For many years, I lived in a one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. Visitors often commented on how neat it was, and how organized I was. I loved the look and feel of my organized space, and how well it fit my needs. When it was time to sell that apartment, my realtor told me I was the only client she’d ever had who didn’t need to declutter first. You might think that I would have carried my organizational talents and tendencies into my new home. But I didn’t. It wasn’t just a new home that I got, but a new life. I went from a small apartment to a big house, from the city to the suburbs, from single life to marriage and motherhood, all in just a couple of years. My dreams had come true, but it was all a bit overwhelming. And while I was adjusting to my new life, I let my organizing systems slide. Serious disorganization set in after I had my second child and we moved into our second house, all in a six week time frame. I felt terrible. How could my house be so disorganized? I knew I could do better, but I was exhausted and overwhelmed. The road back to my former, organized state seemed very long and hard. The turning point came when I gave up on the idea that I had to fix everything at once. When I accepted that I could make progress in smaller increments, and that it would be OK if getting back on track took some time, everything changed. I set off on my journey back to an organized home, knowing that it might be a long trip, and being okay with that fact. It relieved a tremendous amount of stress, and actually freed me to move forward.
Today I have safely arrived at “Destination Organization,” as Aby calls it. The clutter is under control, and my house works much more efficiently. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in your home, here are some tips that helped me as I set out on my journey and also to stay the course.
Begin with small projects that have a big impact.
I started in highly visible spots, like the kitchen counter, because those areas were constant, nagging reminders of my disorganization. It didn’t take a lot of time or effort to bring some order to those areas, but this progress made me feel much better and motivated me to keep moving.
Match your expectations to your situation.
It wasn’t too hard for a naturally neat person like me to keep a small apartment ultra-organized. But my house was bigger and home to more people, including young children who were busy playing, exploring, and learning—exactly what I wanted them to be doing! Yes, my house needed to be organized, but not to the extent my apartment had been. I aimed to cut the clutter and make my space work for my family’s needs.
As a formerly organized person, I had a pretty good idea of how to organize my house, once I finally began. Even so, I found that getting help really speeded me along. For me, that help came from simplify101. The classes inspired me to take on more spaces and bigger projects; the forums gave me virtual friends who provided encouragement and good ideas. Together, they made my journey faster and more fun!
Do small tasks right away, and do them all the way.
I made a conscious effort to stop putting off small tasks. In a similar vein, I made a point of doing those tasks completely. For instance, instead of tossing a sweater on my bed to put away later, I took a few extra seconds to put it back in the drawer where it belonged. The cumulative effect of these habits was huge.
Block out some nightly organizing time.
We started Family Cleanup Time, immediately after dinner. Before the kids headed upstairs, we all made sure their toys and books were put away. The investment of just a few minutes every night meant that the messes never got out of control, alleviating my former overwhelmed feelings.
Make it easy for kids to put their things away.
In my house, this meant two things: lots of open bins (so it was quick and easy to toss items in) and minimal sorting (the train stuff all went in one bin, for instance—we didn’t bother separating the tracks from the engines). These are the steps that put me on the path back to an organized home. Your path might be different, but the important thing is to take those first steps!
What has helped you get started on an organizing project? Please share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear!