by Kathy Tucker, Professional Organizer
We have all seen the picture perfect kitchens, bathrooms, master bedrooms and even children’s rooms. And if we are honest, we have coveted and even drooled over them.
But do they really exist? Do people actually live in organized, decluttered homes? If so, how do you do this? And where on earth do you start?
Well, to coin a phrase from a familiar song: “Let’s start at the beginning”, with defining the process.
The Difference Between Decluttering and Organizing
De-cluttering via Webster’s Dictionary states: “to remove clutter from a room, an area, etc. Got more time? Declutter your closets.”
Organizing also via Webster’s Dictionary states: “ to form into a coherent unity or functioning whole: trying to organize her thoughts”
That’s clear? Correct?
My definitions are somewhat simpler. Think about them like this: De-Cluttering is the first step to organizing. You need to evaluate your goals, create a plan and then execute your plan. Basically, decluttering is the systematic way you remove or release the items that are no longer useful for your daily life. We’ll dive deeper into this process as we go along.
Organizing is much deeper. You seriously get into the nitty gritty deep stuff, and this can take countless hours, depending on your goals. Basically, organizing is the process of sorting through all of the items and finding or creating a place for everything and putting everything in its place.
Oftentimes, one is mistaken for the other. When I enter a home as a Professional Organizer, my clients are frequently embarrassed by the chaos which has overtaken them. In some cases their homes are simply cluttered and they do not know how to go about removing the clutter that is weighing them down. In others, their homes are in desperate need of deep organizing.
Clutter, can simply be an overabundance of ‘stuff’ messing with your home, your head and even your family. Clutter can be met head on with consistency and removal of the unnecessary items that stand in your way.
Organizing, can possibly take hours, days, weeks and even years to sort through all of it. When deep organizing, you must look at every item. By doing so, you could possibly find an important document that you have misplaced or you could find that treasured antique picture of your grandparents from days gone by.
There is so much information to share on this subject; but let’s keep it simple, shall we?
Progress is Found in the Process
Before we start, know this: You are often your own worst enemy. You expect perfection with the first attempt. Don’t push yourself too hard; in doing so you create your own environment of fast discouragement. And seriously, it is not worth it.
Also, take a few minutes to take before pictures. Yes, even that disgusting pile of whatever it is up against the wall. Once the project is complete, take some after pictures. You will be amazed at the progress you have accomplished. And when you’re done, don’t forget to congratulate and possibly even reward yourself!
Basically there are three major steps in decluttering and organizing.
Step 1 :: Evaluate. What are you dealing with?
• This area in my home is out of control.
Step 2:: What is Your Goal? What will work in this room /area for you?
• You want order in this area.
• How will it look, feel and function for you?
Step 3 :: Make Your Plan. How do I declutter and eliminate all of this stuff?
Follow the four-fold process: Sort. Purge. Donate. Keep.
- Sort :: Putting ‘like items with like items’ to determine how many of each type you have.
- Purge :: You are able to release the unnecessary items.
- Donate :: Giving the items to family and friends, women’s shelters, and/or countless charities.
- Keep :: Items that you choose to continue to enjoy.
A Real-Life Example
Let’s get started. Now that you have the framework for decluttering and organizing, let’s see what this plan looks like and how it will work in the context of cleaning out your 7 year old’s room, with your child alongside you to assist. What happens to our children over time? They accumulate things and even more so, they continue to grow!
Those things that they accumulate are often toys and personal treasures.
- What’s broken and cannot be repaired? Toss or purge it.
- What’s outgrown for their age development? Donate.
- What are their most favorite and often played with items? Keep.
Wow! You have just cleared out half of the room. Great Job!
Clothes often come with sentimental attachment… for Mom, not the child. We all want our children to look respectable and wear nice clothes. This means from time to time we, as the parent, need to assist them with going through all of their clothing.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and your child as you go through their clothes together:
- Does it fit? Are the knees completely gone? Can you see through the cloth of the pants in any particular area? Is it too tight or too short? Hmmm… In the child’s eyes, is the item ugly? Toss it.
- Is this piece of clothing age appropriate? Are you seriously still having your 6 year old wear ruffles on her behind? I don’t think so.
- Is this piece of clothing still a good quality item? Donate.
- Does that favorite pair of jeans and top fit perfectly? Do you both agree? Keep it.
Well, look at that… you just found lots of space in your child’s closet and dresser. You’re doing fantastic!
Through my years of working with children and professional organizing, I have another practical idea to share, which will help keep things in their place.
For younger non-reading children, take a picture of the clothing item that you would like in a certain drawer and then tape that picture on the front of the dresser drawer. This will assist your child in learning where their pajamas or even their underwear go. Also below the picture, print the word of the item. This allows their brains to associate that word with that item. Thus, you are teaching sight words at a very young age.
For reading children who struggle with the chaos of where to stuff their clothes in the drawer, I have learned that sectioning off the inside of their drawers with blue painters tape and labeling the tape is very helpful. For example, you can easily divide a dresser drawer in half with the tape. One side is for t-shirts the other for long sleeved shirts or maybe jeans and shorts. You get the idea. I’ve also used blue tape on either the top edge or on the upper corners of the drawer front with the contents listed there. This simple step encourages your child to put things where they belong, so they can locate them later. It also teaches them order in their own world…. their room.
Now, you and your child are on your way to a smooth functioning room. Please be advised: Picture perfect rooms only appear on social media and in magazines. So please, do not put that pressure on yourself or your child! Make the room work for them. Is it functional? Can they find the item when they want it? Can you see the floor? Are they pleased with the room and willing to do their best to keep it up?
Then, my Friend, you have a win here!
To Sum It All Up
Wise words have been shared down through the ages: “For God is not the author of chaos, but of peace.” You can find this quote in I Corinthians 14:33 of the Bible. It is something to ponder.
Remember, the chaos of the clutter did not happen overnight. Therefore do not expect the new plan and order to happen overnight.
This takes time!
Once you have spent the time and energy to create a calmer living space in your home, you will find a more fluid flow for your daily life. Decluttering and organizing can be time consuming and hard work, but it can also often times be fun and incredibly rewarding. The calm which you have created from the original chaos is worth all of the effort.
Meet the Author
Kathy Tucker and her husband Ken have been married for over 40 years. She is mom to her daughter and grandma to 5 blessings who are the joys of her heart. Kathy is a skilled professional organizer, owning her own organizing company for 14 years. When she is not mentoring or volunteering at church, you can often find her contemplating how she can renovate, redecorate, and organize (or reorganize) rooms in her own and other’s homes. More than anything, Kathy has a heart to follow Christ and to walk alongside, helping, and encouraging those around her. Life is a journey of joy for Kathy and she looks forward to continuing to help others through the skills that God has given her, traveling with Ken, and enjoying her grandchildren.