10 Ways to Get Started Organizing This Year | Not Entirely Perfect

10 Ways to Get Started Organizing This Year

January 14, 2015

is one of your goals to get more organized this year?  either overall or in a certain area?  i think plenty of people start the new year with the goal of keeping on top of things, like organized receipts or closets.  it was the #2 goal of 2014.  i wonder how many people picked it for this year.

but it's not one of my goals.  'what?! shocking!' you say.  well, not really - i don't think i have anything left to organize.  getting my mom's house done is a 'rest of my damn life' goal, but for me?  what else is there, really?  i have some more decluttering to do in my closet and kitchen, but even those areas are consistently beautifully arranged.  i can't be more organized, i can only maintain.

i can, however, continue to share my best organizing tips and secrets.  they'll work even if your brain isn't wired that way.  all you need to do right now is get started.  easier said than done, but here's where to start when you think you have no idea where to start:

1. first of all, read this great post on why so many new year's resolutions and goals fail.  you're trying to re-wire your brain, so take the steps necessary to be successful.

2. decide you're doing it for you.  and why you want to.  in an extreme example - hoarders are happy to live with their hoard for decades and they're pretty crabby when someone forces them to clean.  and many go right back to hoarding if they never really got on board with the declutter process.  no one is forcing you to organize, and if you aren't doing it because you want to, it'll never happen.  i assume you're reading this because you want to clean up.  if you have especially tough areas that you've procrastinated for awhile, make a mental list of why you want it clean and remember that every time you want to quit.

3. first, take it all in.  make a list of the areas you want to organize.  make it detailed.  and make it on paper, because nothing is more satisfying than crossing it out with a giant black sharpie when you're done.

4. declutter.  the process has to start with lots and lots of decluttering.  if all you're doing is organizing clutter, everything will fall apart again.  really let things leave your possession.  be ruthless.  whatever area you decide to work on, bring a garbage bag.  don't go out and buy bins to containerize this garbage.  the giant plastic bag is your container. 

5. start with a small project.  if you come home from work on a tuesday night and decide you're doing your entire closet, you'll be sleeping on a pile of clothes a few hours later, totally burnt out.  a normal sized closet is a weekend project.  if you don't have a full weekend, just do small portions at a time.  one dresser drawer.  just shoes.  the top shelf.  do it for 15, 30, however many minutes you have, then come back the next day.

6. start with an area you already know you don't want a lot of the things in.  like a junk drawer.  if you know you'll be throwing out or otherwise permanently removing the items there, it's a huge boost in motivation because you can visibly see the change.  when you move to your next area, you're more likely to continue the pattern of really letting things go.  for good.

7. begin inside your storage areas.  like closets, drawers, bins.  because once you begin the process, where's everything supposed to go?  particularly if you're trying to have less on display or out in the open, like keeping kitchen counters clear.  that means having room in the kitchen cabinets to store things, so clean those out first.  if you plan on storing things in the attic, garage, or other closet, make sure those spaces are ready for your stuff.

8. start with the area that annoys you the most - you'll get the biggest enjoyment from getting it under control.  but still, start small.  if your entryway makes you crazy every time you walk in, start there.  control the shoe situation.  the next day, come back and figure out the mail sorting.  once you're able to relish in the victory, you're more likely to have success in the areas that don't bug you as much, but still need to be organized.

9. invite someone to help you.  (if you live in chicago, i'll do it!)  don't reschedule.  having someone else there ensures you won't throw out 3 pens and then go watch 5 episodes of gilmore girls.  even if they don't help that much in the actual sorting of items, just their presence will spur you into action.  don't confuse this with inviting someone over for coffee and tossing all your crap into a closet and slamming the door 3 minutes before their arrival.  ask them for help with the intention of doing nothing but actually organizing.  offer to return the favor.  friends help friends have pretty homes.  i actually boss my friends into having pretty homes, but that's just semantics.

10. clean every item and every area thoroughly before you keep anything.  remind yourself that if you didn't own it, you wouldn't have to clean it, and then ask yourself again whether you really want it that badly.  i don't own things i have to dust.

once you get started, i'm confident you'll be on a roll.  happy organizing!


