The straw that breaks the camel’s back is different for everyone.
Some people just hit a wall. They’re tired of looking around their space day after day and feeling like it’s disorganized and cluttered.
Some people have a “hot mess” wake-up call where they realize they need to get their calendar and systems in order.
I’ve seen clients who deal with major life transitions and events that launch them into clean-up mode such as a loved one passing away, a downsize or move, a new baby, or a kiddo going off to college, leaving you with an empty nest.
And others still, wake up one day with that spring cleaning bug and just get motivated to start organizing and decluttering.
Whatever the reason for deciding to be more organized, it’s an exciting moment when you make the decision to take action to start cleaning out the clutter.
But where do you begin? Where do you even start organizing your life?
Your papers are a mess, your digital files are a disaster zone, your house is in disarray, and your calendar is more cluttered than a junk drawer.
So, where do you start?
This question alone can be enough to frustrate you and stop you in your tracks if you let it. This is why I wrote this blog to help you navigate getting started and staying on track with your big projects and long-term goal of being more organized in your life and home.
My answer to this question is that it depends on who you are and what your personality is. I always tell my professional organizing clients that there’s no wrong way to begin to tackle your disorganization except the way that’s not for you, so ask yourself this:
Are you the type of person who likes to start with an easy task and get a quick win right away?
Do you feel really good when you tackle a big, more difficult project first?
Which one will give you more momentum to move forward? If you get stuck or aren’t sure which one you are, think about something you hate to do in your work and think about what motivates you to start it. You can also try each to see which one works best for you!
For most people, starting with something easy that provides a quick win, will give them momentum to get started.
Now, where to actually roll up your sleeves and dive in?
I always advise my clients to start with whatever is affecting them the most: financially, mentally, or physically.
For example, if your house is completely cluttered, it’s probably going to affect you in all of these areas, so you’d start there. If your digital files or papers are a mess and it’s impacting how you run your business, pay your bills, or file your taxes, you might want to start there. If your overly booked calendar is keeping you up at night and causing you stress, start there.
Begin where the clutter is affecting you most.
Remember, there’s no wrong place to begin, it’s just about what’s right for you. I’ve seen people start:
- In their spare bedroom because it’s constantly nagging at them that they can’t have company with it so cluttered
- With their papers because they can’t think straight or stay organized while working with their current situation
- With the junk drawer in the TV room just to get a quick win
- In their pantry to get rid of things that might impact their family’s health and to make their kitchen space feel lighter and cleaner
- By going through their closet and getting rid of clothes they no longer wear or need
Start in the place that you think about most when you envision your disorganization, clutter, or overwhelm. It depends on where you are in your life and what you have to accomplish.
Where Do I Start Organizing in a Room?
Once you determine where you want to start and which space you want to tackle first, where do you begin in that given space? I always suggest starting with one corner of the room, desk, closet, etc., and working your way around. If I’m cleaning digital files out, I begin in one folder.
Personally, I like to start in a corner and work my way around clockwise. The key is not to jump around and pivot as things distract you and grab your attention, stay focused on small areas at a time.
With your desk, begin on one side of it, or one corner of it, and move your way around. One pile at a time. In your closet, top shelf to bottom shelf, one shelf at a time.
We all know that inevitably when we decide to get organized and are working on our projects, something comes up (because life happens) and we often have to stop in the middle of what we’re doing. If we’ve pulled everything out and thrown it in a heap on the floor or bed, and we don’t get back to it for another week, it’s a recipe for disaster and frustration or discouragement.
This is why I always encourage my clients to break things down into sections and work their way around the space or surface.
A Few More Tips to Get You Started
I often see people tempted to run out and buy all the colorful, fancy organizing products at Staples or The Container Store before they start their organizing efforts. They want everything to be “just right” before even beginning.
As a professional organizer, this might surprise you, but I never purchase organizing products until I purge and sort. I do this for two reasons:
- I want to begin by purging and getting rid of as much as possible.
- I don’t want to buy something I already have, don’t need, or the wrong size and simply end up with even more stuff.
You cannot organize clutter so it’s always important to begin by getting rid of as much as you can. I tend to sort into the following piles: trash, recycle, shred (if paper), or donate. I use black trash bags (or boxes) for donations and white ones for trash to avoid confusion.
Once I’ve gotten rid of all I can, I take a look at what I need as far as organizing products, containers, storage supplies, etc.
Put function before beauty.
It’s more important for a system to save you time, money, stress, and overwhelm than it is for it to be pretty and colorful.
Lastly, don’t let perfectionism get in the way of getting started. It’s OK not to be perfect, and in fact, we never will be, so don’t get hung up on needing to do things in a certain way, have everything perfectly in order, or fit someone else’s version of ideal.
Create solutions and systems that work and are right for YOU and let go of perfectionism. Don’t sit around and wait for circumstances to be just right. The time is now. You can start small and begin organizing your life in the pockets of time you have right now.
Want a little extra accountability as you work on your organization and decluttering?
Still not sure where to get started? Join me in my membership where we focus on YOU living more simply through tangible, practical action steps.
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