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Brian Elfert
12-29-2012, 4:20 PM
I have a serious problem with lack of storage and lack of organization in my house. I'm kinda at my wit's end dealing with it. I live by myself and stuff just piles up everywhere. My garage door opens right into the kitchen and everything gets dropped on the kitchen counter until pretty soon the counter is unusable. My house has zero storage on the 1st floor outside of the kitchen and a 5'x5' walk-in closet off the kitchen. The 1st floor is open concept so the entire 1st floor is open except the half bath and closet.

How have others dealt with this? I'm sure most of you have wives who either just put the stuff away or nag you to put it away. My big problem is where is away? The closet off the kitchen just has 2 shelves in it about 5 feet off the ground on two sides.

The 1st floor of my house is a complete disaster right now. The kitchen counters are full of junk and there are piles of papers and junk on the floor and in boxes. (No, I'm not even close to qualifying for a hoarders type show. There is no trash or anything like that.)

Ole Anderson
12-29-2012, 5:54 PM
My favorite storage place is the Salvation Army resale shop and those big green recycle paper bins at the local church..

Myk Rian
12-29-2012, 6:01 PM
The 1st floor of my house is a complete disaster right now. The kitchen counters are full of junk and there are piles of papers and junk on the floor and in boxes. (No, I'm not even close to qualifying for a hoarders type show. There is no trash or anything like that.)
Junk and trash are the same thing. That's how you should look at it.
Get a dumpster and start removing the junk/trash.

Matt Meiser
12-29-2012, 6:22 PM
There are actually organization consultants out there. My wife won a couple hours from one and a co-worker used money from a work thing we do at the holidays to hire one for his house. Both the co-worker's "before" pics and my wifes room in our basement looked like what you described. Both offered great suggestions. I'm not sure how its working out long term for the co-worker but my wife at least has a plan now when it gets bad.

One suggestion the one my wife had in offered is that most paper you get (I'm not talking pay stubs, bank records, etc.) are just simply not needed for very long after you deal with them. Cell phone bills, utility bills, etc--all of its available online, you've got your bank records of what you paid. We've slowly converted to electronic on some of that and I think more will go that way soon in our house. The biggest problem is where it goes--some goes to my wife, some to me. I've been thinking of setting up a "bills" email and setting that up to forward to both my wife and I.

Another thing I've started doing--I get the mail virtually every day since I'm home when it comes. I immediately open, sort, and recycle all the junk (credit cardd offers, weekly Sirius begging, catalogs we don't care about, envelopes, return envelopes for the bills since we don't use them, ads inserted in the bills, etc.) If I do it in my office it goes immediately to the recycling bin. Sometimes if its in the kitchen it can build up for a couple days. My wife has gotten pretty good at reviewing what's left of my first pass and pruning further. The bills go in Quicken within a few days and head for the basement.

Brian Elfert
12-29-2012, 8:37 PM
Junk and trash are the same thing. That's how you should look at it.
Get a dumpster and start removing the junk/trash.

It isn't nearly to the point that I need a dumpster. There isn't that much junk. (What I meant by no trash is no rotting food or anything like that.) The open concept of my house makes the problem seem really bad. I don't have a side room that could hold this stuff out of sight.

I've converted almost 100% of my bills and statements to electronic delivery. I try recycle all the junk mail every day. I belong to several committees and boards of smaller non-profits. Every monthly meeting I end up with a pile of paper. I feel like I need to hold onto the papers for a while though I can't remember ever looking at them after the meeting. Like Matt says there are papers that one gets that need to be held temporarily, but then one has to go back and purge and it is sometimes hard to decide how long to keep something.

I recently spent over a month organizing my garage and managed to get everything organized and on shelves. The garage was so bad I had to rent a storage container for 4 weeks so I could get everything out of the garage. The garage needs some fine tuning, but it is just too cold out there right now. I have my car in the garage for the first time in at least 5 years. I threw away, sold, and gave away a lot of stuff. I tried to attach garage photos before/after, but they are too big.

Brian Elfert
12-29-2012, 8:44 PM
Okay, I decide to swallow my pride and post several photos of my mess. One is looking at the kitchen/eating area and two are the great room/living room. The treadmill is going to get moved as soon as I finish running the 20 amp circuit for it. I have to get back to cleaning now.

Stephen Cherry
12-29-2012, 9:24 PM
Brian- first of all, don't get yourself in a rut thinking about this, it's really not that bad. Like you said, it's just stuff-- not rotting food or anything like that.

Storage bins, more cabinets, shelves, etc. And maybe some of it needs to go away.

I would recommend spending just 30 minutes at a time on it until it's under control. Put on your favorite cd, or rerun of a show that you like, and have at it. If you try to think of it all at the same time, it will seem insurmountable.

