the Organizing process

It happens to every.single.person. You go to find that coupon you wanted to use, that party invitation you knew you had received, or that one email that contained your login and password information. And that feeling of dread hits you in the pit of your stomach. You cannot find it in the overflowing sea of stuff you're surrounded by.

It was only a few years ago that this same feeling came over me one day when I was home with my then 2 year old son. I was looking for something for him and hit a wall when it dawned on me that we had too much stuff and it needed to get organized and the organizing task needed to get done NOW!

Like I mentioned above, it happens to everyone. One day we find ourselves overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff we have and we do a virtual about-face and think "I can't take this anymore, I need to get organized!" But the next thing that happens to a lot of people is they get this feeling of overwhelm because they simply don't know HOW to go about organizing the space in the most effective way.

(Again, it happened to me so trust me when I say this, I know how it feels)

Well, like all things that are done well, there actually is a good process behind how to get organized. This is the process I follow when organizing any space for myself, my family, or my clients. And after spending time refining the process, it's proven to work for any space, time and time again. 

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
  • Donate
  • Keep
  • 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.

In the near future I'll be putting together a comprehensive catalog of favorite storage solutions by category of item typically within our homes. But for now, the above process is an excellent start to help you navigate your way through the tried & true organizing process. This process applies to any physical space you may have within your home or office.