The Secret to Organizing When You Don't Know Where to Start
Your eyes flutter open.
Still nestled in your cozy bed, you realize today isn’t just an ordinary day. You realize today is…special.
You almost feel… Huh. You’re not sure. It’s been years since you’ve felt this way.
Could it be?
Are you motivated?
Your heart starts to pound. Yes! YES! You’re motivated. REALLY motivated. So motivated that you wonder for a split second if you’ve been body snatched. As you briefly ponder what body snatching even means, you pinch yourself to make sure this isn’t some cruel dream.
All at once, the craziest idea flits through your brain. THIS is the day you’ve been waiting for. Been praying for. This is the day you’re finally gonna tackle your--cue dramatic music--OFFICE.
Well, no one in your family actually calls it an office anymore. It’s actually known as “The Room You Throw Yourself in Front of If Company Shows Up Before You Can Slam the Door.”
Today is the day. THE. DAY! It’s organizing day, baby!
You leap out of bed, shoving children and pets out of your way. You’re ready! You’re finally ready! Sprinting through the house, you smell victory in the air.
You’re gonna show your office who’s boss today. No longer will it mock you. No longer will it hold 250 square feet of your home hostage.
Those craft and office supplies, piles of paperwork, broken toys, outdated phones, and discarded purses? Well, by the end of the day they’ll be begging you for mercy along with all the other crap you’ve tossed in there for the past six months.
Before your family can distract you, you’ve barricaded yourself inside. A chair is shoved under the door knob because your youngest has an uncanny ability to pick locks. You pause to catch your breath.
You’ve got everything you need. Motivation. Heart. Determination. Your right hand reaches out for the light switch. You take one more deep breath and smile broadly in the shadowed room. THIS. IS. IT.
The light flickers a moment as your body turns to survey your future conquest. Finally, the battlefield is bathed in light. Your pupils dilate. Your nostrils flare.
And you realize you have absolutely no idea where to start.
No plan whatsoever.
Shoulders that were straight and proud begin to slump in defeat. Tears fill your eyes. Panic, that scheming miscreant, begins to flood your chest. Negative thoughts bore into your mind. Your soul cries out in defeat. You slowly slide down the wall to your knees.
The day is ruined. Your confidence shattered. How will you face your family? How will you face yourself?
Motivation flattened. Heart broken. Soul sucked clean of joy.
Wanna know a secret? I’ve got the solution. And it’s simple. So. Simple.
Before you can even begin to think about how you’re gonna organize any space in your home, before you start making any decisions about what to keep and how to store it, you’ve got to get like-items together.
THAT’S IT! That’s the secret that’s gonna rock your world! I promise.
Group ALL LIKE-ITEMS TOGETHER!
Now let me tell you how it works.
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Next? Put your bankers boxes together. Yes, sometimes it feels like you need an engineering degree to do so, but hang in there, you can do it.
Third? Rip off some painters tape, stick a strip to each box, and start labeling. Your labels will differ depending on what room you’re working in, but there are a few categories you can pretty much count on regardless of location.
Now? Well, now all you’ve gotta do is pick up the first item that you see and put it in the correct box. Then pick up the second and do the same thing. Then the third and the fourth…see where this is going?
Before you completely write me off, let me tell you why this works:
1. You’ll be able to see exactly what items you have in your space as well as determine the realistic volume for each category of items.
Let’s face it. You’re probably not going to get rid of anything until you see exactly what you have. Getting like-items together FIRST takes away that fear of “But what if it’s my only one?” It also will show you exactly how many duplicates and triplicates you’ve got. I once found 9 brand new jars of peanut butter in a client’s kitchen. NINE. His response? “OMG, I had that on my grocery list for this week!”
2. You’ll be able to think in broad categories instead of individual items.
This will allow you to do the initial sort really quickly because you won’t have to think much. There’s no decision making during this step unless something is glaringly obvious. Your goal is simply to get all of the items in your space sorted. You can also listen to music or, if you’re like me, Friends reruns, while you work because there won’t be any deep thought required at this point.
3. You can stop and start as much as you need to without ever having to backtrack.
Using boxes instead of just piles allows you to walk away without having to worry about having to start all over again. You know you’re gonna get tired. Or a family member will need something from you. Or you’ll interrupted by an email, text, phone call, bathroom emergency.
4. Your space is still functional throughout the process.
As you clear some space, you’ll be able to line the labeled boxes up against a wall, so, instead of digging through a mound of miscellaneous junk, you can go right to the correct category for whatever item you’re seeking. Need your phone charger? Instead of having to crawl under your bed and rifle through dirty laundry and dust bunnies, just head straight to your tech box.
5. It breaks up the organizing process into bite size steps.
This means that instead of looking at the space and feeling like you have to solve every single problem right up front, you work in layers. First layer? Sort all like items together. Second layer? Go through each category and decide what stays and what goes. Layer three? Figure out how and where to house everything you’re keeping. Layer four? Make it cute. Yes, you’re going to touch an item multiple times, but it’s worth it because you’re guaranteed the end product will be a system that actually works.
6. It allows you to ask for help.
How scary is it to think about someone else in your space making decisions about what stays and what goes? Pretty darn scary! Whether it’s a friend, your spouse, or you’ve recruited your kids, sorting items into like categories allows you to employ some manpower without having to worry about losing something precious.
7. Once all of your items are sorted into like-categories and you do move on to the “what to keep” extravaganza, you’ll be able to make faster decisions because you’re only dealing with one category at a time.
You won’t have to make a decision about a pair of shoes one second and then immediately have to make a decision about a pad of Post It notes that’s been dropped in the bathtub. Your mind won’t have to switch gears a million times.
Believe me when I tell you that I get your overwhelm. I understand that panicked feeling. I know what it’s like to look at a space and have absolutely no idea where to start. It happens to me on a regular basis!
This concept of sorting like-items together at the very beginning, though? It takes away the fear. It takes away the uncertainty. And more importantly, it sets you up for success later on.
Need a little extra help? Grab a free sorting categories printable.
Now get to sorting!
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