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Ask an Organizer || Where do I start?

What is one area of your home that you simply can’t keep organized? What clutter, no matter how hard you try, can you never seem to curb? What is that one burning question you would ask a professional organizer if you had the chance?

QUESTION: I would love to get organized, but I don’t have the slightest idea where to begin. I’m paralyzed and completely overwhelmed when I look around my house, so I don’t even start. Where would you say is the easiest or most motivating place to begin?

ANSWER: First off- please know you are not alone! We hear this question ALL THE TIME! For some of us, when we look around a disorganized space, our brains aren’t immediately able to break the mess down into individual pieces. We don’t see the parts that make up the whole, we just see EVERYTHING at ONCE. So of course that feels incapacitating.

The second part to this is that the things in our homes hold memories- good or bad, it’s the sentimental attachment to stuff that makes letting go so challenging. Because of this, it’s important to put extra thought into where we begin. Being strategic and picking a few easy win projects to tackle in the beginning allows you to practice and perfect your organizing skills, sharpens your decision making abilities as you go on, and floods your brain with feel-good endorphins to keep you motivated. In short – doing the easy lifting in the beginning readies you to tackle the heavy, more sentimental stuff later on.

Clothes and shoes are generally a pretty safe jumping off point.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind with clothes is the three month rule – If you haven’t worn it in the last three months, it’s ready to be donated. We suggest taking your time – pulling EVERYTHING out of your close and drawers, trying on every single item, and ruthlessly asking yourself:

  1. Is the garment still your taste and style? Our preferences change and evolve over time. There is no sense holding on to items that no longer go with the esthetic we currently enjoy.

  2. Does it fit? We are giving you permission to release any piece of clothing that no longer fits. We are all guilty of this, but holding onto clothes for a body we no longer have only leaves us feeling disappointed.

  3. Is it in good repair? Check for holes, snags, piling, or stains, and discard accordingly.

  4. Is it something you want to continue wearing? Similar to point number one- there is no sense in keeping things you don’t genuinely love or don’t feel good wearing.

If the answer to any of the questions above is ‘no’, then let it go.

Another good place to hone your organizing skills is your bookshelf. Most of us have a lot of books- often they are scattered all over the house, so it’s not until we consciously begin to gather them all that we see the sheer volume of what we have.

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 it again or whether you’ve mastered what’s inside. Instead, keep only what truly, deeply moves you.

Similar to clothing, it is important to physically take ALL your books off the shelf before organizing them- spending a moment holding each one with the aim of creating a small, well curated collection of only your most treasured tales.

Finally, if you still feel like you don’t know where to begin, you might benefit from the services of a professional organizer. We thrive working in difficult or complex organizing situations, so please don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

-Room to Breathe | Home Organizing SPECIAL OFFER: Receive a $100 Discount when you hire Room to Breathe for a minimum 1 day (6 hour) organizing project in Calgary.


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