the ultimate decluttering secret

I need to get something off my chest. I’ve been taking advantage of people who ask me for organizing help. I have discovered the answer to society’s clutter epidemic but haven’t told anyone until now.

In helping families declutter and get organized over the past few years, I’ve observed a common thread that connects them. I have to conclude that it is the cause of all the clutter problems.

It’s Amazon.

Okay, so it’s not always exactly Amazon. It’s Overstock, eBay, Peapod, Everlane, or other website du jour, but it IS online shopping. More specifically, it is the “Amazonized” attitude towards shopping that values convenience, quickness, and getting a good deal.

I’m not talking about procurement, margins, and what happens at Amazon-the-business — that’s not my gig. My concern is that the ease of shopping online is causing an epidemic of cluttered, disorganized homes, leading to unhappy families.

Every time I visit a client for an organizing session, I see boxes in the entry waiting to be unpacked. People are paying me to get rid of stuff, but they just bought more stuff.

WHAT??!?

cluttered entryway

We no longer need to take time out of our busy schedules to physically go shopping. Nor do we need to exert ourselves lugging our purchases home on the subway or into and out of the car. We feel we’re being responsible by restocking before we run out of something. And we’re obviously getting the best prices on everything because of our promo codes and cash back and the streamlined supply chain an online retailer is able to achieve. We don’t even need to open our wallets.

In a single click, or just a tap on a mobile device, purchases are magically en route, in some cases, arriving within hours. We come home from work, juggling laptops and toddlers, texting our partners about what to order for dinner, to find humongous brown boxes smiling at us from our doorsteps, boxes that contain 60 rolls of Charmin, a brick of AAA batteries, a case of Goldfish crackers, and a collector’s edition officially-licensed replica Kylo Ren mask because it was the Deal of the Day.

amazon box

Don’t pretend this doesn’t happen to you. A similar humongous box arrives at least — AT LEAST — twice a week. Since we’re ordering one item, might as well get another if it all comes in one box. How often do we order a new something because we aren’t sure where our something is (hello, charging cables!)? If spending another $17 gets us free shipping, doing so becomes a moral imperative. Twice a week, non-essential impulse items come into our homes along with well-intentioned orders of Swiffer cloths. That’s 104 humongous, smiling boxes a year.

Let’s not forget about the oh-so-handy monthly subscription services that send us maker kits for our elementary schoolers’ enrichment, eco-friendly toys and treats for our beloved and deserving pets, diapers in the size our baby just outgrew, and organic healthy snacks from around the world for the whole family.

The packaging alone is more clutter than one person can handle. If we don’t have time to go to the store, we don’t have time to unbox and put all this crap away. Especially if it entails going through the crap you got last week to make room for the new crap.

Enter baskets, boxes, bins, and organizational problem solvers. We can’t find space to put all our stuff, so we throw money at the problem. Custom closets, Elfa systems, attractive woven baskets, clear stacking boxes with lids, super-slim hangers, label makers… and yes, professional organizers.

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I really ought to tell clients who hire me for organization to STOP SHOPPING ONLINE.

I should just say :

Make a list of what you need. Go to Target and look at how much space 60 rolls of toilet paper takes up. Compare that to the size of the space you have to store toilet paper, and you’ll buy 12 rolls. Bring the kids and see if you have 90 seconds to look at Star Wars collectibles before someone has to pee, and you won’t buy Star Wars anything. Walk around with Goldfish in your cart but swap them for fresh grapes because you realize your cart is full of salty carbs. After a few months of this, you also won’t buy a brick of AAA batteries because you won’t have bought more battery-operated Deals of the Day that you never needed in the first place. You’ll also cancel the automatic subscription once you see that you already have 4 sealed bottles of plant-based, cruelty-free cleaning products.

True story.

honest

There is mindfulness to be discovered in planning a shopping trip. Taking inventory of the consumables in your home will help you plan meals and save money by not ordering take-out. The life-changing magic of making a list of the things you need and buying them will mean you can stop reading books about what sparks joy.

And please, bring your kids to the store with you. I agree that shopping with kids is one of life’s most trying experiences. Bring a friend if you’re scared — I’d go with you.

Like all life skills, if our kids don’t see us do it, they won’t learn how.

