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  • Jenn Lifford

How to Declutter and Organize Any Space

I have done a lot of decluttering and organizing around here over the past couple of years and have learned some basic guidelines that are helpful no matter what sized space or area of your home that you are trying to tackle.

I realize that I don’t always share the whole organization process and how to declutter when I am showing you some of my “after” spaces, so I wanted to break down what I typically do in any space that I organize. Hopefully these steps will help to make the process a little less overwhelming for you. So pick a space that you are wanting to get organized and let’s get going!

- Determine how much time you have. Obviously, the amount of time that you have is going to have a big impact on what sized space you will be able to organize. Whatever space you choose, it is KEY that you pick a space that you can actually finish within this time frame. If you have a big room to sort through, this may mean that you will just start with a drawer or two. The last thing that you want to do, is end up running out of time with a bigger mess than you started with. If you are new to organizing, I would recommend at least doubling that amount of time that you think a project will take – it is always better to have extra time left over at the end than to run out!

- Take everything out of the space. In order to truly declutter and organize your space, you need to know what’s actually in there. And that means taking everything OUT! Once you have a fresh slate, it will be easier to determine what you want to keep and how you want to organize it. Once you have everything out of the space, take a few minutes to give it a thorough cleaning – wipe down shelves, dust into the corners, vacuum or sweep the flooring, etc. If you are doing a large space or have a particularly cluttered area that you are working on, break your space into more manageable sections so you will be able to get through it all in your dedicated amount of time.

- Be aggressive with your decluttering. To do a thorough job of decluttering, you really need to be honest with yourself and learn to let things go. Evaluate every item and ask yourself if you use it, need it, and/or love it. If you came across the item in a store, would you still buy it today? Does it add value to your life? If the answer is “no”, it’s time to let it go. Always have a garbage bag on hand as well as a bin or box for items that you want to sell and/or donate. As hard as the decluttering process can be, think of all the perks that will go with it – creating a more peaceful and appealing environment, saving yourself time with cleaning and looking for things, and surrounding yourself with items that you love.

- Sort the remaining items into “stay” or “go”. Once you have the items left that you want to keep, evaluate what items need to go back into the space and what items may be better stored elsewhere in your home. For those objects that you will be storing elsewhere, put them where they belong immediately after finishing your space Don’t let them sit around and be one more pile that you have to sort through!

- Organize by “zones”. If you are organizing a room {or even a larger cupboard or closet}, think about how you want the space to function and what kinds of activities you will be doing there. Dividing a room into these smaller areas often makes the organization process less overwhelming and creates a very logical way to sort through your items. For example, in the kitchen you may have specific areas or cupboards dedicated to baking supplies, basic pantry staples, kitchen ware, etc. A linen closet may have a separate section for towels, linens, cleaning supplies, or basic household staples such as toilet paper or paper towels. Take stock of all of the items that you want to return to the space and sort them into categories keeping “like” items together.

- Keep everything accessible. The more often you use an item, the easier it should be to access. Store items that you use daily towards the front of your space and more towards eye level. Items used less frequently can be stored higher up or towards the back of your space. If you have deep cupboards, consider putting in a slider or pull out bins to make items in the back more accessible or look for tiered shelving so items in the back are still visible. Remember to try and store items as close as possible to the area that you will be using them {especially for items that are used daily}. Keep kid storage areas easy to reach with a designated spot for all of their supplies.

- Optimize your space.

Use your space to its full potential to get the maximum amount of storage and function. Add bars, hooks, or small storage caddies to the inside of cupboard doors or along the narrow sidewalls in closets. For small storage areas, think vertically and add additional shelving higher up {for seasonal or less frequently used items} or a wall storage unit. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box to come up with multi-use pieces that will work for both storage and decoration.

- Keep it simple.

Having a bunch of stacked boxes or other items may look pretty when you first organize everything, but it can be difficult to maintain. To get at something in the bottom box will require you to remove {and put back!} other boxes. Ideally, you want to have every item accessible in just one step, meaning that you don’t have to move two or three items out of the way to get to it. For items that you use less frequently, two step storage can be used if needed. Remember that the easier something is to do, the more likely you {and your family!} will continue to follow through with it. The simpler the storage and the less time involved, the better!

-Limit organization products.

If you would like to purchase bins, baskets, or other organization products to help keep your space neat and tidy, do this at the end of the organization process. You want to make sure that you are buying items that will enhance the organization system that you have created instead of having to come up with an organization system around the organization items that you purchase.

- Use labels. Labels are particularly useful when you have multiple people using the same area – just because you know where it goes, doesn’t mean that the rest of your family will. They are also really helpful when you are trying to access storage in more difficult to reach areas – if something is labeled you know exactly where to go instead of pulling out random boxes to find what you are looking for. Chalkboard labels, vinyl lettering, and other pretty labels can also add a decorative touch to your space!

- Re-evaluate and modify.

A truly organized space should really be quite easy to maintain with just a few minor habit changes, so if your space is starting to get cluttered again quickly, take some time to evaluate what the problems are. Is there just too much stuff in the space? Are items difficult to access and require a lot of shuffling around to get to them? Are things getting put back in the wrong spot? Maybe you just need to be a little more diligent about putting things away once you use them. Once you have figured out what the problems are, you can do a little tweaking to get things back on board – maybe you need to do a little more decluttering, purchase a bin or two to corral like items together, or label the designated storage areas so everyone knows where things go. Don’t give up – sometimes just a little change or two will make a big difference!

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