It’s summer and, at our house, it’s a time when we clean out drawers and closets and get organized! I prefer organizing our home during the summer because it’s a great time to evaluate what we used during the school year, what clothes fit and what we’ve outgrown.
So, when you decide it’s time to get organized, where do you start? I’m here to help with my organization solutions checklist. Here’s how I tackle any organizing project, from start to finish!
(1) Decide How to Organize: By Space or By Category.
One of the classic downfalls of any organization project is trying to tackle too much at a time. Rather than tackling the whole house, or even one room, break down the project into organizing one area or one category of stuff at a time.
So, rather than tackling the entire kitchen, try organizing just the cabinets. Or just the pantry. Rather than tackling the kids’ rooms, go through only their clothing first.
Tackling one area or category of stuff is preferable because then you won’t get burned out before finishing. You can organize something, feel a sense of accomplishment for completing that, and then have motivation to move on to the next space or category of stuff!
(2) Don’t buy any containers or organizers until you know what you’re dealing with.
This is one I struggle with, too. I start an organizing project and immediately want to head to a store and start buying cute and functional organizing bins and baskets!
The problem is that, until you know what you need to contain, you don’t know what the perfect container will be!
Some things you can buy at the start of your organization project are: first, a label maker. I love my label maker! Having labeled bins and containers makes finding something you’ve stashed away so much easier! You can also get free hand-lettered style printable labels at the Creativity Exchange blog here.
Also, before starting your organization project, you should have either boxes or trash bags. That way, you have a system for sorting through your stuff.
And speaking of sorting, once you’ve decided what you’re organizing, pull everything in that space or category out. For example, if you’ve decided to organize and put away your winter stuff, make sure you’ve gathered not only all of your winter clothes, but also coats, gloves, scarves, and boots. Get them all in one place.
Then, go through each piece and decide whether to keep it or get rid of it. Once you have a pile of what you are keeping, then go to the store (or your own storage stash!) and decide what the best container would be for those items. This will prevent you from overbuying containers or buying the wrong ones!
So, now that you’re pulling everything out, that brings me to my next step on the checklist:
(3) Be Honest When Deciding Whether to Keep or Purge Stuff.
We all have that pair of jeans in our closet. You know the one – if we just lose 5/10/20 pounds, they will fit perfectly again! I know I do!
Well, when deciding what to keep or purge, be honest with yourself. Professional organizers have offered the following ways of thinking about this:
- Have I worn it or used it in the last year? If not, get rid of it.
- Can I wear it or use it now, with the body I have? If not, get rid of it.
- Does it bring me joy? If not, get rid of it.
- Is there a real reason to keep this item, even if I don’t use it? For example, is it meaningful? Not just sentimental, like you’re worried that one day your long lost Aunt Martha might come over and realize that vase she gave you 20 years ago isn’t there. But really meaningful to you? If not, get rid of it.
- Does it still work? Is it broken, torn, ripped, or chipped? If so, get rid of it.
OK, so you have a pile for what you’re getting rid of, and one for what you’re keeping. What’s next?
(4) What to Do with What You Are Keeping.
Now is the time to head to the store (or your stash of containers!) and find containers to store what you are keeping.
For the items you have decided to keep:
- Make sure the items have a home, whether packed and labeled in storage or out where you’ll use them.
- Make sure that any storage bins or baskets are labeled.
- When possible, put the items where you’ll use them.
This last one is a big one for me. I used to keep paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues all in the laundry room. The problem is that we never had toilet paper within reach when we needed it – in the bathroom! Instead, I break up the big packages of toilet paper I buy and split the rolls between the bathrooms. That way, it’s exactly where we need it.
A similar way to organize what you are keeping is to organize the items into zones. I did that in the pantry in our old house and in our kitchen in our current house.
The idea is just to keep like items together, close to where you need them. For tips on organizing into zones and some other organization tips for busy people, please see THIS POST.
(5) What to Do with What You Are Purging.
Once you’ve committed to getting rid of items, you have some choices for what you can do with them:
(a) Have a yard sale.
If you have a lot of stuff to get rid of that’s in pretty good shape, host a garage sale or yard sale at your house! Hosting a yard sale is a lot of work, so I would only do this if (1) you have a lot of stuff you want to get rid of; and (2) you have some larger items to sell that will make the time and effort spent preparing for and hosting the sale worth it.
(b) Sell items online.
You can sell gently used items like furniture and clothing on Craig’s List or eBay, or on yard sale pages on Facebook. I’ve had great success selling unwanted stuff on Facebook yard sale pages – see this post for my tips.
If you are selling on one of these sites, be careful. Check the location if you are delivering the item and make sure it’s in a well-traveled area. If someone is coming to your home to pick up the item, make sure you are comfortable with that; for example, by having someone else home with you or having the pick-up during daylight hours.
(c) Donate It.
Donating unwanted items is a win- win: you win because you get rid of unwanted stuff; the place receiving the donation wins because it can re-sell or re-purpose what you’re donating.
- Goodwill and similar thrift stores will take donations of clothes, household goods, and furniture.
- Shelters would appreciate donations of clothing, household goods, diapers and baby goods, and more.
- Children’s hospitals often will take gently-used toys.
- Veterinarian offices and animal shelters appreciate donations of old towels and dog food.
- You can donate canned goods and non-perishable food that are still within their expiration periods to food pantries and soup kitchens.
- Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore takes donations of building supplies, furniture, and home goods. To find a ReStore in your area, click HERE.
(d) Recycle It.
If you want to get rid something that isn’t in good shape, try to recycle it.
Check your local recycling rules and nearby recycling centers. Certainly paper (whether whole or shredded) and cardboard can be recycled and is accepted by local recycling programs and at recycling centers (such as at libraries and fire stations). You would be amazed at how much plastic can be recycled.
We are lucky that, for our county recycling, they accept any plastic with numbers 1-7 in the recycling triangle. That would include most kids’ cups and other plastic cups, reusable plastic containers (that are broken or missing lids), plastic hangers, etc. Even if your local recycling program doesn’t accept the plastic, check with grocery stores (Publix and Whole Foods here both recycle many kinds of plastic, including Styrofoam egg cartons and plastic grocery bags), libraries, nearby schools and universities, and separate city or county facilities where you can take your recycling. Recycled containers like the ones below are key for organization (and are adorable, too!)
Did you know that you can recycle your kids’ spent magic markers, too? Crayola has a program called ColorCycle and they will take back your dried-up markers (they don’t even have to be Crayola markers!) for recycling. Click HERE for details.
To find recycling in your area, you can download an app that will tell you which facilities accept which materials. Try iRecycle (from Earth911) or 1800recycling.com.
(e) Toss It.
If all else fails, toss it.
I actually had someone come to the house this week to haul away some larger junk that either was damaged or was left in our home by the previous owner (for example, rolled-up old carpet in the basement). It wasn’t expensive and I’m thrilled all that stuff is gone!
(6) Make It Fun!
My last, and maybe most important, organization tip is to have fun with it! Sure, cleaning out closets isn’t always the most exciting activity, but there are ways to make it fun:
- Play music while you organize. Dance while you sort.
- While everything is out of your closet, paint it a happy color, like a light yellow.
- Add a rug or other decor to make a closet feel luxurious!
Whew! That was a long post with a lot of information! Please let me know if you have any questions!
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