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Simply Your Space

(Thomas Nelson)

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The Simpler Life

By Belinda Elliott Daily Life Producer Is the clutter in your home controlling your life? If you have more piles than you have empty countertops or floor space, it’s time to simplify! Professional Organizer Marcia Ramsland offers help in her new book, Simplify Your Space.

Getting organized may seem like an overwhelming goal, but it doesn’t have to be. In her book, Ramsland takes readers through each room in their home and shows them how to get the clutter under control. One way she accomplishes this, is by what she calls “The CALM Approach.”

1. Create a plan.

Not sure where to start? No problem! Ramsland has laid out a plan for you. For example, a big problem area for many families is the enormous amount of mail they receive each day.

“The average household receives 15 pieces of mail a day,” Ramsland says.

Five of those are important items like bills or insurance cards, and most people take care of those quickly. Five are most likely junk mail, she says, and people take care of those by trashing or recycling them. 

“But the remaining five, I call them the dangling five, are what starts the countertop piles,” she says. “That’s where people really get in trouble because of the pile starting, and with five a day left out from the mail, at the end of the year that’s 1,500 to 1,800 pieces of paper.”

Rather than allowing these to pile up, Ramsland has created a system of folders to help people organize their mail. Her method includes five folders:

  1. Calendar – This is where you put dated items like wedding invitations so you will always have the date, time, and directions to an event in one convenient place.
  1. To Do – Ramsland suggests putting things that require an action to be put here, but only if it will take you more than five minutes to complete it. If the task takes less than five minutes, go ahead and do it before you move on.
  1. To Decide – Items that go in this folder can include catalogs you want to purchase from later or other papers you want to keep while debating about them. Be sure to go through this folder at the end of each month and toss the old items.
  1. Information – Ramsland suggests you use this folder for important papers you need to keep, but don’t where to put. For instance, the address of your polling place could be kept here.
  1. My Interest – This folder can include anything that interests you from coupons to decorating ideas. This folder should also be cleaned out periodically to keep it up to date.

2. Approach it by sections.

Ramsland’s book is divided into five sections that correspond to the types of spaces in your house. Since people receive the most reward from having a neat kitchen and family room, she suggests starting with those areas.

For each area, she recommends dividing the room into sections. For instance, start with the most visible spaces first, such as the countertops. When countertops and other flat surfaces are clean and organized, the entire room will appear neater.

Approaching rooms in small sections also keeps you from becoming overwhelmed, Ramsland says. Organizing your space doesn’t have to be accomplished all at once.

“I like for people to sandwich it in,” she says. “So when they are cleaning their kitchen, they might say, ‘While I’m washing up the dishes tonight, I’ll just do one drawer.’”

On the next night, move to another drawer. Then tackle the refrigerator by doing one shelf per night.

“In people’s busy schedules they can really sandwich in a shelf or a drawer and focus on one room until it’s done, and they have just sandwiched it into their life for about 10 minutes a day.”

3. Lighten Up and Let Go.

As you begin to organize your home, it is important to decide what items you no longer need and get rid of them.

“Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging your garage with more clutter out there instead of really getting it off the premises,” Ramsland says.

If the items are in good shape, donate them to a local thrift store or charity.

4. Manage it simply.

Once you have cleared the clutter and neatened your room, it will be much easier to keep it that way if you have a system in place to manage it, Ramsland says.

She offers several tips to accomplish this. One is to develop new daily habits. For instance, once the family room is neatly organized, think about how you can keep it that way.

“The system could be, every day before dinner we put everything away in the family room,” Ramsland says. “That would be a system so that things are put away after school, after the day’s events. Then the habit would be that I never miss a day doing it. That way, you never have a messy family room.”

She also suggests what she calls “two-minute pick ups.” These are things that can be done quickly to help cut down on clutter that you would eventually have to deal with later.

In your bedroom, this could be as simple as making your bed and putting your clothes away before you leave in the morning. In the kitchen, it means taking two minutes to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher or sink, put food away, and wipe down the countertops before you leave the room.

“When you come back you are coming back to a place of order later,” Ramsland says, “and it just feels like ‘Ahhh, this is great.’ It’s like a clean hotel. It just feels so special, and you can get on with your life instead of having to backtrack and double your work because you have to pick things up again and put them away.”

Enjoy A Simpler Life

The pay off from this process is more than just the good feeling that comes from returning to a neat home each day. Ramsland says that clutter affects families in ways that they may not realize. She has even met spouses who say their messy homes are a constant source of marital conflict.

By simplifying our space, we simplify our lives, she says.

“We can save time. We can feel less stress. We can sleep better at night. It is just a really rewarding process all the way around.”

She also believes that the way we run our households is important to God.

“If He has given you a home, He wants you to manage it and manage it well,” she says. “And managing our belongings and our time is part of stewardship, and making Him Lord of our lives.”


For more of Ramsland’s suggestions check out Simply Your Space at her her Web site,

For more stories like this one, sign up to receive Family News from in your email every Friday.

Belinda Elliott is the Daily Life Producer for Though she occasionally dedicates a Saturday to organizational projects at home, she has yet to conquer the clutter that accumulates on the desk in her office.

Read more of Belinda's articles.

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