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Why did your last attempt at getting organized fail? For many it's a matter of being overwhelmed.
Maybe you weren't sure where to start. Perhaps the thought of letting go of precious memories or objects was too unsettling. You might have gotten stumped by where to put something, so you put it back down and slunk away, dejected. But don't get discouraged. You are not alone. Together, we can solve your biggest clutter challenge with these simple organizing tips.
- Make a plan. Organizing without a plan is like driving cross-country without a map or working a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture. Sit down and make a list of every area you'd like to de-clutter. It will probably be a long list, but this is no time to self-edit. Even if you're not sure how to do it or whether you can afford to, put it on the list.
- Pick your target. Your best chance for success is dealing with the area that will have the biggest impact. Do you always lose your keys or trip over shoes in the entryway? Start there. Do you pay bills late because you can't find them or you forget they're due? Start there.
- Make a date to conquer clutter. Put it on the calendar, in ink, and don't let anything else get in the way. An insider tip is to pick a block of time — all you need is 18 minutes — before a regularly scheduled event. Do you meet with a book club every Tuesday? Then schedule your clutter clearing for 18 minutes before you need to leave. Does your favorite TV show come on at 10pm on Thursdays? Plan to de-clutter 18 minutes before it starts, and you'll have an incentive to get busy and get finished.
- Get support. Share your goals with someone who will cheer you on, check on your progress and celebrate your success. Telling your spouse usually isn't recommended, because a spouse may be too close to the situation and is usually better off being surprised once you're finished. Consider using a message board to get quick feedback.
Watch Video: Quick tips for organizing your home
- Reward yourself. Don't underestimate the importance of acknowledging a job well done. You will stay motivated if you have something fun to look forward to when you're finished. It could be a nap, a good book or lunch with a friend. Just don't go shopping and bring home more stuff to put away.
- Repeat. Organization is really just a habit. If you keep up with the daily stuff, it won't get the chance to overwhelm you again.
It all starts with a plan — once you know what to focus on, you can be clear about your first step, then the next step and the step after that. Keep in mind that done is better than perfect, so if that familiar overwhelming feeling starts to creep back in, just keep going and ask yourself, "What's next?"NEXT: Clutter-busting tool kit >>
- Three sizes of plastic food-storage bags. You can fit just about anything in them, and they're easy to see through.
- Trash bags. Don't forget to clearly label bags used for donations.
- Tape measure. This will help you avoid buying shelves or containers that won't fit your space.
- Kitchen timer. This will help you succeed, 18 minutes at a time.
- Label maker. I like the DYMO LetraTag 11944, which costs about $20 and is supereasy to use.
- Extra label tape and batteries. You don't want to run out of either in the middle of an organizing spurt!
- Notebook and pen. Keep these in one place to record ideas, measurements and a list of things you need to replace in your clutter-busting kit.
- Shredder. Save time by shredding as you go instead of making a pile to deal with later.
- Permanent marker. This is easier to read than pen or pencil, and it won't fade over time.
- Stack of boxes and laundry baskets. These will help you sort stuff into easily movable piles.
- Sticky notes. These are great for everything from labeling temporary files to identifying which pile goes where.
- Clear tape. You'll need this to attach signs to the sorting area so you know what to "keep," "donate" or "toss."
- Camera for before and after photos. There's nothing like the picture of progress—not to mention the mess of the past—to motivate you to keep up your organizing ways.
- Nail file and bandages. Even the most experienced organizers get hurt on the job.
- Cleaning wipes and dust rags. You can just imagine what you might find behind the file cabinet or desk.
- Rubber gloves. See above.
- List of local charities. This will make it easy to schedule pickup or drop-off of items you want to donate.
- Music. The right tunes can help you maintain energy and increase the fun factor.
- Water and snacks. Music isn't the only energy booster. Having snacks handy will also prevent you from getting sidetracked on the way to the kitchen.