5 Key Organizing Tips

By Nicole C.W. Gruter

Need to streamline and declutter your home? (Don’t we all?) Read on for pointers on how to do it thoughtfully and effectively.


What is your goal? Ask yourself why you want to clean out your garage, for instance. Is it to look nice and house your car? Or is it to protect an investment that acknowledges your hard work? For others, clutter equals stress, and being able to see your desk again would bring a little zen to your workday. In other words, your motivation is usually deeper than just decluttering. Revealing a meaningful goal provides motivation and helps bring focus when you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.


It took more than a few hours to acquire your belongings — it will take longer than that to purge and organize them. Set an overall goal (I want to park my car in the garage), a daily goal (today I will organize for three hours) and accept that it may not be accomplished in one afternoon. Plan on repeated time slots rather than attempting to declutter a particular space in one fell swoop.

Set aside long enough to achieve momentum, but determine an end time to avoid burnout. A good rule of thumb is between two to four hours in a day. If you do less than that, you might not feel like you’ve made a significant dent; more, and you may get turned off from continuing the work. Set a timer for your session’s halfway mark; take 10 minutes to hydrate, grab a quick snack or simply rest a bit. At the end of your set time, be sure to include up to 30 minutes to bag up donations (ideally getting them out of the house to avoid second-guessing decisions), pitch garbage and recycling, and tidy up loose ends.


You’ll make many decisions while organizing, and this takes energy and focus. Have boxes and bags at the ready for recycling, garbage and donations. Label them so you’re not repeatedly wondering which is what.


Ask a friend or partner to help keep you on track. If you stumble across an old yearbook or box of mementos, you may spend hours going down memory lane. Before you know it, your focus has waned, and you’re left feeling frustrated. A few scheduled texts or check-ins can refocus you back to the task at hand.

You can also ask a friend to help you, but be selective. Sometimes if you’re ready to let go of an item, a buddy might convince you to begrudgingly keep it. (“You can’t get rid of that — your mom gave it to you!”) On the other hand, having someone hold you accountable during a clean-out session can be a boon — they can push you to be realistic on the last time you used an item, or if you really need all of those plastic containers.

Continue to keep your “why” in mind and limit distractions. Respect the time you’ve gifted yourself whether you’re working on a “someday” project, such as repurposing a space (turning a catch-all room into an actual guest bedroom), or simply achieving a less cluttered space.


Start at one corner of the room, working left to right, beginning with clearing items on the floor. Graduate to clearing surfaces. It’s challenging, but try to finish one area before moving on. Once you get the ball rolling, momentum kicks in and solutions will present themselves (it’s kind of magical), and progress becomes apparent.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are organizing professionals that can help with streamlining the process, staying accountable, motivation and solutions. When you’ve reached your goal, be sure to reward yourself for a job well done!

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