Thursday, February 1, 2018

How to organize anything. {spring cleaning series}

Not long ago, I asked a broad question about what y'all would enjoy hearing me post about in the coming year, and the overwhelming responses all pointed to organizing.  (Incidentally, this is how I know you're my people.) I don't know if that's because it's nearly spring, or because we all feel lighter and better prepared for life when we declutter.  Either way, it seems to be a win and I'm prepared to work this series to death, sharing as many spaces in my home as you want to see!  At present, I've had specific requests for help in the pantry, junk drawer type spaces, laundry rooms, closets (this was a huge request) and home offices.  I plan to take each space one at a time, over about the next ten posts, and I'll be (welcoming and) answering all of your questions as we go.  I've blogged about this topic in the past but since I'm still getting asked about it constantly, we will just start fresh.  Besides, my kids are older and some things have changed around here. And also because I could chat about this topic for days on end and still have things to say or share.  It's a fave!

Today is an overview but because this is the start of a series, I'm going to give you the tools you need to organize any thing in your life and everything we cover will refer backward, to this post and process.  Yes, I said ANY thing. Any space, any drawer, any mess.  It's much simpler than you might think but it doesn't come without effort, both physically and sometimes emotionally with stuff attachment. It's also just a tad obvious when you get right down to it-  Too much stuff in your life takes too much time to constantly deal with, so getting rid of more unwanted, unused, or un-needed stuff, frees up more time in your life to enjoy doing fun things.  Duh. (I know, I know. Easier said than done in a life where most of our belongings own us to some extent, not the other way around.) However, if you make it a goal to get rid of EVERYTHING that you don't use regularly, love, need... or what your descendants won't use, love or need, you'll be managing a lot less I bet. And scratch "I might use it someday" out of your mind.  If you haven't used it in a least five years, (or even less) you don't need it.  You probably don't even love it and you are obviously not using it regularly.  Toss that into the donate bin and walk away.

Organizing Tools:
Time- even small chunks can make an impact
Donation box
Garbage bag
(*consignment box- optional)
A good sized sorting bin, such as a plastic dishpan
Clear bins with lids, of many sizes from shoebox to large for storage you can see through
Drawer organizers (I love and use small acrylic trays whenever I can)
Drawer liners (I like rubbery non-skid liners, that come in a roll, shown below)
Labeler (For labelling bins, shelves, or items once job is complete, shown below)
Scissors (use to break down boxes, cut labels apart, cutting drawer liners etc.)
Cleaning cloth or wipes
Sharpie (Use to write on Post it notes, below)
Post it notes (these are useful for temporary labelling of piles of like items as you work so that you don't get confused about what is going where and labelling spaces as you work)

How to Organize anything: (with all the above tools on hand)
Spread out your labelled donation box and garbage bags so they are near you.  Gather all of your above organizing items so they are easily grabbed for use during this project. I often keep all of mine in a small tote and make a pile of the drawer organizers or dividers I'll be using for that particular project. Starting with a small space, such as a drawer, is the best way to ease into it and what I'll use as the example.  Don't get overwhelmed by the entire room or job, just begin in one place and finish that before moving on to anything else.  Distraction is your biggest enemy so focus hard until that one task is fully finished. (Steps below.)

Take everything out of the drawer, usually by tossing it upside down, into a sorting bin.  Set empty drawer aside. Begin to sort the items, tossing obvious trash as you go and placing like items with like items into piles, as you remove them.  (Example, when working on a bathroom drawer, like items might be something such as dental hygiene items, so those would go together into a pile.)  Once the piles are sorted, the trash is tossed and anything that doesn't belong has been removed, wipe the drawer clean, line with whatever liner you prefer, and then decide how items will be placed back into drawer.  For example, do you need small acrylic trays to contain items?  I love those, and I place them inside the drawer however they fit. Once you have a plan, place the like item piles back into drawer, sorted neatly and separated by dividers or trays.  Sometimes this process takes some shifting and arranging to get each group to fit and that's okay.  It's a process.

