As a professional organizer, I have been blessed with the honor of helping countless families get their space organized. From studio apartments to fifteen thousand square foot homes, each client’s space is unique. Here are my top five organization tips that help me organize anything!
A few key points before we get started.
- Because these are the rules that I use when training my own staff, I challenge you to take this seriously and consider yourself as an “organizer in training.” You will be more likely to follow each step if you think yourself as the organizer and treat each project within your home as if you were working for a client – which, BONUS, happens to be you!
- Understand the big picture. Your home is one hard working space. It has to be everything for everyone that dwells there. That is a lot of work. Help it out by being clear on what you need from and in each space in order for the lives of those who dwell in your home to function at the highest level. I do this for my clients by mind mapping the entire home.
Let’s take a look at the rules.
1. Set the Intention
I begin every client project with an in home assessment. After discussing the scope of the project with the client, I set the intention to complete the project by blocking out time on my calendar. I schedule time in three-hour increments and make the commitment to show up during that scheduled time, every day or every week, until the project is complete. Set the intention to be the best organizer you can be for you, the client.
- Pay yourself. Come up with an hourly rate, record your hours and send yourself an invoice either weekly or at the end of the project. Then pay yourself. That money is yours to do with as you please. Pay a bill, put it in savings or treat yourself to a spa day. It does not matter. What does matter is that you 1) Understand the currency/cost behind the clutter and 2) Understand the monetary value of your time.
It is important to come up with a plan for the project so that you do not lose momentum, you stay focused, save time and work with maximum efficiency. I refer to this as Macro Organizing.
- Take photos of the space you decided to work on. Make sure to include the empty spaces such as bare walls, flooring, ceilings, doors, items hanging on the walls, builtin furniture, etc.
- Measure everything recording the height, width and depth. Make notes of items such as builtins and include notes that include the number of shelves, whether or not they are adjustable and or removable. Be sure to also record the empty spaces between the builtin furniture as well as the overall size of the space.
- Map it all out – this does not have to be pretty but it will come in handy when you are shopping for supplies. I use graph paper and a pencil to create a rough draft and record my measurements there. I often refer to this when I am shopping for supplies.
Three hours may feel like an eternity until you find yourself in the zone. In order to get the most out of your session, preparing is essential. I refer to this as Micro Organizing.
- You will need containers to hold your donations, trash, recycling and shredding so that you only have to touch them once.
- It is not uncommon for people to want their things to go to specific places. Donations may be sorted by the need of the charity. Items that were borrowed need to be returned to their rightful owner and a cherished possession may be handed down to another family member. To keep your purge piles in order, use handy labels. Laminate them so they can be used over and over or print them as needed.
Limit distractions – Imagine if you hired an organizer and they came to your home with their kids and their pets, took or made phone calls, sent texts, ran all over the house looking for supplies or stopped to make lunch. Don’t be that organizer.
- Hire a sitter or make arrangements for the kids and the pets.
- Put your phone on airplane mode.
- Resist the urge to listen to podcasts, watch tv or even listen to the radio when you work. This is not mindless, brainless, activity. It takes an enormous amount of thought, attention to detail and creativity. Clear your headspace so that you can focus on the task at hand.
4. Gather, Purge and Store
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to get organized is they try to clean, organize and purge all at the same time. DON’T. DO. IT. Just, don’t! Instead, follow the G.P.S method.
- Gather all like things together.
- Purge anything that is not relevant or does not belong.
- Store the remaining referencing your mind map as a guide.
- * If needed, wipe down or dust surfaces as you go but resist the urge to deep clean.
Once you are confident you have all the items that should stored in the space you are working on, the actual organizing begins. This is when your creativity will soar and is a true reward for all the hard work you have already done. Enjoy the process. It is my most favorite step.
- Shop buying items from places like Target, Amazon, Meijer, The Container Store, Dollar Stores, Big Box places like Lowes and Menards, home office supply stores, etc. Don’t be afraid to overbuy. When you start organizing, it will be like having the store right there with you.
- Don’t forget to shop from the items you already have in your home.
- Play around with different systems and containers until you find the one that is just right. You will know it when you have found it when you can achieve a system that is easy to use and easy to maintain.
The importance of Follow Up
Of all the rules in this process, follow-up one is the most important.
- Make sure to Pay Yourself – I know it feels weird but just do it. Writing out that check should be a little painful. It represents the cost of what your stuff, especially stuff that you have either mindlessly accumulated or purchased, is really costing you in time, in energy and space.
- Return what you don’t use. I know it is cute and maybe you can use it and maybe you won’t ever but hanging onto things that you aren’t using is hoarding. Even if you have the space, let it go and trust that it will land where it is needed the most. The best part of overbuying is returning what you don’t use.
- Get those bags, boxes and totes of trash, donations, items to sell, items to return, items to pass along, items you were unsure about but never ended up using, items to shred, out of there. Just do it. (Don’t pay yourself until this is done!).
- Stay up on it. Organizing a space is like painting a room. It is never one and done. You need to tweak, add and move as your needs change, your items change, your waistline changes, etc.
- Repeat. Follow these rules until every space in your home is organized.
Rules are made to be broken. You will not need to follow these rules on every organizing project that you tackle but be sure that you consider each step before making the decision to eliminate. Enjoy the process and if you find that it is something you really enjoy, and would like to help others, that is how most organizers are born. Go to www.napo.net to find out more about professional organizing. You can also book a consulting session with me. In as little as an hour you receive information that will help you explore if becoming a professional organizer is the right step for you.