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Spring Cleaning:

Start with a plan and achieve the goal of organization

Spring cleaning is a concept that brings with it a ton of good intentions which in short order can weigh down even the most sincere planner with a sense of overwhelm.  The intention to clean up and get organized  is one of the most popular items for the personal and professional to-do list – and one that can easily lead to failure, simply  because many people don’t know how to begin.  Don’t be discouraged, fellow well-intentioned organizers: follow the steps below to help you succeed through the process of de-cluttering, cleaning up and organizing your life.

Organizing and cleaning is the forte of few; if it’s not yours, you still can do it yourself — and you may find it’s not as hard as you thought.  Keep in mind a picture of your desired end result and how great it will it feel and look.  This image will help you push through to accomplish the goals you set.

Below are the essential steps to help you achieve your de-cluttering and organizing goals:

Plan to eliminate the clutter. You likely will have more than one area that needs attention, so create a plan in writing.  On a sheet of paper, write 1-5 in a column, leaving several spaces between each row.  Next to number one, enter the area/room which is your highest priority to clean out and organize, with number two next in importance and so on. Now go back and break each room or area into smaller chunks – and be specific.

For example:

1.            Kitchen

a.            Pantry – Group similar foods together, check expiration dates, toss outdated items.

b.            Cupboards – Clear unused items and set aside for donation, regroup similar items together (baking, pots and pans, cups). Check spices for expiration dates; toss outdated items.

2.            Office

a.            Files – Clean out 2010 files, make new files for 2011, get tax items ready for CPA.

b.            Rearrange furniture – Move desk and bookcase to wall.

By breaking down large areas into more specific targets, you’ll find projects much more manageable and less overwhelming.  The smaller a project, the more likely it can be completed in a shorter amount of time.  You’ll see results more quickly and feel encouraged by what you have accomplished thus far.

Gather the supplies you will need. Assemble a few large boxes or plastic bags.  Label one box/bag “Donate,” one “Keep” and the third “Trash.”  Now begin the purging and de-cluttering process. Don’t be afraid to let go of items that you haven’t used in ages, or that are broken or expired.

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If an item isn’t something that you can say you love AND use, it should be donated or sold if it’s in good condition or trashed if it’s broken and would be more expensive to repair than replace.

Some items have sentimental value to us. Do you need to hang on to that item for the memory it brings back to you?  If you were to dispose of the item, would you still have the memory?  If you are having a hard time parting with an item, keep it, but instead of putting family heirlooms in a box in the garage to gather dust and be forgotten, think of ways you can use or display the items so you may enjoy them now.

It’s important to keep your projects small and manageable. Schedule only a few hours at a time for each, or you may become overwhelmed and discouraged and never complete your list of goals.  Small achievements for which you can see results are essential to keep motivated.  This problem didn’t happen overnight, and you don’t have to fix it overnight. Be realistic about the amount of time you have available to work.  Even if all you have is 15 minutes, you still can work on a project and eliminate some clutter.  Your effort brings you that much closer to your goals of being de-cluttered and organized.

At the end of each session, take the bags/boxes away. Dispose of trash, and take the bags/boxes of donation items to your car so you can drop them at your favorite charitable organization.

Don’t rush out to buy containers before you begin de-cluttering. Wait until you know exactly what you will be keeping and the quantity and size of containers you will need – if any.  You may find that you have no need for new containers because you have done such a great job of de-cluttering. Your current storage may be perfectly adequate to organize what you have kept.

Now start your organizing plan. Take the items in your “Keep” box/bag and sort them by room.  Store things where you use them.  For example, keep scissors, tape, pens and small paper pads in several rooms, not just in the office.  The best system for staying organized is the one that works for you and that you actually use. Make it user friendly, and you’re much more likely to continue to stay organized.

Now that you have de-cluttered and organized what you kept, stay on top of it. This is easy to do by following one very simple rule:  For every one thing you bring into your home, you must assign it a home – and one thing must go out.  Stick to this rule, and you will avoid clutter creep and stay organized forever.

We have so much going on in our lives that we sometimes get off-track in spite of our best efforts.  You have the steps to go through the process of de-cluttering and organizing. Just take it step by step, and before you know it, you’ll be clutter-free and happily organized.  For more tips on getting and staying organized, please visit www.chaosreno.com.

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Debbie Cox is founder and owner of CHAOS, Creative Home and Office Solutions, a northern Nevada-based professional organizing service.

For more information, please call 775-560-1656 or visit www.chaosreno.com.