Categorizing is the Best First Step

Organizing tipWhether you have a bit of clutter, or a full blown mess, the best first step to organize it is to sort and categorize. Separating items into groups of similar things is the easiest way to start any organizing project. Creating categories in which to sort items is always the first action I take when starting any organizing project. For example five categories used for clutter that had collected on a client’s table are; unopened mail, papers to address, stuff to read, items to address, and items to be put away. Categorizing the clutter allowed us to address each of the 5 groups one at a time. This moved the organizing process along successfully. So, the next time you feel stuck or unsure of of where or how to start an organizing project remember categorizing is the best first step.

3D Character and question mark

Keep Criteria

Organizing tipEstablish some keep criteria to use when making decisions on what to keep or not keep. Keep items that meet at least two of your criteria. If items don’t meet any of your established criteria let them go. Listed below are examples of my keep criteria.

  1. The item warms my heart and makes me feel special and loved.
  2. The item is displayed prominently so I can see it every day.
  3. The item is useful and makes my life easier in some way.
  4. The item fits my current lifestyle, decor, and values.
  5. The item is unique, one-of-a-kind, and irreplaceable.
one dollar bills

Shop Less

Organizing tipShop less and buy less. When we have less coming in we have less decisions to make, less to organize, act upon, and maintain. One thing that has helped me buy less is to think before I buy and ask myself gatekeeper questions.

one chair

Try Minimalism

Organizing tipExperiment with minimalism. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live with less? Why not give it a try? Less stuff means you have less to organize and maintain. Here are 3 ideas for you to sample for the month or for two weeks.

  1. Purchase only food and absolute necessities, but nothing else. To make it more challenging don’t eat out, get take out, or go through a drive thru.
  2. Put 5 items into a donation box each day and schedule a donation pick up at the end of the month. Make sure you only put in items that belong to you. It is very easy to get rid of other peoples’ “junk”.
  3. Schedule 3 fun activities with family and friends that have nothing to do with bringing home material goods.

What is Clutter?

Helpful Organizer BlogI was very fortunate to have the opportunity to give a presentation on Conquering Clutter with Confidence at the 2018 Conference for NERSC (New England Resident Service Coordinators). I was excited to share my knowledge and expertise with this group. I started my presentation with the question, What is clutter? I shared the dictionary definition and my definition.

  • Dictionary definition: To litter or pile in a disordered manner; A confused or disordered state or collection; A disorderly heap or assemblageclutter
  • My definition: Clutter is a jumbled mess of miscellaneous stuff that has accumulated as a result of indecision and inaction.

After explaining my definition I was ready to move on, but was stopped with a few questions. One was, “What is the difference between hoarding and clutter and when is the line crossed?” I explained about the clutter-hoarding scale which is a tool used specifically for this purpose, and there is an image rating that is helpful to view. I also mentioned that I do not have the skill set to work with level 4 or 5 hoarders because the situation calls for more intervention and support than I can provide.

A second question was, “I have 3 sets of Christmas dishes, and my husband calls them clutter; are they?” To answer this I had to ask a few clarifying questions. Are the dishes scattered about in a jumbled mess? Her answer was no. Are they being used and serving a specific purpose? Her answer was yes. Are they causing you stress or frustration? Her answer was no for me, but yes for my husband. I told her that in my opinion, based on her answers to my questions, her Christmas dishes were not clutter. She gave an excited yelp and said she couldn’t wait to tell her husband. However, I was compelled to add that 3 sets of Christmas dishes may be a bit excessive, and if her answers to any of the 3 questions changes in the future, then their label would in fact be changed to clutter. I also pointed out that each individual views their own personal possessions differently than another person’s possessions. It is easy to misunderstand the value someone places on their own things. So think twice before tossing out someone’s stuff (“clutter”).

book caseA third question was asked, “What is the difference between a collection and clutter?” The dictionary definition of a collection is a group of objects or works to be seen, studied, or kept together. A collection is a group of items that someone is proud to share and display. Would you be proud to share and display your clutter? A collection holds monetary and sentimental value where as clutter is usually unimportant, random stuff. A collection is intentionally collected, but clutter is a mess that has accumulated as a result of not deciding what to do with things and not taking action with those things.

After thoroughly answering the question, what is clutter we discussed several clutter conquering solutions. Would you like some solutions? They can be found in the following articles.

Keep Clutter at Bay

Reaching the Finish Line

Organizing Small Spaces

©May 2018  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®   All Rights Reserved