Three key questions to ask before you dig into your project…

By Sara Skillen, CPO®

Are you thinking about getting your home de-cluttered and organized for spring? Do you have the days picked out, and a trip for bins and labels planned?  Or, maybe you thought you’d do the weekend warrior thing where you go on a purging frenzy from Friday to Sunday.  Well just stop right there. Yes, you heard me – STOP.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that maybe your enthusiasm is based on impulse, which may be exactly why you ended up disorganized in the first place. Just because it’s warming up outside and the stores are full of pastel organizing supplies does not mean you have to act on those purging urges right away!  Have you put any careful thought into this adventure (at least beyond “I’m gonna get organized!”)? Failing to plan is planning to fail, friends. So postpone your plans for a week or two, and take a little time to ask yourself some important questions to prepare:

What is the MOST frustrating space you need to tackle? 

The most common comment I hear when someone first contacts me for help is “I just don’t know where to start.”  O.K., so just ask yourself which area gives you the biggest heebie-jeebies, and make your initial plans with that space in mind. Even if you think EVERY space is disorganized, when stop to think about it there’s usually one spot that you have the greatest tendency to avoid.  Is it the master closet, the attic…maybe even a file cabinet?

I’m a firm believer in tackling the worst first because it often uncovers lots of patterns and storage mistakes that then become easier to recognize elsewhere. For instance, do you keep running into bags full of stuff like device chargers, lip balm, receipts, and drink koozies? Maybe you have a tendency to do quick backseat car clean-outs (and maybe you should stop them).  It also gives you a realistic frame of reference for how long an organizing project actually takes.  If you can handle that basement with 15 boxes of paperwork dating from 1992 over a weekend, then perhaps you can tackle the master bathroom cabinets in an afternoon. Think, too: if working on an entire basement is not feasible, try focusing on the worst corner or shelf first.

Did you measure things like your shelves, your drawers, or the entire room (and did you make a list)? 

I once knew someone who went through several trips to the hardware store and a day-long boondoggle of hanging shelves and rods for an oddly-shaped bedroom closet…only to discover that the depth of it wouldn’t even allow for standard clothing hangers. What a waste of good intentions, time, and money! The depth of drawers can be a frustrating issue as well, and something we don’t always think about before purchasing those nifty drawer trays.  If the tray is deeper than the drawer, then you can’t close it, and then what?

No detail is too small when you’re gearing up for organizing projects.   Don’t walk into the store or do any online shopping without a specific list of what you need – from baskets and files to screws and labels. Before you head out, measure twice (maybe even three times), and purchase once.


How are you going to dispose of what you don’t need?

How many times have I been called to assist with organizing a garage, and discovered 8 or 10 boxes of things that were supposed to go to charity months before?  I get that organizing can be an exhausting process, and when you’ve spent all day making decisions about your unneeded stuff the last thing you may want to do is drive to the thrift store. But when you leave out this last step, you’re not really de-cluttering (you’re just moving things from one space to another). See if any of the charitable organizations in your community will schedule a home pickup, or set aside some budget for one of the junk hauling services to pay you a visit (many will deliver items to Goodwill and/or recycling).  If not, set a specific date and time to load everything up in the car and get it out.

For those of you pondering a garage sale, remember that a sale is an organizing project in and of itself.  Do a reality check and see if it’s worth your time to schedule, advertise, set up, and give up a Saturday for people to offer you bargain prices for your items – and don’t forget that some of your stuff will not even sell.  You’re likely going to have at least a box or two of things left over that needs disposal.

These questions aren’t the only ones to think through before you organize, of course, but they are an excellent way to get started. So by all means, procrastinate a few days on your organizing adventures! But use that time wisely to get your best plan for organizing success in place.