52 Weeks: #34 Setting boundaries and limits

If you are new to 52 Weeks of Organizing, catch up here!

I know I’ve written about this plenty of times before but it’s such an important part of the organizing process that I’m just going to keep talking about it, okay?

image credit: shutterstock

In fact, it’s Tip #13 in my book, Clutter Rehab and I want to share it with you today.  I’ve been thinking about it ever since The Bearded Iris asked me for some advice on Twitter.  Here’s what she wrote:

“There’s a fine line between craft supplies and trash. @orgjunkie give me the tough love I need and tell me to let it go!”

To which I replied:

@TheBeardedIris Determine the amount of space you can designate for crafts and only keep what fits that space. You can do it!!!”

In other words, determine the space you have available first and then make it so your stuff fits the limit.

Here’s the excerpt from my book:

So often people don’t pay attention to the space they really have available.  They figure if their space is full, then they must just need more space.  And yes, sometimes this is true.  However, more often than not, what we should be thinking (and what would be painfully clear if we had established limits and boundaries), is that we just need less stuff.  For instance, I love hair products and they can easily take over my space if my over-consumption isn’t reigned in.  To keep me in check, I’ve designated one basket as my limit to the number of hair products I can have.  Without that limit, I’m sure my hair products would multiply in the night and take over my entire bathroom.  Once the basket is full, I know I have to either stop buying or use the “one in, one out” rule.  These can be tough choices that definitely make me think twice about what I buy in the first place, saving me not only space, but time and money as well.

Questions to ponder:

1.  Which area of your home has gotten out of hand and needs to have some limits enforced?
2.  Tell me how you think your space and family would benefit from having these limits and boundaries in place?

Related posts:

Establishing Limits & Boundaries with Containers


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Filed under: 52 Weeks of Organizing, Organizing Basics


21 Responses to 52 Weeks: #34 Setting boundaries and limits

  1. 1
    Megan says

    That is an easy answer, toys and children’s clothes, which also just happen to be the things most difficult for me to declutter.

    Hmm….go figure.

  2. 2
    Martianne says

    🙁 My link-up photo crop did not work and there is a funny frog picture isntead. Oh well!


    Which area of your home has gotten out of hand and needs to have some limits enforced?

    Um, my entire basement, garage and laundry room, plus our Office-play-and-Leanring Space, but one step at a time, we are purging. You could not be mroe right about the “too much stuff” comment.

    2. Tell me how you think your space and family would benefit from having these limits and boundaries in place?

    When I do set limits in spaces, rooms stay easier to maintain, which makes for happier parents and kids that can be more independent. Unfortunately, setting and sticking to limits is a habit that take WORK with three children under five in the hsoeu and limited time and energy to do things. Simply stating alimit or setting out a bin or basket does not quite do the trick for us. We are as much i need of re-training and GOOD habit formation as we are of decluttering and organization!

  3. 3
    Wilson Family Adventures says

    For me, it was my book collection.

    I found a great piece of advice that I’m using to purge my home of items that aren’t part of my vision of what I want my life to be.
    “If I had to move today, what would I want to pack up and take with me?”

    This sentence has allowed me to let go of soooooooo many books, items and junk that I had packed in our basement that haven’t seen the light of day in 5 years. It has also let me let go of an entire 4′ x 4′ bookcase of books and clutter that was just taking up room. (Also, I have been worried that, as our 2 year old gets older, he would start climbing up the bookcase and hurt himself.)

    We had the room in our basement to continue to store these items, but I would like to make this space useful as a playroom, craft area and workout space for my family. All of the boxes and materials were not letting me do that.

    We still have a long way to go, but I really think that I will be able to clean out the “garbage” by the end of the year and start off 2012 fresh to make diagrams of how we would like to divide that space into those areas.

  4. 4
    Susie's Homemade says

    I use the same method for the clothes in my closet:-)

  5. 5
    Jacqueline says

    I have decided that I am not allowed to buy fabric or yarn with out a specific project for it in mind. Now, this doesn’t stop me from being a packrat and hoarding the fabric scraps (although I am better about yarn ends), but it means I’m less likely to wind up with random pieces of fabric or lengths of yarn that I can’t find any thing to do with because I don’t have the right amount. Of course, then I still have to find the time to get to those projects…I always have more things that I want to make then time to do so…

    • 5.1
      Allysgrandma says

      Jaqueline, I made that deal with myself too, only it didn’t last! I love fabric! Green Fairy Quits is having a 30% off stuff for 3 days….trying to hold back.

