How do professional organizers keep their offices and homes clean and welcoming, with everything they need at hand? There are many tricks they use, but these are the essentials. Follow the tips in this article, and you’ll be able to keep your place well organized. These are both individual tips, and a guide for cleaning and organizing.
Build Your Confidence
If you’re not great at organizing, it’s can be easy to get discouraged when you start cleaning up your office or home. Have you ever been cleaning for hours, only to look up and think, “This place is a bigger mess than when I started!” It’s discouraging, to say the least.
So, start with a small area that you know you can clean in short order, even if it’s just the top drawer of your desk or one shelf in your closet. Once you’ve cleaned a few such areas, your confidence and sense of accomplishment will increase.
Cut the Clutter
Art teachers instruct students to start with the larger shapes, and work down to the details. When organizing your office or home, it’s basically the opposite. Clean up the clutter first. That means lots of small things, like junk that has fallen on the floor, small toys, paperwork that has piled up, and so on.
Realize that cleaning up the clutter will take a long time, probably more time than you expect. Give yourself extra time and don’t be too hard on yourself. Take it one area of a room at a time, until you’ve decluttered the entire room. Then, move on to the next.
To Keep or Not to Keep
One tough aspect of clearing the clutter is deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. By get rid of, we mean throw out, donate, sell, or put in storage. Some things will be obvious. Trash goes in the trash. If your area recycles, recyclable items go in their proper bins.
Other items will be more difficult to decide on. Make some rules for the items you’ll find. For example, if you have multiple copies of an item, sell or donate the extras. Each rule can apply differently to different items. For example, you can give extra copies of books or DVDs to friends. Extra copies of bills you can throw out. Old photos that you want to keep but don’t look at often can go in storage, while you may want to keep all of your books (aside from duplicates) on your shelves at home.
Occupy Your Mind
Before we continue, let’s point something out. Organizing is dull work, and it seems to take forever. To keep your mind occupied and help pass the time, we suggest giving your ears something to do. In other words, put on something you’ll enjoy listening to, such as music, an audio book, or your favorite podcast.
Don’t put on a television show or movie. You’ll be tempted to watch, taking your attention away from organizing.
Binary or Group
Here are three methods people use when cleaning clutter. We recommend trying these suggestions, then using the one you like best. You’ll separate things into piles (or piles and one trash bag). Which method you choose will determine how many piles you’ll have at once.
Binary - With this method, you split the clutter into two groups. Start with garbage/recycling for one group, and everything else for the second. Then, separate the garbage and recycling, and take them out. Go back to the remaining clutter. You can then sort it as toys and everything else. Put the toys in a container, and sort the rest, and so on. Eventually, you’ll have everything sorted and put away. This method is just as fast as the next, and doesn’t require a lot of thought.
Group - Separate your clutter into five major groups, as follows. Items in the final group can be put in storage and revisited in a few months.
Give to a friend or family member
Give to Charity
Belongs in another room
Group 2 - You can actually do this step after the other group step, if you like. Again, separate your items into several groups. For example, trash, toys, books, clothing, paperwork. Once that’s done, take on each group to decide what to keep and what will go in the trash, to charity, or into storage. Put away things you plan to keep at home.
With each method, you’ll start with major categories and move down to specifics. “Toys” will become “John’s Toys” and “Lisa’s Toys,” and so on.
Decide What Goes in Storage
We’ve already suggested putting your “unsure” box in storage. As you sort through your items, you’ll find other things that you want to keep and will use in the future, but that you don’t currently have room for. Those can go in storage.
It may be easier for you to approach this from the opposite direction, however. Instead of thinking “What should I put in storage?” think “What needs to stay?” Start with things you use often and absolutely need, and move down to things you need at home but don’t use as often. Eventually you’ll be left with things you may need in the future, but that you don’t need often. That’s what can go in storage.
If It’s Important, Keep It at Hand
When organizing your home or office, make sure those things you need often are in where you’ll see them and in easy reach. Reference materials you use often should be prominent on your bookshelves, and so on. Less-used items can go in drawers or closets.
Here’s a suggestion. We’ve been using the words “clean” and “organize” interchangeably, but when it comes to household chores, “cleaning” has a negative connotation. It sounds dull. “Organizing” sounds a bit more proactive, and a bit more interesting, so you may want to think of keeping your place neat with that word instead.
That said, organize regularly. After you make a mess, whether having a meal, playing a game, or going over paperwork, straighten up. In the very least, put your dishes in the sink (and have a time scheduled to do the dishes later), put the game back in its box and on its shelf, and put your files back in their folders.
Your place will get dusty, so make sure to sweep regularly. Take out the trash when it gets full. Set aside a certain amount of time everyday to organize anything you may have missed. That way, you’ll avoid having a large mess to go through in the future. Don’t put off any organizing unless necessary. It’s too easy to procrastinate, to put a task off until later, and to forget about it.
Now that you have the basic, and best tips from professional organizers, you should be set to get your place in order like never before.