How to Start Organizing Like a Pro When You Are a Novice

Hello, Hello! “Why am I so chirpy”, you may ask. And share I will!

We had a yard sale last weekend. As I was removing the stuff I wanted to get rid of, I started organizing the stuff I am going to keep. It was a continuous effort because unlike any other time, I had a strict deadline. Am I glad I did this yard sale! It has led to a sweet discovery that a novice like me, too, can get organized – Not just decluttered but also organized. Today I am going to share with you what I learned to be the key factors to keep you feeling motivated and accomplished while organizing.

Thanks to those of you who commented and messaged me your questions on organization after reading my last couple of posts on decluttering. That got me thinking. Before I could answer in detail, I had to experiment more, and see what works and what doesn’t.

While looking for techniques of organization, I came across a plethora of good articles and videos online. Here is one of my latest favorite YouTube channels. Organization to this level of sophistication is very inspirational. Check out the way she organizes her dresser. Who wouldn’t want to have that?!

But here is the million dollar question. Where do I start and how do I get there? I don’t know about you, but when I see super-organization like that, I don’t for a second think, “Oh, I am for sure going to be that person soon”. All I can think of is “How cool! Now what should I watch next?” So when I found what works with me I was thrilled at the idea that I can, realistically, aim to be as organized as she is one day.

Here you go:

  1. Starting small, very very small, is the key.
  2. When it comes to your first step, you MUST feel accomplished in a short time. Period. This is true in tackling any challenge in life, but especially so when you are trying to overcome a long developed habit. I am definitely not a hoarder, not even a pack-rat; just not as happy with my organization as I want to be. But every single time I set out to kick-off my new habit, I would set a lofty goal for myself.

    “Today I want to declutter, clean, and organize my whole kitchen.”

    As you can imagine it takes hours to make a room look like it came straight out of a magazine cover. And while that used to be my dream, I soon realized how unrealistic that was to achieve for a starter. Especially when most of us do not inherently enjoy cleaning.

    Here is the alternative which works like a charm. Take on a super small area at a time. I started with 1 rack of cabinets. That’s it! Once you see that done, you can decide if you want to take a break or take on a new, small area. While thinking you will invariably admire your progress and feel a sense of relief, maybe even pride. Nothing is more motivating that such a sense of accomplishment.

    Remember, when you are in doubt if you can finish an area, always go smaller. Smaller is better! You can always add on more challenge but not finishing what you set-out to do is a surefire way to kill that enthusiasm you worked so hard on building. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Start with a clean slate.
  4. This technique is so much more important than I first thought. At first, the lazy me, started removing things where they do not belong so that I do not have work on keeping back the things which are already where they should be. That does not work – at all. You will either not remove every single thing that needs to be gone or you will not organize very well what remains.

    Why? because your brain is already working hard in keeping you motivated. Poor thing is spending all its energy in trying to tell you why this darn effort is worthwhile. On top of it, if you make it imagine the most efficient (and may good looking) placement of a bunch of items, do you think it will succeed?

    Instead, declutter first, then organize. Clear out the designated area completely. Nothing remains in there. Thoroughly clean the area. Then evaluate each item one by one to see if it should stay there, stay somewhere else, be donated or thrown away. This goes back to point number one where you are taking one bite at a time. Rather than evaluating an area, you are evaluating one item at a time.

    Now live with the reorganized space for a bit. Admire it every day (which naturally happens ๐Ÿ™‚ ). If you like the set-up keep it, if not find new homes for the things that do not fit there.

  5. Use the principle of diminishing frequency.
  6. Yes, I made up the name of this principle to sound legit. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I did not make up the rule. I bet, this has been the holy grail of efficient storage for ages. But clearly, I had missed the memo.

    Here is what happens. People (including myself) store things of similar use together. e.g. All stationery in one place, all cooking items in one place, all bedding in one place. That’s so not right!

    Instead you should match the frequency of use with the visibility of the item. More you use it, more visible it should be. Less you use it, less visible it should be.

    In every type of use there are your favorites which you use every single day, those which you need weekly or monthly, those you may use a few times a year, and those which you do not use at all.

    • Keep your daily use items where they are completely visible or instantly accessible.
    • Keep your weekly items within the cabinets.
    • Depending on how much space you have, you may choose to keep your monthly used items in cabinets or in an attic or garage.
    • If you use those any less than that just create a designated space for them in an attic or garage.
    • If you find, you have not used it in last 1 year or so just take it out of your sight – donate if the condition allows or throw away as the last resort.

    For example, do not store all your books on the same book shelf. Store the one your are currently reading in your bedside table. Your cooking books in a kitchen cabinet. Rarely used references on very high or very low racks of a book shelf. Makes sense?

    You can apply this principle to everything. It is magical when you store the things you do not use so much away from sight. You automatically create space for the things you often use and love. You will also develop some new regulars. You have always wanted to use those but hate taking those out because they are hidden behind a pile of other stuff.

    Enjoy the newly found freedom!

  7. Create a place for every single item.
  8. Even if it is stored in an attic and used only a few times a year, you must know exactly where its place is so that when you need to use it you can get it out in less than 5 minutes. Any more effort than that and you will never use it. Be brutally honest. You don’t have to share it with us but isn’t that the truth?

    There is a reason we have been novices at organizing until now. We are too lazy or too busy to take effort beyond what is absolutely necessary. Therefore, unless you can find things in minutes, you are not going to use it.

    Creating a designated place for every single thing helps save time, stress, and effort. The place should be as specific as possible. e.g. Storing a charger in drawer is better than saying it will be in bedroom. But if you can store it in the beautiful pink dish in the drawer, that will be fantastic! Check out this video for inspiration.

    The easier it is to find, more likely you are to benefit from it when you actually need it. If you cannot find it in time, you will end up not using it even when you need it.

    If you have a hard time finding a specific place for an item, maybe it should not remain in your house at all. Think about it.

  9. Avoid temptation.
  10. This is THE hardest part for most people. You just do not feel like parting with any of your items, at least many of those. It does not matter that the last time you used it was in 1999. You just have to keep that memory.

    Answer this question honestly, “How often do I use this?โ€. Mere intention or a plan of using does not count. How often have you used it in the past? Be honest.

    Let me tell you. If you are holding on to something because you or your loved one may use it in future or because it reminds you of the long lost days, you are fooling yourself.
    1. If it is not used until now, it will not be in future.
    2. It is the memory you cherish. The feeling – not the item.

    If you truly love something, let it go where it will be used, valued, and appreciated as much as you once did.

    When you are in a doubt if you should keep it, that’s the sign you should part with it. Once it goes away, you will not even miss it. Do not hold onto anything unless you are 100% certain you will use it and love it.

    Once you become brutally honest about what you really use vs. what you just intend to use, the progress will be much faster, more noticeable, and highly rewarding.

  11. Be persistent.
  12. It is much easier to keep something clean and organized when it is already so. When it gets out of control, it becomes so overwhelming that you donโ€™t even feel like starting anywhere.

    Therefore keep evaluating. Repeat steps 1 to 5 regularly until you create the space around you which is functional for your needs, and may be even pleasing to the eyes. Then periodically revisit your space and belongings. People change. So should their surroundings with them.

    Create the space which evokes the emotions you aspire to feel. Be open to receive the inspiration it will bring to you. You will be on your path to become who you can be, want to be, and should be.

    That concludes my list. Did I miss anything that you have learned from your experience? Let me know in the comments.

    I hope you get a head-start from my experiments, mistakes, and learning. Wish you an enjoyable and productive journey. Who knows, one day I will be tuning in to your channel on YouTube. ๐Ÿ™‚

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