You’ve got stuff, no doubt. Several sets of curtains, a few different sizes of rugs and lots of hooks. None of which fit your current home.
To help you finally cut the clutter in your military home, we checked in with military family organizing pro Christa Curtis from Permanent Change of Storing.
Pro Tips to Truly Cut the Clutter in Your Military Home
After many moves across the country and around the world, Christa has learned a lot about cutting clutter for military families.
Now, as a professional organizer dedicated to serving military communities, she’s sharing her knowledge and insights beyond her own front door!
Everyone Has Clutter
That’s the main thing. Military families aren’t any different than civilian families in the amount of stuff we have. We just need to move it all every few years.
“Too much stuff and not enough time to deal with it are the biggest struggles,” Christa explains. “If our things are not unpacked quickly and stored in functional, meaningful ways, we tend to end up being unable to find what we need when we need it.”
She recommends finding a universal system that travels with you.
Invest in a quality storage system. Christa uses hard plastic bins and sturdy furniture that can be used in several different ways.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- heavy-duty plastic tubs that stack neatly in various sizes
- cube shelving
- collapsible shelving
Having several different options that can be mixed and matched or switched helps you to find easy storage solutions. The cube shelves might hold books this time around but serve as toy storage next time. Tubs can be stacked or slid neatly under beds and couches for easy access to items. Collapsible shelving can help maximize space in closets or the garage.
Start Before You Pack
When you’re rushing around right before you pack the crates isn’t the ideal time to stress about organizing. Instead, Christa recommends that you make a plan well in advance on the moving crew’s arrival.
Definitely pre-pack,” she recommends.
Here’s what to do:
- Bag up stuffed animals, linens, pillows, and clothes in trash bags, space bags, or plastic tubs
- Put small-piece sets into small ziplock baggies and bigger toys into plastic grocery bags
- Flatten out collapsible bins, take apart lamps gently, and definitely bag all of the utensils in your kitchen drawers
“When the movers unpack your stuff on the other side – and I mean all of it- this will make it easy for them to empty the boxes without your stuff piling up or scattering on the floor, and they can still take all of the boxes and paper away for you.”
Avoid the Danger Zone Pile-Up
If there is one place that becomes messy fastest, in any home anywhere, it’s the “drop zone.” The place where families drop mail, bills, papers from school and other paperwork.
“With each move, you have to change all your addresses with every financial institution, your medical services send you new referrals and explanation of benefits, the kids’ schools send home a ton of fliers, and you know you swung by the family services office earlier to pick up some info on the available classes and activities,” Christa says. “This collects in a corner of the kitchen counter or in a basket on the table by the front door.”
She recommends a clear, easy to understand filing system – featuring a shredder!
“Shred anything with a family member’s name or address on it that does not need to be kept.”
The shredder should be kept plugged in and stored out of reach from children. As mail with personally identifiable information but that isn’t needed arrives, it should immediately be shredded. Everything else should be filed according to type: medical, bills, etc.
Do a Nightly Clutter Sweep
“Just quickly walk around a room and pick up things that don’t belong, and drop off things along the way as I go around the house – toys, shoes, dishes, dog toys, books.”
This helps to get things stored back in the right place, mostly. And it saves you the step of clearing clutter before you do a deeper clean.
“Monthly, I go a little deeper with a full reset – make sure things are sorted into their different bins, shoes are stacked neatly on shelves with folded scarves and hats, the pantry and fridge get a once-over to remove stale snacks and old leftovers shoved to the back, sweep under the sofa and check the cushions.”
Doing things in smaller chunks daily makes the bigger organization tasks simpler since there will be less to re-sort and store. Make this easy for kids (and adults) with clearly labeled and possibly color-coded storage systems. Keep all the books in one place and put toy trains in another. Add a train sticker to help younger kids know where to put Thomas when he’s done chugging down the track.
Ready to Get Started? Let’s Go!
“Getting started is definitely the hardest part,” Christa says. “It can be insanely overwhelming, but if you start with a reason why you need it done, your motivation becomes your fuel.”
Her motivation was spending money on duplicates. When Christa needed a certain item, she often couldn’t find it in the moment. So she bought another and then another, somehow ending up with multiples of many core household items.
To get started, she recommends considering how each item serves your home. What is its purpose? Is it valuable to you and your family?
If not, why are you keeping it?
“If you think of a 12″ x 12″ space, a square foot, a sheet of scrapbook paper or one large floor tile in your kitchen – that little spot has a value that you pay for in rent or mortgage every single month,” she explains. “Whatever you put in that space, that you also pay to heat and light, had certainly better bring you joy, or peace, or function, or heck, even make you some money. Because 99% of what we own is not paying us back any of those hard-earned dollars that we spend on it to buy it and house it, AND, in the military, move it around the world with us!”
Go room by room or drawer by drawer, whatever is manageable for you right now. Consider each item’s usefulness and then decide what to do with it.
“Pick a small room, corner, space, even your car, and just give it a go. Your small early victories will kindle with your reason-fuel and you will see how easy it can be.”
What Do You Do with the Decluttered Items?
Not everything you currently own will (or should) stay in your home. But where should it be sent?
Just because your family no longer has a use for a particular item doesn’t mean that it won’t be useful to someone else. With that in mind, consider:
- selling your items online or in a consignment shop
- donating your items to a reputable charity
- joining a Buy Nothing community and regifting things to others in your community