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If you are like me, you get on organization kicks. The problem with getting on a kick is this

1. You create grandiose plans of everything you want to clean out.
2. You start thinking your home will look like something out of the pages of Real Simple or Martha Stewart Home (see exhibits A and B below).
(pic from Martha Stewart.com)

(pic by John Lavton via Real Simple)

3. You start out with the best of intentions and then lose steam as the real world sets in

Does this happen to you? Did you start out the New Year with the best of intentions and now you are still surrounded by the same mess? How can you get over this vicious cycle?

I do not know and I am not going to pretend to have all the answers. I do know that after the holidays I like to reorganize my house. I have done it for a couple years now and have a few things that I have learned. I have actually worked hard this year to not over promise to myself on what I can accomplish. I have just started this weekend on my organization goals and over the next several weeks, I am going to intersperse my regular posts with organizational tips as I work through my house.

However, to get started I want to give you my tips on how to break down your house into manageable pieces and give you ideas on how to break any cycles you may have.

First, clean your house. I know this sounds counterintuitive. You tell yourself, "Oh, I will just clean while I organize."  Yes, you will. You will DEEP clean when you organize. But first, go through and do a light cleaning on your house. Trust me on this. Because what you will find are your sneaky clutter hidey-holes. You know, that basket where you throw all the magazines and catalogs. The shelf in the coat closet where you throw all the gloves and mittens. The junk drawer. The paper piles. This list goes on and on. And you need to list out all of these places as you start your cleaning.
(Pic by Nato Welton via Real Simple)

Once you make a list of all your secret clutter places, tackle those first. At each place you need to purge the space completely until it is bare. Then clean it – dust, scrub, or vacuum it out. Then once it is clean, you need to practice the three-box rule on everything you have taken out. One box to keep, one box to donate/sell, and one box to throw away. Once you have your keep box finished, review your space and decide if you could add any organizational tools to help keep it under control. I will get into this more in detail as I move through my own house but in each space if you could make it more ordered with baskets, shelving, boxes, or organizers you should invest in those. As I move through each of my spaces, I will also highlight some great places to get those needed accessories at great prices.

Green Home Design and Zero Energy Home: Craftsman Renovation contemporary entry

Finally, as you put each keep thing back into the space ask yourself before you set it in place, “Do I REALLY need this?” This is your last gut check, and if you feel yourself waver even a little you need to let it go.

Now that you have your secret clutter places solved, you need to start on the rest of your home. I would pick one space a week to keep it manageable. My personal favorite way of working through the house is to simply work through the house. Literally, from the front door, simply work through each room of your home. Use the same rules. Completely clear the space, clean it out, divide into three boxes, add accessories, and then fill back up with your keeps.

The Container Store > Walnut & Platinum elfa d├ęcor Walk-In Closet contemporary

This whole process is likely to take you quite awhile to finish.  So set your expectations as such.  I would say to give yourself a deadline of two months to finish your whole house.  Especially if you are like me and work all week.  Make sure that you set up realistic goal that takes into account how big your house is an how drastic your cleanout is going to be. 

A few more general tips:
  • For anything you need to donate, make a list yourself of everything you have. That way when you go to Goodwill or wherever you go to donate, you can have them give you a receipt and attach it to your list. Are you lazy like I used to be and don’t track what you donate? Check out the Goodwill official Donation Valuation Guide to see how much you could be claiming as a charitable deduction. Bonus points if you track your list in Excel or other spreadsheet programs so you can easily add it up come tax time.
  • If you say you are going to do a yard sale, give yourself a month to do it. That is it. Only exception is if you live in a neighborhood where they do regularly scheduled ones and you hang on to the stuff until then.  If you go past your time limit, pile it in the car and take it to Goodwill.
  • Once you get your new space all cleaned out think about what goes into it the next time you are cleaning. Instead of just throwing the magazines in the pile or stuff in the kitchen junk drawer, think about if you really need it or if you are just going to throw it out on the next organizational kick!
Do you have any tips you want to share? Please do. Link em up or any posts you may have written.

I am linking this up to Sarah’s So Fresh So Clean Party at Thrify Decor Chick! Join the fun!

copyright 2009

Thrifty Decor Chick

P.S. - If you want to read my next organizational post that builds on this one check it out here!

8 frugal friends said ...

Beth@The Stories of A to Z said... @ January 17, 2010 at 10:31 PM

I tackled two closets this weekend and hope to tackle another one tomorrow! My problem is actually dropping the stuff off at Goodwill. It usually sits out forever before getting restashed in the basement. I need to get better about dropping it off and getting it out-a-hear!

Anonymous said... @ January 17, 2010 at 10:55 PM

I especially like the tip on making a list of your secret clutter places! Easy to overlook those when I'm organizing. Also setting REALISTIC goals. I tend to be overly optimistic on what I'm going to get done and then it gets frustrating. Thanks for the tips. Have a good week.

Melissa said... @ January 17, 2010 at 11:05 PM

Great tips! I'm going to tackle the linen closet and my daughter's closet tomorrow. *gulp*

Michelle @ Sweet Something Design said... @ January 18, 2010 at 1:06 AM

Great post! Thanks for the goodwill guide-didn't know that existed! Thanks, and thanks for the tips!

Melissa B. said... @ January 18, 2010 at 6:10 AM

The one thing I can't stand is when Mr. Fairway folds the towels the wrong way and they won't fit correctly in the linen closet. Now I just have to work on the rest of the house! SITS sent me by, and I'm glad they did...

It's Complicated

Shell said... @ January 18, 2010 at 6:59 AM

It was amazing how much stuff that I got rid of when we moved. That helped a lot. I looked at EVERYTHING and asked if it's something we really need or not. Because I hate packing, so if we didn't need something, it got donated or trashed. That was a huge help!

Bonnie @ House of Grace said... @ January 18, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Great tips! It's motivating!!
Thanks for sharing.

Check mine out out at...


Claudya Martinez said... @ January 18, 2010 at 6:01 PM

What a great idea to track the items I donate on Excel. I never track anything, but I really should because when I clean out I end up giving a lot away.

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