Ready to start organizing your home, but don’t know how to begin?

There’s no right way to organize your home. Whatever strategy you choose just has to work with your lifestyle, habits, and tastes. But there are a few tried-and-true strategies that can enhance the effectiveness of any system. From being aware of clutter hot spots to identifying red flags that your organizing method isn’t working, we learned some smart approaches to getting organized from the pros so you can save the time, money, and stress that come with living in a den of the disorder. 

Everyone has a little “junk” lying around the house. OK, some of us may have more than a little. Regardless of how much stuff we have, we can all benefit from decluttering our lives and homes. According to Psychology Today and Web MD, people tend to feel like life is out of control when they surround themselves with more things than they can manage. The mess causes stress. If you’re not taking care of the clutter in your home, you may not be taking care of yourself either.

In our ridiculously thorough decluttering how-to, you’ll learn how to declutter any space in your home using organizing ideas and decluttering tips straight from the experts.

Grab a few ideas for starting your house organization process to clean and declutter your space for good!

When is clutter a problem? For many people, clutter can be an energy zapper, or they waste inordinate amounts of time looking for things they can’t find. In extreme cases, people may suffer from obesity or depression when a life of consumption extends beyond “stuff.” In hoarding situations, a house full of clutter can cause fire hazards and other health complications when mold and dust are present. But extreme cases re not common.

What is clutter? Clutter is anything you’re keeping around your house that doesn’t add value to your life. Decluttering is all about making room in your home for the things that matter.

Why should I declutter? Many people enjoy decluttering because it relieves stress by providing a sense of control and accomplishment. For others, getting rid of the junk frees up a little extra space in the house that wasn’t there before. Some people may just need to purge before they move to a new house. Whatever your reason for decluttering your life and home, this ridiculously thorough guide will help you through the process.

SET GOALS

Before you get started, make a plan. No matter how many rooms or how much clutter you have to get through, starting with specific goals will help you create a plan that will reduce any frustration as you go. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started decluttering your home:

  • Write down or make a map of all the rooms and ‘clutter hot spots’ you want to tackle.
  • Give each space a grade based on the severity of the clutter. For example, on a scale of 1 – 3 (3 being the most cluttered), a particularly messy room or closet would get a 3. This will help you prioritize your time.
  • Do one room or one space at a time.
  • Set completion dates for each phase of your cleanup. Be sure to pick dates that are attainable, so you don’t get frustrated. If you make it into a declutter challenge for yourself, it may feel a bit more like a game.
  • In addition to completion dates, you should plan time to work on specific areas when you expect to declutter those spaces to take longer than a few hours, such as a basement or a garage.

REMEMBER THE 3 R’S

To get and keep things in order, use these guiding principals in each room of your home:

  • Reduce what you have. It’s the most direct path to efficient organizing.
  • Be Resourceful. When you have less, you find more creative ways to use your belongings.
  • Be Resilient. If you find you don’t have something you need, don’t get bent out of shape or rush out to buy more.

garage sale

TAKE EVERYTHING OUT OF THE SPACE.

You know what they say: sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better! That is often the case with organizing. I find that it helps to start with a blank slate. Clearing out the whole space always helps me to see what I have, assess my storage needs, and really make the most of the space.

Your storage spaces are the place to begin organizing. Once you dive deeper into your house, you’re going to be doing a lot of decluttering and rearranging of items. Organize your storage spaces first so that when you find appliances, clothing, shoes, books, and papers that need a place to go, you’ll have a place for them. And it will be neat, tidy, and clutter-free.

Think of it like this: Before you unload groceries, you’ve got to create space for them to go into the fridge. Before you load the dishwasher, you’ve got to unload the dishwasher.

Start with a project that you can easily complete, like a junk drawer. Then, move onto a hall closet or a zone in your basement. Break larger spaces up into smaller areas. For instance, in your basement or attic, tackle one corner, then another. Or one box at a time.

Shared spaces should be organized next because they are the most trafficked areas in the home. Start with the kitchen, followed by the foyer, living room and bathrooms.

A big plus to organizing these areas is that if you live with others, they will start to see these spaces organized. Next, they will start to expect these places to be neater, which will prompt them to be neater. They may even join in to help you organize. Or they may begin working on their own personal spaces like bedrooms and home offices. Whether they notice or not, organizing is decluttering, sorting, and finding a home for your objects, so before you begin working in shared areas, tell your roommates or family precisely what you’re doing, and let them collaborate on the best places to store shared items.

