Organizing: getting started

Here's some keys to getting started organizing that help me every time:
  1. Choose where to start. Sure, the ultimate goal is probably to have a clean, organized house, but that starts in a small space. Even the most efficient of professional organizers couldn't tackle a whole house in the small amount of time usually available to busy adults. Start with a small space that could be finished in, say, an hour block of time. Starting small with a drawer or a not-all-that-cluttered end table will assure you see the project to the end, helping get the hang of what works and keeping motivation.
  2. Get inspired. Look for photos of other people's organized spaces in a home magazine, on Aparment Therapy or Real Simple, or in a Google search. Whether you're working in the kitchen cupboards, a bedroom closet, or an office desk, there's plenty of inspirational photos to help get a good clean visual in mind before facing your own cluttered spot. Just like marathoners must visualize the finishline, organizers must visualize a clean, uncluttered, simplified space.
  3. Gather supplies. Think for a moment about the space and what materials needed. Don't buy baskets and specific organization tools until there's a better idea of what stuff will be kept and what needs a spot. Rather, this is where you need sticky notes or note cards and tape, boxes/bags for the stuff you'll be getting rid of, and a tub for the stuff you're keeping for which you'll need to buy storage containers.
  4. Begin and purge. Pull everything out of the space and spread it out to see it better, or make decisions on things as they're pulled out. Just make sure nothing is left unconsidered. Keep what's truly useful and in working condition, give away only the unneeded/unused items you'd feel comfortable passing onto a friend, and toss everything else.
  5. Repeat after me: "I am an indepent adult whose selfworth and identity is not found in stuff. I am capable of making decisions on my own and cleaning up my life." It doesn't matter what part of the house I am going through, there is always some item that stumps me. Either an item that belongs to my husband or a gift I feel guilted to keep or a collection of sentimental items that cause me to spend as much as an hour getting lost in years long past. When that time comes (it will come), repeat the above and move on. If it truly isn't mine to get rid of, then I put it in a box that I will specifically ask my husband to go through later that evening. If any item brings about guilt just thinking about getting rid of it, that tells me it needs to go. Items I really want to keep make me feel happy, not guilty. And, if the same sentimental items keep holding me up everytime I organize an area, I either deem them worthy to keep and store them safely in a keepsake chest devoted to that purpose. Or I toss them, because no one should spend that much of their time living in the past. Yearbooks, a couple cards that make me laugh out loud, some photos... that's sufficient to share with my kids and others who I was and where I've come from. Anymore than that and I begin to wonder what part of my past is so important to distract me from the present.
  6. Put it away. Depending on the space being organized, there should be less to put away. Things were either tossed or given to someone that could use it, and remaining are items that will be used. Put things away purposefully. Use a temporary shoe box or tub if necessary. The goal is make everything visible (or at least labeled) and readily accessible. Make a list of organizers that might make this easier. Think outside of the box too. Instead of a junk drawer in the kitchen, I keep a behind-the-door shoe organizer inside my hall closet to store small peices like batteries, magnets, lighter, buttons and other loose ends.
  7. Make it pretty. Purchase any organizers needed and put things away purposefully. The goal is neat and clean. Enjoy the open space and save decorating for another time.