Well, it doesn’t really work that way. Being organized consists primarily of creating new habits and new habits take time to form. Also, if the organizing includes decluttering your house, rearranging closets or cabinets or, heaven forbid, the basement or the garage, it’s going to very quickly become even messier than it was before you started and that is often enough to make even the most determined organizer throw up her hands in despair and give up on the whole process.
Contrary to popular belief, the first step in getting organized isn’t decluttering. The first step is to figure out what you want the eventual outcome of your organizing plan to be. Do you want a cleaner home? Do you want more free time? Do you want to stop having to spend money you don’t have to buy things you already own but can’t find?.
Once you’ve determined what it is you want to accomplish, then you will know how and where to begin. With your goal in mind, think about the first thing that would help you get there. Let’s assume your goal is to have a cleaner home and spend less time on housework. In order to spend less time on housework, you’re going to want to have less to clean. This most likely means decluttering.
Decluttering can mean anything from cleaning out overstuffed closets and cabinets to removing furniture and décor that isn’t serving a useful purpose in your home. We’re talking about physical decluttering here. We’ll get to financial and time decluttering another day.
Now that you’ve determined that you need to declutter, pick the one area that would be the most helpful to you if it were organized. For example, let’s start with the bedroom closet. It doesn’t even have to be your closet. You can use one of your childrens’ closets as the test for your new idea. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, use the guest room closet. It’s not likely to get messed up as quickly since you probably don’t get into it every day. You want to accomplish two things here. One, you want to begin making good habits and two, you want to give yourself a sense of accomplishment.
Head for the guest room with a large garbage bag, a bin for things that belong in your home, but not in the guest room closet and a bin for things that are usable but not by you—in other words, items to give away, either to other persons who can make use of them or to charity. Resist the temptation to give things to your friends who also have clutter issues. You are not accomplishing good things if you enable someone else’s bad habits. Oh, and if you’re a borrower, you may also need a bin for borrowed things that need to be returned. Don’t mix these with the giveaways—you may find yourself in hot water if you give away things that aren’t yours to give.
There are many different ways of doing this. For closets, I like to sort as I remove things. As you take each item out of the closet, make a decision about it. If it’s something that should be kept there, create a pile for it away from everything else and out of the way of your cleaning. If it’s trash, a giveaway or belongs elsewhere, put it in the appropriate receptacle. Once everything is out of the closet, dust the shelves, vacuum the floor and pat yourself on the back.
Now take a deep breath and look at what you have in your “put back” pile. Is it too much for the space? Is it stuff you really need—and is this closet the best home for it? If you need to pare down the pile, go through it all again, just like you did when you were removing it from the closet.
Now, you have an appropriately sized put-back pile. Assess your space and decide how you want it arranged. If you have smaller items that would store better in bins or boxes, go see what you have on hand. An old shoebox, an unused plastic container, small shipping boxes that you didn’t throw away when the package came—these will all work.
Despite my great affection for all things Rubbermaid, getting organized does not mean blowing your budget on storage containers. Spare containers you happen to have around the house—or even plastic bags (preferably see-through) will work in the beginning. If your storage boxes aren’t see-through (most of mine aren’t), tape a label to the front, so you know what’s inside. I often use Bankers boxes for storage and I create paper labels, either with a broad-tip marker or the computer so I can avoid having to sort through all 20 boxes in the basement to find what I need.
Neatly place your put-back items on the closet shelves. You may be exceptionally good and have empty space left in the closet. Space is good. Resist the temptation to fill the empty space. The space does not mean that your clutter isn’t clutter and shouldn’t be given the boot. It just means that you now have room for your guests to use the closet when they come to visit. Imagine that—a guest room closet that is actually usable by guests. What a concept.
Now, close the doors and step away from the closet. Your work is done. Take your garbage bag immediately to the trash. Don’t look in it, don’t ponder on it, just throw it away. Take your give-away box to the car. If you’re going out to run errands, you can just stop by the thrift store and drop it off, removing all temptation to just “think about it” for a while. Finally, take the “put away” box and put those things away in the places that they really belong.
Doesn’t that feel good? You are on your way to becoming organized. Tomorrow you can clean out the rest of the guest room and you’ll have one completely organized room in your home. The trick, of course, is keeping it that way.