Also, remember, this is the time of the year that everybody feels in a rut- it's got to do with the lack of light and cold weather. I know that I do, and at my work they even send out emails telling people that it's that time of year. Maybe get on that treadmill and do 20-30 minutes- another show or cd.

paul cottingham
12-29-2012, 10:39 PM
I don't know, it looks a lot like my house. Fretting about mess (not filth) is highly overrated. I know people who make themselves absolutely miserable about this sort of stuff, to the point where they literally clean their house 5 days a week. And they make everyone around them miserable if they don't live with the same sort of hyper-vigilance about clutter.
give yourself a break. If it really makes you unhappy, clean a small area every day. That will at least give you the feeling that you are doing something about it.
but don't let it mess with your serenity.

glenn bradley
12-30-2012, 6:01 AM
I too live alone and sometimes tend to use my house as one big bedroom, leaving things where they obviously don't belong or have any use. Having somewhere for "everything" to go is required in order for "everything" to be organized. You could build shelf units or racks to hold plastic bins in lieu of built-in storage which I see you have little of (me too). I added wire shelves to closets scaled around duplicate sized lidded bins for seasonal storage. If there is not somewhere for something to go, I give it thorough consideration as to whether I want it bad enough to make the kitchen table its permanent location in my life. Usually the "thing" will lose and a usable kitchen table will win. That being said, I regularly cycle through clean phases and phases where the only reason I know that I have a kitchen table is that all that "stuff" can't be levitating. :D

Brian Elfert
12-30-2012, 8:44 AM
This has been an ongoing issue for a long time. It really has nothing to do with the particular time of year. The mess in my house causes me not to get things done because I feel guilty about the mess and end up watching TV or sitting at the computer instead. I've made a small dent so far this weekend.

Yes, I can clean this up and make it look nice for a few days or weeks, but I really need to figure out places to store things so it doesn't keep happening. My house has so little storage compared to a lot of other houses. My parents have some huge cabinets in their living room that hold a ton of stuff. Of course, more storage can just mean storing more stuff. My parents have hundreds and hundreds of old magazines they may never reference again in their cabinets.

Ole Anderson
12-30-2012, 8:52 AM
Hey man, you are working on it and asking for help. That is a great start. Maybe there is a 12 step program. Hi, I'm Brian and I've got a mess.:p

Bonnie Campbell
12-30-2012, 8:58 AM
I've got a manufactured home and it has no storage. Lots of open space, but limited 'hidey holes'. A closed cabinet set up with at least one file cabinet by your computer might be good. Book cases in front of the windows could help too. One thing I used to do was have a small table designated for piling things on that just came into the house. That table could look bad, but it kept my kitchen and dining room table cleared for use. When/if things start teetering on the table I'd clear it off lol

Erik Loza
12-30-2012, 11:13 AM
Good suggestions in here. My wife and I recently did a major remodel to our house, which required us to scale down from (what was) a 1,500 house to an 800' apartment for 6 months and we both work from home. So, we REALLY had to be organized.

First thing we did was donate a lot of stuff to Goodwill/Salvation Army. A LOT of stuff. We were not hoarders by any stretch but had accumulated lots of things over the years that when I was going through them, was like, "Where did this come from? Why do we still have it?". We probably thinned our material possessions by at least 50% and to be honest, I am glad to be rid of that stuff. Now that we are back in the house, we find that we greatly enjoy a less cluttered environment.

Second thing was that I moved everything that was to be stored into transparent plastic tubs or totes. Bright green painter's tape label on the front of each one: "Xmas wrapping stuff", "winter socks". etc. I do this both in the garage and in the house (in the closets and pantry) and it has greatly optimized out space. Since the tubs are clear, I no longer find things hiding or accumulating in there that I would've done something about otherwise.

Honestly, though, the biggest thing that helped us was the actual committment to "owning less stuff". Unless you shift to that mentality, you organize now and then recreate the problem in 6 months. At least that is what we found. Hope this helps,

Erik Loza
Minimax USA

Brian Elfert
12-30-2012, 3:16 PM
Second thing was that I moved everything that was to be stored into transparent plastic tubs or totes. Bright green painter's tape label on the front of each one: "Xmas wrapping stuff", "winter socks". etc. I do this both in the garage and in the house (in the closets and pantry) and it has greatly optimized out space. Since the tubs are clear, I no longer find things hiding or accumulating in there that I would've done something about otherwise.

Honestly, though, the biggest thing that helped us was the actual committment to "owning less stuff". Unless you shift to that mentality, you organize now and then recreate the problem in 6 months. At least that is what we found. Hope this helps,


I use the Rubbermaid Roughneck containers in my garage and some in my basement storage. I like the clear containers, but how do you keep from breaking them? The clear containers seem to break if you look at them wrong while the roughneck containers survive about anything.

I'm not sure stuff is as much an issue for me as is the sheer amount of paper in piles. I've been working on a project for six years now where I keep buying parts for the project all the time and generating lots of paper. I need to file it in my file cabinet. That said, I do need to re-evaluate how much stuff I do keep. There is stuff I come across that I forgot I had and I hold on it thinking I will use it some day, but then I forget all about it again. I got rid of a ton of stuff when I cleaned out my garage in November.

I am going to move my filing cabinet next to my computer to replace the printer stand. That way I'll actually use the filing cabinet.

Brian Elfert
12-30-2012, 4:37 PM
Here are before and after pictures from when I organized my garage in November and early December. (It took at least 5 weeks total.) Maybe I will post after pictures of my house when I ever get it finished. The garage was in much worse shape than the before photo suggests. There was only one walking path in the whole garage to the door into the house. I literally had no place left to set anything in the garage.

Erik Loza
12-30-2012, 5:02 PM
... I like the clear containers, but how do you keep from breaking them? The clear containers seem to break if you look at them wrong while the roughneck containers survive about anything.

I'm not sure stuff is as much an issue for me as is the sheer amount of paper in piles. I've been working on a project for six years now where I keep buying parts for the project all the time and generating lots of paper....

