I spoke recently at a women’s event, and one of the hot topics of the night was priorities. With so many things clamoring for your attention, how do you determine what is most important? Motherhood? Good nutrition? Exercise?
Personally, I have found that you can’t even start thinking about changing your diet, implementing exercise, or making positive change in your life when you are so surrounded by piles of stuff that you can’t even find your tennis shoes. Getting organized is definitely a priority, and it is something I love to teach. Here is a snapshot of what I teach when I help someone get organized:
Identify all of the different areas you want to organize. I don’t know why, but there is power in extracting all of the “need to organize” projects out of your head and containing them on paper. A good to-do list is the place to start.
Prioritize the projects. I know that sounds obvious, but watch your tendencies. When you reach your limit and you can tolerate the chaos no longer, don’t you find yourself dumping every closet, bin and cabinet…only to look around and realize that you didn’t have time for all of this today? This creates even greater stress and discouragement. Pick the most urgent, in-your-face projects, and start ONE AT A TIME. You might need to exercise a little self-discipline here.
Ask yourself if you can break the projects down into smaller ones. The greatest mistake I see people make as they start to get organized is to bite off more than they can chew at one time. For example, your entire toy room might need an overhaul, but maybe you could just start with one type of toy. Move on to the next one if you have time. Or you may feel the itch to organize the master closet-but just start with your shoes or jewelry, and then see if time will allow you to move on to something else.
Commit to the project by scheduling a time to work on it. Maybe you can begin now, and maybe you need to schedule a time without your kids or after work to really dig into your projects. But let me be honest – my underlying motive in asking you to schedule the project is to create a commitment so you will actually get it done.
These steps come from an organizing system I have co-created with Professional Organizer Keri VanOrman. The word “CREATE” will guide you through the process of organizing any space (except paper. I’ll be sure to cover that in another post.) To get immediate results, follow this Cliff Notes version. Just remember to do all of the steps, and in the right order.
Collect and sort. When organizing any area, you’ll want to first collect any items that pertain to this area from the random places those items have landed. Once everything is collected, empty out the entire cupboard, drawer, or shelf of the closet that you are wanting to organize. Then you sort what’s in there just like you sort laundry. Let’s use the example of a toy bin. You’ll sort Legos, Barbies, Fisher Price Little People, Polly Pockets, and cars all into their own piles. Now you can see what you’ve got.
Release. It’s important to release items you don’t have room for, or items that don’t offer you a lot of value. If you don’t do this step, you’re just reorganizing clutter. Throw away broken parts, and throw or give away incomplete sets. If the Release step is difficult for you, get a friend to give you an objective opinion. When someone is there for accountability, it can suddenly seem a little silly that you want to hang on to that Christmas gift Grandma gave you when you were twelve.
Establish Zones. Here you want to think: Kindergarten room. Remember how everything had a place? Like the art center, reading center, and play center in kindergarten rooms, you’ll want to group all like things together within your cabinet, drawer, or closet. Then decide where within the space it makes the most sense to keep those items. For example, in the pantry you’d want to assign snacks and cereal to a shelf that is within reach of children. Baking supplies and condiments would likely go on a less convenient shelf.
Assign Containers. Stuff needs borders or else it won’t stay put. You don’t have to go elaborate with this. As you can tell from my before and after pictures, I don’t spend a lot on containers. Sterilite totes and baskets are my go-to containers, and generally only cost a few dollars. I especially recommend the shoebox and 15-quart size in the totes. These make great containers in kitchen pantries, closets, and for craft supplies. I love the baskets (in varying sizes) for bathrooms, kitchen cabinets, and toy rooms and linen closets.
Transform. This is where organizing gets fun. You’ve done all the hard work. Now you get to see it come together. Enjoy this phase!
Evaluate. Just because you organized something once, it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. This is especially true when the area you’ve organized is used often, such as a toy room or pantry. Schedule a regular time to restore order to the area. For example, I give my pantry a quick facelift each time I go grocery shopping, and my daughters give the toy room a deep clean each Saturday morning.
So there you have it…simple steps to guide you through the organizing process. Getting organized on any level is a great way to invest in yourself and create Your Best Life. Be sure to check out this link for another important way to invest in yourself!