  6. 6
    Linda Stoll says

    As a coach and counselor, I’ve done alot of work with people on boundaries in relationships. But I’ve never heard of this concept when it comes to stuff and things and possessions til recently on your blog. This is so true! Whenever our boundaries are over-run, non-existent, undefined, or sloppy, we’re in for trouble.

    Thanks for pulling this all together for me!

    Parenting, relationship, and leadership boundaries –

  7. 7
    Allysgrandma says

    Guilty! Bought that lovely new entryway cabinet for fabric!! But no more until I use some of what I have!

  8. 8
    The Bearded Iris says

    Best. Advice. EVER. And such a foreign concept for me…working backwards. I never would have thought to first define the space and then only put back what fits, purging the rest. It is forcing me to make some really tough choices, but that is just the tough love I needed. Thank you Laura!!! Can’t wait to show you the final product!

  9. 9
    Marsha Cooper says

    With my grandkids it’s both toys and clothes. They’ve all had recent birthdays which meant more toys added to the mix. And, with school starting my daughter bought them each 6 new outfits when there wasn’t room in the chest of drawers for what they already had plus she’s never organized them.
    My hubby has a ton of clothes he’s not worn in the entire time we’ve been together yet he will not part with them!!
    I have gotten rid of some of my own clothing as I got the shorter end of the stick on closet space.

    Crafts are crafts…supplies no longer fit on my shelves. I know how I want to organize my supplies but coming up with the money to buy what I want is the first step.
    If I stop at a yard sale and I see blankets, sheets, material, etc, anything I can use in my sewing and such, I will buy it.
    Money is the problem with yard sales too though as most of the time I don’t even have any money on me to stop and look. I suppose that can be a good thing since I could keep myself busy for 4 or 5 years with just what supplies I have now.

  10. 10
    jlscissors says

    I practice what I call “conscious shopping”. In other words, I try not to buy anything unless I know I need it and/or have a permanent place to put it. This has helped me keep holiday decorations, crafts supplies, and even cooking supplies from taking over my home. My one big weakness for setting boundaries and limits is with books. I decluttered some but it is hard, especially the non-fiction ones.

  11. 11
    Jackie says

    This is a really great tip that I should employ in many many areas of our house. My biggest downfall is office supplies. I love different pens, tablets, journals, etc. I often over consume and end up with way more than we really need.

  12. 12
    raven says

    I have held on to some things over the past decade that I should probably let go. 10 large sweater boxes full of fabric from when we were in the SCA – because I can’t sew a stitch to save my life. There’s silk velvets, dupioni, tons of really nice stuff in there that’s deteriorating while I hold onto it because I “still want to have X made”. Which never happens.

    Scrapbooking supplies.. I have made it fit my space; one bin holds photographs in my craft closet, and my rollaway cropper thingie is in the bottom of that closet. At times I’m glad I kept it though because things are starting to come in handy for class projects the kids have now. It could still do with a cleanout/update though.

    I am a stockpiler, which some see as clutter and I see as saving money. Space is always a concern with this for bathroom stuff like shampoo, body wash, deoderant etc. I’ve designated spaces in the master linen closet for hair care stuff and don’t buy anything more if that space is full, even if it’s free – that space holds about a year’s supply! We don’t need more than that anyway. Under my husband’s sink holds all the bodywash and deoderant since they don’t stack and run out quickly with 5 people variously sharing them. Under my sink are 2 baskets for hair care stuff I use on a daily or weekly basis, but I need to purge more and get it down to one basket so the other can hold my makeup. :/ For someone who air dries their hair 99% of the time and only uses a leave in conditioner, I’ve accumulated a ton of hair crap! Maybe that will be my project this weekend.

  13. 13
    se7en says

    I have to say after so many weeks of little by little,I am finally getting it… there is no special secret, there is no clever trick… it is all about doing it bit by bit by bit. You don’t need fancy storage, and while I am always looking for alternatives to regular things it is ok to just use regular storage for regular things… a cutlery drawer for cutlery, let’s say!!! It has taken a while for me to GET this!!! But suddenly it has got easier, I have discovered that just beginning a project really is the answer and it is ok to begin again and again and again. I have used storage size to limit what comes into our house for ages… it really helped when I sorted our kids stuff significantly earlier this year… We sorted, we donated, we cleaned and then we started over with smaller containers… until atlas our things actually fit, with a little space to spare… I never would have guessed it possible and we would never have done it if we had started all at once!!! Thanks for this project – I love it!!! And never imagined I would still be chugging away months later… Really, I can’t thank you enough!!!

    • 13.1
      Laura says

      Oh this is such an awesome testimony! So so proud of you girl!!

  14. 14
    Amber says

    Uggh I needed to hear this and will be shareing this with my facebook and twitter followers tomorrow morning, thanks!


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