“Simplicity of living, if deliberately chosen, implies a compassionate approach to life. It means that we are choosing to live our daily lives with some degree of conscious appreciation of the condition of the rest of the world.”
Yesterday I arrived home after taking a week off to luxuriate in the country, what we call the mini Swiss Alps. And while I adored my time away, knowing I was coming home to a clean and organized home made the return to my regular routine very sweet indeed.
While vacations and getaways are wonderful, they require quite a bit of preparation prior to leaving, so by having simple organizational systems already in place for your home and packing preparation, whether your travel or not, you’ll discover that prepping to leave for a vacation becomes simpler and the trip itself even more restorative when you know that your home will be in order ready for you to begin the work week without any hiccups or extra work when you return.
Organized by room, below are 16 simple ways to organize your home, eliminate the unnecessary and create a high functioning, yet very relaxing abode:
~1. Tupperware. Wherever you store your plastic containers for leftovers, recycle all unmatchable lids and containers, and pare down to just one or two sizes, so that you aren’t looking for a lid that doesn’t have a bottom. You really only use 3-4 leftover containers at a time, so reduce how many you have on hand as well.
~2. Edit Refrigerator Weekly. Every week when you do your cleaning, go through the refrigerator as well, assess what you have, add what you need to your grocery list and toss anything that is past its prime.
~3. A Pre-Made Grocery List. Have handy in the kitchen a piece of paper where you can write down any ingredient or grocery item you need to pick up at the market when you make your next trip. If you shop at the same market each time, create a typed of grocery list organized by aisles of that particular store with the items that I frequently purchase listed in their respective numbered aisle. I then save it in my computer and print out a handful of lists at a time. It saves me time walking up and down aisles aimlessly, but it also allows someone else to do the shopping because they have clear instructions where to find each item.
~4. Store Reusable Grocery Bags in the Car. It took awhile to get into the habit, but now, once I unpack my groceries, I quickly place my reusable grocery bags back inside the car. By doing this, you are reducing the clutter in your kitchen and placing the bags where they will be sure to be used reducing the clutter of unwanted plastic bags.
~5. Magazine/Newspaper Caddy. Over the past year my breakfast nook table has seen piles of newspapers and magazines, and since the table itself isn’t that big, the newspapers/magazines begin to own the space leaving very little room to actually eat breakfast. However, I need my reading material in the morning, so now I have a white 3-inch high oblong vase that is about eight inches in length. All my reading material is neatly placed inside with what I want to read first placed in front. At the end of the week, while cleaning the house, I recycle anything that I’m done with or am not interested in reading.
~6. A Unique Catch-All. Beside your bed on your nightstand or on your dresser, place a unique container (I have a milk glass goblet that I discovered at a yards sale a few years ago), and use it to hold your watch, reading glasses, rings, etc – anything that is removed nightly and will need to be found for regular use in the morning.
~7. Frequent Your Local Library. While having books around you can be a very comfortable feeling, there is a point when it becomes cluttered and distracts from creating a relaxing environment. So why not visit your local library and check out a book (or two) that you are interested in. You will be motivated to read them in a reasonable amount of time and able to reduce clutter by taking them back when you are done. Oh, and don’t forget about the money you’re saving.
~8. Organize Your Sheet Sets. After years of living in a house, sheet sets soften become mismatched or worn. In order to keep everything together and to help each set last longer, purchase two sets for each bed that is regularly used (when you strip the bed to wash the sheets, you’ll have a clean set all ready to go without having to wait for the wash to finish) and fold the fitted, flat and one of the two pillowcases, placing them inside the second pillowcase.
~9. Magnetize. If you are always searching for your tweezers or nail clippers because they are falling behind something else and become hard to find, purchase and place a straight magnet on the inside of your medicine cabinet and welcome your small metal tools to their new home.
~10. Sign-up for Paperless BillPay. It took me awhile to convert from mailing each bill, carefully affixing the stamp and my return label before I placed it in the mailbox to be escorted away by my mail carrier; however, now that I’ve transitioned to the simpler and paperless route of online bill pay through my bank,, I am a fan. The one thing I appreciate is being able to pay whether I receive their bill in the mail or not. I can choose when I pay each month, and if I need to budget earlier than usual due to travel plans, etc, I can simply schedule it to be paid on a particular day. It’s free, simple and reduces paper.
~11. Magazine Apps. If you subscribe to one or many magazines and have a tablet (iPad, Nook, Kindle), most likely you have free access to the all of your magazines on your tablet as well. While I prefer reading and holding the actual magazine (and then ripping pages out for my idea board), when I travel, I am able to save space and read the most recent issues (or issues I need to catch-up on) all from one source.
I just recently downloaded the apps for all of the many magazines I subscribe to and was impressed that nearly all had free access (The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Vogue US, Vogue UK, Elle US, Elle UK, The Week, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Martha Stewart Living, InStyle – the only one that doesn’t so far - Harper’s Bazaar US).
~12. Pet Tote. If you have pets that travel with you or are boarded when you go away for vacations, create a pet tote. Purchase a canvas tote with sturdy handles that is large enough to hold the following: a container of dog food, treats, a toy (or two), dog shampoo, pet stain remover spray & a rag, ear cleaner (don’t forget the cotton balls), brush, dishes for food and water and leashes (with doggie bags). Whenever my dogs see me packing it up, they get excited because they know they get to come along as well.
~13. Reduce Unwanted Mail. While you can have the post office hold your mail when you travel for extended period of time, junk mail still piles up even if you aren’t away. Having to sort through and eliminate all of the junk mail is timely and unnecessary. So why not choose to opt out of receiving junk mail altogether? You can easily remove your name from all the list services out there with one visit to either one of the websites below (and it’s free!).
~14. Clean Every Week. No matter how clean or dirty your home is, get into the habit of cleaning your home every week. Click here to see my simply luxurious approach to daily, week, monthly, bi-monthly and yearly cleaning. When I know I’m going to be traveling, I make sure to clean the house the day before I leave and make the bed with freshly cleaned sheets. There is something so very sweet about coming home to a clean house and a beckoning bed.
~15. Ready-to-Go Travel Toiletry Bag. One of the most frustrating parts about traveling is when you are halfway to your destination, or sometimes already there, and you realize you’ve forgotten something that you need to have. As much as possible, have pre-packed and ready to go your toiletry bag with all of your beauty and prep essentials. By having a second version of nearly everything in small travel sizes that is only used when you pack up to leave town, you reduce those occasions when items are left behind and save time as well. Click here to see the simply luxurious list of travel tote essentials.
~16. How to Travel Luxuriously (from beginning to end) – click here to read Why Not . . . Travel Luxuriously?
Stayed tuned because in August I will share a detailed post on how to make international travel comfortable and as effortless as possible, as well as share more specific tips for prepping your home before you leave.
More importantly, because we don’t take vacations as often as we go about our regular business, create a home that is free of unnecessary stuff, is efficient so that all parties that live within it can feel and perform at their best, and is tranquil so that you, the home dweller, can relax and be rejuvenated. Because after all, isn’t that what are homes are for - to help us get away from the rest of the world and catch our breath, be ourselves and get excited about venturing out once again?
“Bringing simplicity into our lives requires that we discover the ways in which our consumption either supports or entangles our existence.” Duane Elgin
If you have simple organizational strategies that you have found to be effective, please do share.