Finally! It’s time to actually DO some organizing! If you haven’t reviewed the See It and Map It steps in January’s article (Get Ready! Get Set! Get Organized!), I urge you to take a few minutes to read that information. See It and Map It are foundational to your organizing success.
The following system I’m going to share with you might sound too good to be true—too easy. Let me assure you that notwithstanding its simplicity, it works! These are the same steps I and my colleagues at Clear & SIMPLE™ as well as other Clear & SIMPLE™ Certified professional organizers around the country use with our clients; you can remember them with the acronym S.T.A.C.K.S.© They were developed by Marla Dee and have helped thousands of professional organizers and clients over the course of years to bring clarity to space, time, paper and life. As you follow the Clear & SIMPLE™ Systems© of See It. Map It. Do It.© and S.T.A.C.K.S.©, you will gain greater confidence in your ability to organize and you might even LIKE it. No kidding! Follow the steps outlined below IN ORDER so that doing your organizing projects is simple and easy!
Sort: All organizing projects, from kitchens to garages, start with a sort. When you sort, place like items together. MAKE NO DECISIONS as to whether or not you will keep something. Let me say that one more time: MAKE NO DECISIONS. Just sort! Unless you come across wads of chewed gum or other obvious garbage, you don’t have to decide what to keep or throw away at this point. The benefit of beginning with a sort is that you will be able to see exactly what you have. To make this step easy and effective, you will need the following supplies:
- Banker’s boxes to contain your piles (available at office supply stores)
- Super sticky Post-its to label each box
- A black Sharpie marker
Every time you come across a new category, place the items in a banker’s box and label with a Post-it. When you complete your sort, you can place the lids on the boxes and stack them against a wall to await the next step: Toss.
Toss: This step is the one we most often associate with organizing: getting rid of stuff! During this step, you get to decide what to keep, donate or throw away. Go through each of your boxes ONE AT A TIME. For each item, ask yourself—
- Does this support me in my life today?
- Do I love it?
- Do I need it?
- Do I have room for it?
If the answers to these questions are no, let it go! As you release things that no longer serve you, you will create a home that contains only the things that you truly use and love. The “T” in Toss is also the “T” in trust. Trust that as you let go, you will create room for new things to come into your life. Prepare for some magic!
Because this step tends to be the most emotionally draining, make sure you do the Toss at your high energy time of day. Don’t try to make decisions when you’re sick or tired!
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Assign: Find the best homes for your remaining possessions according to their use. Doing this is easier if you divide your home into activity/usage zones. To illustrate the idea of zoning, think of a kindergarten classroom where each area of the room has a designated function: there’s a reading zone, a craft zone, a painting zone, a quiet zone, and so on. As your create zones within your home, try to work within your current practices. For example, if you always put your mail on the kitchen counter when you bring it in, create your incoming paper/mail zone in that area. By working with your current habits as much as possible, you will more likely maintain your zones. You may have to create some new organizing habits, but make it as easy on yourself as possible!
After you have created zones, you then get to decide where items will go within the zones. To use the kitchen as an example, you might have a dish and dishwashing zone in your kitchen, and you will decide where to put the plates, the bowls, the glasses, the silverware, etc. I’d like to issue a specific Assign challenge: seriously consider leaving televisions and high activity items out of the bedroom, particularly your child’s bedroom, so it can be a place to connect and rest without the influence of the outside world.
Contain: Choose the best containers for your favorite or often used items. Containers should reflect your personality as well as be practical for the items they contain. For example, don’t place chemicals in baskets, even if the baskets look great. They won’t for long! Remember to measure, measure, measure! Measure your piles, shelves and drawers and record dimensions so container shopping is easy!
Another great containing tip is to make sure you leave open space. In any container, try to leave about 25% of the container empty to accommodate growth. There are few things more frustrating than organizing an area, getting it gorgeous and then having to rearrange the whole thing because there’s no more room in your containers. If you’re looking for some great containing ideas, visit thecontainerstore.com.
Keep It Up: Remember that organizing is a process. You will likely have to revisit your space and systems periodically to ward off the accumulation of clutter. An easy way to make this step effective is to label. Have you ever asked someone else in your family to put something away and gotten the blank stare that says, “I don’t know where AWAY is?” Labeling ensures that everyone knows where things go. That way, you’re not always the one who has to put things away! What a concept!
Keep It Up applies to time and routines as well as space. Use weekly check-ins with your family or partner to discuss current needs and set aside a time each week to restore your home.
Simplify: Always leave open space in your home and your calendar. Trust having less and be willing to let go. Only bring into your space the things that you love, that support you, that you have room for and that you can honestly afford. Following this practice will help you feel free and abundant!
Is that great? There are the steps to organizing! I hope you feel a sense of empowerment and relief at knowing that you can apply these same steps to every organizing project you undertake, whether it’s paper or time or space. Now off you go! Use these steps on a small project to begin with so you have a chance to practice the system on a project that’s totally manageable. You might start with your purse or your briefcase or a desk drawer. Then choose a medium-sized project (2–4 hours). Then move to a large project (4 hours or more). And let it be enough for this WHOLE YEAR. If you’re so inspired after your first three projects that you want to do more, God speed. If not, you’re three steps ahead of where you started! Good for you!
Next month, we’re going to talk about organizing with kids—one of my all-time favorite topics! Until next time, happy organizing!