Updated: Feb 16
Let's talk about the day you decide to get organized once and for all. You dream of no more clutter, no more avalanches when you open a cupboard door, no more piles of papers that grow with each mail delivery, no more being late for everything because something is lost. You will have everything under control and nothing will escape you.
SO...where will you start? Maybe in a closet, you say. Sounds easy, you decide to just start simple and put all of the hanging clothes in order. But wait, in order of what?? Is it better to sort them according to color, length or clothing type? And if you are sorting by colors of the rainbow, then what on earth will you do with black, brown, gray and tan? It's all so complicated, you say!
Now--just breathe and go on reading. The most important thing with getting organized is your own preference and ease of use, no matter what the system. You need to figure out what you need and want from the project. Before you get organized you will do best to think through your normal habits, routines, and preferences regarding the area you are going to work on. It's easy to think it'll just come together, but then end up needing to change directions time after time. At this point, it's all too easy to go and get some ice cream and fear that your dream may never become a reality.
But that is just NOT true! Stick with me here. Frequently our perfectionism won't allow us to experiment, or worse- to fail. We want our project to end so perfectly that we over-think and over-complicate everything about it (I am major guilty of this). Sometimes we just can't make ourselves do it because IT MIGHT NOT BE RIGHT!
So, how to get started with all of these obstacles? As you may have guessed, I have some answers and solutions to help you get the ball rolling.
THINK FIRST. The biggest hurdle is in your own mind. When you are diving into an organizing project, you not only have the physical work to do along with strategizing where everything will fit and work the best. You also have the responsibility to see that everything you are letting go of gets to the best home possible. You need some time to prepare your mind for this first big step. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to get on the right track:
"What is working/not working in this space?"
"How much less should I have for this space to be it’s best? (keeping in mind that if you say 50%, then you should be letting go of 5 out of every 10 items you touch, if sizing down by 30%, then approximately every 3 out of 10 things must go)"
It's a good idea to write out the answers to these questions, along with what your ending goals are, and the baby steps along the way (yes, unless you're looking at a very small project, this will need to be done in baby steps, no giant strides at first). Write your concerns, your fears, maybe even journal all along the way. I'm not talking time-consuming writing here, just jot these things down somewhere so you can use your own words and goals to move you along the way.
IMPERFECT IS FINE. Do not allow perfectionism to spoil your progress. Let it go. You will not accomplish all you want overnight. Decluttering is an ongoing process of trial and error. I am definitely a reforming overthinker. I've always been the one with 3 planners, multiple calendars, innumerable lists everywhere, and a stockpile of organizing bins. But, I have not purchased a single organizing container in 2 years and I've been deleting the apps that tend to clutter my brain rather that sort it out. Even at this moment, I am seeing amazing benefits from a productivity course I'm taking that recommends getting rid of all of these things (gasp!). And furthermore, I am noticing a vast increase in my productivity.
START SMALL. Do the smallest project on your list and gain momentum from there. When you see what you really can accomplish, you will be encouraged and willing to try something bigger.
START WITH ONE THING. Develop a habit that includes one thing. For example, make your bed every day, then expand by adding in another simple thing like putting your shoes away in an orderly fashion. When you have formed these habits and you see what a difference it has made, move on to straightening up the nightstand or dresser top. Make sure you are keeping up with the simple actions you start with. Just as clutter is contagious, so can neatness spread.
CHANGE GRADUALLY. There are a few ways of doing this. You can devote 5, 10, or 15 minutes per day in one area, or you can set a certain number of items per day (maybe 3 or 5) to get rid of.
The key is "a few" - we can do almost anything for just a few minutes or can almost always find just a few things to purge.
GATHER TRASH. Yep, you can start by gathering up every bit of visible trash from the area. Then get it out. You’ll see the difference when most of what is left is of some use or value. Next, you can move on to gathering items to be put away in another part of the house…then things to donate or sell...and so on.
GATHER LIKES. If you have like items stored in multiple places in your home, it’s a good idea to put them all together so you can see how much storage you need. For example, you may have scotch tape or wrapping paper stored (or scattered) in multiple places. If you are organizing gift wrapping supplies, it would be a good idea to collect all of these items from everywhere you can find them. When you have the supplies all in one place you can see just what you have an excess of and what you lack. You can also make a more accurate decision on where best to store it and what size containers you need. When I work with clients I always try to do this so it's easy for them to see just how many cleaning products or bath or beauty supplies, or organizing containers they really own.....this works with just anything.
PLAY GAMES. What? That’s right, sometimes the best way to get a hard job done is to play games with your mind. The "number of minutes" or "number of items" suggestion above are two examples. Another example was originated by Marla Cilley, author and decluttering expert of the Flylady website, which has many strategies, one of which is called the “27-fling boogie”. Yep, rather than slogging your way miserably through it all, you can dance through the decluttering process with a garbage bag and have a blast.
BE PREPARED. Realize that whatever area you start in may get worse before it gets better. As you work through your unnecessary items, you may end your 5-15 minute work time with a few piles of things. This is totally ok, as long as you're sure to return the next day and the next. After getting it all out to sort and survey, you will start with the actual purging process, then you can"containerize" the items, and put them away in their new home, which is now roomier because you will have fewer items to fit in.
There is no hard and fast formula for attacking your clutter or organizing project. But one of these nine ideas may just be the key to helping you face that clutter that’s been looking you in the eye for way too long. So get started right now by grabbing a piece of paper and writing down what's bothering you in your space.