A Step by Step Guide
Have you ever looked around your house and gotten overwhelmed by the mess? Have you ever stood in your living room wondering how it got like this and where to start cleaning it all up?
Have you ever felt lost knowing you need to start somewhere, but you don’t know where that spot is? Knowing you need to do something, but you don’t have a clue how to start organizing this mess?
When it feels like the mess has taken over, it can get really overwhelming! It can be confusing trying to figure out where to start and even harder to get started.
But what if you could? What if you could bring order to the mess? Would you believe me if I told you it was possible? Well, it is possible, my Friend!
Let’s walk through 6 simple steps to help you identify where you need to start, what it will look like in the end, and create a plan so you will know exactly how to start organizing your messy house.
Your Most Important Tool: Perspective
Before you begin organizing. Before you start dreaming what your space could look like. Before you run to the store and buy all those cute organizing bins and baskets and containers that look darling, you need to remember two very important things.
These two elements will help you keep your perspective as you walk through the process of organizing your house.
#1 :: Organizing takes time!
Think about it: Did you house get to where it is now overnight? No! It took time to get it where it is now. This mess didn’t build up just in the last hour or the last week or even in the last month. It has built up over time. And because it built up over time, you won’t be able to undo what’s been done in an hour or even a week. But you know what? That’s totally okay! Give yourself the grace and the time to work at it little by little. When you give yourself time and work at it one step at a time, you will see the results you want.
#2 :: The progress is in the process.
You know those pictures of immaculately clean and organized houses that are splashed all over the covers of magazines and on social media? Do yourself a huge favor: Don’t make those houses your end goal. Don’t make your end goal perfection. Perfection is an illusive vision that you’ll never be able to get to. Instead, choose to see your organizing progress is in the process, not in achieving and maintaining perfection all the time! Never forget: The progress is in the process, not in perfection!
When you get these two elements in your mind even before you begin, your organizing is off to a great start! Why? Because you’ve just done a huge amount of work to get the right mindset, the right perspective. You’ve taken a huge load of guilt off of yourself before it began crushing you. Don’t fall for the trap that you have to know how to do this right away and that you have to get it all done right now.
Starting the Process
You’ve taken a few moments to set your perspective and wrap your mind around the scope of this project, but where do you start? Let’s face it, starting with your mindset and perspective is great and necessary. But standing in a messy living room looking around and thinking about perspective doesn’t pick up the toys on the floor or fold the pile of laundry spilling over on the couch or get all those books straightened up on the shelf, does it?
So where do you start?
Let’s start at the very beginning.Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music
A very good place to start!
When you read, you begin with A, B, C
When you sing, you begin with do, re mi
If I could add a line to this song, it would say: When you organize you begin with 1, 2, 3.
Step 1 :: Create a Place for Your Must Have Items
Before you start organizing different areas in your space, first create a space for those must-have items. You know the ones: your keys and purse. Your sunglasses and cell phone. Your wallet and lipstick. Create a space where you can place these items and – here’s the key – they’ll still be there when you come back for them.
Now this could be a space right near the door or next to your bed or on your dresser or in your entryway. The space you choose doesn’t matter as much as knowing where that space is. If you have little ones that like to move things, make sure you choose a spot where they cannot move your keys, phone and purse!
It may seem odd to start organizing your messy house by creating a spot for your keys, right? But think about it for a second: How much time do you spend looking for your keys, your phone, your purse when it’s time for you to leave the house? It could be anywhere from 1 minute to 1 hour, right? So, when you start by creating a place for these needed items, you start to feel more on top of your organizing process right from the very beginning. And, yes, this is built in motivation right there, my Friend!
Step Two :: Decide on a Plan
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you start organizing is to organize a little space here and a little space there and another little space over there. When you spread these small organized spaces out all over your house, it looks like nothing is getting accomplished and it’s very easy to give in to overwhelm and give up.
Don’t make this mistake! Now, I’m not going to lie to you, it will take longer to bring organization to every space in your home taking it one space at a time. But when you focus on one area at a time, you’ll be able to see organization happening. You’ll be able to see the progress you’re making. And on top of it all, you’ll be able to walk into your newly organized space and enjoy spending time in that space, which in turn will give you motivation to keep working on the rest of your house! Remember, it’s all about the progress in the process, not about achieving perfection!
