Patricia’s Semi-Simple Sorting System

This sorting system is designed to make it easy on both the team members and the client in the following ways:

  • Anyone who is helping the client can sort things in a way that prevents stress for the client because only clearly designated items are thrown away.
  • Helper(s) can feel satisfied that there is movement because items are sorted in categories which the client can then more easily make decisions about.
  • Since the client has already clearly identified things that are not to be sorted, helpers can feel confident that nothing is being packed away that client might need.
First items are sorted into large categories. Then those items into categories. And if necessary and if there is time,   those items are then sorted into categories. The more specific the categories are, the easier it will be for client to make decisions.
Broad categories are:
  • Flat (papers, office supplies, books, magazines, pictures etc)
  • Soft (clothes, towels, bedding, stuffed animals etc)
  • Small (not flat) This includes office supplies, safety pins, small toys, anything less than 5 or 6inches in diameter)
  • Medium (not flat) including toilet article,  toys, office supplies, electronics–bigger than 6 inches, less than a foot),
  • Fragile (not boxed until wrapped in packing material. place in a shallow box to deal with later)
  • Large (not boxed–placed on a table or surface in the room)
  • High priority (anything of any shape or size that looks like the client should look at including checks, important documents, bills that are overdue, jewelry)
How it works:
  • Categories will be listed on poster board so helpers can easily be reminded.
  • Boxes will be provided for each broad category
  • Runner will come and get full boxes to go into the staging area for sorting into smaller categories. Runner will replace the box with another one.
Why I do it this way:
This makes the entire decluttering go very fast because it minimizes the amount of decisions that are made
Going from a broad category to smaller ones decreases the amount of boxes that are in a room. If you try to categorize too many things it is both overwhelming and takes up a lot of space.
Someone will bring the boxes from all the rooms into the staging area where there will be signs that say the following;
  • Flat
  • Medium
  • Soft
  • Small

If there are enough people helping, people can start immediately sorting the above categories into narrower categories which are:

  •  papers to sort (including magazines and catalogues)
  • books
  • office supplies
  • memories
  • toys
  • crafts
  • bathroom
  • kitchen
  • clothes
  • bedding
  • electronics
  • misc. (doesn’t fit in any of the above categories)
  • hardware, tools

Once these categories are sorted, they can be sorted into sub categories which I will be writing about in more detail later. The one category that will probably be very large is papers, and I advise sorting these boxes out next. You can ask the client what papers they are willing to let you recycle or shred.

Papers to sort
  • low priority papers–probably throw away (or client might give permission to recycle like junk mail, newspapers, etc.
  • Shred (credit card offers and other things with confidential info)
  • magazines
  • catalogues
  • bills/financial/medical
  • art work
  • memories: cards, personal notes

If the client is really passionate about something–like crafts–then if possible, get the crafts sorted into obvious categories so that they can be utilized easily.

Obviously, you will need lots and lots of boxes of various sizes and shapes.


Team Organizing: Work Party Preparation

After the initial walk through and staging, we organize the work party.

I supply the event organizer with all the things that are needed to enlist and inspire people to come to the team organizing event, which is usually an 8 hour day.

Potential team members are contacted via email or a printed copy of an invitation.

The assistant and I make sure that we have the following in place:

  • Supplies including boxes
  • Staging area completely ready
  • Roles assigned once people sign up to come
  • Assistant helps client to clearly label and define those things that he or she does not want to be sorted

On the day of the team organizing event,  I (or someone I have trained) oversee the volunteers so that they can compassionately, quickly and efficiently de-clutter and clean the home using my simple, efficient and unique techniques.

A list of people who are coming is compiled, and the event organizer and I work together to assign roles ahead of time utilizing each person’s unique talents and resources.

