Around this time of year you typically see a lot of advice out there saying "Finally Get Organized" or "Flash Sale on All Organizing Products" on blogs, in magazines, and even on television. I won't lie, this time of year is by far my favorite time of year.
But to be really, brutally honest with you, the preparation for this time of year starts during and even before the holiday season we just got through.
That being said, it's never too late to start getting organized and learn how to stay organized for the long haul. Today I'll show you how to start and stay organized this year with an organizing process that I use and that actually works.
Start & Stay Organized This Year with An Organizing Process
This process works for any space you want to organize...even better, it works for online or virtual spaces and work processes, too. If this process can work for our growing of family of 5, I'm confident it can work for you, too!
So, you may be asking "why do I need to read about an organizing process? why don't you just organize a space, put some pretty bins in there and poof, you're done?" I'm glad you asked ;)
It's perfectly fine to look at a spot in your home or office and say to yourself, "I have to organize that". But how many times you say that to yourself is a key indicator of whether that spot needs your immediate attention or not.
In other words, is a spot you want to get organized in your home or office bringing you pain? Is it a constant thorn in your side? Does it affect your daily life? Or is it a spot that could use some organization magic pixey dust sprinkled over it but it's not necessarily a thorn in your side?
This is how I typically begin my organizing conversations with potential and current clients and friends and family alike. From there, I help them prioritize the top 3 areas that they'd like to get organized and ask them to think of why exactly they want to organize them in the first place.
My own experience shows that the top 3 areas in any home that people want to organize are:
- The kitchen
- The bathroom
And if we think about the reasoning behind it, it makes sense. The kitchen is the center of any home where everyone passes through and utilizes it on a daily basis. That's why it's called the heart of the home. And it should be set up in a way to work for everyone who uses it.
Your entryway is where you enter the threshold of your home, bringing your day with you, and where you want to switch into "home" mode. That means that you need to discard what you're bringing into your home from your job or day at school or errands run. Where will you put these things?
Your bathroom is another place that everyone in the house uses in one way or another. This is where your most personal items are stored. Your personal time behind closed doors should be calming and the products you use should be easy for you to find and use.
Now that the reasoning behind this thought process is behind us, let's turn our attention to an effective process I use to organize any space.
The Organizing Process
Here are the steps to follow to successfully organize any space. I call it The Organizing Process.
1. DEFINE YOUR PROJECT INTO AN ACTIONABLE SPACE
By this it is meant that you need to ask yourself if the space in question can realistically be tackled by one person or do you need to break it down even further, to make the project obtainable and approachable. If someone says to me "can you organize my basement" my answer is "yes I can, now let's talk about how to best break it down so as not to overwhelm you or myself".
You see, just like creating SMART goals (if you don't know what the acronym SMART refers to, specifically when creating goals, take a look here) if the space you want to tackle isn't specific or realistic, everyone involved risks becoming overwhelmed. So rather than saying "I'm going to organize my entire house", I like to break it down to the top three areas that are the most troublesome for families: entryway/mudroom, kitchens and closets.
2. PURGE WHAT'S CURRENTLY FILLING THE SPACE ENTIRELY
Now comes the fun part! You're going to literally take everything out of the space. But don't go bananas here, don't go throwing things in every direction. Because here we're going to systematically remove things from the space and actively make decisions about them while we do it. So start pulling everything out of the space until it's bare bones, naked, completely EMPTY!
3. MAKE YOUR PILES
To make things easier, especially when dealing with a space you might share with others, go and grab a pack of sticky notes and a marker. You're going to write on the sticky notes the following titles:
- Throw away
- Move (Store Properly)
Take a look at mountain of stuff you just removed from the space and start to go through the stuff, one by one. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this broken/torn/ripped/damaged/expired? If so, can I throw it away?
- If I don't throw it away, can it be fixed?
- By when will I fix it or get it fixed? Is that marked in my calendar?
- How much will it cost to get it fixed?
- Have I used this in the last 12 months? If not, can someone else benefit from it?
Asking yourself these questions as you're going through the items will start to help you easily sort your items into the different piles: Throw Away, Done, Keep & Move (Store Properly)
4. ARRANGE YOUR SPACE, STORING THE KEEP PILE ONLY
Now that you have your Keep pile, it's time to put the pieces of the puzzle back together again. Below are some top organizing tips for rearranging the space for best use moving forward.
- Remember, the key to cutting the clutter is to use the physical constraints of the space you already have as your limits for the amount of stuff that goes into this specific space.
- Put the most highly used items at eye level. Trust me on this one, friend, the most highly used items should be the most accessible items! Make your life easier by following this rule.
- Take into account who uses the space and make it conducive to all involved. If you're organizing your kitchen and you're right-handed, try putting your most used cooking tools close by and on the right side of the stove.
- If you have small children in the space and you're organizing toxic items such as cleaners or paint products, put those up high and out of reach.
5. MOVE/RELOCATE YOUR "MOVE" PILE AND STORE PROPERLY
Once you've put the puzzle back together and have properly utilized the space in question, turn around and you'll find your "Move (Store Properly)" pile. Now it's time to actively start thinking of where you'll be relocating these items. Also, and just as important, is how they will be properly stored. Seasonal clothes can either go in plastic bins or clothing bags, decorations can go in plastic totes, linens can go in either vacuum sealed bags or totes as well. The list is virtually endless when it comes to storage solutions.
6. BUY STORAGE ITEMS ONLY AFTER THE SPACE IS REORGANIZED
This one is hard to stick to. It's tempting to walk into a craft or home goods store and buy bins, totes, baskets and more. I know how you feel! IT'S HARD TO NOT BUY, BUT AVOID THE TEMPTATION. Only buy the storage items once you know exactly what will be going into them. (It's why it's step #5 and not step #1 or #2)
Now you're going to use storage items you may already have or buy new storage containers for (a) the space you just organized and (b) the items you moved out of the space and need to properly store, should that be the case.
Click below to get your own copy of the Organizing Process Checklist. Use this checklist over and over again to help you organize any space.
So there you have it. That's the process I have successfully followed to organize any space. I've followed this space to organize and declutter kitchens, pantries, cabinets, drawers, linen closets, baby supplies, garages, etc. etc. etc. You name it, I've purged and re-organized it in a way that makes sense and works for whomever is using it.