Honestly, I have not had much of an issue with the clear tubs breaking but most of the ones I use are the 16qt variety, not the big 32qt ones. I could see heavy stuff breaking the bigger ones but that has not happened to me with the 16qt. styles. Across the board on brands, by the way: Rubbermaid, Sterilite, some other one my wife got at the Container Store. Sure, I use those "ruffneck" totes for stuff like camping gear but 90% of my stuff fits in the 16qt tubs and clear ones are a lifesaver.

Regarding the paper situation, how much actual printed material do you really need to hang onto? Unless it's tax docs, the longest you might need to actually store a printed receipt for is one year, for your tax records, right? My wife and I order a ton of stuff online and just shred all the physical receipts. Ditto on bills, back to one year. Pretty much any place you buy from has a record of the transaction by your cc number or Paypal account, so is the physical receipt really important? You could always scan to pdf, any doc you needed to save. My wife does that. Just saying that physical paper is not really so important these days, when we can archive and store it all, electronically.

Just what works for me. Best,

Erik Loza
Minimax USA

Brian Elfert
12-30-2012, 5:16 PM
The project I am working on is converting a used charter bus to a motorhome. Many of the places I get stuff from don't have ways to look up my receipt. I take it to the mechanic once or twice a year and I like to keep the work orders so I know when things were done. There is a lot of paper I will be recycling. As I mentioned earlier I get a lot of paper from several non-profits I work with. I should probably recycle most of it as soon as I get home as I have never looked at any of it ever again.

I was just looking at scanners as a possible way to store scans of paper documents.

Harold Burrell
12-30-2012, 5:36 PM
Hey Brian...

I appreciate this thread. And I appreciate your honesty...and transparency.

I can definitely relate. And so can my wife. In fact, this very thing has been the subject of many a "discussion" in my household.

You see, the truth is...I am a pathetically unorganized slob. Messes seem to follow me. It's frustrating to me...and I cannot even imagine how much more so to my wife.

There are times when I would have liked to post pics of things, but...quite honestly...I have been too embarrassed, because my shop is a disaster.

Anyway...I have been following this thread for some ideas. And I've gotten some. But I have also gotten a little "help" as well. :o

Todd Burch
12-30-2012, 8:39 PM
I like Bonnie's idea of having 1 place to "throw" things that still need to be processed, and keep the, for example, dining table clear for eating. Perhaps that one place could be 1 whole bedroom?

From the pictures - you obviously have no place to put stuff you need to keep. Hopefully the file cabinet closer to when you will use it ("process" paperwork) will work - it ought to - it will be right there!

Your garage clean up looks great, but I have a question. Is that a long pipe of some sort on your ceiling that you use for fishing poles and the like? If so, that's a good idea.

There are times my garage/shop is terribly cluttered with 1/2 completed projects, strewn lumber, supplies or tools purchased and not put away (because I'm lazy or truly don't have a place for them). But I always feel so good after investing in the time to find a place and put stuff away.

Todd

Erik Loza
12-30-2012, 9:06 PM
I purchased half a dozen of these knock-down racks which are made of chome-plated steel wire. 48" x 15" x maybe 7' tall. Sold at Target, HD, Lowes, et al, about $100 each. Very sturdy when assembled. Bought casters for them as well. In the garage, I was able to store like 5X the stuff, since we could roll the racks around whenever needed. Just a thought.

Erik Loza
Minimax USA

Ben Hatcher
12-31-2012, 11:11 AM
My kitchen ends up looking a lot like that. I think moving the file cabinet near the desk will help you. Another item that might help is a simple desk organizer. I have one that I keep on top of my file cabinet with 3 trays to hold items to file, to shred, and to read/pay/ponder/etc. When I have time/motivation/run out of room, I work through the pile. The hard part is forcing myself to always use it. This is made easier by placing it in a convenient location. Mine is actually on a desk in the kitchen. If you want to get fancy, you can build a cabinet to house your files, shredder, printer, and such. When the doors are closed, the mess is gone.

Rich Konopka
12-31-2012, 12:40 PM
For the home, office, and workshop I use the sterilite clear plastic boxes that are "shoebox size" and larger for organizing my "STUFF". They are inexpensive at Walmart and versatile. I also use a Brother P-Touch label maker labeling these boxes with everything such as misc computer and electric gadgets, etc.. The Zip Lock bags are also great for organizing manuals, misc parts, cables, etc. A sharpie comes in handy for marking the ziplock bags as well as the card board file folder boxes. Finally, I use the plastic plano shelves to stack these boxes in my office, workshop, and storage. I also use the Sears craftsman mobile tool carts (http://www.sears.com/craftsman-26inch-wide-4-drawer-ball-bearing-bottom/p-00962021000P?prdNo=1&blockNo=1&blockType=G1)for most of my tools in my workshop. This system came in real handy and was a lifesaver when I recently moved. It made for quick packing and organizing everything so I knew where everything was.

