How to Get Organized: Start Small

Updated: Apr 6

Have you ever looked at your clutter and thought (or yelled):

"I feel so overwhelmed!"

"I don't know where to start!"

"This is too hard! I can't do this!"

I hear at least one of these from nearly everyone who comes to me for help with decluttering and organizing help.

I have a confession: when I first look at a room (or whole house) full of "stuff," I get overwhelmed...and I've been a professional organizer for years!

But it only lasts for a moment - it really is true when I say, "The bigger the mess, the more excited I get!" because I immediately step out of overwhelm and get excited for what's about to happen.

I'm no superhero...I just have both mental and organizational strategies to help me immediately move from organizing overwhelm to excitement:

  1. Break the space into small, bite-sized, doable chunks.

  2. Look at categories in the space and choose one small, simple one to focus on.

  3. Don't think about where things are going to go or how things will be organized until I ONLY have what I need, want and love in the space.

While I may decide to tackle an entire kitchen, I don't look at it as an entire kitchen. I choose one small area, then break that area into categories.

This makes it completely doable - no anxiety needed!

I might start with quickly clearing one counter so I have space to organize, then take all the spatulas and choose my favorites.

Then I might take all the paper bags (from all over the house if possible) and make my little paper bag holder, recycling the rest.

Then I might take all the plastic utensils and see if I actually want any of them. I'd donate or toss the rest.

I'll show you how I do this in two different ways: by category or by space.

Organizing By Space

Here's a tupperware drawer I did with a client-friend:

To do this we:

  1. Cleared space on the counters (ALL of them so we'd have plenty of room)

  2. Took out ALL the tupperware and measuring cups (including ones in the fridge and dishwasher)

  3. Matched the containers to their lids

  4. Threw away lids and containers with no match

  5. Chose favorites

  6. Put the rest in a donation box

  7. Organized them in a way that would be easy to put things away and easy to find.

Organizing By Categories: One Bite at a Time

To look at an entire room, house or garage and think, "I have to do the whole thing at once!" is like like looking at a giant plate full of food and thinking, "I have to put ALL this food in my mouth at once!"

I can look at my plate and think, "OMG, I have to eat this WHOLE plate of food at once! How am I going to do this? I can't fit it all in my mouth at once! How would I chew? I'm going to get a stomach ache!"

My next thought would probably be, "Never mind, I think I'll just have a glass of wine, thanks!"

Instead, we take one bite, then another, then another, until it's gone (or we're full).

Here's a step in tackling a client-friend's kitchen - we chose one cupboard to do first and looked at the categories...

In the second photo, there are pans, containers, and...LaxaClear.

You know that song, "One of these things is not like the other..."? That plays in my head a lot.

When I'm looking for a baking pan, I'm not usually also looking for Laxaclear (though I guess it depends on what I'm baking...)

Here's how my client-friend and I tackled this space:

First we made space.

We cleared the counters and dining room table - ALL of them so we'd have plenty of room.

Next, we took EVERYTHING out of this cupboard.

Yes, everything. It was like it the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe story where the back of the cupboard opens up - things just kept coming out!

Things ended up on the floor, on aaaaallll the counters, on the dining room table and all the chairs...

Then I asked questions:

  1. Which ones do you absolutely love?

  2. Are there any you really don't like that you can let go of to life easier?

  3. What do you and your family do in the kitchen?

  4. What do you WANT to do in the kitchen?

  5. What do you want to eat, cook, use, etc.?

  6. What makes the most sense for this space when you think of your desired flow? (she decided on baking pans).

Then we took action:

  1. We set everything else out of the way (on the kitchen table).

  2. We searched the kitchen for ALL the other baking pans.

  3. We put ALL the baking pans together.

  4. She chose her favorites (this is so much easier to do when you see it all at once!)

THEN we organized the baking pans.

Easy to put away, easy to find

By "organized" I mean we created a home for everything where it's:

  • easy to put away.

  • easy to find.

  • easy to maintain.

Simple Steps to Get Organized

  1. Choose a (smallish) space

  2. Take everything out

  3. Decide what category (or categories) is truly best for that space

  4. Set aside everything NOT in that category


  1. Find ALL the items in the category you're working on

  2. Choose your favorites

  3. Create homes for your favorites (remember, easy to put away, easy to find).

When we think about taking EVERYTHING out of an entire garage, house, kitchen, bedroom...yes, that's overwhelming.

Trust me, I've tried that method - you'd better be ready for some serious sweat and have a lot of help!

Choose SMALL spaces or categories - one drawer, one shelf, one counter, one category...

Build Decluttering & Organizing Muscles

We wouldn't go from sitting on the couch for months (thanks Covid!) straight to lifting 100 pound weights, or running a marathon.

Trying to declutter an entire room at once is like going straight from couch potato to lifting 100 pound weights or running a marathon. Sometimes both at once, actually.

In other words, it's a recipe for pain and disaster.

Start small, take these steps, celebrate, then do the next space or category when you're ready.

This, my friend, is how to get organized.


Have you tried to organize by room? Do you get overwhelmed? Are you going to tackle a project?

I'd love to hear from you! Share your challenges and celebrate your steps in the TidyWild Facebook group (or send me a personal message).

If you feel stuck, please reach out!

There is absolutely no reason to suffer - set up a free discovery call with me or join the TidyWild Membership for help today.

I'm here for you and I can help!



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