Advertisements

15 tips for parenting two

 

I recently met a new client who is getting ready to have her second baby. While I have a long-term design plan for them, in the short-term I will have to incorporate ways to make life a teeny bit easier with an infant and a preschooler.

Here are 15 tips gleaned from my dim memories of the early days with two.

  1. Invest in a sling or carrier designed for infants, and use it at home. You’ll need your hands free to wipe boogers and bums, prep food, play trains, find pacifiers, and make bottles. Extra points if you can pee without putting baby down.
  2. Depending on the age of your older child, you may be able to set up a bin, drawer, or cabinet in the kitchen where they can get their own snacks and drinks. When they realize they are STARVING, you may be in the middle of dealing with a 4-alarm blowout, or be trapped on the sofa while breastfeeding. If they know where and how to get what they need, it will empower them and prevent a meltdown.
  3. Keep ready-to-grab healthy, nutritious snacks and water handy for YOU, too. Meltdowns in sleep-deprived adults are not unheard of.
  4. Be prepared to change diapers almost anywhere in your house. Your older child may not be ready to be alone while you handle the aforementioned blowout. Set up small changing stations, or just keep diapers, wipes, etc., in the rooms you spend the most time.
  5. If you didn’t baby-proof for your first, or maybe you un-baby-proofed, DO IT NOW. You don’t want to worry about your older child getting into something or getting hurt on something while you’re occupied. And, if, like mine, your first child was a perfect angel and you never needed to baby-proof, I guarantee that your second will be a climbing, jumping, scavenging little heathen, like mine. It is very likely that you had all eyes on your first when they started crawling around, and were able to teach them what was safe.
  6. Whatever your older child’s routine, think about how to safely keep your baby nearby while getting them ready for bed. During bath times, baby may need to be in a bouncy seat with you in the bathroom. When you’re putting big sister or brother to bed, it may be best to carry baby in a sling or carrier, or move that bouncy seat into the bedroom. You’ll want a comfy chair in the room in case baby needs to be fed in the middle of all this.
  7. Ideally, baby will sleep near you and NOT near your older child. You may have blocked from your memory the fact that you and your partner will not sleep through the night for at least 6 months, if you’re lucky. You will be getting up to change, feed, and settle your baby several times every night for the foreseeable future. If you have the space, ensure middle-of-the-night festivities happen in a different part of the house.
  8. Hopefully this can all happen without your older child waking up. A white noise machine in their room can help immensely.
  9. Stumbling up or down stairs in a sleep-deprived state is not a good idea, for your safety as well as your baby’s. Plan for your newborn to be in a bassinet, co-sleeper, or other safe sleeper designed for infants, in your bedroom or in a room close by for the first weeks. Maybe longer, depending on your baby, and definitely on the same level of the house.
  10. When you decide you and baby are ready, move them into their crib in their own room. You may still be getting up at night with them, so you should have a comfy chair in the nursery that you can fall asleep in, or even a bed. A client once told me she was glad we invested in a sleep sofa in her son’s nursery because she often slept on it.
  11. Don’t underestimate the benefits of a comfy chair. I’ve mentioned them twice already. You might want one in the playroom, too.
  12. If your older child is still sleeping in a crib, and you plan to use that crib for your newborn, you may not need to make that transition before the baby arrives. You will have a few months when baby isn’t ready to sleep in the crib in their own room. Depending on your toddler’s personality, they may feel better “giving” their crib to their little sibling after they get to know them better.
  13. Get out of the house with both kids. Your focus during the first weeks will be on maintaining normalcy for your older child, so your newborn will be napping, eating, and pooping on-the-go. Infants are portable and adaptable, at least more so than toddlers and preschoolers.
  14. Pack a ton of snacks in your diaper bag, and include changes of clothes for EVERYONE. Spit up doesn’t discriminate.
  15. Ask for, and accept, help. If you have two kids and no housekeeper, and your house is clean, you are cleaning at inappropriate times. Just one example.


Having more than one child is a roller coaster, for sure. It is impossible to realize how much attention you focus on your first child, until you have an infant who needs a significant piece of that attention. Welcome to multitasking like you’ve never known it before. I call it Keeping The Kids Alive. Stay strong. You got this!