Belinda Williamson
01-01-2013, 12:42 PM
Brian, I am transitioning to living alone apparently (long story). I live in a small space with very little storage and closet space. Everything that walks in the front door seems to end up on the kitchen counter. I can completely understand what you are going through. I am a stacker. Last year's resolution was to not keep every magazine, but to tear out what I wanted to keep (recipes, etc). Then I just ended up with stacks of tear outs. This morning I have been organizing my "important" papers (things I need for taxes) that I keep in a clear file folder size box that I stow away in the corner of the bedroom. You might consider one of those basket cubbies for papers you need to hold on to, they look nicer than plastic containers. That's the direction I'm heading once I clear out the space. Unfortunately I am also going to have to deal with a bunch of stuff someone else couldn't seem to live without. I find that if I tackle one stack at a time it makes the job bearable. If I try to clean up the entire room I feel overwhelmed and just give up. It is sort of nice to know I'm not the only person in the world that doesn't have a neatly organized house. So, thanks for sharing!

Brian Elfert
01-01-2013, 2:47 PM
My house is two stories with all bedrooms on the second floor. The entire first floor is open with the only closed rooms a walk-in closet and the half bath. It is doubtful I would ever carry stuff all the way upstairs to one of my empty bedrooms. The original plans for the house called for an office on the 1st floor, but the city turned that plan down as too large. (I needed city approval due to substandard lot size.)

I've already filled two boxes with recycling and you can't even tell I have done anything yet. I'm probably going to get some sort of basket for my kitchen counter to help hold things. A desk or table won't really fit anywhere.

Jeremy Hamaker
01-02-2013, 6:33 PM
Well, looking at your pictures it seems to me that "stuff" isn't the problem, but like you say: paper. I think some previous suggestions about handling most paper only once may be a great help. Could it be that most of the paper there is ads/meaningless receipts/reply envelopes? Additionally, for actual "stuff" consider some bookshelf cabinets or freestanding cabinet/wardrobe type furniture that you can put up against a wall. There doesn't appear to be much "flat" space in those pictures besides the floor and the table...
And one thing... is that a bag of bags on the table? If so, are you saving too many plastic bags? Or is there maybe a spot in the kitchen you can hang that bag? A small thing, but if that's what it really is, it seems to be taking up about a quarter of your table...
On the whole, cheer up, take heart, carry on!

Brian Elfert
01-02-2013, 8:32 PM
And one thing... is that a bag of bags on the table? If so, are you saving too many plastic bags? Or is there maybe a spot in the kitchen you can hang that bag? A small thing, but if that's what it really is, it seems to be taking up about a quarter of your table...


Yes, that is a bag of bags. I'm not saving them. That is a result of picking up all of the bags I had laying around. I'm still collecting all the plastic bags and then they go to recycling.

Randal Stevenson
01-05-2013, 12:19 PM
This has been an ongoing issue for a long time. It really has nothing to do with the particular time of year. The mess in my house causes me not to get things done because I feel guilty about the mess and end up watching TV or sitting at the computer instead. I've made a small dent so far this weekend.

Yes, I can clean this up and make it look nice for a few days or weeks, but I really need to figure out places to store things so it doesn't keep happening. My house has so little storage compared to a lot of other houses. My parents have some huge cabinets in their living room that hold a ton of stuff. Of course, more storage can just mean storing more stuff. My parents have hundreds and hundreds of old magazines they may never reference again in their cabinets.

First paragraph, shows a self repeating cycle, as you get depressed, you don't do anything about it, and you continue to see it and be depressed. A lot of it is just get up and go/do. You mentioned your treadmill, get the wiring done and move it, then as your on a woodworking forum, consider some file cabinet lowers, with bookcase or shelves, uppers, in that area. Then start filling and resorting (have I looked at this, etc). Get a scanner and digitize as much as possible. Nothing happens without starting, and your not going to feel like doing it when you start. It is only after you get angry or motivated that stuff will happen.

Jim Becker
01-05-2013, 12:28 PM
A good bit of dealing with "clutter" is really about dealing with habit. Yes, sometimes it's a storage problem, but in my observation at home and in other places, it's most often because there is no regular and consistent way of immediately or nearly immediately dealing with things. Like Matt, I work from home (when not traveling) and things like junk mail get sorted out and into the recycling bin as soon as I bring the mail into the house. When I'm away, I often find it in a pile on the kitchen island or on my chair in my office. The difference is that I just deal with it and others don't. It's also quite normal for many of us to just have too much stuff and that's also often accompanied by time lags in disposing of things no longer needed, such as taking them to Goodwill or getting them listed on Craig's List and out the door. (I have that issue right now with a few things and have to deal with them "soon") For things that are truly needed where storage is limited, there has to sometimes be a bit of creativity...

Brian Elfert
01-05-2013, 3:29 PM
The treadmill wiring is done and it works. I'm hoping I can get my brother to stop on his way by to move the treadmill as it is heavy! I'm working away on going through piles of stuff and disposing of most of it.

Yes, a large part of my problem is habitual, but places to put things is a problem too. Most days when I get home I have a pile of stuff to recycle from the mail or whatever, but I have no good place to put the recycling. My center island is all large drawers, or I would put a pullout basket for recycling in a cabinet. This is my first house and I didn't notice on the plans the lack of any type of mud room or anything like that between the garage and the kitchen. I will certainly look for a better arrangement if I ever move.

Matt Meiser
01-05-2013, 4:08 PM
Brian, we don't have a room between our dining room and garage. We need three steps up and our garage is deep enough that I built a small deck in there. Recycling, the paper shredder, extra dog food, paper towels, etc get stored there. Since its raised moisture isn't an issue. It can get messy out there but at least it's out there!

