Do you want to get rid of everything that you do not need? Do you want to have a clean and orderly environment where you can easily find things and stay organized?
In the following article I describe the system I have developed over the past 22 years in my experience as a professional organizer starting in 1999.
Most people feel overwhelmed when they think about tackling decluttering/downsizing. My role is to help you feel more peaceful and in control by taking one step at a time and where you can immediately see results. My practical approach helps you to make decisions quickly and easily.
This description might enable you to do the work at hand on your own or with the help of a friend or family member. That would be great! At the same time, because of my decades of experience and my ability to compassionately and efficiently tune into your specific needs, I might be able to save you time and have the process be as stress-less as possible.
I describe in as much detail as possible what I do, but every situation is different. I adapt according to the clients needs and the environment.
A note about Marie Kondo’s system from her book, “the life changing magic of tidying up.”
I really liked what Ms. Kondo said about gathering everything that is similar before you sort it, and then making decisions about the items. The two issues I have are as follows:
Getting everything together in a house that is already cluttered and full of stuff–can be difficult and time consuming. . My system achieves the same goal, but in I believe is a faster more efficient way.
Her prime directive is “keep what sparks joy.” Well, some things that you need, like toilet paper and a toilet plunger, don’t spark joy! But you know you need these items (unless you use the toilet paper plant aka mullein, or have an outhouse so you don’t need a plunger!).
Sometimes you can’t think of reasons you need items at the moment. Recently I gave away an old, comfortable bathing suit because I didn’t need it. Now I am missing it because I realize that when I want to be in the garden when it rains, I liked that bathing suit! Of course I can live without it, but I wish I had remembered why I kept it!
When you are a creative person, like to upcycle or repurpose things, and/or have a homestead where you can find uses for almost everything if you are an inventor of any sort–you want to figure out a way of storing things that don’t contribute to clutter.
These items need to be stored in places that are lower priority access. Many clients are concerned about “out of sight, out of mind.” That is why I can help you make an index for those things that are tucked away in places that you don’t see.
Here is how I can work with you:
- We have a ½ hour exploratory phone, Facebook messenger video or audio call, or zoom call where I assess your needs, and we get to know each other.
- We set up a time for me to come to work if you decide we are a good fit. The first 2 hours are $25/hour. After that, I charge $50/hr. The first two hours give you an idea of how we work together, and you decide if it is worth it to continue. I charge 50 cents a mile mileage fee per day. I live 7 miles from Kingston, between Huntsville and Kingston on Hwy 74.
- My system is fairly simple for the extreme downsizing job where the client wants to do a thorough job of purging possessions. You can read about it later in this document here.
- I bring the following supplies: Boxes to store things to sort later, packing tape, trash bags for give away stuff, packing materials to pack breakable giveaways, full back sticky pads for easy labeling, shallow boxes for easy sorting, markers, and boxes for sorting.
- I can not guarantee how fast the job will take. However, if the client makes decisions fast, which they usually do with my easy sorting system, in 8 hours we can probably do the kitchen, master bedroom and closet, living room, another bedroom, and some other closets. How much we get done depends on how much stuff there is. We can get even more done if we really focus–it really depends on you!
- If you decide to have me come for a second day, great! You don’t have to book it right away if you want to experience my system first. On the first day, if you hire me for more than 2 hours, we will tie up loose ends so your house looks great. Or, we can leave the organizing central area, which is where you do your sorting, in process so you can continue decluttering and downsizing on your own. After 8 hours of using my system, as well as having the notes on hand instructing you how to do it, you can probably teach someone how to assist you. Even two hours experience can help you see how the system works so you can do it on your own.
- I do not pressure you to get rid of anything. I do not judge you for whatever stuff you have, or decide to keep. I am very compassionate and I support you in every way possible, including listening empathically if distress comes up. I never throw anything away unless you give me permission.
- Sometimes items will surface that are emotional triggers. I can listen empathically if you want me to do that. Usually people move pretty quickly through this kind of situation and have even more energy to tackle the job once they get their feelings out. Others can set their feelings aside, keep moving, and deal with feelings later. Either way is fine. .
- I offer a ½ hour free session as a follow up to see how you are doing in keeping your home decluttered. If you need more coaching after that, I charge $50 an hour for virtual sessions. We can go over the fine-tuning you are doing together, I can answer questions, help you develop systems, find homes for everything, help create an index and figure out how you can get into the habit of staying decluttered.
My downsizing fast system:
We decide on a room which will be the “organizing central” where we put empty boxes, organizing containers, things to pack, things to give away and boxes to sort. This will also serve as a sorting area, and a big table is very useful. If you have a dining room area that is fairly clear–that would be great. First order of business is to get this area decluttered so we can utilize the space effectively.
We decide upon the first room or closet.
I set up sorting boxes with these labels:
- Give (items that you want to give to specific people can be marked and then set aside in the staging area)
- Containers (for organizing)
- Recycle (if you choose to do so)
- Pack (things to give away that are breakable)
- Urgent (this is a small box that contains things that you do not want to get lost in the shuffle such as diamond rings, birth certificates, money, etc.
- Toss (trash)
We decide what items to sort. If you think a certain cabinet or closet or entire room is in good shape, we won’t touch it. You might decide to sort clothes later, on your own, since they are the most time consuming and also the easiest to sort. Or, I can help you sort them into categories as advised by Marie Kondo in the book, the life-changing magic of tidying up. We will gather all the clothes together from different rooms in the house in order to do this. I prefer doing clothes last, because the other parts of the house are harder to do alone, and I want you to see immediate progress.