For example, if you have children, let them help you to pick out a storage space for their toys in the living room. As long as you can live with their decision (i.e. it’s in a corner, and not in the middle of the room), go with it. They will feel a sense of ownership over the project, making them more likely to work with you, not against you.

But, if your fellow house dwellers are resistant, go ahead with your plans. Just make sure they know what goes where when you are done.

MAKE IT EASIER TO PUT THINGS AWAY.

It always surprises me how difficult people make organizing for themselves. Make everything a one-handed operation. For example, don’t hide your laundry basket in the back of the closet. Instead, use an open bin that you can throw your clothes into from across the room. And avoid lids at almost all costs. Using open containers for things you use often like toiletries and cooking supplies makes it easier to put them away. This advice even applies to garbage cans. Brown recommends investing in one with a lever you can step on to pop the lid open. The fewer steps, the better the organizing system.

START SMALL WITH ONE LITTLE AREA.

It could be a closet, cabinet, table or coffee table. It will amaze you how good you will feel getting just one little area done and how it will invigorate you to do more.

Start on smaller spaces like linen closets, laundry rooms, guest rooms, and mudrooms. These small spaces often get short shrift because they are not very exciting. Yet, having them organized can make your home a more efficient place.

For example, if you have guests coming to visit, having an organized linen closet will make your life a whole lot easier. It will make your guests’ visits easier for them as well.

You’ll be able to locate extra linens, toiletries, and bathroom supplies, and if you’re not around, they can grab these supplies themselves. Likewise, an organized laundry room will make that chore easier by placing the soaps and tools you need front-and-centre.

ELIMINATE CLUTTER HOT SPOTS.

Flat surfaces like your dining room table, entryway table and kitchen counters tend to accumulate piles faster than any other spot in the house to make clearing all flat surfaces part of their nightly routine—right along with washing their face and brushing their teeth. But if that doesn’t work, her last-ditch trick is to block any surface that has become a clutter haven physically. For instance, if you put a flower arrangement in the middle of the dining room table and set it with placemats, you’re sending the message that the space is no longer a dumping zone. 

home gym with equipment

PURGE LIKE CRAZY!

Be ruthless. Seriously. If you haven’t used it recently, throw it away or donate it. If it’s broken, you don’t need it anymore. If it’s stained or worn out, get rid of it. The more you can get rid of, the less cluttered your space will feel. You have this beautiful blank slate in front of you; you only want to put back what is absolutely necessary!

Donate or Freecycle: You can rest easy knowing that something you no longer need is going to a good home. Clothes, shoes and other household items in good condition can be donated to a number of local charities. Or try posting to freecycle.org: You post what you want to get rid of, and people come to get it. Your trash can be another man’s, or woman’s treasure – but if you’re donating, check out the charity’s donation guidelines before dropping off your items. 

Once I even cleaned out our master closet twice in two months! When I went to do it the second time, I didn’t think I would get rid of much since I had just organized everything, but I surprisingly ended up with a few more bags of stuff to get rid of! I have a tendency to hold on to things because I think I might need them “someday,” but in reality, I use a lot less of my stuff than I realize. And if I’m not using it, it needs to go!

Recycle: Recyclable glass, plastics and paper can go straight into your recycling bin if you have curbside pickup. Otherwise, put your recyclables in bags so you can transport the waste to the nearest recycling drop off location.

Have a Garage Sale: If you’re up to the task, you may be able to make a little money off your clutter by having a garage sale. Check to see if your neighbourhood or homeowner’s association has a designated garage sale date. Just make sure you begin your declutter process early enough so you can participate – you’ll get more foot traffic that way.

Rent a Dumpster: This is an affordable, stress-free option, especially if you have a lot to get rid of or larger household items you’re throwing away. We happen to be able to help with this one – we’ll deliver the dumpster to your house, you fill it up, and we haul it away. It’s that simple. 

Check out this post about Garage Storage Ideas

DON’T BUY STORAGE CONTAINERS UNTIL YOU’VE PURGED.

When people want to get organized, the first thing they usually do is run out and buy storage supplies, but that’s actually backwards. The point is to evaluate why you have so much stuff, to begin with—not find new ways to house your junk. You won’t have any idea of what you really need in terms of containers or shelving until you’ve purged. While deciding what to keep and what to toss, always remember the “80/20 rule.” It’s the theory that most of us only use 20 per cent of what we have. That’s a good starting point to realizing you are surrounded by a lot of things you probably don’t need. Plus, not only will slimming down your stuff save you money on storage supplies, but it’ll save you the headache of going through excess items in an emergency or last-minute situation. 

