Chaos and Clutter Free: keep your clean house in order

By Danielle Wurth

As fall approaches, so can stress: kids back to school, treatment schedules, family visits and holiday celebrations galore. Every glorious event can yield a not so glorious aftermath in your life and in your home. Here are solutions to keep your “clean house” in order, your word accountable and life in harmony – all while being clutter free.


Having a full understanding of your daily schedule and responsibilities to others is non-negotiable. Communication is equally important.

Manage only one calendar for documenting your life’s daily events. Decide whether you prefer to maintain a paper calendar or digital calendar. A paper calendar must be on-the-go friendly and a size that fits in your purse or satchel. If going digital, consider using a free iCloud calendar which may be color-coded and shared with other family members. For example, my private calendar is coded green; only I have viewing access. My family calendar is coded yellow and shared with my husband; so he can add, edit and view family-related activities. This simple system keeps us both in the loop with dates, times, locations and the field numbers of our boys’ soccer games. In the notes, mark who is responsible for pickup or drop off.

Begin by entering all repeatable events, such as recovery meetings and their locations. Set two reminder alerts, one for a day before and one for an hour before the event. Make a note of what paperwork needs to be completed, so you can arrive in a prepared, timely manner.

For ongoing events such as Step work, take the “layer-cake” approach and slice the event into task layers by setting an appointment for follow-up calls or your Step Eight amends calls. Look ahead at legal paperwork deadlines, and then backtrack by setting “prep work” reminders in the weeks before to reliably meet your obligations.

From cluttered to CLEAN CAR

Find a sturdy, file-sized box and place it on the front seat of your car. Here you can store your papers and personal belongings, so they don’t slide off the seat when making quick turns. Place another small box or pop-up trash container on the passenger floor for waste. Repeat the same concept for children traveling in the back. Place a second box or rigid tote between the back passenger seats for housing healthy on-the-go snacks and a package of baby wipes for sticky hands. Use binder clips to attach a second, smaller box or pop-up trash to the tote to avoid spillage.

Drink cups and food wrappers must be promptly disposed of daily. Trash is trash – period. No further discussion required. Discarding trash in a timely manner forces you to practice the art of decision-making. Quick decision-making is a core concept to master sooner rather than later. Check your local thrift store for a small, handheld vacuum to make car cleaning speedy and fun for all family members.


The paperwork virus seems to lurk and multiply in the middle of the night. To prevent your paperwork virus from spreading in your home and car, you must immunize. Protect important documents from food or coffee spills as you dart out the door. Instead, purchase a set of the top budget-friendly organizing gotta-haves. These nifty three-hole, protective jacket sleeves are colorful and clever with a slash sleeve in the front for easy accessibility. Check your local thrift store for notebooks and organize your paper work confusion.


Master the “Two Minute and Under Rule.” If you can make a decision on the item in two minutes or less, then do it immediately. Many tasks can be done in this two-minute window of time: unsubscribe from catalogs that might tempt your sober lifestyle, toss unrelated coupons, RSVP for an event or write a note thanking someone who has been supportive in your life. If your action will take longer than two minutes, simply place projects that need to be addressed at a later date in a specific area. You can address them when you have more time to focus and finish them.


The more we own, the more we have the responsibility to maintain. Take a picture of a zone (bedroom, kitchen, bathroom) where you currently live. How do you feel as you look at the image? You have the power to live a new life using a new code of clutter-busting behavior. What items can be thrown out or donated? Pencil cup items can be placed in a drawer, and keys can be hung on a traditional key holder by an exit door. The number of decorative knickknacks can be reduced. Personal receipts can be clipped together using a binder clip, and spare change can be contained in a bowl. Corral these daily personal items on a cookie sheet or decorative tray to make weekly dusting a breeze.


