Getting Started Organizing Your Home

An organized home is a wonderful thing. It is so nice to come home after a long day and relax in a calm, orderly space. You’ve worked hard all day and then you walk through the door and there is more work to do. Organizing your home can feel like a huge task; the biggest challenge is often taking the first step.

Pick something easy to start with; don’t start with your garage packed floor to ceiling with sentimental items. Maybe a drawer in your home office, or your bedside table. Don’t forget to take a before photo! Once that small space is finished and you can see your progress you will feel great and have the momentum and inspiration to move on to harder challenges, like a kitchen cabinet.

Feeling overwhelmed is natural, but, I hate to break it to you, this is going to be work. You’re going to have to get over the first hurdle by force of willpower. Sometimes, working with a friend or a professional is the best way to get past that first step. Make an appointment with a trusted friend. This person should be someone who has been to your house before, someone you are comfortable with seeing your home and discussing personal matters. Set your appointment for the best time of day for you, the time of day when you feel most invigorated and mentally alert. It must be clear that this is not a social call; your friend is there to keep you on track and support your progress.

Remember that organizing doesn’t mean throwing everything away. There are some things that are useful or sentimental or that you just love and don’t want to get rid of. These things are okay to keep, as long as they are actually being used, or displayed, or properly stored. Ask you friend to help you make these decisions, and if it’s still too hard, set these items aside and make easier decisions first. As you get your momentum, revisit these difficult items and you will find that the decisions become easier over time.

In my experience, once you get the ball rolling, it can be hard to stop! Don’t push too hard right away. Accomplish small projects first to keep the momentum going and feeling good about your progress. Soon you’ll be on your way to an organized and functional home.

Here are some tips for getting started:

1. Do not buy organizing stuff.
No plastic bins, no shelving units, no cute little baskets. Until you have done most of the sorting and purging, you don’t know what you will need, so spending money on new stuff is counterproductive and wasteful. Also, you may already own those items, so use what you have first.

2. Make frequent trips to the recycling and donation centers.
Get rid of the piles of donate-able or reusable stuff before they get out of hand. This will help keep the space tidy while you are working and help you feel more in control.

3. When you are finished for the day, tidy up.
Even if you are not finished with the project, try to put things away neatly so that you see improvement in the space before the day’s work began compared to after the day’s work is finished. It might not be your perfect “after” photo, but there‘s nothing wrong with a progress photo or two.

4. Be realistic about your ability to sell or consign items.
Not all items that have value are easily saleable. It may be better to donate the items to a homeless or battered women’s shelter and get a nice tax write-off than to spend hours listing them on craigslist.