and allow you to group similar items together. This will also prevent you from opening the drawer and having to rummage through it just to locate one item which is not an efficient use of your time.
What are some ways to organize areas like under the bathroom sink and under our kitchen sink?
Before conducting any organizing, you will have to take everything out and de-clutter if necessary. Afterwards, it's effective to group like items together which will make it easier to quickly locate what is needed. For example, when organizing underneath the sink be sure to group dish detergent together, sponges together, cleaning supplies and so forth. Be sure to utilize any available space which includes the inside of the door and you can use adhesive organizing products to maximize space along with Command Hooks. It is also helpful to label the bins to help you identify the contents and use as guide to return items back to their designated storage space. The goal is to contain your items to prevent clutter from building up and taking over. So, the same concept applies to organizing items underneath your bathroom sink. Be sure to group liked items together. For instance, your make-up would be kept separately from your hair products. The constant denominator is to always group liked items together. I used a great product from The Container Store that was designed to store men's shoes but I have a knack for eyeing multi-functional products so I used the product to store items underneath my sink which you can view here. When you're getting ready for the day, the last thing you want to do is search all over the bathroom for your hair-brush, blow-dryer or other cosmetics.
Do certain rooms call for certain organization items?
I believe that getting organized should be fun and creative; therefore, you can use various organizing products for any space as long as it's effective. For example, I worked with a client to organize their food pantry and incorporated a shoe organizer within the space. Typically, shoe organizers are used within closets but in this case an over-the-door shoe organizer was just as effective in organizing snacks and re-usable bags for the client and it maximized the space which you can see here. I believe everyone should incorporate ottomans and baskets into their living space. I love ottomans because they are multi-functional pieces and can serve as decor and storage which can be used in any space. I have an ottoman in my bedroom which serves as a place to sit and it stores my purses. Baskets are ideal for storage and also add a touch of decor to a space with their many designs, textures and style. They can be stored inside of a bathroom, bedroom, closet, kitchen, garage and more. However, in order for them to be efficient, I recommend using labels which will help in quickly identifying the contents of the basket.
What are some of your favorite cleaning products?
I prefer to use eco-friendly and green products as much as possible. So far, I’ve been using many of Seventh Generation products like their dish soap, wipes and products to clean the bathroom! I started doing this once I used a popular cleaning product which triggered my asthma and allergies so I needed to make a switch for my health but it’s also better for the environment.
What's your "go-to" cleaning routine?
I don’t have a specific cleaning routine because I like to tidy up along the way so it’s very rare that I do a deep-dive cleaning unless there’s a life transition happening such as moving. However, I recommend completing the following steps: de-clutter, dust, clean and then re-arrange items. Maybe there is a desk or chair that has been placed in a certain spot for way too long and just by re-arranging it to a new spot can open up the space or create a new feel. I like to do this as part of tidying up my space.