Organizing can be a daunting task. From desk areas and closets to basements and garages, we all seem to have too much stuff and too little room. Looking around the house, organizing can feel overwhelming and difficult to achieve. Often times we would much rather grab a glass of wine and ignore the whole mess.
I’m here to tell you that it’s a lot easier than it seems! By following these 6 easy steps, you can organize any space and take any area from being an eyesore to being a source of relief and relaxation. With a little bit of time and patience (and maybe still a glass of wine), you can organize any space in your home and get the clutter under control!
Determine a Purpose for the Space
No matter what area you are talking about, if you don’t assign it a purpose then its purpose will be to collect clutter. Basically without a specific focus, there will be chaos.
So the first thing to do when organizing is to decide exactly what purpose you want an area to have.
For example, if you are organizing a desk, are you going to be sitting at it typing and writing bills? Or will it simply be to hold pens, stationary, and binders? These are two very different purposes and require different organizational solutions. Or if you are organizing a closet, will its purpose be to store blankets, sheets, and bedding or mostly for clothing and shoes?
Once you determine what purpose you want a space to have, its much easier to see what belongs there and what has just been placed there out of convenience.
Larger areas will end up having multiple purposes. For large spaces such as garages and basements, break it down into smaller sections. Assign a purpose to one smaller section, follow these steps to organize it, and then move onto the next section.
Clear the Area Completely
This step is important as it allows you to take a completely fresh look at the area you want to organize. It also is the step where it’s the most tempting to take a shortcut or skip altogether.
Although it can seem tedious to clear the area completely, the benefits far outweigh the frustration. Instead of being stuck in the same old programming for what the space has always been used for, it gives you a chance to see the possibilities hidden in plain sight, possibilities you may never see otherwise.
In our example with the desk, take everything off the top of the desk and set it aside. If there are drawers, you can choose to do these after finishing with the top of the desk but the process is the same. Take everything out of the drawers and set aside.
With our closet example, take everything off any shelves and the floor area and set aside. The only exception in this example are your clothes. I would say leaving them hanging is fine, since they are already in their rightful place. If you are needing to organize your clothes, check out this post.
Clean the Space
This step is pretty self-explanatory. Once the area is cleared, we want it to be clean.
Take your favorite store bought or homemade all-purpose cleaner (this is what I use), spray the area, and wipe it clean. This includes surfaces, drawers, shelves, etc. Make sure to wipe edging and corners too!
Fill the Space with Items Related to Its Purpose
Now that the area is clear and clean, we can start filling it with items that belong there. I call this “giving them a home”. The great part of giving an item a home is that even when we move or use the item, its quick and easy to put away.
So we start by looking through all the items we had set aside, and choosing only the ones related to the specific purpose we assigned to that area.
Once we have gone through the items we set aside, we may look for other items from around the house that fit this specific purpose as well.
This step is very subjective, since everyone has a different purpose for the same space. One person’s desk area will have a different purpose from another persons, and therefore different specific solutions. Some people like their pens and pencils in a holder on top of their desk. Other people like an tray that fits inside a drawer to hold them. The solutions are all very personal. Which brings us to our next step…
Utilize Organizational “Helpers”
Organizational “helpers” are things such as boxes, files, trays, totes, tabs, binders, labels, etc.
Most people want to buy these early in the organizational process, however it’s best to wait until you know exactly what you want in an area. This way you buy organizational “helpers” to fit your specific needs, instead of what you think you need.
Going back to our desk example, once you have determined a purpose and have a clear, clean area, you may find that you have more pens and pencils than you originally thought. Maybe you also want to keep your paperclips and pushpins with them. Now you can go to the store (or look around your house) for an item that exactly fits those needs.
Choosing the right organizational “helpers” all depends on your personal needs for the space, which are most apparent towards the end of the organizational process.
Find a Home for Other Items Taken from that Space
Once you have finished organizing an area, it’s time to find a home for all the other things that didn’t get put back.
Some items may be put into a “give away” box or bag. Others you may realize are long past their usefulness and need to be thrown away. Still other items will find a more useful home in other parts of your house. This is the best since you usually find new and imaginative ways of using items that you hadn’t considered before, and they can become much more useful than they ever were at their previous location.
It can be a difficult process deciding what to keep and what to give away. I follow these general rules:
- Do I LOVE the item or REALLY LIKE the item? If so, I keep it and find an appropriate place for it. If not, I give it away or toss it.
- Does the item have STRONG SENTIMENTAL VALUE? For example, if it reminds me of someone I loved that is no longer in my life or of an key accomplishment I made, then I keep it and put it some place nice. If it’s just something that a friend gave me or that I have picked up along the way, I give it away or toss it. (Note: If you have a lot of sentimental items from a person or time in your life, choose to keep those that you love the most and give you the most joy. Keeping every sentimental item will soon become overbearing, and will dilute the memory you are trying to preserve.)
- Is the item continuously USEFUL? If I need it for daily, weekly, or monthly activities and routines, then I keep it. If I haven’t used it in the last 6 months, it’s obviously not pertinent to my life and I give it away or toss it.
A Positive Process
The great part about this organizational process is that it’s self-reinforcing. You feel a sense of accomplishment and relief every time you look at a space you have organized. It’s no longer a source of anxiety. This, in turn, may inspire you to organize other spaces using these same principles, producing more relief and calm. Eventually, your entire home becomes a source of peace and calm, a sanctuary for you and your family’s well-being. And we can all use more of that in our lives!
Let us know in the comments how these 6 easy steps have helped you and your household. We’d love to hear your success stories, and ‘before and after’ pics are welcome. Happy Organizing!