Do you ever pick up a magazine with a flashy title such as “How to Get Organized This Weekend”? The photographs show beautiful, color coordinated rooms with perfect spaces for every item.
They are supposed to inspire, but frequently they leave us with a feeling of “I can never do that.” My advice is, don’t even try. Most of the magazines “stage” the results, often without including the items that were originally in the space. Furthermore, many of them are more focused on selling products than they are on giving practical instruction for how to get organized. I recommend people follow the same approach to organizing all spaces:
Empty the space
Yes, this makes a mess. But it will always get worse before it gets better. It is absolutely necessary to get your belongings out where you can see them so that you can organize them. It is wise to try and identify a location where these items can stay throughout the duration of the project. It is also helpful to have a table (such as a card table you set up) to use as your reviewing table for the next step.
Sort your stuff
Items need to be brought to your sorting table for review. Items need to be sorted into the following categories, which fit the acrostic R.E.D.D.S. It is a good idea to have at least one box or bag for each category. Empty laundry baskets, cardboard banker boxes and bags with handles are all good tools. Label each container – it can get confusing as you start sorting!
- RETURN. These are the items you wish to keep and which you would like to return to the space from which they have been removed. (You may need more than one box to hold these items if you are organizing a large space. If this is the case, designate a holding area in the room).
- ELSEWHERE. These are items that have ended up in the wrong part of your home or office. For example, the hammer you brought in from the garage three months ago which got stashed in the kitchen drawer before a party. At the end of each sorting session, carry the elsewhere box around your home and put things back.
- DONATE. These are items you are willing to part with which can still be of use to someone else. If you need help on knowing where to donate items, check back to Project Life for a future article. Another alternative, especially if you have a lot to donate, is to schedule online for a pick-up by either the Vietnam Veterans or the Salvation Army.
- DISPOSE. These are items that neither you nor anyone else want. Some might be simple garbage that you can pitch in the trash can, while others might require special disposal. For example, batteries and printer cartridges can be recycled. Hazardous materials such as used paint and old medications need special handling. Paperwork with personal information should be shredded.
- STORE. Many times we want to keep items but we don’t need to access them on a daily basis. Perhaps we have an old shirt that has sentimental value but is out of fashion. Or we have a stack of paperwork we need to keep for tax purposes, but which we don’t need cluttering our prime storage drawers. These items can be moved into boxes, labeled, and moved to remote locations such as basements, attics, crawl spaces, high closet shelves, or under beds.
Reload the space
Here is where you may find it helpful to do some shopping for bins, boxes, shelving, etc. to help you maximize the space and get organized. If it is a public space, such as a desk, you may also consider adding decorative elements such as paint or artwork.
Do not begin with shopping. Make shopping the last step. You should wait until you see what you actually have left to organize before spending money on products.
It is always a good idea to start small when learning a new technique. Perhaps begin with an overstuffed drawer or a small closet. As you practice, this approach will become easier, and you will be empowered to tackle organizing all of your spaces with success.