Brian Elfert
01-05-2013, 9:26 PM
Matt, I actually already built a small deck out in the garage about 8 years ago almost exactly like what you describe. It was full of junk until I cleaned out my garage recently. I installed a set of shelves to hold stuff like tools that are used often.

I was thinking about setting a small barrel out there for recycling, but knowing my habits it probably wouldn't get used in the winter unless it was inside the house. My ideal situation would be to enclose the garage deck like a small mud room, but I would be required to install footers and that is more work than I want to do.

Jim Matthews
01-06-2013, 7:11 AM
To echo the sentiments above, opaque bins with a label are a simple solution.

Take it one step further, label each bin with only a date.
Once the anniversary of this date passes, dispose of the bin.

I would suggest that you begin sorting your mail at the garbage can.
Half the clutter in my house ends there.

Leave your shoes just inside the door.

Hire a maid, once per month.

http://welivesimply.info/living/simple-manifesto-58-read-simplify-your-life-by-elaine-st-james/
http://www.amazon.com/Clear-Away-Clutter-Getting-Excess/dp/0517221985

http://www.treadmill-desk.com/

In my opinion, you're not a slob but you're time would not appear to be your own -
how much down time do you have in a day? When I'm pressed (with two grade school kids), things pile up.

Hire a maid (one that's older, experienced and insured - preferably not too attractive).

George Van Aken
01-06-2013, 2:17 PM
Brian, I have the very same problem that you are experiencing. I have so many "hobbies" that I'm surrounded by nice junk.

We have three sheds in the back yard. One is where my wife keeps house items. You know, spare chairs and leaves for the dinning room table, ornaments for the various holliday cheer, spare fans, ect.

The other two are "mine". I just recently became interested in woodcarving and I've made the decision to "clean up my act". I'm finished with what I've dubbed my tool shed, although I'm dissapointed by the remaining space available.

The other shed is wooden and wired with it's own elec. panel. It's only 99.6 sq.ft. but if I sell, (or throw out!) my spare freezer, kites, paint ball equip., mycology equip., et. al, I will then posses a humble woodcarving palace!

I've always been interested in so many things that I've inundated myself with too many "activities" and all their trappings.

I've liked wood since my second job. I was an apprentice arbourist for about five years when I was young and possesed vigour. Originaly from the Sonoran desert, I'd never really paid any attention to trees. My first, (ouch), wife was from Pennsylvania and we found ourselves there. Working at that job was one of the happiest times of my life. I discovered wood.

Here I am years later, and I NEED to carve/make stuff with wood.

I am feeling so elated by FINALY "lightening my load" as I've doubed it. That's what you have to do. We live in a nieborhood, so I don't have the luxury anymore of trying to put a two-pound sausage in a one-pound bag so to speak.

Yes, as I go through all my awesome "things", I contantly mutter to myself how "valuable" such and such item is, but I have to keep reminding myself that I'm done with it. It's time to move on.

It's taken me an amazing forty-seven years to decide what I want to do. Wow, talk about a late bloomer...

I hope that you find the "freedom" of unburdoning yourself as liberating as I do! Good luck!

George Van Aken
01-06-2013, 2:34 PM
I too live alone and sometimes tend to use my house as one big bedroom, leaving things where they obviously don't belong or have any use. Having somewhere for "everything" to go is required in order for "everything" to be organized. You could build shelf units or racks to hold plastic bins in lieu of built-in storage which I see you have little of (me too). I added wire shelves to closets scaled around duplicate sized lidded bins for seasonal storage. If there is not somewhere for something to go, I give it thorough consideration as to whether I want it bad enough to make the kitchen table its permanent location in my life. Usually the "thing" will lose and a usable kitchen table will win. That being said, I regularly cycle through clean phases and phases where the only reason I know that I have a kitchen table is that all that "stuff" can't be levitating. :D Ha ha.

"Reminds me of my old Regimental Commander who used to say: "There's a bloody place for every bloody thing, and every bloody thing had damned well be in it's bloody place!" He was a short smelly man, but he was a damned good shot!"

For some reason your post reminded me of this passage. I fear I don't remember the book nor the author, but I always found it funny.

Brian Elfert
01-19-2013, 6:00 PM
I'm slowly working on getting things organized in my house. Anyhow, how long are you guys/gals keeping things like property tax statements? Property tax statements are now available online so should I just recycle them as soon as taxes are paid for the year? I don't recall ever pulling old property tax statements out of storage once they went to storage.

Randal Stevenson
01-20-2013, 12:20 PM
I'm slowly working on getting things organized in my house. Anyhow, how long are you guys/gals keeping things like property tax statements? Property tax statements are now available online so should I just recycle them as soon as taxes are paid for the year? I don't recall ever pulling old property tax statements out of storage once they went to storage.

Vehicle ones are needed for two years here. Home ones, while not needed, I tend to keep the last years, although that would be different if I had a mortgage and it came out every month (then I would keep longer to compare to what I am paying in).

Ted Calver
01-20-2013, 4:40 PM
".... He was a short smelly man, but he was a damned good shot!...."
Something new to aspire to. If you believe my wife, the first part is done. I just have to spend some time at the range to finish the job.:D:D:D

Kevin Barnett
01-21-2013, 8:51 AM
Brian,
Maybe I missed it, but how many people live in your house?

