Published: Spring 2018

If you’re anything like me, spring cleaning can be a bit daunting. Looking around my home, there are so many places I could dive in. Do I start with my filled-to-the-brim closet? The overflowing junk drawer? Or how about those boxes that are still not unpacked from moving into my home nearly a year ago? (Insert embarrassed emoji here.) Since I couldn’t decide where to begin, my strategy thus far has been to pretend those things just don’t exist. However, now that spring is upon us, I’m starting to get that organization itch. It’s beyond time for a change, and I’m ready to tackle it all. Who’s with me?!

Thankfully, for those of us who are organizationally challenged, there are people like Carrie Peeples picking up our slack and teaching us their ways. Carrie is an Atlanta native and an organization expert. As the brains and brawn behind Neatsmart, Carrie spends her days helping women across Atlanta take their homes from chaos to clean. What started as a woman on a mission to help her friends clean out their closets turned into a full-fledged business in 2012. Today, Carrie shares some of her best tips for getting organized for spring. Join us as we learn quick tips you can implement today, how to set yourself up for organizational success, and Carrie’s recommendations for tried-and-true products.

The kitchen is often the hardest room to organize. To help get started, Carrie suggests creating zones for things like mail, homework, and morning coffee.

Pro Tip 1: Get in the right frame of mind.

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have to clean something. In fact, if I’m told I have to do anything, there’s a 99% chance I’m just not going to do it at all. If you’ve got your own stubborn streak, listen up. Carrie says it’s all about being mentally prepared. “If you feel like you’re being forced or ‘have to get organized,’ it feels more like a punishment than a reward. Think of the people who will benefit from your donations; think of the time you’ll save not looking for things; think of the money you’ll save not buying duplicates. ‘I’m going through my sock drawer because I’m worth it’ takes away the drudgery of the task and turns it into self-care,” she explains.

Since we all have different pictures of what it means to “get organized,” Carrie suggests spending some time narrowing down why you want to be organized. “Getting organized is a lot like getting in shape. It means different things to different people, and it requires habit change. I can come in and organize your home, but I’ve got to do it so that it makes sense to you and is easy for you to maintain.”

Even the most well-intentioned, perfectly organized people don’t always have it all together. Carrie’s own organization struggle? “The least organized area of my house is an open cabinet in our kitchen.” 

Pro Tip 2: Measure twice, shop once.

Target regulars, this one is for you. We’ve all been sucked into the basket section and even with the best intentions, a trip to your local organization aisle can be more trouble than it’s worth. “Do not buy organizing bins/baskets/tools because they are cute or on sale,” Carrie warns. Instead of making snap decisions while shopping, be intentional with your purchases. Once you’ve determined what you’re donating, what you’re keeping and what you’re just plain tossing, you’ll know exactly what containers you need. Another tip? Don’t forget to think of what you’re storing as well as where you’re storing it. “So often we run to The Container Store or Target and buy all the cute stuff only to bring it home and realize it doesn’t fit. Then you’ve got extra organizing stuff that’s a pain to return, and it really doesn’t help you either. You have to measure not only the space, but the stuff you are hoping to store in it to make sure it’s the right size and shape,” affirms Carrie.

So what are some of Carrie’s favorite go-to tools? A divided lazy susan for kitchens, bathrooms and playrooms, multi-purpose bins for offices and even your freezer, trays for bedside tables, and a pen and a pad of paper for organizing your thoughts. “Never underestimate the value of a pen and a pad of paper,” Carrie says. “Get it on paper so you don’t have to waste energy remembering it. Your brain’s got more important tasks to do!”

Carrie’s rule of thumb is to measure twice but buy once. Know what you’re storing and where you’re storing it.

Pro Tip 3: Keep an empty shopping bag in your closet for potential donations.

This tip is one you can implement immediately. An empty shopping bag in your closet is a great way to corral clothes that you know you’re looking to purge. “When you pull out that shirt for the fifth time that just doesn’t look or fit right, instead of hanging it back up, put it in the bag for donation. That way it has a home and doesn’t get mixed in with the clothes that you are wearing,” says Carrie. Once a bag is filled, make it a priority to drop it off at your closest donation center. There are Goodwills throughout most cities, and don’t forget about other organizations that also take clothing donations. One of our favorites (and Mednikow giveaway finalist!) is Dress for Success.

Pro Tip 4: Clean out your car while you’re pumping gas.

Raise your hand if your car is the place that gets out of control the fastest and usually first. Me too. The good news is with spring comes warmer weather, and warmer weather means there’s no need to start the pump and get right back in your car to survive frigid temperatures. Instead, use those few minutes to rid your car of unwanted water bottles, wrappers, receipts (the worst) and anything else that just needs to go. Plus, Carrie says, “It gives you something productive to do, and the trash cans are right there. It’s just another five-minute thing you can do to take care of you.” Remember to think of organization and cleaning as an opportunity for self-care. Your car — and all of your potential passengers — will thank you.

When asked why spring has become synonymous with purging, Carrie says, “We all want to shed our winter coats and emerge brighter and lighter.” And that includes our homes!

Pro Tip 5: Junk mail is like junk food: don’t let it in your house.

Can I get an “amen”? This one is a doozy for me. The latest catalogs stack up, and coupons I’ll never use take prime real estate on my kitchen counter. Since kitchens tend to be the hub of the home, especially in the South, they get cluttered easily. If your kitchen is your mail processing center too, Carrie’s tip is to have a bin or basket where you drop your envelopes. “I also recommend that people go through their mail before they get in the house and put all junk mail in the recycle bin, so you don’t even have to think about it later.” Just a few more steps to the bin will save you tons of time later. In case you’re wondering, Carrie’s “no junk mail” rule also applies to email. Unsubscribe from as much as you can to free your inbox and yourself!

As you prepare for spring cleaning around your house, set yourself up for success with these amazing tips from Carrie. For even more tips and tricks, be sure to follow Carrie on Instagram and Facebook. You’ll love her series, “Drink Wine, Get Organized” with healthy chef Nancy Waldeck, too. Organizing tips, healthy recipes and wine? As Carrie says, “What could be better?!”

Thanks to Tara Carter for today’s great — and inspiring — photos!

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