You have better things to do with your precious time than sorting laundry. Purchase a set of zippered, mesh laundry bags for each family member. Identify each family member’s bag by knotting different colorful ribbons thru the zipper hole. Use binder clips to hang the bags to the side of your dirty clothes hamper. These bags are for socks and underwear. Zip, wash, dry and place clean mesh bag and clothing into that family member’s clean laundry basket. Children will learn responsibility as they match their socks and return any single misfits to the mesh bag attached to the dirty hamper, so they can be rejoined with their partner in the next wash load round-up.


Pencil in one day every month to unplug and recharge your own personal battery. Pick an activity that refreshes your spirit and fills your soul. Be intentional: fellowship with a new friend for lunch after a recovery meeting or meet your sponsor for coffee. Volunteer for service work or join others to cultivate new friendships and activities. These newfound friendships will help keep you accountable and aid your recovery as you help others who are also getting back on their feet. Pencil these activities into your calendar and value them as much as a doctor’s appointment. They truly are good for your health. You will have something to look forward to each month; and you will feel a sense of accomplishment as you keep these appointments to yourself, for yourself.


Fill a two-inch, heavy-duty binder with roomy, durable plastic sleeves. The sleeves are sturdy enough to handle birthday cards and projects with glitter or macaroni. As kids return home from school, have them (not the parents) select their favorites to keep and let them (again, not the parents) recycle the rest. Slide artwork inside the sleeves. This process helps children decide on their absolute favorite pieces, rather than keeping them all. Although this is a memory-keeping process, it is equally as important to have both parents and children master decision-making skills. For larger projects, simply take a picture of your child holding the project, print it and place that image in a sleeve. Store their binder on a bookshelf in their room, so they can reflect back on that school year.


Do you have a dog, cat or other pet? Pick a low drawer or cupboard in the kitchen and store toys in clear plastic bins beside your pet’s food and treats. If you prefer to keep toys more accessible and shabby chic, use a rattan basket with a washable liner. For a more modern approach, try an easy-to-wipe-clean enamel tub meant for drinks. For two-level homes, keep a toy container on each floor.


The recovery process can be costly to both your emotions and your wallet. However, you may still need to show your gratitude with a gift. Focus on the thought, not the price.

Do you have a parent, family member or friend who enjoys going to the movies? Purchase tasty kettle corn, their favorite candy and a gift card. Wrap them together for a creative presentation. Your personal touch will be appreciated as you show them how much you care.

As a child, when I received a fresh, green ten dollar bill from my grandparents, the money seemed so impressive. My imagination explored all the things I could buy. This is an ideal gift for elementary school children. Find out the child’s favorite gum, candy or dessert treat. Use their gift money bills to gently wrap these items and place them in a clear cellophane bag filled with shredded paper. Watch their faces light up when you present them with a “sack full of cash.” Their joyful expression will be a gift in itself.


Structured, quality time with loved ones generates healing in fractured relationships. If you are in a treatment facility and if they are participating in family week, take the initiative and advise them by phone or email of their daily itinerary, beginning with their airport arrival time, and on through the scheduled activities during the week. You will feel more confident and less flustered having this communication prior to their arrival. Write an enduring card to each family member sharing your gratitude for their involvement during your recovery. Save a stamp by secretly placing the card in their bag to be opened on their return trip home. When it comes to planning ahead, it is all about being proactive vs. reactive.


Want to expend less energy and money this holiday season? Shop early, shop smart and have a budget. Our free, nifty Holiday Budget will prevent you from turning into a bobblehead. Hop over to for the printable download. Place your budget and a pencil in a protective sleeve. Stash a set in the gift-giving area of your home. Don’t have such an area? There’s your neon sign to create one. Find a spare closet with a high shelf, purge unwanted items and store items by themes for adults, kids or others in a lidded banker box. Solid-colored plastic tubs with secure lids in the garage will work just as well. Take a tour of your home and begin gathering future gifts; use a sharpie on masking tape to name the recipient.

Take a stellar selfie of your finished work to post and be proud of your amazing stewardship. This can inspire others to do the same. As you enjoy the healthy high that only a clutter-free lifestyle can bring, go treat yourself to a frothy latte because your fall season is off to a fresh start.

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