Home Space: Organizing 101

Tackle That Clutter!

By Sophia Noll


In part 1 of this series I left you all wondering where do I start? How long will this take me? I heard cries for Help!!! In Part 2 of Organizing 101, I will briefly go over how to tackle the clutter that surrounds you. There are several approaches one can take for getting the clutter under control. It also depends on what area is being worked on, but this will give you a good start. You will need a plan. If you skip this step, you will likely end in frustration. So roll up your sleeves and let’s go!!!


The first part of the plan is deciding which room is crying out the loudest for help. For some it’s the bedroom; for others it’s the living area or the kitchen. If it’s the first room you see when you walk into the house, it can literally drain you of emotional energy and block your creativity so you may want to choose that one first. Another way to choose the space you want to de-clutter is to tackle the storage areas first– like the basement, garage, and closets. This approach would then allow space for the items that will need storing. Whichever room you choose, stay with it until it is completely organized before you move on to another room.


Secondly, you will want to know how long this project will take you. The average room (I’m not talking about the ones we’ve seen on the hoarder shows) can take around one and a half days; small closets and bathrooms, three hours; a one person office about three days, and an overstuffed garage several days. Remember these are estimations, and that assumes just you alone is doing the organizing. The length will also be determined by how quickly you can make decisions about what to keep and what not to keep. Working with a client, we have completed a very messy and cluttered two-child bedroom in just three hours! The job goes faster and it’s more enjoyable when you have a helper. Once you have an idea of how long it will take you, section off chunks of time in your daily schedule to work on organizing. If you try to fit it in—in your “spare time”—you will find that you never seem to have that “spare time.”


Think about these findings (from the US Dept of Energy) when you’re wondering if setting time aside is worth it…


  • We spend one year of our life looking for lost items (NAPO)
  • Getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40% of the housework in an average home (NSD Association)
  • One-quarter of people with two-car garages have so much stuff in there that they can’t park a car


The third step entails gathering the materials you will need. This is easier than you might have imagined. It takes just three steps … Sorting, Purging, and Containerizing. You will need boxes for sorting in the following categories: keep, throw away, give away, sell, and recycle. Markers and labels are good to have as well. I have found that bankers boxes are great for storing the items you want to keep in storage since they are easy to stack and contents can be marked on the outside of the box for easy locating. Plastic bins are excellent too, but not for storing inhigh heat areas because they can melt.


SORTING: Armed with your boxes, start in one corner of the room and work in a clockwise direction, going through everything, and I mean EVERYTHING! Don’t ignore anything—even if that stack of papers seems overwhelming. Take it one piece at a time and choose a logical location. It’s important to handle every item and ask yourself the questions: Do I use this? Have I used it in the last six months? Does this item make me happy? Does it have positive emotions attached to it? Does this item cost me money? Then decide which box the item belongs in. Once you have all the items that you are keeping, group the similar items together into a system that is intuitive and natural to you. Keep the categories as broad as possible so it will be easy for you to locate them once they find a permanent home in that room.


PURGING will become a healing experience when you realize that it will give you something wonderful in return. It will give you more space, more time, money, and satisfaction from blessing others with items that you no longer need or use. For an item that someone gave you as a gift, but you just don’t connect with, it’s ok to gift someone else with it. Likewise, by divesting yourself of sentimental items, you are not letting go of the person’s memory; they will always remain in your heart. I have had clients take pictures of the items and keep them in a file on their computer, thus clearing more space for necessary or precious items.


CONTAINERIZE: Now is the time to purchase those organizational items you have been eyeballing. Whatever you purchase, make sure it is adequate for what you are storing and that you have measured the space beforehand. Things to think about when buying containers: the aesthetics, sturdiness, size, and manageability. Or you can recycle an old bookshelf that you already have and purchase some nice baskets to hold your items? This is the time where you can get creative and have fun!. Also, leave room for growth but not too much.


Ahhhh, I can see your smile and feel your sense of accomplishment as you look out over your organized room.


Can’t you feel the energy flowing and the new lightness of the room? Remember that any large organizing project is best accomplished by breaking it down into manageable tasks. This is especially true when organizing your entire household. So take small bites but keep those organization dates that you have scheduled with yourself. Before long you will have a space that is stress free and where everything is In Its Place!!


Another thought to consider — when you analyze the cost of clutter, the reward of being organized is well worth the cost of hiring a professional. Hiring a professional will save time and frustration and makes the job fun! Many people mistakenly assume that an organizer is going to come in and “clean up” for them – and that it should cost about the same amount as a housekeeper – but it is much more involved than that. You are paying for an organizer’s knowledge and her ability to get inside your head, understand how you function, and develop a system that will work best for you.


Stay tuned for Part 3!


Sophia (In Its Place) has been organizing people’s lives for the past ten years from Maine to Asheville. She specializes in Organization, Personal Assistant, Household Management, Staging Homes, Senior Downsizing, and Concierge Services. Sophia offers free consultations and can be contacted at 828-333-3045. Make a New Year’s Resolution!! Give yourself the gift of Organizing!!! Gift Certificates Available.

Written by Sophia Noll