Greg Portland
01-21-2013, 6:09 PM
I have a serious problem with lack of storage and lack of organization in my house.
Adding storage and organization is straightforward (file cabinets, rubbermaid tubs, etc.). IMO, you have a clutter issue which points to habits (our family had the same issue). When someone walks into the house, they should immediately put away or take care of what they bring in. For example, coat gets hung up, the bills are put in a bill tray, junk mail is immediate recycled, and purchased items are put away (with boxes and bags tossed out). This should take < 5 minutes. The other thing to do is spend 15 minutes each night cleaning and straightening. My wife and I do this after the kids go to bed and before we sit down to read or watch TV. Doing just these two things -really- helps keep the clutter at a minimum.


I'm slowly working on getting things organized in my house. Anyhow, how long are you guys/gals keeping things like property tax statements? Property tax statements are now available online so should I just recycle them as soon as taxes are paid for the year? I don't recall ever pulling old property tax statements out of storage once they went to storage.
I keep it for tax purposes which means at least 3 years. All that info (and W-2s, etc.) go into a sealed folder and then the file cabinet.

Brian Elfert
01-22-2013, 6:17 AM
Brian,
Maybe I missed it, but how many people live in your house?

I live all by myself. If I had a significant other or a family the problem of clutter would probably be a lot less.

Brian Elfert
01-22-2013, 6:24 AM
I keep it for tax purposes which means at least 3 years. All that info (and W-2s, etc.) go into a sealed folder and then the file cabinet.

If I can get something like property tax statements online I'm wondering why I would need to even keep them? I suppose the one day I really needed them the website would be down.

I'm making very slow but steady progress cleaning up my clutter. I've already recycled a couple of huge boxes of paper already and shredded enough stuff to fill several paper grocery bags.

I wish I had some good reason like a holiday dinner to motivate me to get this done in a timely matter. I was going to volunteer to have Christmas eve dinner, but my parents decided to host it at their house.

Roger Rayburn
01-22-2013, 1:49 PM
I watched a video one day about clutter. It helped me. The rule of the video was "when you go into your shop, put 10 things away BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE." That has helped me two ways. First, it stops the task from being overwhelming and wondering where to put things. Secondly, it makes it easier to find tools, etc. if I only put 10 things away at a time. I find if I do a "wholesale cleanup" that I can't remember where I put it. You could mod this. If you are going to do the wiring yourself, make an appointment with yourself and don't cancel it or reschedule it. If you are going to hire it done, ditto. Call that your 10 things for that day. It also sounds like you need a storage strategy, sort of an "all things like this go to this place". That keeps socket sets off the dining table and at least in the "tool place" wherever that is. Once your strategy is cast, acquire those resources which help achieve the strategy, whether that's plastic boxes, filing cabinets or trash cans. But lets emphasize 10 things a day every day, not try to do everything all at once.

Kevin Barnett
01-25-2013, 5:30 PM
I'm looking at those pictures again. It seems to me you get home with stuff in your hands and put it down. Since you don't really have any storage right there, it just piles up. Seems to me you need a desk close by and some cabinets. Perhaps between the kitchen and family room against the wall. Make a place for the essentials like keys and phone. Then make a spot for stuff you need to work on. Then every time you get home, put down the keys, put down the stuff you need to get to, then throw the rest away. Daily review the stuff you need to work on (bills, responses, tax junk). When it is handled, either pitch the remains or file the receipts in your desk.

phil harold
01-25-2013, 7:11 PM
Everything has a place, sometimes it is the circular file

You just have to make some small changes and and work them into habits

15min, half an hour a day

I am working on my shop
maybe by summer I can post a before and after

Brian Elfert
01-19-2014, 8:10 PM
It has been nearly a year now since I started this thread. Nothing really changed much in the past year until about two weeks ago. I've been cleaning like crazy the past two weeks. I've filled almost four 30 gallon trash bags so far. I've probably recycled at least 200 pounds of paper. My recycling can is full and I could easily fill it again. I have piles of stuff to go to charity and to electronics recycling.

I'll post new pictures once I finish putting everything away in a few days. My house doesn't look that much better yet because I've unloaded 20 to 30 boxes of stuff and all the stuff I want to keep is still in piles on the floor.

Rich Riddle
01-19-2014, 8:35 PM
Brian,

Being a Marine helped me with not accepting "piles." I either put items in their places as soon as they get home or immediately find a spot if there isn't already an assigned area. It's just a lot easier to have the, "everything has its place and every place has its thing" mentality. Less work in the long run.

My friend on the other hand finds the first empty horizontal surface. If it's the garage floor where a car normally gets parked, he doesn't care. If it's the kitchen counter and garage items, they will be there for years. He claims to know where his "piles" are located but frequently purchases items he owns because he's not organized.

Saying that, I know neither of us will ever change. Organized folks seem to stay that way and those who pile tend to stay that way. Good luck on cleaning up in the next few weeks. It's always good to at least clean all the piles up every once in a while and situating items so you don't keep acquiring identical items, especially expensive woodworking items/tools.

Brian Elfert
01-19-2014, 9:04 PM
A guy I know was just commenting that the new island he recently installed has become an instant junk collector. I wish I had a mud room of some sort to hang coats and jackets and also have a bin to holding incoming mail and such. The way my house is designed makes for not a lot of places to store things, but I admit that the places I can store stuff are not full by any means.

I found a lot of stuff during cleaning that I would use on a regular basis if I had a place other than boxes in a closet to store them

Brian W Smith
01-20-2014, 8:03 AM
Good luck on this ongoing situation!I hear shop folks all the time,"if I just could get it clean/organised it would make it so much nicer to do work here".