  1. Yes to all of these! Number 9 for sure : )

  2. some very great tips, I go crazy and then I fizzle, small steps is what I have to keep telling myself

  3. Take a photo of the room. It'll be so easy to spot the area that is the fugliest -- the one that you can make your starting point!

    1. haha so true! Good tip. Everything looks different than you're used to through a photo. (Unless you take the photo, you'll make it all look beautiful.)

  4. Great list! Some of us had to learn number 7 the hard way! I especially agree with 9... you may not need a buddy for all but when it comes to things near and dear to your heart (like clothing items that maybe one day will fit) an honest friend can definitely make the process a little easier. Mine, for example, vetoed at least 5 shirts that she didn't have the heart to tell me looked terrible before. I hated her up until the celebratory drinks and the next week when I couldn't even remember what we had tossed!

  5. I don't have a junk drawer anymore. Its absolutely the most freeing thing ever.

  6. Thats my problem right there. I think I organize clutter. People always say I am organized but I genuinely think I organize clutter. I have so many things I dont need.

  7. #'s 4 & 8 are my go to methods when trying to clean up and organize. I HATE clutter. Seeing it seriously stressed me out.

  8. Good tips!

    I'm waiting on my organizers for DVDs and loose old photos to arrive. I cannot wait to tackle those two things this month!

  9. I would have never thought to have a friend over to help, mostly because I'm so embarrassed of all of the too-small clothing in my closet and junk in my cabinets. I guess I need to get over that and have someone come help me!

  10. Great tips! I tried to help a friend organize her apartment a few years ago and it was awful. When you do your own stuff, it's so easy to make decisions, like "This is the new place for this and it will always go here." When you clean a friend's place you have to ask for every single little thing and it's so sloooow.

    But, on the plus side, I was much more willing to get rid of her stuff than she was, so we did clear out a lot of "things that might be useful one day (but you know they really won't)" or "things I should sell but haven't gotten around to (for 5 years)." Put me in charge of purging, because I can throw your stuff away like nobody's business! But don't ask me to "organize" it. Urg...

  11. I think that the cleaning of each item is critically important, because you are more likely to use it if it is clean. I have all these knick knacks that have the layer of dust on them and are in cabinets, because I just don't feel like cleaning them off to put them out. Fact.

  12. YES YES YES! i needed this so so bad. i am pinning this. thank you. I am studying this this weekend. thank you.

  13. Number 8 is key for me. When I go on an organizing binge, I start with something that's really getting on my nerves and go from there. I cannot handle a ton of clutter and disorganization but my family feels different. It's a constant struggle.

    Great tips!

  14. I wish I lived near you so you could help, but I don't really like the cold. I love throwing away a huge black bag of stuff and seeing the results! I need to start with my desk. It's the first place things land and the place I use the most with the exception of my bed.

  15. Such great tips! I love how you mention that we should decide that we're doing it for us and then what our priorities are. Any task I try never goes as well if I don't have my priorities straight.

  16. such fabulous tips. i love the idea of starting small, and starting somewhere you want to start - like the junk drawer. so true. i have been doing bit by bit but i'm really excited to get a lot knocked out this weekend! i know i will give up and be tired during the week so i just don't bother anymore - better do it on the weekend than half ass it and leave it for ages if i attempt during the week.

  17. I'm with you, I haven't needed to make "get organized" a to-do list item in ages because... I'm never disorganized. Decluttering, yes, something that needs to be done a few times a year as you accumulate things and things get worn out. But that said, this is a great list. Friends are always asking me to help them get organized and one of the first things I have to help them figure out is if they really want to create a new system for THEM, or if they just like the way my desk is laid out, because there's definitely a difference between admiring something and wanting to put in the work and time to create it for yourself.

  18. I really like these tips. Around this time there are definitely lots of posts about different typical New Years resolutions, organization being high on the list. You have a unique take and offer some not commonly thought of ideas, it's refreshing and helpful - thanks!

    Sweet Spontaneity

  19. Thanks for the tips! I'll be using them to start de-cluttering my guest room and its closet.

  20. I would so let you boss me around and de-clutter. I did organize all my workout DVD's tonight before my workout. It was bothering me so much!

  21. I'm reading the declutter and simplicity project and it has helped declutter things. Plus I am in moving mode, and we aren't even moving, but I am getting rid of things in the house.


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