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How to Get Organized: Start Small

Updated: May 24, 2023

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 clutter, 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 mental and organizational strategies to help me immediately move from overwhelm to excitement.

Here's how I do it:

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

  2. Notice categories in the space

  3. Choose one small, simple one to focus on - an easy win

  4. Don't think about where things are going to go or how things will be organized (this happens after I ONLY have what's loved, needed and used)

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! If I start to feel overwhelmed, I come back to the category or small space I've decided to work on.

Some examples of super simple, easy-win decluttering projects:

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 plastic bags (from all over the house if possible), toss the dirty ones, and put the rest in all in one bag (or maybe a big jar I'm not using).

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

If we're going to organize by space, I still recommend breaking it into categories.

Here's a tupperware drawer I did with a client-friend - it also had some bowls and measuring containers...

Here's how we did it:

  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 (yes, we survived this decision)

  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!"

If I 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 one time! 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).

We can do this with decluttering, too...

A client-friend wanted to declutter and organize her kitchen, so, after I looked in all her cupboards and drawers, we chose her (mostly) pan cupboard because it felt like one of the easier categories/spaces.

In this photo you'll see 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.?

Then I asked an important question about the space:

What makes the most sense for this space when you think of your desired flow?

She decided on baking pans, so...

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.

Organized = easy to put away, easy to find

I believe organized means everything has a home where each item and category is:

  • easy to put away

  • easy to find

  • easy to maintain

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

Trust me, I've tried that method - it's a workout! Only do this if you're ready to sweat and have either a lot of help or a good chunk of time.

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?

Please remember that I'm here for you! Reach out if you have questions and/or you feel stuck.

There's no need to struggle with clutter anymore - you're not alone and I can help you feel better right away.

For inspiration and organizing tips in your in-box, join my e-newsletter, Sunbeams. Inspiration only, no spam, I promise :)




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