So how do you decide on a plan? First, you need to decide on the room you want to start organizing. To figure out which room you should start in, answer these questions:
- What room do you like to spend your time relaxing in? Are you able to relax in that room or do you get stressed out and overwhelmed by the clutter?
- What room do you spend more time hunting for what you need than being able to find what you need?
- What room has been bugging you for a really long time and you just can’t relax until some organization starts happening in that room?
- What room do you feel needs to be organized first?
Do you have that room in your mind? Now, keep in mind, it’s possible to organize many different rooms in your house. In fact, it’s beneficial to organize all the different rooms in your house! But, if you’re struggling with organization in your entire house, you have to pinpoint a starting place. You have to pick one room to get started in. Remember, once that first room is organized, you can move on to the next room, but you have to start with only one room at a time. Do you have that room you want to start with? Great! On to step three!
Step 3 :: Break It Down
Now that you’ve decided on the room you’re going to start with, take a few moments and look around that room. If you can, physically go stand in that room and look around. When you first start to organize a room, taking on the entire room all at once can feel motivating at first, but when you get into it, it can feel overwhelming.
The whole goal here is to get rid of the overwhelm and clear the confusion, right? So how do you do that when it comes to organizing your room? Your break the room down into smaller sections.
For example, if you’re starting in your living room, you could break it down like this: The bookshelf, the entertainment center, the corner in between the couch and the bookshelf, the open space in front of the couch, and the space behind the couch.
Instead of tackling your entire living room as a whole, take one of those sections and work on just that one area. Now, this might seem odd to think of breaking a room down into smaller sections like this, but by doing it this way, you’re actually making it easier and creating motivation for yourself.
You see, when you work on a little piece here and another little piece over on the other side of the room and yet another piece in another corner, it’s very difficult to see what you’ve accomplished. You can’t take a step back and see a clearly organized area. And that can get demotivating quick!
On the other hand, if you start in one area and get that one area organized before you move on to the next area, you can look back and see what you’ve accomplished. It’s very motivating to be able to look in one spot and physically see the organization you’ve brought to that space.
And on top of it all, when you take on one little section at a time, you give yourself focus. You give yourself a small area to work in so you can get laser focused on what you need to do in that area.
Step 4 :: Think Through Your Plan
You wouldn’t want to start something without knowing what you’re doing, right? Even when you go to the grocery store, before you leave your house you have a plan: You’re going to the store to get groceries. You know the direction you need to drive. You know the items you need to purchase. You have a plan.
In the same way, you want to have an idea, a plan of how you’re going to organize your space even before you begin. Now, this sounds intimidating, right? But it really isn’t!
Take our example of your living room. What do you want it to look like when you’re done? Do you want your daughter’s dolls on the floor? Do you want them in her room? Or maybe they can stay in the living room if they have a bin to live in? What about that bookshelf? Do you want the books standing up neatly on the shelf instead of crammed in every which way? Do you want your books on the top shelves and your child’s books on the bottom shelf? What about that space in front of your couch? Do you want LEGOs all over the floor or do you want them contained in a bin in the living room? Or perhaps they need to be gathered and go to live in your child’s room?
What do you want it to look like? Take a few minutes and picture the end result in your head. Remember, you’re organizing not creating perfection! But get that idea, that clear picture in your head before you start to move anything around.
Step 5 :: Action is Better than Intention
Good intentions are wonderful! But good intentions won’t organize anything! Now, this step can be the hardest step. This is the step where you move from identifying your intentions, from planning it out in your head to actually starting to do the physical work of organizing.
Now, I know you might be thinking, “This is Step 5! This isn’t Step 1! Step 1 is the hardest part of a project, right?”
Yes, you’re right! This is Step 5, but think about it for a minute: In steps 1 through 4 you were planning. You weren’t physically moving anything. You were identifying where you wanted to start, getting that picture in your head, and seeing the end result. There is a difference between brainstorming and planning and turning your plan into reality.
And yet, organizing doesn’t happen unless you start. Unless you pick a spot and start to put in the work. And that is where this step is the hardest step. Actually starting on the project you want to do. Physically picking up the dolls on the floor. Scooping up the LEGOs into a bin. Taking one book off the shelf and another and another until you are able to wipe off the shelf and put the books back the way you want them.
