You can’t organize a cluttered home by yourself in one day. There, I said it. A crew of professionals can make a huge difference, and there are times when that is the best method for making a change. For this newsletter, however, I am speaking to those of you who wish to organize on your own. The question then arises, “where do I start?”

Presentation1An experienced organizer said to me awhile back that organizing is like an onion, it peels back in layers. You have to start with the outer layer before you can see what is underneath it. So, how would that look for organizing your home? Here is a fictitious scenario, along with a step-by-step solution; each step to be done on a different day, perhaps a week or two apart.

Jeanette has a cluttered garage, where she has been storing things that she is not currently using, most of which are not easily accessible. On top of the pile, there is a usable carpet, which is the wrong color for her family room. Underneath that, there are a dozen boxes of paper records from a now-defunct business. Behind those are her parents’ Christmas decorations that she inherited, some of which (but not all) she wants to keep. There is also a filing cabinet with clothing stuffed in it that does not fit anymore. In front of the whole pile is a large, heavy storage cabinet that she uses for dog food, gardening supplies, paint, etc. She doesn’t care about the cabinet itself…it is not an antique or anything. It’s sturdy, but too heavy for her to move. It’s half empty, because she cannot reach the top shelves. Besides, she doesn’t really need it, because there is enough storage on another wall for the contents. Jeanette can’t get to anything but the dog food, and she is overwhelmed by the size of the pile, so she keeps putting off the project.

Here are the steps for this project. Finish each step before you begin the next, including donating, tossing, or selling unwanted items.

  1. Remove everything from the cabinet, temporarily box up (or bag) what you want to keep, and then immediately get rid of the unwanted items. Sell the cabinet on Craigslist. Think of it this way. Even if you don’t get full value, someone out there has a truck and will pay you to take it away!
  2. Open all of the boxes of Christmas decorations. Sort by keep (ones that will actually use for Christmas, toss (broken or too worn) and donate. Immediately put all of the broken/worn ones directly into the garbage and take the donations away within a couple of days. If possible, get out your Christmas decoration boxes and put the keepers inside, then put the boxes back where they belong. Come Christmas, you will be happy that you did this!
  3. Open the filing cabinet and remove all of the old clothes. Sort by wearable and rags. Many Goodwill or Salvation Army stores will accept rags, as long as you bag and label them as such. Donate them as soon as possible.
  4. Sell the carpet on Craigslist.
  5. Open all of the boxes of business records. Sort by shred or keep, and then take all of the shredding to a shred-as-you-wait place. The best ones will let you watch them being shredded. It’s not that expensive!
  6. File all of the must-keep records into the now-empty file cabinet. Paper is especially prone to damage from critters, moisture/mold, etc., so don’t use cardboard to store papers in the garage.
  7. Arrange the dog food, the gardening supplies and the paint in the partly empty cabinets that are on the other wall, now easily accessible because the floor is clear.

See? The point is that you don’t need to try to organize all at once. Peel back the layers of your onion, one at a time, until you are left with the items that you need, use or love. Now, you get to park your car in the garage and use the proceeds to have a celebration party!

2 thoughts on “Peel Back the Layers; Organizing Step-by-Step

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