Clear out the clutter and get organizedWho says spring is the best time for clearing the clutter from your home? Getting ready for school is as brilliant a time as any to create a tidy nest so you can feel more at peace with your surroundings.

Sometimes I dread the process of simplifying. Then I commit and dive in and am astonished at how little time it actually takes or the incredibly huge payoff. Organizing your family and home ultimately saves you tons of time and energy, decreases your stress, and teaches your kids to live in a smart organized way.

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Here are a few ideas and some expert advice to get your ducks in a row.

1. Simplify your space.

Revamp and de-clutter the house so it can be tidied up quickly. That means clearing clutter from tables and surfaces (even the floors—do you really need all those throw rugs?), storing away clothing and outerwear no longer in season, and re-thinking over-furnished rooms. It is much easier to vacuum or sweep wide open spaces that are free of clutter, and you may be surprised at how much better you feel when visual clutter is eliminated.

You don’t have to save the world in a day. Simplifying in small chunks is just fine. Samantha Buck, a professional organizer at, suggests setting a timer for yourself. She says “I like to set a timer for 30 minutes and work fast as I can to complete decluttering projects. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done by using the clock to challenge yourself.”

2. Create a file system.

The school papers, permission slips, homework, and more, can pile up quickly, so a little preliminary planning will work miracles. Clearly designate a spot for school-related paperwork, and make sure each child has a binder or folder for report cards, phone numbers, sports info, handbooks, etc. It’s also a good idea to have a stash of school supplies in a designated area.

3. Trash last year’s school stuff.

Think about scanning or taking digital photos of your children’s artwork, since those precious treasures can pile up and steal valuable space. Hans Hofmann is credited with saying “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Let this year’s treasures speak.

4. Store toys where you want them to be played with.

This is huge—and relates to Tip #1. It’s far simpler to tidy up the house swiftly when it is not strewn with a zillion playthings, so insist your kids corral toys to zones you approve. Often the problem is too many toys, says author and editor of Organized Home Cynthia Ewer. She sees a toy library as the answer. Cynthia says, “Using a large lidded plastic storage container, large box, or even plastic garbage bag, entrust a selection of toys to the ‘toy library.’ Store the container in an out-of-the way place for several months.”

5. Address those closets!

This is a perfect time to purge closets and get rid of some of the old clothes, since the kids will have a few new things to wear and may have an easier time parting with outgrown or worn-out favorites. Don’t forget the beauty of hooks! Kids love ‘em, and they do the job. Also remind your kids that hangers don’t bite—and their clothes will stay wrinkle-free if they actually use them.

Organizer Ewer reminds families that toys and belongings used most should be stored on lower shelves or on the floor. Keep a ?“donation” basket or shopping bag accessible in the closet for clothing and shoes that no longer fit.

6. Think again before buying more cool storage items.

Some of us think that organizing means buying lots of containers. Sure there are a ton of awesome storage options claiming to make our lives easier, but it’s important to question “Why am I keeping this anyway?” or “How often do I really use this?” or “Do I love love love this?” Answering these questions will help you limit what you bring home—and keep—so it won’t be necessary to invest in more storage items (or a bigger house!).

Michele Ranard is a freelance writer who is passionate about keeping a tidy home.