You see, plans are wonderful. You need a plan before you start your organizing. But when it comes to seeing the results of organizing, action is always better than intention.
Step 6 :: Keep Going!
Once you get a small section organized sometimes you can be tempted to stop. To look at what you’ve done and think, ‘That’s good. I’ll just stop there.’ But don’t stop! Keep going!
Remember, your house did not get messy overnight. A lot of different things piled up and accumulated throughout a long period of time. It‘ll take time to work through it all and get it organized. Don’t give up! Keep going!
Little bit by little bit you’ll see organization coming to your space. You’ll see progress happening. It might not be as fast as you’d like, but it will happen. Keep celebrating the victories of the small areas you have organized and keep going to continue bringing order and organization to the other areas of your space.
The Undistracted Hour Challenge
Now, when you are looking to bring organization to your entire house that has gotten messy over time, it can feel completely overwhelming. And when you get overwhelmed, it can be hard to find the motivation to even start organizing, right?
If you find you’re in that place of overwhelm and not knowing what to do, try this:
Take one hour a day as undistracted time to organize one of your small areas you’ve identified. Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent, turn off all the screens (after you start some motivating music, that is), set a timer for 60 minutes and focus on organizing for that set amount of time. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in one hour a day when you take the time to laser focus.
Stuck on Where to Start
If you’ve walked through these steps and you’re still stuck on where to start, here are a few suggestions to help you get going:
In the Kitchen
Start by making sure all your dishes are clean and put away. Wipe down your counters while you’re at it. If there are non-kitchen items on the counters, put them in a box or even a laundry basket to go through once you have the dishes caught up. Just remember: Don’t leave those items in the box! Once the dishes are caught up, go through the box of random items and put them where they belong!
In the Bedrooms
Make your bed! Your first step in cleaning a bedroom should always be clearing off the bed and making it. Believe it or not, this one simple act makes a huge difference in the appearance of your room. Think about it: Your bed is the prominent feature of your bedroom. It’s the biggest piece of furniture in there. The simple act of making your bed makes your room look so much cleaner and more organized as well as giving you a space to place things as you work on organizing the rest of the room.
Clothes and Laundry
If the laundry feels like it’s taking over your house, start by working on the laundry. Start a load of laundry, then fold and put away the clean items. Make it your goal to keep the laundry going and catch up on all the laundry. But don’t just get it clean! Make sure you fold it and put it away where it belongs once it comes out of the dryer!
Clear Floor Space
Pick up the floor space in one of your main living areas. It’s amazing how taking 15 minutes to clear the floor space will give you the feeling of accomplishment. Plus, it’s a major bonus when you don’t have to pick your way through the room like a minefield for fear of stepping on a LEGO or other sharp toy and hurting your feet or tripping over something!
Organizing is a process. When you start your organizing with this mindset, organizing can be fun, rewarding, challenging, and relieving. It’s like playing the long game. You have quick wins and victories along the way as you see that bookshelf or that corner going from chaos to order. But when you’re taking on a project as big as your house, you have to keep in mind: This is a marathon, not a sprint!
Remember, this process will take time. And that’s okay! Your timing will look different than anyone else’s, but as long as you’re making progress and moving forward, you’re doing fantastic!
More than anything, remember the progress is in the process! You’re not going for perfection here, but progress. Are you more organized today than you were yesterday? Fantastic! You’re winning! Make it your goal to be more organized tomorrow than you are today. Take it one step at a time and keep moving forward.
By taking it one step and a time, celebrating the small wins, and focusing on your progress through the process you will get there! You can have an organized space!
If you’re looking for some tips and tricks on how to organize specific spots in your home, check out the links and resources below. Each one is packed with simple, practical steps to help you bring organization and order to the space that needs it.
- 10 Simple Tips to Organize Your Kitchen with Ease
- Using Bins, Baskets, and Buckets to Contain the Toy Explosion
- How to Conquer Your Laundry Pile
- Containing the Clothing Chaos
- 5 Easy Steps to Pick Up Your Room Quickly
- My Top Tips on How to Organize Your Pantry
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.