September 1, 2019 will mark 15 years since I started my professional organizing business. In those 15 years, I have learned a lot about how to get organized faster. Here are my top 6 tips to get organized fast.
1. Establish Exit Zones
Organizing depends on prioritizing. That includes de-prioritizing. Before you can create sustainable systems, you must declutter the excess that is getting in your way. So the first step is recognizing that this excess has to go somewhere. Unless you have made arrangements for everything to exit the same day, you should establish exit zones. Exit zones include areas for discard, donate, sell, and give-to. A garage is the ideal place to establish exit zones. Of course, this means in many cases that the garage needs to be cleared first. The good news is that the garage tends to have the most quick wins. We tend to have a lot of things in the garage that are on their way out anyway.
By the way, this tip may sound familiar. It was top of my list in my last blog post, Organizing Your Next Steps. It’s no accident. If you want to get organized fast AND make next steps easier, always establish exit zones first!
2. Sort Review Items by Simple Categories
The toughest part about getting organized is making decisions. You can give yourself easier decisions by first sorting items by categories. Context drives decisions. It is important not to over-think this with too many categories. Some of the most common ones include office supplies, keepsakes, utility, books, clothes, loose paper, media, and decor. First you will get a realistic sense of just how much you actually have in each category. (It can be shocking!) Then you can more easily prioritize the best and de-prioritize the worst.
3. Big Categories Last
Review the big categories last. If you are working in the bedroom, that’s the clothes. If you are working in the home office that’s the paper. There are two reasons for this. First, you will need the most amount of space cleared to spread out the biggest category. Second, you will need the most focus. It is too easy to get distracted and discouraged by other unfinished categories while doing the biggest category. So put those smaller categories behind you first.
4. Keep the Review Close
Keeping the review close is at the heart of how to get organized faster. We always open a 2×4 folding table that we use for nothing but reviewing. Next to this table, we keep a trash bag and a donate box. On the left side, we have all the categorized items to review. On the right side we have all the categorized items to keep. Opposite the table, we keep empty cardboard sorting boxes. Everything we need for reviewing is in as tight a circle as possible. There is no reason left to go to another room. If an item needs to go to another room, it goes in the “elsewhere” box for now. If a paper needs to get filed, it goes in the “to file” box, for now. Distribution happens later, but to keep the review fast, keep it close.
5. Clarify the Why
Ever feel like you probably should get rid of something, but you just don’t know if you are ready? That’s very common, but do NOT resort to the “when in doubt, throw it out” philosophy. Why? Because nothing slows the reviewing process faster than having regrets. Relieve yourself of the pressure of making the perfect purge decision. You will have other opportunities. Keep the item for now, but here’s the caveat. Get clear on exactly why you are keeping that item. This is important because you can keep the same item for different reasons. Is it a potential decor item? Is it a keepsake? Whatever the reason, sort it with the other keeps in its category and keep for now. Momentum trumps perfection.
6. “Eat Dessert Last”
Perhaps the biggest mistake in getting organized is buying organizing supplies first and forcing your life into them. My rule on organizing organizing supplies is simple. Quantity dictates systems. In other words, get clear on the number of items you are keeping and where they are going first. Otherwise, you might be getting containers that are too big, too small, or not necessary at all.
Buying containers before prioritizing is the equivalent of getting a prescription from your doctor before a diagnosis. Also, buying containers first creates the temptation to contain items, before you finish reviewing. Let’s face it, containing items is more fun than making decisions on what items to keep. It’s like eating dessert first. Once you start on the hot fudge sundae, you are discouraged from going back to the broccoli. Stay focused with these tips and do the review as fast as possible. Then reward yourself with the dessert.
Containers alone will never get you organized. A sustainable system to stay organized is dependent upon a process of reprioritizing. Taking the less important stuff out of the way opens your path to the most important stuff. It’s not an easy process, but these tips will help.
If you need more momentum and focus (and more hands) to get organized faster, that’s exactly what we do. Contact us today at 203.253.8414 for a free consult.