People hire professional organizers for the same reason they hire personal trainers. Most people can get in shape or organize a room on their own, but often times they don’t! Or they do, but it takes them twice the time and twice the hassle!
Working with a professional organizer boosts accountability AND uses a combination of strategies to create faster, more sustainable results. Those results are not only transformational for a space, but they create an energizing momentum that helps shift your habits for the better.
Today we’re pulling back the curtain and sharing how to methodically declutter any space on your own. Think of this 10-step Decluttering process as the workout routine that will finally create those rock-hard abs you’re after!
Step 1. SET UP YOUR WORKSPACE
Clear a counter or tabletop to act as your workspace. Make sure it’s a comfortable location, and feel free to set up some music and refreshments to keep the energy up. Set up a few bins, boxes, or bags (whatever you have) to hold any item that will be leaving the space. We recommend labeling them “Donate,” “Toss,” “Recycle,” and “Other Room,” but if you have items you’d like to sell, add that in too! We encourage you to start with the basics and create categories as you go. You’ll need a sharpie or pen and post-its and at least one hour to work. ***Check out these free downloadable labels from our friend Shira Gill to set up your space in style.
Step 2. SELECT A SPACE
Select one cluttered space in your home to begin and focus all your attention on that location until you’ve completed the full decluttering process. We recommend starting small: a nook, bookshelf, small closet, dresser, drawer or desk. By learning how to conquer one space, you’ll be motivated and inspired to move to the next.
Step 3. GRAB A SMALL PILE
Start with a manageable pile of items from your chosen area and move them to your ‘working space’ (a table top or clear floor space will do). Focus on removing one small pile or grouping at a time.
Step 4. ASSESS EVERY ITEM — SEPARATE ‘KEEP’ & ‘ELIMINATE’
This is what we as professional organizers call ‘processing.’ We ask you to hold and assess every single item. Ask yourself, is this ‘keep’ or ‘eliminate?’ Once you identify that an item is ‘elimination worthy’, move it to your donate, recycle, or trash bin/bag. Remember, the more you eliminate, the better the results.
Step 5. GROUP LIKE WITH LIKE
Begin placing your ‘keep’ items in separate groups based on item type. This could be as broad as ‘office supplies’ or as specific as ‘binder clips.’ Create categories that make the most sense to you, and use ‘subgroups’ as needed!
Step 6. LABEL ITEM GROUPS WITH POST ITS
Use Post-its (or scraps of paper) and sharpies to apply temporary labels to each item group. This will act as a quick reminder of what each pile is so you can add to it as you discover more ‘like items.’ It may seem unnecessary to use the labels, but we promise, there’s power in the process.
Step 7. MOVE ITEMS TO YOUR ‘PILE PARKING LOT’
Once you’ve processed and labeled these groupings, neatly move them to the side (along a blank wall or on another counter is best). These groups will stay here for a while as you empty out the entire space and add them, so make sure your ‘Pile Parking Lot’ is somewhere where these groupings can stay for the duration of your project.
Step 8. CONSOLIDATE
As you come across ‘keep’ items that belong with preexisting groups, move them to your ‘Pile Parking Lot.’ Consolidate and regroup items as needed. We ask you to empty the space so you can easily scan and assess your belongings outside their permanent home. Because humans are natural gatherers we often believe we need things because we are used to seeing them as the fabric of our habitat. This subconscious desire is challenged, when we pull everything out.
Step 9. SET LIMITS
As you add items to each group, set limits on the amount of each item you will keep. This is your choice, but we encourage you to go a bit beyond your comfort zone. It’s unlikely you’d need 100 pens. Now that you see them all together and know how many you actually have, it will be easier to cut down the number to what you’ll actually use.
Consider the maximum quantity from each item group that you’ll likely need. Anything that will not be used is taking up valuable real estate. Shrink each grouping as much as you can and set a conscious limit. Here are a few examples:
- I will eliminate any pens that don’t fit in this drawer cubby
- I will only keep 4 spatulas because that’s the maximum amount I could use while cooking dinner
- I only need 3 types of wrapping paper – one for kids, one for adults, and one for holidays
Step 10. MOVE CLUTTER OUT
We recommend taking the donations out to the car trunk and removing the trash/recycling as soon as possible. The feeling of moving all the items out will feel incredible, so don’t postpone this action step!
Love what you did here? Feeling the freedom? Don’t forget to take a before and after shot and share your transformation with #simplyspaced. We love to hear how you simplify.
*** For this post, we are not focusing on organizing paperwork, photos or mementos. We recommend setting aside these items for processing separately.