Four Simple (Not Always Easy) Steps of the Organizing Process
After years of helping individuals and families bring more order into their lives, I observed that there are four major actions that are required during any organizing process. These actions are done over and over more in a cyclical than linear pattern. People were often good in one area but got stuck in another. Some folks had difficulty letting go of things, others had problems figuring out what category something fit it, still others had a real challenge figuring out how to use the space they had and finally for some maintenance was their weak area. All four steps are necessary to complete and maintain any organizing project. Below you will find some explanation and questions to help you achieve success.
Step One – ELIMINATE
Throw away or recycle what is no longer usable. Donate or sell the items you no longer want, need or like.
When you have difficulty deciding what to do with an item, answer these questions.
- Do I still like it?
- Do I use it?
- Do I want it?
- Do I need it?
- Do I have space for it?
- Am I willing to maintain it?
If you answer no to one or more of these questions, it is time to pass the item on. If you want to keep an item, proceed to step two. If you are not certain, put the item aside and revisit it at the end of your decision-making process.
To think about: “The cost of a thing is the amount of life you have to exchange for it.” Henry David Thoreau
Step Two – SORT
Categorize (Put All Like Objects Together)
When you are having difficulty deciding where something belongs, answer these questions:
- Could this item go in more than one category? If so, what are the categories?
- Which category would I think of first when I looked for this?
- Do I have more things that go in this category somewhere else in the house, attic, or garage?
- If you discover duplicates of some items that are not needed, take a look at the questions in Step One.
When you have things in categories, you will be able to see how much space you will need to store them. At that point it will be easier to make decisions for step three.
Step Three – STORE and LABEL
Locate optimum space, determine supplies needed
We are often tempted to go shopping for containers, furniture, shelves, etc. at the beginning of our organizing process. Shopping tends to help us feel better. However, you will save time and money and get betters results if you WAIT until you are sure what you need and where you are going to put it before you head to the store.
When you identify a group of like items that need to be put away, answer these questions:
- Where will I be using these items?
- What type and size of container would be most helpful? You may have to go to several stores to find what you want.
- What type and size of cabinet, shelves, or drawers is needed?
It is best to put things closest to where you will be using them. Things to be used frequently need the easiest access, whereas things used less can be stored in places that require a little more effort to retrieve.
If you are storing things in containers be sure to clearly label each one. It is also helpful to label shelves, especially if other people will be using your newly devised systems.
Remember to measure the space, write down the measurement, and take it with you when you go shopping.
Step Four – MAINTAIN ORDER
Doing the following tasks will help you keep your things in order:
- Put things back where they belong in a timely manner.
- Fix or replace things when they are broken.
- Replace filters, batteries, and light bulbs when needed.
- Continue to let go of unwanted items.
- Return to steps one, two, and three when it is clear you have more possessions than you can store or maintain with ease.
Even the best systems will need to be maintained, or they will revert back to a state of disorganization.
Taking small amounts of time on a regular basis will save you hours or even days in the future.
Train yourself to maintain, and eventually it will become a habit.