Organizing is not about how much stuff you can get rid of. Truly, there were always be more to part with. There will be one more piece of paper, one more article of clothing, one more book. If you always focus on parting with your stuff, you will never feel a sense of accomplishment or that they job is ‘done.
We focus on decluttering because it is the first step in the organizing process. But, organizing is not only a matter of decluttering. The organizing process has three steps:
1 - Let go of the excess
2 - Group like items together
3 - Assign a home
And while you may begin at step 1, you may find yourself doing a dance: 1, 2, 3, 1, 1, 2, 3, 1…. And so on.
You may also get ‘stuck’ anywhere in the process. But, let’s say you have already achieved step 1, “Let go of the excess.” Now what?
It is time to move on to group items together and assigning a home. It’s that ‘Assigning a home’ part that most people think of when they think of ‘organization’. This is the step where you can pull out your Container Store Catalog and find the baskets that match your decor.
Where should your stuff live?
Here are my favorite ways to keep things in order:
1 - Keep items close to where they are used, even if this means that you have multiples of the same item. It is ok, you want your things at your fingertips when you need them.
2 - Keep the items you use the most within arms reach. These ‘arms reach’ items should be used daily, otherwise, you need to put them away completely (that’s the next rule).
3 - Keep items you use sometimes (weekly/monthly) in closets, drawers, shelves, etc. It may take you two minutes to retrieve the item but it is worth having it out of the way so that you can live your life.
4 - Keep the items you rarely or never use in storage closets, the attic, garage overhead storage or off site. It may take a trip to retrieve the items but it is ok, you are reclaiming space for your daily activities.
5 - Use bins that match your decor, fit the item and also work with how you think. Those wicker baskets may be pretty but if they don’t fit the items you are trying to store, you don’t like the feel of them and they hide the stuff inside (and you are a visual person) then they are not going to work. There is no one size fits all for organizing products.
6 - Splurge a little, not a lot, on organizing products that will last. Splurge a little because having a broken box or shelf is just a pain and will make you feel like you are not making progress. But don’t over do it, your organizing needs change regularly as you focus on different areas of your life.
7 - Focus on the outcome you are creating. Determine first what your goal is in this organizing process. For instance, if your goal is to create a sense of calm in your space, then use this as your guide to each step. You can ask, “Will this item help me feel calm in my space?” “Will storing this item here, help me feel calm?” “Will using these storage containers help me feel calm?” (Insert your focus word in place of ‘calm’)
Remember it is a process not a one time activity never to be repeated. The process goes in cycles where sometimes you are focusing on letting go and sometimes you are assigning a home. Your goal is to create a feeling not to let go of your stuff.
If you are stuck in the process, let me know. I would love to have a conversation with you about how to move forward.
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Hi! I'm Nettie Owens, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization and Productivity Consultant.