Do you have big dreams for simplifying and decluttering your home, but don't know where to begin? Well, you've come to the right place! I am a professional organizer and clutter coach, and I'm here to support you through your organizing journey, by sharing the approach I use with all my clients--no matter the client, no matter the space. You, too, can transform your home by following these four easy steps.
Step 1: Prepare
If this is your first attempt at organizing your home, I recommend picking a smaller area that does not contain a lot of sentimental or emotionally charged items (e.g. your entryway or pantry), the reason being that we want to build momentum and strengthen your decluttering muscle. Rather than getting stuck and frustrated with yourself for struggling to let go of things, we want your brain to think, “Hey, I'm making progress here! Let’s keep it up.” As you successfully declutter one space at a time, you will feel empowered to tackle the most challenging of spaces, whatever that may be for you.
Once you have an area in mind, you should also block off time, so that you can have a focused decluttering session.
At the start of this process, you really do not need any special organizing materials other than garbage bags for donating or disposing of items. On that note, it’s also very important to have a plan for how to get stuff out of your house as soon as possible. Here in California, I recommend that my clients put donations immediately into the trunks of their car so they can make drop offs right away. If you prefer to give items away to friends, check what specific items they would appreciate in their home (you don't want to spread clutter, do you?) and communicate your plans to them. For instance, you can let them know that you’re doing a clean out on Saturday and anything that is still in your home by lunchtime on Sunday is going to be donated later that day. If you don't devise an exit strategy, here's what may likely happen: your donation items sit in a corner of your home for months; you begin to wonder what is even in the donation pile and start to rifle through it; you feel obliged to re-evaluate all the donation items even though you already made a decision to let go of the items months ago. Save yourself the headache of second guessing yourself, and make sure to release your donation items into the wild as soon as you can, so that they may find their way to the next home!
Step 2: Envision
Before I begin any project with my clients, I always ask them to take a minute to get in touch with their why, and I encourage you to do the same. What do you envision for your space? How do you want to feel in it? How will the space and the items within it support you in living the most ideal version of your life? The reason it's so important to clarify your vision is because decluttering can be fatiguing, and if you don’t have a clear vision of what awaits you on the other side of decluttering, then you might give up the moment it starts feeling hard. I recommend that you write down your vision for your space in as concrete of terms as possible. To use the entryway as an example, ask yourself how quickly would you like to be able to leave your home in the morning? What items do you need to grab and go? Alternatively, what items seem to always be in your way--do they actually belong in this space?
Once you have clarified your vision, feel free to share it with a friend or consider reaching out to a clutter coach, who you can count on to cheer you on and hold you accountable through this process! The more you share your vision with others, the more likely you are to follow through on this commitment you are making to yourself, your space, and your wellbeing.
Step 3: Edit
Alright, friend! It's time to take a deep breath, make sure that you're properly hydrated, and get to the task of editing. As a professional organizer and clutter coach, I feel that it is my moral obligation to inform you that if you skip this step of editing and go straight to organizing, then you will likely find yourself constantly re-organizing this same space. This is because most people don't have an organization problem. Their real problem is that they have too much stuff. When they do not take time to eliminate the unnecessary crap from their space, then what they end up doing is organizing clutter. And unfortunately clutter has an annoying way of breeding more clutter, which leads many to constantly organize and re-organize. The math is simple and straightforward: less stuff=less maintenance=more peace.
To do a thorough edit, take EVERYTHING out of the storage space in question (i.e. drawer, cupboard, closet, shelf) and group like with like. Doing so achieves two objectives: 1) you undo the "default settings" of the space and start with a blank slate, and 2) you can see where there is duplication and overlap among your things. It’s easier to evaluate your need for something and figure out what you're ready to let go of when you have greater context. Be honest and gentle with yourself, as you say goodbye to items that are expired, broken (and unlikely to ever get fixed), duplicative, and/or do not bring you joy. If you start to feel resistance, revisit your vision for your space to remind yourself of what you stand to gain from decluttering.
Step 4: Organize
Organizing is the act of giving your belongings logical homes, which invite more function and ease to your life. To create a more functional space, establish zones for all the subcategories of items you created during the editing process. Place the most commonly used items in more accessible areas, so you do not ever have to strain to reach for them or put them away. There is so much truth to the saying, "Out of sight, out of mind," so if you do end up having to store stuff in less reachable areas like a high shelf, try to keep the items VISUALLY accessible. For instance, if you are using baskets and bins, label them so you can quickly recall the contents. Another strategy for pain-free maintenance of your space is to organize your items by color. This way, it's not only easy to find an item but also to return something to its designated home once you're done using it.
In this closet, you can see how I've applied these organizing principles. There are distinct areas for all different subcategories likes coats, jackets, and pants. Off-season clothing like heavy sweaters are neatly folded on top shelves. And each subcategory is organized by color so my client knows exactly where to go when she wants to pair light top with denim bottoms.
(Bonus) Step 5: Celebrate
Congratulations, you did it! If it feels weird to celebrate how amazing you are for taking these first steps towards a decluttered life, then call me and I will rave about how incredible you are! I'd love to hear your success stories and hype you up, as you move onto decluttering the next space in your home. Or if you found this process challenging, I am also here to help you break through your blocks. If you are game to go deeper into your decluttering and organizing practice, I am here for it! Book a complimentary phone consultation to see if virtual clutter coaching is what you need to take you and your living space to the next level.