While I love solving issues around our house, I like helping others even more. In a recent newsletter, I asked readers to share the biggest struggles around their home. While all the responses were great, one of them instantly stood out because it was such a relatable question. It’s something that I struggle with myself.
Here’s the short note that opened up a lot of thought…
I have a messy, unorganized cluttered house and garage. My issue is I don’t know where or how to start and where to find the time to get it done. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks so much!
I’ve answered a similar question about dealing with overwhelming organizing projects with five different ideas for handling the mental barriers to starting. But the practical question of WHERE to start also deserves some conversation.
First, list the areas that need to be decluttered and organized on the left side of the paper. Then, try to break any large job into more manageable chunks. In addition to making the projects less intimidating when they’re smaller, it also helps with time limitations because you’re no longer trying to finish a full room in one session.
For example, instead of making the garage one area on the list, consider listing zones or groups of items instead, like gardening supplies, tools, sporting goods, etc.
Sometimes it’s even helpful to do this on the move, visiting each room as you list out the smaller zones or categories within them that need some love.
Once your list is complete, circle the three things that are most important to you. Don’t forget to consider which areas you see and use most often as one of your criteria.
As you’ll see below, I quickly realized the kitchen was most important to me. Since all these issues are inter-related and can be solved in one day, I went ahead and numbered my 2nd and 3rd priorites as well.
While my guest room closet upstairs is the most enormous mess we have, it doesn’t impact my day-to-day life. I only see it the times I need to find something that has been stored there. It still desperately needs some attention, but I’m getting everything that affects daily life in order first.
Now, choose one of your three circled areas, and consider picking the one that feels the least intimidating to you to start.
For example, if your three spaces are your bathroom drawers, your garage, and your home office, the bathroom drawers will probably be the quickest fix.
Starting with the drawers, use these organizing tips and when you’re done, the feeling of satisfaction will help motivate you to start your next space! Once you get the ball rolling, the momentum helps you continue.
With one project done, select the next priority area on your list. Let’s say it’s one of those BIG projects like a garage.
That starts another round of WHERE DO I START?
Take some time to look at the space with a notepad. Ask yourself a few questions…
Is there anything large you can sell, donate, or trash?
What categories of items are creating the biggest clutter? (tools, paint, toy , etc)
Would anything make more sense if it was stored in a different area?
What would the space look like in your dream scenario? Would you have more shelving, hooks, etc?
Write out the ways you wish the space worked better for you. The more you can visualize the finished project, the better! Sometimes I even sketch rough photos to help me plan how things will come together.
Once you have a plan, start by getting rid of any of those big items you noted. Freeing up space to move things around as you work is always beneficial.
Once you’ve gotten rid of any larger items, choose one of the sub-categories you listed for the area, and gather all the items from that category that you can into one pile. For example, if you have outdoor toys throughout the garage, gather everything from bikes to baseballs in one section.
Now, go through those items and pick out everything you want to KEEP. Get rid of everything that is left. Consider scheduling a donation pick up so you have a deadline to get rid of the items you no longer need.
Another option is joining a Buy Nothing Facebook group for your neighborhood. It’s a win-win because you can get rid of things as you find them and they are gifted someone nearby who would love to have them. I joined ours last month to see how it worked and now I can’t wait to declutter an area and begin gifting things.
Now that you’ve decluttered one category of items, you have two options depending on your space. If you have room and a vision for the end result, you can go ahead and organize the items from this first category, for example, adding bike racks and designating one zone for toys.
If you haven’t decided on a final organizing system for the room, that’s okay too! You still made progress by decluttering one category, and now you can move onto the next category and follow the same steps.
One you’re done with all the categories, you’ll be able to step back and get a better idea of where everything should go. Not so bad, right?
The process of starting the project on paper gives you the opportunity to envision your dream space before any physical work begins. And it really works!
I was making notes for my kitchen and pantry cabinets as almost a prop to show you examples for this post. Imagine my shock when suddenly I realized how I could rearrange things to make several of our lower cabinets work better for us! I’ve rearranged my kitchen before, but it’s important to remember that organization isn’t a once and done forever thing.
As your lifestyle evolves over time and you acquire different things, reevaluation is important. It works so much better to review what’s working and what’s not every few years and make changes before a mess takes over.
Although, one of the cabinets on my list doesn’t quite close all the way at the moment, so I might have missed that window myself this time. 🙂 But it’s never too late to bring order back and I’ll be getting our cabinets back into top shape this week!
So, keep in mind that you’re not alone, life happens and messes multiply while we’re focused other places. But you CAN make it better and it’s worth it!
For more tips, head over to read about 7 common organizing mistakes next.