The problem....like house organization...is,it isn't a one shot deal.It's an ongoing affair.Stop thinking of it as a stationary target.......that would be like,taking an MRI of ones,"life in a shop/house".A snapshot once a week or month,when everything is straighten'd up is NOT having your **** together.You need to learn proper management techniques,which books could be written on.Speaking of books....go snag some used books off Amazon on small house and/or cottage style houses.You will get plenty of ideas on this subject.Good luck.

Eric DeSilva
01-20-2014, 8:59 AM
It sort of sounds like you may need some kind of drop zone--a place that is organized that you walk by every time you walk in with stuff in your hands. You said you had a 5x5 walk in closet right next to the kitchen--could you organize that better to hold the kind of stuff you typically walk in with? It also looks like you might have some wall space next to the kitchen--what about installing some more closed storage over there?

In my household, we scan all our paperwork--the stuff that is still coming by paper--and store it on a server. Server data is also encrypted heavily and backed up to some private cloud storage. Every time we get something with a manual, it goes in a pile on the desk. Once the pile gets to be more than a couple things, I'll go on line and find the manuals in pdf format from the manufacturer and download them. The desk area also has a recycling bin and a "outbox" for the shredder. That's how we keep paper controlled...

Brian Elfert
02-02-2014, 3:40 PM
Here are pictures of the house after cleaning it top to bottom and throwing away or recycling a LOT of stuff! I started just about a month ago and finished a few days ago except some minor cleaning in the garage today. Some of the photos are dark and I can't figure out how to get the flash to activate or something.

Now I have to keep it clean and not let it get back like it was.

Brian Ashton
02-03-2014, 1:59 AM
I usually leave it on the floor or on the table… and somehow it mysteriously finds it's way to where it should be. I just chalk it up to magic.

John Coloccia
02-03-2014, 7:25 AM
Here are pictures of the house after cleaning it top to bottom and throwing away or recycling a LOT of stuff! I started just about a month ago and finished a few days ago except some minor cleaning in the garage today. Some of the photos are dark and I can't figure out how to get the flash to activate or something.

Now I have to keep it clean and not let it get back like it was.

I should hire you to come do my house.

Brian Elfert
02-03-2014, 7:40 AM
New photos that are not so dark. The sun apparently made the camera do strange things.

glenn bradley
02-03-2014, 9:08 AM
Here are pictures of the house after cleaning it top to bottom and throwing away or recycling a LOT of stuff!

Congratulations Brian! That looks fantastic. Taking that extra few seconds to put something where it goes as opposed to setting "right here for a moment" will keep you from ever having to do that again ;-) Best of luck.

Brian Elfert
02-03-2014, 9:23 AM
I should hire you to come do my house.

My parents are retired and they did a lot of the actual cleaning. I did all the work of sorting through my stuff and throwing away or recycling a lot of it. I ended up sorting through about 30 boxes of stuff along with piles of paper on the floor. I ended up taking a week of vacation to get it done.

Roger Rayburn
02-03-2014, 11:12 AM
Congratulations! Well done. This was the hard part. You should go buy yourself a new tool as a reward. I'm serious, you earned it.

Brian Elfert
02-03-2014, 1:20 PM
I spent a ton of money on this so I can't afford to buy anything else right now. It cost me almost $1,500 to get the house in the condition it is in now. I had to replace a set of shower doors, get the carpets cleaned, pay for trash disposal, and buy some miscellaneous stuff. I am going to buy a new mouse for my computer since the right click switch is dying.

David Weaver
02-03-2014, 1:39 PM
It really does look spectacular. I'd hate to move away from a place like that if I were you! I used to live in a space like your first picture, but my wife is a taskmaster. I sort of figured out that I just needed to mentally budget one more step every time I did something to make sure I put stuff away, and I almost forget how overwhelming it would be to see a mess that was too big to comprehend and stress out about it.

Jeff Erbele
02-03-2014, 3:28 PM
Here are pictures of the house after cleaning it top to bottom and throwing away or recycling a LOT of stuff! I started just about a month ago and finished a few days ago except some minor cleaning in the garage today. Some of the photos are dark and I can't figure out how to get the flash to activate or something.

Now I have to keep it clean and not let it get back like it was.

Great job Brian!
I was not a member of SMC when you started this post and posted your "before" photos. My impression of those was, its' not that bad, just a lot of clutter that needed sorting and a final disposition, toss it, donate it, sell it, or store it; a place to store it being the problem.

My wife and I, and especially me are in a much worse situation than your before photos. Not that we are messy as much as we have so much stuff. A lifetime accumulation and a lot of it we don't even want. Getting rid of it takes time, especially if it has monetary value.
We merged households at the end of 2006 so we had two or more of everything. Both of us traveled a lot before we met each other and had all kinds of collections from destinations, spoon collections, she has a plate collection, caps, tee-shirts and coffee cups.

