“I don’t know where to start, can you help with that?” asks Annie as we talk on the phone about her upcoming organizing appointment.
“Absolutely. It’s what we do.” I respond.
Getting organized is not just about buying cute bins at Target® to hold all the little shoes that are cluttering the foyer. So often we purchase bins and books, we watch videos and TV shows, and our organizing projects still don’t seem to go anywhere. Let’s say your sister comes over for the weekend to help you “clean up the mess.” You work hard for hours over a weekend, and yet it seems that there is even more work when you finish than there was when you began. Where do we start to be effective in our organizing projects?
In all honesty, you could start anywhere. I will share with you my four favorite places to start organizing and why. However, I’ll first answer the question of HOW to start, which is just as important as WHERE.
HOW to Start Your Organizing Project
First of all, walk back into your house and put your car keys down. You are not going to start your project by leaving the house or purchasing organizing gear. The first thing I want you to do is find 3 pieces of paper and a pen. Then walk around your house. Look around. What is nagging at you? Label your papers, “Things to Do”, “Stuff That is Not Working”, and “Things That Are Working Well”. If you want, you can indicate the rooms you are in as you go.
Now, as you tour your house, fill in your paper. Write down everything that comes to your mind. If you need another sheet (or two), get them and if another heading makes sense, add it.
This process could take you 15 minutes or up to an hour. I want you to SEE your space again.
When I do this exercise, I begin to notice connections. If I put a system in one area, such as organizing a clothing closet, I would then be able to hang the clean clothes that are lying on my bed. I could then sleep in my bed. When I am well rested, I’ll feel more like doing the laundry that is piled in the bathroom and on the laundry room floor. When that space is clear, I will have a place to take care of myself with quiet rejuvenation time. I will feel whole and restored.
If I were to just pick up the clothing in the laundry room, I wouldn’t have a place to put it and I wouldn’t solve my organizing conundrum!
What can you work on that will have a “trickle down” effect?
Next, think about and visualize your space. What does DONE look, feel, smell, taste, sound like?
Last, pick one place to begin. You can work a little bit in many different areas of your space, but you will see greater progress sooner if you focus your efforts on one area. You already thought about the part of your space that could have a “trickle down” effect. Let’s start there.
What is one step you can take in that space to work towards change? If you are in the closet, can you hang 5 pieces of clothing? Could you decide on whether to keep or part with 5 items? In the living room, could you pick up 5 pieces of trash and put them in the bin? In the bathroom, are there expired medicines or empty bottles to discard? Could you group all your medicines into one box or cabinet? You may have noted a great first step on your “to-do list” as you were touring your house. Look there for inspiration.
Four Great Places to Begin Organizing
This is often my favorite place to begin organizing projects. It provides a safe haven as you work into other places in your home. A peaceful bedroom puts you first, and allows for peaceful sleep.
This spot can have that fantastic “trickle down” effect we were talking about earlier. When you organize the kitchen, you can store and prepare food more easily. This means you will eat out less, waste less food, save money and have access to healthier choices. The kitchen is the heart of many homes, and food is often central to family engagement.
The Shed, Garage or Basement
Items stored in these places have often been placed here because you aren’t using them, but don’t know where to put them. Either you are avoiding the space because of your emotional attachments or because it has become completely overwhelming. In either case, clearing these spaces can lift a weight physically and emotionally. Look for the “easy” stuff first, the items that are broken or you don’t care about. Schedule to have a donation service come the next day to pick up your unwanted items.
The Living Room
There are times when we disconnect ourselves from those we love. It’s hard to tell which comes first; the hurt or distance in the relationship or the living space being in disarray. But whichever comes first, feeling comfortable letting people into your home allows you to open up space for company, and to reconnect with others. Once you allow others into your home again, you will feel encouraged to work on the parts of your home that are dragging you down. So clear the living room and make it company ready, then organize the rest afterward.
Now you know how and where to get started. The next step is up to you! Be sure to come back here and share your progress on your organizing project.