CREATE A SORTING SYSTEM

Take your categorized items and find a way to store each category neatly and in a way that is easily accessible. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a bunch of fancy bins. I always start with what I have in my house. Get creative. I’ve used shoe boxes and diaper boxes wrapped in pretty paper to store things in some spaces. Add pretty tape to otherwise boring bins. Getting organized (in a pretty way!) definitely does not have to be expensive!

As you go through the rooms and spaces in your house, you will need a system for sorting the items you find. You can create your own method or use one of the most popular organizational tips: the “Three-Box Method.” This method forces you to make a decision item by item, so you don’t end up with a bigger mess than the one you started with.

To take it one step further, I often put bins inside of bins. This helps control the clutter even more because each item has a specific spot. I know when I take it out and use it, it has its own space to go back to, and I’m more likely to put it there.

SORT SMARTLY.

When you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and take on an organizing project, follow these steps to restore (and keep!) order: First, do it in one shot. Set up a staging area, like the dining table, then empty whatever you’re organizing so you can spot doubles, giveaways, and must-saves fast. Then use organizers like clear containers and baskets without lids so you can quickly access what’s left of your pared-down collection. Lastly, label everything—even if you think you’ll remember, mark boxes and bins with easy-to-read descriptions, so there’s no second-guessing later on.

TRAIN YOURSELF TO PUT THINGS BACK IN THEIR SPOT.

Once everything is organized and back in place, the only way that it will stay that way is if I get in the habit of putting things back where they go as soon as I am finished with them. Honestly, this is a challenge for me. My silly side tends to leave materials and half-finished projects lying around everywhere! I work hard to create solid organizational systems, though, so if I want to maintain them, I have to commit to returning items to their place when I’m done.

Depending on your family, you might have to have more than one drop zone for various items. Walkthrough your home and identify items that are cluttering things up.

garage wall with tools and sports equipment

DON’T BE AFRAID TO TWEAK IT.

Finally, don’t be afraid to change systems that aren’t working. There have been instances where I have spent a lot of time setting up a system and making it look pretty, but when it came to day to day use, it just wasn’t practical or workable.

One time I was organizing under our sink, for example, and I stacked boxes on top of one another. It looked like a neat pile, but it was a pain to get to the ones on the bottom, so I just wouldn’t use those items, or I would make a big mess trying to get to them. When I realized that my system wasn’t working, I was able to replace the boxes with drawers that I could easily pull out to retrieve what I needed, and it worked much better. Don’t be afraid to reassess and fix those broken or annoying systems.

START PLANNING YOUR DAY THE NIGHT BEFORE

This is an absolute game-changer in the organization department for me. Before I go to bed each night, I go through my to-do list and identify what did and didn’t happen for the day. Move the unfinished items to the next day and celebrate the finished items! Then, I kind of go over what I need to do the next day and mentally sort out when I will do each item. 

The biggest takeaway from this – don’t go to bed until you’ve planned out your to-dos for the next day! You will wake up feeling so organized and ready to take on the day.

It’s too much to reinvent the wheel every day. Instead, create systems that support your newly organized life. Make Wednesday bill-paying day. It will avoid paper pile-up on your desk, and make it easier to remember. If you forget one week, when the next Wednesday rolls around, you’ll have a sense of urgency to do it. And then, you can relax the rest of the week because you’ll know you have a set time to pay bills.

GET THE FAMILY ON BOARD

This is not a one-person (or woman) show. I’ll admit, I do most of the organization around our home, but I definitely get our kids involved too! And my husband is great about helping out where he sees a need.

WORK QUICKLY

This is a job that needs to be done and not a time to walk down memory lane. Looking through vacation pictures and reading every bit of paper you pick up is a no-no. Glance at it and toss or store it. Don’t forget that you don’t need ten pictures of the same pose of a dolphin jumping in the air. It is not a sin to throw out a picture. If you must, keep just one picture or better yet throw them all out, and when you want to see a picture of a dolphin in the air, go to the library or find one on the Internet.

So that’s my method. Sure, different areas of the house may call for different types of bins or dividers or shelving, but as far as the actual organizing goes, this is the system I follow for just about every project I do, and it has seemed to work well so far!

When you feel like everything is unorganized, I know it can be totally overwhelming to try and bring it all back to order. But if you attack one small area at a time and follow these simple steps, you really will start to see progress more quickly than you think! (Plus, there is no better feeling than the satisfaction of having a freshly organized space!)

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