I start taking things from piles or shelves while you sit in one place and sort into the boxes. Ideally I set them up so you can toss things (except breakables) into the boxes yourself. As they fill up, I take the give to organizing central, and the keep box is set aside for you to deal with either at that time, or later when you have more time to think about finding a home.
Smaller items, including breakables, are set into shallow boxes where you can see everything and easily pick out what you want to keep. If you just want to keep one or two items, I take the tray and put it in the give box. .
My goal is to keep presenting you with things so they are easy to sort and you don’t have to move around.
When we complete the decluttering, you will have shelves, cabinets and surfaces that are empty. Everything you want to keep is boxed up in categories that I create that are obvious.
Papers and flat stuff are gone through later–very time consuming. This includes pictures, office supplies. I put all these in boxes and mark them “flat” and put them in organizing central to sort later once all the flat stuff is together. .
The undecided box is usually not very full, I find. At the end of sorting each room, we decide what you want to sort later, put away later, so we can either move to the next room quickly–or if you want to take more time, that is fine, too.
I make a list of things you need to do in the future so that you don’t have to stop sorting and lose that valuable thought. When you say something like, “I need to call Goodwill to see if they take this.” I leave you with the list.
Large items. If you want to give a large item away, or sell it, I will write this in my notes. I can help you figure out how to get rid of large items. We can also put a sticky note on the large item so we know it is going out.
Small items: There are a ton of small items which can slow you down and get you overwhelmed. I recommend that you dump out drawers which have a lot of small items into a shallow box (taking out any breakables first, of course.) Pick out the things you absolutely need, and put the rest in a box of small stuff to sort later. You might just decide to give it all away without sorting.
Undecided: These items are boxed up and put somewhere to be sorted later. They are the lowest priority items to sort because you have already seen them and determined that you don’t need them right away. Papers and small stuff still need to be looked at to determine whether to keep or get rid of. The idea is to touch everything at least once, so you know what you have. You might touch things 2 or 3 times as you refine the sorting. But you won’t touch give away items more than once!
Why undecided? Because when you HAVE to make a decision, keep or give, your brain has to work harder. When you have a place to put something that you need to think more about–then the keep and give are more easily decided.
After I leave, the sorting can continue
If you choose to sort such things as clothes or papers on your own, you will use the same sorting system you have used throughout the house. Once you have your keep box–then you will sort into these categories:
Find a home
Has a home.
The “find a home” items can be sorted into categories according to which room they logically belong in. For example, if you have an office area, office supplies would likely go in that room. You can organize the office supplies once you have them in the room. Because we have decluttered that area, you will have places to put them. You can keep tweaking your system as you discover over time where you can most easily find things.
Every room is a little bit different, and I adjust accordingly . But the basic principles are the same in every room and closet. This includes the garage, shed, and barn.
If you want my help after doing the initial downsizing/declutter purge.
If you are strapped for time, and want me to sort your “keep” boxes, I can get things into categories so that when you sort them it is easier for you.
Sorting Flat Stuff: Since I advise that you don’t sort flat items yet, once we have put these in one place, I can put them into categories of books, memories, junk mail, papers, and office supplies. The small stuff can also be sorted into categories such as office supplies, toiletries, kitchen stuff, jewelry. Then, when you go to sort this stuff into keep, give, and undecided–you will know how much you have of something. For example, If you have 5 brushes, you might decide to give 3 or 4 away.
Sorting Keep Boxes. The “keep” boxes that will be sorted later are either put all in one area for sorting later, or stay in the room they are being sorted. For example, if all the stuff in the “keep” box can be easily put away in that room, it can stay. But if the box has a lot of miscellaneous items that need to be sorted into categories, such as kitchen, bathroom, office, etc. then the box should go to the staging/sorting area.
Follow up coaching options
Creating Motivation: We look at your values and goals, and help you see how staying organized, including having a calendar and to-do list, will help you achieve your goal.
Exploring emotional blocks: I use my empathic listening skills to explore with you what it is that is keeping you from keeping your new downsized, decluttered home tidy. I’m not a therapist, but just having a listening ear can help with discovering insights that can reveal deeper reasons for clutter piling up.
Index: I recommend that you make an index of where you keep stuff so that if you put someone in a new home, and you forget where it is, you can find it again by looking in the index. This is especially useful for items that you put in more obscure areas that are not in your face, like the attic.
Plan of Action: Together we can create a plan of action where you can have a goal of sorting a certain number of boxes per week so you can complete all sorting by a date that you determine is important. If you have a deadline, like having family coming in, or you are selling the house and need it ready for showing–this is important. We can also plan how to implement your organizing systems.
Implement Systems: We can create a practical plan so you will stay decluttered. For example, every day you commit to decluttering for 15 minutes, putting on music or a video to listen to while you put stuff away. Having a home for everything is another system. Dealing with paper is essential.
Prioritizing: We can look at how you can say “no” to some things so you can say “yes” to staying organized.
I hope this is helpful. I look forward to talking to you about your decluttering/downsizing/getting organized needs.
You can contact me in the following ways:
Call 479-313-0414 and leave a message. I usually don’t answer the phone unless I know who it is since I get so many spam calls.
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