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Got clutter? Organize it!

February 22, 2012
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When clutter grows into a life of its own, it can be overwhelming.  Not dealing with it may seem the easiest thing to do but certainly not the most productive or efficient.  Clutter can also cause stress, unhealthy living/working environments, and relational conflicts.  However, the solution is always within reach.

Evaluate your life now.  What items do you really need on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?  With a realistic and critical eye, look through your closets, cabinets, garage, and other storage spaces.  Kids outgrow toys and clothes.  Interests and hobbies change.  Technology advances.  Things that were once vital do not stay important or useful through all times. You can evaluate for yourself how long it has been since you’ve used all the things that have been stored up. Sure, you might like to have some odds and ends sometime in the future.  But, consider that your peace of mind, or even quality of household relationships, right now may be worth the cost of replacing these items later on if you truly do need them.

Are you ready to get organized? Great! The first step is to PREPARE.

  • Set aside time.  Closets and cabinets could be done in half a day.  Entire rooms, offices, or garages may need an entire day or even more.
  • Arm yourself with a critical eye and a desire to be set free from so much unneeded stuff.
  • Make a plan for what you will do with the discards, whether that is a trip to the dump or a local donation center.  Ideally, delivering these items should happen right away.
  • If you plan on selling unwanted items, schedule the sale no more than a few weeks away so these things do not sit around indefinitely.  If items don’t sell, donate them.  Remember, you don’t want to end up with new, moved around piles, as it defeats the purpose of your hard work.
  • Ask for help when needed.  Make arrangements to have a truck available if needed.  Get some strong and able bodies to move big things.  Seek out someone with a personality for organization and detailed work if this process is just plain difficult.   You can also hire a professional organizer.
  • Create a temporary place where you can set all the unwanted items, preferably away from your immediate work area.  This way you can clearly see what it is that you are left to work with.
  • Gather as many containers as you can for the stuff you’re keeping.  You will need all sizes, and they don’t need to be fancy or new.  Right now you’re thinking functional – empty cans, bottles, bins, boxes, or anything else you have lying around.

Second, SORT!  Create space for 3 categories: trash, donate, and keep.

  • Trash: Throw out obviously broken, useless, or worn things.  Recycle whenever possible.
  • Donate/Sell: You may give away or sell anything in good condition.
  • Keep: Using critical and realistic thinking, set aside the essential items that are currently used.
  • A note on sentimental items: These are harder to discern because memories and emotions are tied to them. Sort these into their own category.  If there is a lot, ask yourself: Is it good for you to keep all of these things? If these things represent a person that has passed, would he or she want you to be burdened by overwhelming clutter?  You are not obligated to keep everything.  Try to encapsulate the memories with just a handful of items.

Third, ORGANIZE!

  • Group all items that are similar, and then further separate subcategories for them.  For example, gather all your office supplies together, and then separate out the writing utensils, paper clips, notepads, filing supplies, etc.
  • Choose a container that can accommodate it.  If you don’t have one that will work, make a list of the types of containers you will need to purchase.
  • Evaluate the amount of space you have to store what you are keeping.  If space is still too small, take another critical look at what you’re keeping as well as what you are using to store them in.  You may need to re-evaluate both. Create a mental picture of how you would like the space to look when you’re done.
  • Give every group a home.  No matter how large or small, you will want to know that all office supplies, yard maintenance, medical supplies, crafts, etc have a designated space.  So, in the future, you will immediately know where to take the stray gardening gloves, the glue gun lying around, and the new box of bandages.  Things used less frequently can be placed in less accessible positions, and vice versa.
  • At this point you can evaluate if you want to style up your organized spaces.  If you prefer not to keep your office supplies in recycled jars and cans, then you can decide to purchase or decorate ones to your liking. There are tons of ideas on the internet for creative ways to store things.
  • Add labels to your containers or give a tour so that other household members or office co-workers will know where to find things and even better…know where to put things away when they are done with them!

Lastly, MAINTAIN!  Sadly, no organized space will remain that way unless it is kept up.  The trick is to make new habits, and habits get easier with repetition.  Don’t allow yourself to make new piles or never return items to their homes.  You are giving every item a home for a reason – so that you will know where to put them when you are done with them.  Especially be diligent and disciplined at times like completing loads of laundry and returning from shopping trips when new piles can quickly compromise an organized environment.  Choose to make time and effort to return your environment to a clean and organized state.

Enjoy the fruit of your hard work.  It is well worth it.

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