I have a ton of tools, being a welder, mechanic and machinist. I used to manage and maintain rental properties so I have a lot of building trades tools to. I am retired from the Army so I have uniforms, papers and that memorabilia. For 4 years I owned a mobile food concession business and still have it but do not operate it. I have a coin collection, a serious aquarium hobby I want to sell. I use to have a professional darkroom (as a hobby) and finally got rid of that truck load of equipment. Both of us love photography and have good equipment for that. We have 3 desktop computers, two are going away, and 4 laptops, one of those are going away. I am a serious gardener and have the stuff associated with it, a lot. My wife enjoys scrap-booking and has a lot of that stuff, although she is converting to digital, it will take some time for her to use the consumables and dispense with the hardware & equipment. We also have a home based travel business. I used to work it full time but we now do that as a part time business. There are a lot of papers, records and brochures associated with it. The good news is we purged the office of trash bins full to the large curb-side recycle bin. Both of us read and we had a home library going. That has been thinned down to two book shelves with more to go.

I use to collect magazines, lots of them. It started when I was in high school, when an elderly lady in our church learned I liked to read Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. Her deceased husband had 4 boxes of those in their attic and she gave them to me. The dated from around 1910 to 1940's with many missing. I lost track of how many times I moved those. Finally I realized I never went back and read old issues. Time wise it is impossible. I was choking with book cases full of them. Today one can obtain them electronically if the need arises. And Google is your friend.

With a new house under construction we know we are moving as early as mid-May. We have been working on thinning down in earnest for a couple of years. Now its become a higher, high priority. Tossing and donating is easy. Selling stuff takes the most time, especially if one attempts to get higher prices for used stuff.

Reading your posts I thought a file cabinet would be useful but those take diligence too. Our home office has three 4-drawer and one 2-drawer filing cabinets, plus maybe as much paper in portable file tubs. Scanning papers takes time but is helping greatly. Even more so just purging files no longer needed. It's amazing what was important when it was filed, quickly turns to clutter simply with the passing of time.

Our goal is to reduce by 50% or more before we move and we believe it is realistic. First we don't want much of it now, second we don't want to move it, much less pay to have it moved, and third we don't want it in our new house, at all.

I told my wife we should donate most of our clothes and buy new stuff after we moved. She laughed at first, but looking in the closets I find I wear some of the same stuff most of the time and some of it never or rarely. The same is true of her. I think I have her convinced, at least to make some attempt at that. I read a trick, hang all of your clothes with the hangers backwards. When pants and shirts come out of the laundry hang them the normal way. After a month, maybe two tops, get rid of all the clothes on the backwards hangers. That has worked well. Thankfully she isn't a shoe collector. She maybe has a dozen pair and wears all of those.

Another thing that helps is a rule we follow, when we buy an item of clothing something of like kind must come out of the closet. If a new shirt goes in, an old one must come out.

I reached a point where I decided I had to give up some of my hobbies and interests. I prioritized them and decided to keep those I enjoyed the most and get rid of the rest.

Overall its a battle, but one we are winning, one item at a time.

Anyway great job. You are an inspiration.

Rich Riddle
02-03-2014, 3:40 PM
Wonderful job of cleaning up. Did you make/purchase items used as storage or simple get most of the space from attrition?

Brian Elfert
02-03-2014, 4:39 PM
I was able to make use of already existing storage by getting rid of a ton of stuff. I also have a bus that I am converting to a motorhome. Just about everything in my garage that is for my bus went inside the bus. I got rid of a large set of shelves in my garage to open up the space so I had to move stuff out.

My problem with bringing stuff home is not the extra steps to put something away. The problem is there is no proper place for most of the stuff. I will NEVER design another house the way mine is designed. Any house should have a mudroom with hook for coats, a place for shoes/boots, and bins for recycling and trash.

John Prexta
02-05-2014, 8:01 PM
I watched a video one day about clutter. It helped me. The rule of the video was "when you go into your shop, put 10 things away BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE."

That is great advise. Seems to me your original pictures were mostly papers. Get an accordian file, file what you need, then shred the rest. I shred all my paper, save it and take it to the local rescue village for their puppy kennels.

PS. my wife has sh*tpiles in just about every room (albiet small ones, but sh*tpiles nonetheless) - drives me crazy- but in her defense - they're "organized" sh*tpiles.

Myk Rian
02-06-2014, 11:00 AM
Here are pictures of the house after cleaning it top to bottom and throwing away or recycling a LOT of stuff!
Damn, Brian. Looks like my Wife has gone through it for you.
Good job.

Chris Parks
02-12-2014, 7:39 AM
I looked at my workshop one day and decided i had collected enough junk even though it did not take up any floor space. Years ago i had built a big "shelf" the width of the shop (24' x 8') but with parents passing and consolidation of several homes we had filled it up and used none of it. I needed that space for business stock so I backed a trailer in and started throwing stuff into it. Three trailer loads later I had another look and found that the more I threw out the more I could see that was not needed and never would be. I just kept going until I had nothing left and I can't even recollect what was there and missed none of it. As for paperwork and receipts, bank statements etc I keep none of it if I know that I have on line access to the information. I have cut a lot of it down by receiving as many accounts etc via internet. I know every important transaction I do has an electronic record somewhere so why keep the paper if there is any.

Brian Elfert
02-12-2014, 8:42 AM
I have everything possible set to paperless statements. My employer still gives us a paper pay stub and won't go paperless until late this year. Even with paperless statements for credit cards they still send me cash advance checks in the mail every week. I also get plenty of paper when I'm working on my bus conversion every summer. Lots of receipts for various purchases. Truck parts places still like the full size 8.5"x11" receipts.

I did get rid of tons of old bank statements and old pay stubs when I cleaned, but a lot of it was already in my filing cabinet and not lying in piles on the floor.