When each of the following roles is filled, a tremendous amount can get done in a day or two with an experienced coordinator such as myself or someone I train. The coordinator is essential in helping to keep the work flow moving smoothly. Some people may double up on roles, which are as follows:

  • Cleaners
  • Sorters
  • Runners (to keep the boxes going to staging area)
  • Label maker and box coordinator: makes sure boxes are put together and every box has a label
  • Index maker: Creates a 3 x 5 file that lists any items that are put away so that client knows where to find them
  • Systems creator–to contain things that need to be utilized and start the process of preventing clutter
  • Assistant to client: Helps client sort items in a way that is minimally stressful on brain and heart.
  • Processor–Keeps laundry going, cleans items to give away, tests things to see if they work,  cleans things that are going to be used.
 Proceed with Patricia’s Simple Sorting System. Here is how it works:
  • Remember–Before the work party, client has identified things he or she does NOT want sorted with painters tape. This makes it really easy for sorters to pull things out for either sorting or packing.
  • One or two volunteers are assigned to each room
  • They pull out things from closets, shelves, drawers etc.
  • Volunteers sort items into categories as taught by Patricia
  • Runner comes and periodically empties out the boxes into larger boxes in staging area
  • Volunteers place some items (they will be taught how to decide) on tables and other surfaces for client to easily see.
  • Once the storage areas and surfaces in a room are entirely de-cluttered, cleaners come in to clean storage areas, drawers etc.
  • Client comes in and sorts the items that have been placed on surfaces.
  •  Assistant works to help client sort. The client decides which things are easily and clearly things that he or she wants to keep. These items are put away according to how often the item is used.
  • Once room is decluttered and things are put away, cleaners come in and clean the surfaces on which items were placed.
  • Voila–the room is clean, de-cluttered and beautiful!

What is a Simplified Living Coach?

With simple living and minimalism all the rage these days, it is about time that we who have had experience in these areas start to help those who have not–but want to learn–transform their lives.  I decided that I am more than a professional organizer–I am a simplified living coach.

Here are the things you will learn as I support you on your journey:

  • Sorting techniques that are FAST and easy
  • De-cluttering methods that are efficient
  • Goal setting, project,  and time management
  • Nonviolent communication–we’ll be practicing it all the time:)
  • Simple stretching and exercises to keep us awake and focused!
  • Basic healthy  practices including:  expressing appreciation, dry brushing, standing on the earth, hand and foot massage, journaling,  drinking water, imaginative prayer, healthy touch and laughing a lot!
  • How to have fun in simple ways
  • Learning to live with less
  • How to decide what is really important and necessary
  • Developing a life plan to look towards so that when you have more time you can move on those things that are important to you!

Here is the experience along with skills I have developed so that I can support you in many ways–from offering empathy to preparing healthy food to being super efficient in the letting go process:

  • Simple living practitioner: 40 years
  • Professional organizer with a focus on downsizing: 15 years.
  • Project planner and implementer: 44 years
  • Vegetarian (now mostly raw plant-based vegan) 40 years
  • Follower of the non-violent Jesus and his teachings of loving God and people: 13 years
  • Homeschooling, grace-based parenting mom (now with one child entering the second year of the masters program at University of Arkansas):  26 years
  • Gardener: 40 years
  • Nonviolent Communication practitioner: 25 years



Baby Steps: The Fly Lady Can Help You Get Into Good Habits

Everywhere I look I see this concept of taking small steps and celebrating progress over perfection. One of the most inspiring things that Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Center for Nonviolent Communication, said 26 years ago when I first started taking classes from him, was “anything worth doing is worth doing imperfectly.”

I believe that when a person is a perfectionist, they often then do nothing because the task seems to daunting. But when you take the attitude, “I can take baby steps,” or “I’ll just get started even though I am not quite sure how to do this right,” there is more momentum gained. Once you feel a bit of confidence and hope after moving forward, neuropath ways in the brain are opened up so that it is easier for you to take the action the next time.

So even if you are still in the process of downsizing and simplifying, you can get into habits like keeping your sink shiny. I don’t know if I am ready to dry my sink every time I use it, but I am willing to keep it clean and free of dishes. (I have a bin under my sink to put dishes that await processing–it really helps!) Here is some advice from the Fly Lady who comes very highly recommended by a number of my friends.