Many times when I arrive at a client’s house, they tell me in despair that they just don’t know where to start. Whichever room or area we choose, the first thing that I do is to catalog, mentally or aloud, what types of physical objects that I see. I state this in observables, such as, “I see clothing. I see kitchen items. I see paper. I see bags and boxes. Etc.” What I do NOT say are things like, “I see a mess” or, “I see a disaster!” These types of statements are subjective, or colored by emotions, personal opinions, and backgrounds. That means, if one person was describing it to another, they would have two different ideas about what was actually in the room.Opinion statements when organizing are not actually helpful in moving forward: only factual statements. Try it yourself in the image below.
Were you able to list at least three different types of things that you observed? If not, you may want to take a second look. 2. Collect
The next thing that I do is to go on a hunt throughout the house for empty containers: bags, boxes, baskets, clean jars and cans, unused cabinet organizers, etc. By the time most people call in a professional organizer, they already have all or most of the containers that they need, unused or under-used. I put all of the empty organizing tools in one convenient place so that every time I or my client needs to contain things, we know exactly where to go.
After I have done that, I start making piles of the objects I cataloged in step 1. I put similar things together: stuff that belongs in the bathroom, stuff that belongs in the linen closet, clothing in one area, papers in another, etc. As I go, I put obvious trash in the bin. An important rule of thumb at this point is TO NOT LEAVE YOUR AREA TO DELIVER LOST THINGS! Yet. That comes later. Instead, focus on just collecting similar things.
This is also helpful if several areas of the home need to be organized. Select one room or location to be the repository of all papers, another for all clothing that is not put away, a third for household supplies, etc. Don’t worry, it won’t all stay there. We’ll address the specific piles later.
Remember when we collected all of the containers into one space? Great, now we can start containing the items! Other than choosing a medium to large box for electronics (most homes have LOTS of cables, power boxes, devices, and headphones), it almost doesn’t matter WHICH container you choose, as you can always select the next size container or simply add another one. In the below image, the clothing from before was all gathered into laundry baskets off-camera.
NOW that you have contained items, it is easy to move that dish of kitchen items to the kitchen, that box of office supplies to the office, and the basket of clothing to the laundry room. You save yourself multiple trips and avoid the temptation to organize a second area of your home before you finish the first! Regain that floor! Reclaim that room! But in fewer trips, while using containers.
4. Condense Now that you have cataloged, collected, and contained your things, it is time to condense your collections. With, for example, the clothing all in one place, it might look like Mt. St. Laundry exploded all over. Never fear, this can also be broken down into smaller units. With everything in one place, you can start to whittle down your collections, one collection at a time. Do you have eight spatulas but only two pans? Three identical pink shirts? Two copies of the same book? Bag or box up the extras to donate. Just be sure to label the bag or box so that you don’t have to waste time opening it up again to figure out what is in there. Once you have removed the duplicates, it is easier to determine which remaining items you really do want to keep, use, store, or display.