Organizing Your Home and Life

How Do I Even Start?

Posted on: July 4, 2009

I hear a lot of people comment to me when I tell them that I love to declutter and organize.  The first question I usually hear is “where do I even start?”  Sometimes the clutter gets so out of hand that it is intimidating and frustrating. I understand that..in fact that’s why I started my own personal organizing business.  A lot of times it is easier to have someone come in and help get a person started at clearing the clutter so if you have the resources to hire someone I suggest you do so.

But if you don’t or can’t get a personal organizer I have assembled a few tips for you to use in tackling the mountain of clutter.

1.  Start off with a game plan and write it down on paper.  If there is clutter everywhere in each room you will have to break down the clean up in easy and achievable goals.  You must write them down so you can gauge what has been completed and what is left to do.  You may have to break down rooms even further.  For example, if you have a lot of clutter in your kitchen, you may want to break it down into zones such as Zone 1 would be pantry. Zone 2 would be refrigerator.  Zone 3 could be cabinets. And so forth.  The last thing you want to do is create a goal that is too big.  That will discourage you very quickly.

2.  Once you put your game plan on paper, you must remember a very important rule in order to maximize your success.  That is, start off with the visible clutter first.  What do I mean by that? Visible clutter is the clutter that is on the outside of drawers, closets, and pantries.  It is the stuff that is laying out in the middle of the room.  Start off with the piles outside before you even think about where your clutter will go.  Why is this important?  The reason is because your mountain of clutter will look massive but when you go through it all, you will probably end up with 1/3 of that mountain as stuff that you will want to keep. Therefore, the space you will need to find for the keep stuff will not be as great as you originally thought.

3.  Divide the clutter into three distinctive piles.  One pile is the “Keep” pile.  The other pile is “Give away”.  The third pile is “Throw away”.  Mark these piles so you know which one is which.  Now comes the hard part.  Doing it.

4.  You will have to go through your clutter piece by piece, paper by paper.  DON’T ALLOW YOURSELF TO GET DISTRACTED.  You might find photos or momentos or something of importance.  That is fine but don’t stop and allow yourself to get sidetracked.  If you know you will keep it put it in the keep pile and move on.  Keep moving.  Don’t start to put the “keep” stuff away.  There is no time to start putting stuff away.  It will take some discipline to do this correctly.  You will work on the keep pile later when you have sorted through everything else.

5.  Don”t get discouraged.  Remember that the clutter pile didn’t get created in a day and it won’t get all cleared as quickly but it will get done because you have mapped it out on a piece of paper and you are tracking your successes.  If you need a break, take one.   Get a drink or snack and then go right back to the pile.  Eventually you will start seeing the pile look differently.   You will start to see it shrink because (hopefully) you will have a lot of your stuff in the discard piles.

6.  How do you know what to throw away and what to keep?  If you are in love  with your stuff this might be a hard one to tackle.  It’s a mindset and is one that takes a lot for people to get over.  Some people have this worse than others and some people find it easy to throw old stuff away.  If you come across an old sweater that your grandmother knitted for you when you were in high school and it’s been 30 years since you have worn it and it clearly will never fit you again but you cannot part with it, that’s ok. Don’t part with it. Put it in the keep pile.  We will discuss what to do with momentos later on.  But there are things that will be obvious that you will never use ever again..old computers that don’t work anymore, old shelves, old furniture, musical instruments that your kids or you will never play, old clothes, old baby stuff (when your kids are no longer babies and you aren’t having any more kids), old magazines, etc.  If you have not used it in 6 months and it does not classify as a momento or is not a yearly item (like holiday decorations), chances are that you won’t ever need it.  Throw it out.

7.  Finish your first room or zone and congratulate yourself.  Bag up the trash pile and get rid of it.  Box up with “give aways” and take it off to a charity.    Some charities will come to your house and pick it up for you.  You can search the internet for these types of charities.  What you will have left is your “keep” pile.  Look at it.  Is it a lot smaller than what you started out with?  Chances are the answer to that is YES!

8.  Now what do you do with the “keep” pile?  Stay tuned to my blog this week as I will be blogging about how to properly organize the keep stuff.

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