Organizing and decluttering are one of those things people dread doing because, most of the time, it’s overwhelming. Whether it’s your bedroom closet, the kitchen pantry, or the entire house, decluttering is possible.
“What I see my clients gain from it, and I have personally in the past, is peace of mind. It’s turning chaos into calm,” says Meghan Cocchiaro, the founder of Organized by Meg. “When you have a lot of clutter or things are out of place, you feel heavy. It weighs on you.”
Once done, this dreadful process has excellent benefits, from knowing what you have to buy at the store to feeling good walking into a room. Cocchiaro provides advice and steps on starting this process and how to do it efficiently.
Where to Start
“Generally, we will pick the priority area, the space causing them the most pain. The space that they use the most in their day, and what makes the most logistical sense. A lot of times, that’s the kitchen and pantry because, in most homes, that is the heart of the home,” says Cocchiaro.
If you can’t find the motivation to tackle the messy kitchen, start small with a closet or a single cabinet.
The REAL Process
Once you’ve found the troublesome area in your home that gives you the most grief, begin Cocchiaro’s REAL Process.
REMOVE: “Whether I come into your space or you’re doing it yourself, the step is to remove the contents from that area…You’re going to take every single thing out so that you’re starting with a clean slate. While you’re removing it, you’re sorting the items that you’re removing into categories,” says Cocchiaro.
For example, one pile is breakfast, another is snacks, a third pile is meals, etc. These piles can be as broad or as specific as you want. This is a great time to do a deep clean in the now-empty space.
EDIT: “This is one of the most important steps in any organizing project. You look at each pile and category because now it’s all together and in one spot,” explains Cocchiaro.
At this phase of the process, it’s time to throw out expired and unused items you have multiples of and things the family doesn’t eat.
“So you’re editing those piles to pick out what you’re going to keep and the stuff that you’re not going to keep. You can further categorize into donate, sell, consign, needs to be repaired, and belongs elsewhere in the house.”
Assign: “‘A’ is all about space planning and assigning a home for all of your stuff,” she says.
Now is when you can start putting things in a container or bin, but remember, only some things need to be in a container. For example, you don’t need to put appliances in a bin, but various smaller gadgets that tend not to be used very often can find a home in a container.
LABELING: “Labeling can be on the light side or the heavy side,” says Cocchiaro. “This is also helpful for kids as they get older and they do the dishes, or they’re assigned to empty the dishwasher. Everything has a place that it can go back to.”
Labeling helps maintain a system and will make it easier to keep the area organized. It’s also helpful when you’re about to go shopping because everything is in a specific spot, so you quickly know what you have.
Emotional Attachment and Obligation
Keeping items because of emotional attachment and obligation tends to be one of the things we all struggle with.
Cocchiaro suggests that if you’re keeping items out of obligation to someone else, ask yourself these questions: Does this person even know I have this? When they come over, do they expect to see it out?
“The second thing to think about: if it was a gift, it’s the act of the gift that is the gift. That person gives you a gift because it makes them feel good, and it makes you feel good to receive the gift. But at that point, there’s no obligation after that to keep it,” she says.
Don’t be afraid to say goodbye to something that’s been hard to get rid of. Even consider taking a photo, so you never forget it.
“If something is a memento where it’s definitely important to you, and you would like to keep it, it’s not out of guilt or obligation; how can you better lay that item so that it actually serves you better?”
If it’s a jersey or a shirt, DIY frame it or send it to a company to have it professionally framed. If you’re holding onto a jewelry set, get a pretty glass, acrylic display, or jewelry box where you can see the item.
“Turn it into something that you can display and actually see it more often so that it’s not buried away somewhere and you actually remember why it’s important to you.”
Stay Organized After Organizing
“To stay organized, you have to make a couple of shifts in your mindset. It’s really making decisions about what’s entering your home on a daily basis and making decisions about what stays in your home on a more periodic basis,” says Cocchiaro.
When shopping after becoming organized, you need to ask yourself: Do I have space for this?
“All of those impulsive decisions over the years add up to a lot of clutter, especially with children because they have so many toys and items. Going through the toys periodically, especially when they’re young, is important. I recommend a minimum of twice a year. Say before a birthday and a major holiday.”
Cocchiaro also suggests monitoring what comes into the home during birthdays and holidays.
“You can tell people what you do and do not want your kids to have or receive.”
Grandparents might want to give your child a motorized Jeep. That’s when you should ask yourself, do I have room for this? The answer is probably not.
It’s not easy to declutter and organize a space or a home, but it changes multiple aspects of your life. Once you’ve done these steps, the most challenging part is over.
If you’re keeping something that is a memento, figure out a way to display that item.