As kids launch into a new school year, parents often make resolutions to keep backpacks, lunchboxes, shoes and the like organized from the moment they hit the front door. Despite every well-planned intention, things can unravel quickly and suddenly sweatshirts and books are habitually piled in the entryway. So we asked a pro, Bay Area organizer Shira Gill of Shira Gill Home, to share the dos and don’t of a tidy and happy household, just in time for back-to-school.

photo: Vivian Johnson Photography for Shira Gill Home

Do: Be Mindful of Purchases

Don’t: Bring new items in without dealing with your clutter first.
Tidy people don’t bring new things into the home, tidy people take control over their existing clutter first. “Limit volume to begin with, “ she says, noting this is her number one rule. “And that’s free. Just press pause.” Sticking with this crucial rule will not only help with subsequent steps to a tidy home but also ensure your home remains clutter free.

Do: Designate a Place for Everything

Don’t: Just put things down. Tidy people put their things away, says Gill. This is another crucial “do” in her book, and it begins with having a designated spot for everything. This simple system starts with creating a go-to hook, nook or closet for everything from shoes to backpacks, keys, the dog leash, jackets and mail. Gill says once everyone in the family knows where their belongings land, it takes nearly the same amount of time to put the stuff away than it does to toss them mindlessly.

photo: Vivian Johnson Photography for Shira Gill Home

Do: Clean in Just Five Minutes

Don’t: Spend hours putting things away.
Tidy people organize in five to 15-minute bursts. Consider introducing these tidy sessions throughout other key transitional periods of the day, such as before and after dinner and before bedtime.

Do: Come Home to a Clean House

Don’t: Leave the house in disarray.
Tidy people come home to a clean home. About five minutes before it’s time for her kids to leave for school each morning, Gill asks them to put their dishes, LEGO or art supplies away. This little time investment has a huge overall impact on clutter she says, and this way they never come home to a messy house.

photo: Photo by Jean Balzan from Pexels

Do: End with Ice Cream

Don’t: Threaten reluctant organizers.
Instead, tidy parents simply entice with ice cream. Gill suggests the cheerful tone of a preschool teacher to present the news that it’s time to clean up. Try it like this: “Let’s hurry up and get this done so we can go have ice cream.” Kids love ice cream, but the cherry on top for parents is a clean, clutter-free and organized home.

—Chantal Lamers

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