Getting Organized: Spring Cleaning Edition

>> Monday, March 22, 2010

One of my most favorite things to do, in the whole wide world, is to create order out of chaos. Seriously. Organizing stuff makes me happy; so much so that at one point in my life I considered becoming a professional organizer and opening my own business. That didn't happen, but because I care about you and your sanity, I will now share some of my favorite techniques for becoming organized.
You're welcome.

A Disclaimer: This is not a "getting organized the easy way" type post. The fact is, organizing your life is going to take time and effort and staying organized is probably going to require even more effort (but not a lot of time, thankfully). Anyone who claims anything else is being dishonest. Because organizing your home, life and time is a lot of work, we are going to break it down in to several, manageable chunks. It won't be easy, but I promise you'll like the results.

Finding the Motivation
I have heard every reason in the world for leaving things messy and disorganized. I have probably used every excuse in the world, however I truly believe, that there is no good excuse not to be organized. "I just don't have time" is a popular excuse and in this post we'll talk about how to overcome that (incidentally, remaining organized is a great way to catch lost time in your day, but I digress". Another popular excuse is "I'm just not an organized person." Pish posh. All that means, you aren't organized yet not that it is impossible to ever become organized and efficient. Case in point: I am not "naturally" organized; I am naturally a little bit flighty, truth be told. But, I know this about myself and so I work really hard to over come that part of my personality. As I recently told a co-worker, "I am far to flakey to be disorganized." I imagine the same is true for many of us; without careful organization, we'd lose things, forget appointments and generally live very stressful lives. An organized home and life means you can spend time focusing on the most important things. A well organized home and life will save you money and stress. Make this your mantra: "Time and effort now will save me time, energy, money and stress later. " Repeat as necessary until you feel motivated to do the hard work. In the meantime, do the hard work anyway. :-)

Now that you are ready to get started, you may be wondering what to do first. The biggest mistake anyone can make is trying to do everything all at once. You will run out of time, energy and motivation long before you are finished and then you'll be left with the same or a bigger mess than before. So. Step number 1 is:

Choose 1 closet, 1 drawer, or even 1 bookshelf and start there. If you are really, really committed and have a whole day (or more) to devote, you could start with 1 room. But announcing to your family "This Saturday we are organizing this house!" is a recipe for disaster. Start small!

Trust me on this one. Do not begin by going to the Container Store and buying a bunch of baskets. I know, I know. That's the fun part, but if you do that before you know exactly what you need, you'll end up wasting time and money. So resist the urge to shop. Start by sorting. I choose to sort by type. For example, if I was trying to organize my books I'd start by sorting by type/genre. I'm a nerd, so I'd also sort by subcategory (non-fiction biographies etc...) but you don't have to be that picky. Same goes for toys, movies, clothes etc... Establish categories and everything into piles. 2 of your categories MUST be "Donate" and "Toss". Sort, sort, sort, sort. Be brutal. If you haven't used it in several months you can probably donate/toss it. If you have an emotional attachment but don't use it anymore, take a picture. Use this time to get rid of excess stuff! It will be time well spent.

What's left? How will it be used? How often will it be used? Who uses it? Where will it be used? How best to store each item? These questions are important because they will help you to decide where and how to store your items. Things that you or family members will use frequently should be easily accessible, things that are used only rarely can be put away out of sight (that one should be a no-brainer, right?). Who will use something also determines where it goes; your kids toys should probably not be in your bedroom or in the formal dining room because that isn't where they'll be used. So. Ask and answer these questions about each and every item. As you evaluate, consider the types of containers you may need; sizes, shapes etc... MAKE A LIST so that you can purchase the correct items (or find them in your house).

Now that you have sorted your things and evaluated how and where to store everything, give each item a home. Everything must have a home. Nothing goes "where ever" Everything has a home. This is a second mantra to add to the first. Ensuring that everything has a home will make it much easier to stay organized. Everything has a home. Put things away. Labels will help if you have other people in your house who are not as committed to the new, organized environment as you. Say it with me now: Everything has a home.

Congratulations! You are well on your way to getting and staying organized. Keep at it. Tackle another space soon; keep the momentum up! You can do this! You are an organized person! Hooray!


TJDKG March 23, 2010 at 11:26 AM  

my friend showed me this it's a nifty little checklist!

Morgan -Ing March 23, 2010 at 1:37 PM  

Because organization is SO important, I think it is key, as you pointed out, to take it slow, do a corner one day, the office in a week, etc. You will NOT regret getting organized. :) Great post Erin. I love it.

randomblogette March 23, 2010 at 2:17 PM  

Stopping by from SITS! Oh how I love your site. The title speaks to me!

KC Mom March 23, 2010 at 3:23 PM  

Found your blog off of sits...looks great!

Brian and Kelsey March 24, 2010 at 2:10 PM  

I can GET organized... it is the staying organized that I struggle with.

Erin March 24, 2010 at 3:25 PM  

Dearest Kelsey-that's what we're here for! That will be post #3 in the Getting Organized series (post #2 is organizing your time). You may thank me later. :-)

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