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 not a superhero...though I love the image one client-friend gave me - she said I'm like a cross between Marie Kondo and Mary Poppins! (Any illustrators want to take that one on?!)
The way I immediately get out of overwhelm and into excitement is to:
break the space into small, bite-sized, doable chunks.
not immediately think about where things are going to go when it's organized.
look at categories in the space and choose one to focus on.
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!
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 instead of trying to shove it all into my mouth at once, deciding which bite to take first.
It's that simple. It's only when I THINK it's hard that it's hard.
If I looked at my plate and thought, "OMG, I have to eat this WHOLE plate of food at once! How am I going to do that? It's impossible to 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!"
So, when tackling a client-friend's kitchen, we chose one cupboard to do first, and we 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 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:
What's your life flow? What do you and your family do in the kitchen? What do you WANT to do? What do you want to eat, cook, use, etc.?
What makes the most sense for this space when you think of your desired flow? (she decided on baking pans).
Then we took action:
We set everything else out of the way (on the kitchen table).
We searched the kitchen for ALL the other baking pans.
We put ALL the baking pans together.
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
Choose a (smallish) space
Take everything out
Decide what category (or categories) is truly best for that space
Set aside everything NOT in that category
Find ALL the items in the category you're working on
Choose your favorites
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!
I'm here for you and I can help!