** You will probably have a few displaced items that need to be put elsewhere in your home or space, so now is a great time to find the proper homes for those items. Finishing each task completely helps you not become overwhelmed.  Keep in mind that organizing can often have a bit of a snowball effect.  Displacing items, creates more need for organizing other places.  This is why it is important to start small and finish that small task before taking on another.  Don't quit on yourself and don't get overwhelmed.  One bite at a time, ate the Elephant. (wink) 

(These above steps apply to each and every organizing job, big or small, whether it is a room or a drawer. Below, I'm sharing an example of this technique with a very simple before and after that took me about fifteen minutes from start to finish, including scrubbing the very dirty cupboard floor out and cutting the new liner to fit... we don't have nice bathroom cupboards (please excuse the inside doors that still need a fresh coat of paint).  They are small and very real life, builder grade, not my choice cabs.  But they are what we've got to work with and if we needed more storage in these, I would have added a few extra items, such as inside hanging door baskets, or a shelf doubler.  I just wanted to show a very practical way to organize, using dollar bins from my grocery store, elbow grease to clean it, and a simple drawer liner that makes a nice looking, yet also practical impact.)

Notes on organizing. 
*Work quickly, trusting first instincts as you sort.  Keep, donate or toss and don't overthink. If you are holding something in your hand for more than a quick second decision, set it aside and come back to it after a bit.  The sorting process gets easier as you get yourself going.
*Don't feel like you have to keep everything, the process works best if you don't!
*Don't allow yourself to pull things back out of donation bins and trash.
*Get trash out of the house immediately and load donation boxes into your trunk for drop off asap.
*Remove the stickers and price tags on dividers and bins, and place labels on them instead.  Try to affix the labels near the same spot on each bin or divider tray, for a cohesive look because functional can also be attractive. (Also, I tend to prefer any kind of clear bin for storage.  The reason, it is so practical, as you always see right what's in it, and I tend to buy the same kinds of bins again and again, for universal organizing cohesion.)
*Remember that you can't take it with you, and nobody probably wants to deal with it when you die.

I feel like I should repeat that last one... Ha! These posts will all work together somewhat, but when it comes to organizing an entire home, what tends to be overwhelming in a household, are having more than one designated space for things ("Has anyone seen the.... " as they slam drawer after drawer open and closed), having multiples of things because they aren't always kept in the same place, and not having a realistic system that works easily enough for everyone to follow. That is often where bins and labels come in handy.  In my home, everyone knows where to look for the screwdriver because it's always in the exact same place.  If someone leaves it out, someone else knows where to put it for the next time it's needed.  (Sometimes people in our homes need some "encouraging retraining" so they know where exactly the cleaning supplies get put back.  Or the band aids, etc.  When people in the home get more and more on board with keeping things tidy and in place, they often begin contributing to the process. If you can train your people to take shoes off or put a plate in a dishwasher, you can train them to put things into a labelled bin.)

Enjoy this process... it feels like losing weight.  It just feels so good and when you open a neatly organized drawer, lined and tidy with labelled dividing trays, you feel like you actually accomplished something that will make that tiny space in your life better.  And guess what... you did.  Let me know all your questions and I promise to answer as we go!

Click on the titles below, to see all the other posts in this series


  1. I love that you’re doing this, thank you! My biggest problem is holding on to all my daughters (ages 16 and 13) old toys and drawings. I have such an attachment to their things and have a hard time getting rid of them. I think I’ll want them for their children someday. How do you decide what is important and what can go? I know it will be individual for each person but do you have any guidelines I can use? Many thanks!!

  2. Love this, Sasha! I organized my bathroom drawer awhile ago using your tips, and I must say that I still open a drawer and feel a sense of "ahhhhhhhh". It just feels freeing. I am in the process of decluttereing the entire house right now. Your suggestions and inspiration come at a perfect time.

  3. Great post Sasha! We moved into our new house in August and put lots of stuff into our bonus room to clean out after we got settled. We started completely OVER with decor (like we went from super traditional, dark, rich colors to all white, shiplap, farm house look-pretty much all new furniture/decor!!!) so it's taken awhile to get to the point of getting up to that bonus room. It's driving me NUTS. I've needed the MOTIVATION and you might have just pushed me to that point with all of your great recommendations. Yes, I agree, you can't take it with you and no one wants to clean it out when your gone! I've got tons of empty and ready to go bins to organize all of my cabinets so I'll start that once the bonus room is cleaned!! Thanks so much for your thoughtful and detailed post!
    I'm browneyedgirlygirl on IG.