For a lot of us, the word 'organize' can be a paralyzing one - instantly bringing up feelings of overwhelm and stress, leaving us unsure of where to even start (so often, we don't). We know that excess stuff in our homes contributes to our overall stress - when we have a lot of clutter, it distracts us and steals our attention.
The problem is, clutter typically accumulates over time. We don't notice how much stuff we have until we hit some kind of breaking point. Sometimes it’s a major life event - a move, death, marriage or divorce, or significant change in our daily routine. Or sometimes it's more subtle - a desire to live more simply or wanting to feel less weighed down by possessions. Whatever the reason, we can move on, free from the weight of objects that have outlived their usefulness.
The good news is we have three bite-sized projects to share that will get your organizing juices flowing, and perhaps even leave you feeling inspired to do more. Easy wins that will replace feelings of stress and overwhelm with ones of pride, accomplishment and overall lightness.
And the even better news? Our team here at Room to Breathe is ready to jump in should you find yourself with a bit more than you can handle on your own. Please reach out if there is anything we can help with!
Tip: Before we start, the one thing we like to emphasize with any organizing project is to try and focus on what you want to keep rather than what you want to get rid of. It's a simple switch in the way you approach your project, but coming from a place of excitement rather than dislike can have a huge impact on your end result.
Tackle Your Closet
Perhaps an obvious starting point, but spending some time focused on your closet can be the catalyst for many other projects. Not only does it feel good to lighten the load, it's a relatively straight forward project that most people can manage on their own. It also helps you hone your organizing skills, so when you move on to future projects, they become easier and quicker to work through.
Our suggestion is to pull everything (EVERYTHING!) out of your closet and drawers - anything that is clothing goes into one big pile. This perhaps sounds counter-intuitive as you are making a bigger mess than what you started with, but trust us, there is a reason.
Pulling everything out serves two purposes. First, it lets you see the volume of what you are actually dealing with. For some people, seeing a massive mound of textiles is enough to catapult them into being truly ruthless while they purge. The second benefit is it really forces you to go through each piece individually, one by one, and take a moment to ask yourself some questions:
~ Is the item in good repair? Meaning there are no holes, pilling or stains that might prevent you from wanting to wear it. If it's in bad shape, toss it.
~ Does the item fit? Take a moment to actually try it on if you aren't sure. If it doesn't, please pass it along. Nothing makes you feel worse than opening your closet and seeing clothes that don't fit, but that you hope someday might. (And that's no way to start any day.)
~ Have you worn the item in the last 6-12 months? If the answer is no, a good rule of thumb is that it's time to part ways.
~ Is the item your style? Think about your go-to outfits; the things that make you feel most comfortable and confident and that you come back to day after day.
~ Does this item fall within that same look and feel? If not, consider passing it along.
~ Does this item make you feel good when you wear it? Try to put sentimental meaning aside for a moment and think- if you were going out right this minute and had to wear the item in your hand, would you feel good about it? If the answer is 'no' or 'ummm, maybe?' then again, time to pass it along.
Once you have gone through each and every item, put back only what leaves you feeling truly happy. Try grouping like-with-like (ie: short-sleeved shirts, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, cardigans, pants....) and find an order that makes sense for your life (if you wear a cardigan every day, perhaps that should be the first grouping in your closet).
So Many Books!
Your closet is done, you are feeling good, and your decluttering skills are getting stronger with each passing moment. Onto books!
Despite maybe having a bookshelf or one central book storage location, most of us have books scattered all over the house- bedside tables, desks, on top of dressers, forgotten about in book bags. Do a thorough walk-through of your home and collect ALL the books from all over. Take each book off your bookshelf and (again) make a big pile in the middle of your room. Go through each book one at a time and again, ask yourself a couple questions:
Have you actually read it? If not, do you truly believe you will read it? If so, do you really love it? In Marie Kondo's book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’, there is a great section on organizing books. Kondo explains that we read for the experience of reading. The books we have read have already been experienced and their content is inside us whether we remember it or not. So when deciding which books to keep, forget about whether you think you will read them again or whether you’ve mastered what’s inside. Instead, keep only what truly, deeply moves you.
The Endless Collection in Your Bathroom
Over the winter holidays, I did a little experiment. I got a big IKEA shopping bag and did an arm sweep of EVERYTHING under my bathroom sink. I placed the bag in my storage room, and any time I needed something from it, I went in to retrieve it. The bag is still in storage, and the thing that surprised me (or maybe it didn't) was that I only retrieved about a handful of things over the last couple of months.
All this to say, the storage spaces in our bathrooms become a dumping ground of samples, unused shampoos, lotions, soaps, travel things, and drugstore finds that seemed awesome at the time, but we have since moved on to something new.
Challenge yourself to really evaluate what you use day in and day out. Take the time to do as we have above- pull EVERYTHING out, group like-with-like, and go through each item one by one. This time asking:
Do you love this product? Do you use it regularly? Is it expired? Again, pairing down and donating/ tossing what no longer serves you.
Tips: Make sure you take any items for donation, recycling or disposing of out of the house immediately after you have finished collecting them. Letting these items sit around or seeing them out of the corner of your eye is distracting as it’s an opportunity to add things back (we have all found ourselves second-guessing the sweater we committed to parting ways with the day before...)
Also, remember that things that no longer fit or serve you can be a real gift to someone else. Whether that's through donating items to a charity or thrift store, selling your items online or through consignment-- sometimes realizing the joy your item can bring to someone else's life is an important part of letting go.
Lastly, be gentle with yourself.
Being sentimentally attached to things is human nature (and really, a great gift in this human experience). Though it can make ruthlessly purging a challenge, working in stages is a good strategy to counter this. If you got rid of 2 big bags of stuff, but couldn't quite let go of that impractical shirt that never gets worn but means something to you, that's OK! Don't fret the small stuff, and focus on how far you have come.
And, as always, we're here if you need someone to tackle it all with you!