Organizing a cluttered space can be overwhelming for anyone. I like to start by finding one room I can use to organize everything in during the amount of time needed – whether it’ll be a few days or weeks.
Have a sufficient number of empty boxes (for heavier items), heavy duty trash bags (for clothing and lighter items) and storage containers (for breakables) to sort items to discard, donate, recycle, repurpose or save. For space while sorting, folding tables are useful.
Label just a couple bags “Trash” and, if needed, boxes for “Recyclable bottles, cans, glass” or “Recyclable newspapers.” You’ll use these first. Avoid labeling other bags or boxes for now.
I’ve found the best way to sort through clutter is to move everything to one side of the room, leaving the other side empty. During this move, sort out recyclables (cans, bottles, unwanted newspaper, etc.) and trash (disposables, damaged items). Don’t get ahead of yourself and try to begin organizing the things you’ll want to keep – it will take too long and you’ll run out of space.
You might be creating a mountain, but you’re doing it safely! As you move items, make a mental note of what and how much you have (clothing, household, books, etc.). Try to visualize the way you’re going to organize your items, and how much space they will take up.
After everything has been moved, set up tables in the empty space if you have them, and move the trash and recyclables bags next to them.
For Items You Want to Keep
Place empty boxes and containers on top of the tables. Using that mental note of what you have, you’ll have a better idea of how to categorize your items, and how many boxes and bags to leave available. Label the bags, boxes, or containers.
You might have photographs, seasonal clothing, household (linens, décor), kitchen (dishes, glassware, utensils), entertainment media (electronic games, board games), sporting goods, collectibles (including memorabilia), crafts, books, jewelry, paperwork (taxes, medical papers, guarantees), tools, and items for gardening, camping, and office.
Items for Donation, Yard Sale, or Consignment
Place bags and boxes under the tables for donation, yard sale or to place with a consignment shop. Keep similar items together when sorting since some charities and consignment shops accept only specific items. They vary on accepting clothing, furniture, household items, baby items, toys, sporting goods, etc. Label the bags and boxes “Donation,” “Yard Sale,” or “Consignment” and the type of items they will hold. This will also keep you organized if you plan a yard sale.
Now you’re ready to begin sorting! As you bring items from the pile to the table, ask yourself these questions:
- When was the last time I used this?
- Is this enhancing my lifestyle right now? Craft and hobby items are good examples of “Someday, I’m going to …”
- Can someone else use this more than I can?
- How many of these do I have and really need?
- How much time or money would it take to replace this if I did need it again?
- Is keeping this making more work for me? Is it functional or just sitting on a shelf waiting to be dusted?
- If I had to move, would I take this with me? If not, you’re giving it permission to take up valuable space.
- If I don’t need it, could I sell it and purchase something that might enhance my lifestyle?
- Do these clothes or shoes fit me well? Do I feel good when I wear them?
- Is this an item I haven’t used in a while but can repurpose?
If you have clothing or shoes you haven’t worn in a year, consider donating them unless they’re seasonal and you’ll wear them again. Entertainment media gets outdated quickly. Consider donating electronic and board games not used in a while, along with CDs, DVDs, and VCR tapes (I imagine we all still have some of these).
Old appliances and electronics (computers, phones, iPods, cords, cables) can be recycled through local department stores or recycling centers. Before donating or recycling electronics containing personal information, ensure your data has been permanently deleted first. For newspaper clippings, photographs and documents, consider making digital copies to free up space.
My best advice is, don’t do it all at once so you’re not overwhelmed. And before donating any items, wait a week to be sure you’re okay with it.