Where To Begin When Decluttering and Organizing

July 19, 2011 | By | Comments (22)

The most common question I am asked by people who are overwhelmed by clutter and disorganization is: “Where do I begin?!” Getting from a state of chaos to a state of order can feel like a Herculean task. Worse yet, when there are so many projects on the to-do list, it’s easy to feel defeated before you even get started.

When feeling overwhelmed and at a loss for where to start, try one or a combination of these techniques:

  1. Start small. You’re going to feel like you’re climbing a mountain if all you can see is the mountain. Lose the big picture and focus on just a tiny piece of the mess — a dresser drawer, a shelf in your kitchen’s pantry, the area under one seat in your car. Even if you do just one small space a day for the entire year, your entire home will eventually be transformed.
  2. Face the frustration. Take on the one place in your home that bothers you more than any other area. Wherever your stomach tightens and you clench your jaw and you think, “Ugh!” whenever you see it, make this spot your first priority. Once you have tackled this area, go after your new biggest frustration, and then the next and the next and the next.
  3. First impression. The first area you see each morning when you wake up and the first area you see each evening when you come home from work are terrific places to begin. Having these areas orderly helps you to start your day off on a less-stressful footing, and also makes coming home more relaxing. After you improve the firsts, move onto the seconds, and then the thirds.
  4. The Cloud of Doom. Unfinished projects can hang over us, like a Cloud of Doom. Whatever tasks you have left undone, start by completing them. You’ll feel an enormous sense of relief the minute the Cloud lifts.
  5. A helping hand. If someone offers to help you on your decluttering and organizing quest, by all means start wherever the other person wishes to start. Often, other people see our spaces in ways we do not. Your helper might immediately know the area of your home that can instantly improve your stress level and simplify your life.

My final word of advice is to set your standards at “good enough.” When you’re just starting decluttering and organizing, you may feel pressure to do aim for “perfect” or “magazine worthy” — ignore this pressure. Work until it’s just “good enough,” and then move on to the next project. There are no rules that say you can’t come back and declutter and organize even more. The first time a golfer picks up a club he doesn’t hit a hole-in-one, such a feat takes years of practice and/or a whole lot of luck. Your first attempts at decluttering and organizing aren’t going to be holes-in-one, either. But, with time and a lot of practice, you’ll eventually figure out how to create and maintain YOUR “perfect.”

Image by Aaron Dyer.

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