Before I became a Professional Organizer, I spent a year decluttering and organizing my entire house, and it changed my life. I often get asked if I was always organized or if it was a skill I learned as an adult. I think people want me to say that I was super disorganized and then learned “These 5 Skills” or “These 7 Habits” and VOILA . . . I became the most organized person I know. That would make a good story. But it’s not true.
The truth is I have always been highly organized. My superpower is bringing order to chaos. I love creating efficiencies. But while I have always been super organized, I used to have too much stuff. Way too much stuff.
Because I had so much stuff, I found that I was always organizing. Seriously – every minute I was not working or with my kids, I was organizing. I knew how I wanted my home and life to feel. And I was not feeling like that. I was anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed, even though from the outside (and inside, I guess) my house looked like it was plucked from a catalog.
I realized that I had too much stuff and too many responsibilities on my to do list. So I set out to change that. I didn’t decide that it would take me a year because the truth was I didn’t know if I would have the stamina to do my own house.
I just started, and I kept going, and I kept going, and then, the VOILA finally happened. I got my home into the best shape of its life. I was no longer constantly stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. My home felt how I wanted it to feel: calm and comfortable. And, my routines were finally manageable. I realized that I had so much more space – literal and figurative – to live the life I truly desired.
While I didn’t necessarily plan out ahead of time how that year would look, I did do a ton of research and had a rough system in my head of how I would get it done. What I have laid out below are the commitments you need to make to create an organized home.
COMMITMENT 1: DON’T BUY ANYTHING*
You have too much stuff. Period. For the next year, decide that you will not buy anything unless you really, REALLY need it.
I didn’t buy anything I didn’t need, but I made a running list of items I would need to replace. For example, when I purged my ratty linens, I added fresh towels and sheets to the list. BUT, I didn’t wait to purge before I replaced.
COMMITMENT 2: PURGE*
Commit to getting rid of anything in your house that you don’t use, need, or love. Do not let anything get in the way of the purge. Make a commitment to yourself to do it. Let go and don’t look back. I promised myself I’d have no remorse over items that were gone and I’d focus on the lightness I felt. I went category by category, Konmari style. But going room by room works, too. And I literally touched every belonging in my home – every photograph from the past 40 years, every office supply, every article of clothing. Some days I spent 20 minutes working. Other days I would put on an audiobook and spend four hours on it.
Focus on the end result: getting rid of every single item you don’t need. Don’t worry so much about the process to get there. Just remember, we can’t take it with us when we go AND the majority of our things are easily replaced.
When it came to sentimental items, which is definitively the hardest category to purge for anyone, I reminded myself that the gift was in the giving. The memory lives in me, not in the object. I did set aside a dedicated spot for memories, so that I didn’t feel like I had to purge anything that I really loved.
*Note Dear Reader: If you cannot embrace Commitment 1 & 2, don’t bother reading the rest of this. You are not ready to live a chaos-free life right now. That is OK. That is a totally fine choice. But if you try to follow the steps outlined below, but skip Commitments 1 & 2, it won’t work. Period. The End.
COMMITMENT 3: MAKE IT A PRIORITY
In your free time, when you are tired and want to be lazy, you need to purge instead. Not every day. Not all the time. But, a lot. If you want it to move quickly and be systematized, set aside a certain night or day a week to focus on it. But if you don’t make that commitment, it won’t happen.
COMMITMENT 4: FAMILY BUY-IN
You need to get everyone in your family on board. It does not mean that they need to help – that might be a battle you are not willing to fight right now. And sometimes it takes them seeing the benefits of it to get involved. But they need to be made aware that it is happening and that it is a priority for you.
COMMITMENT 5: GIVE EVERYTHING A HOME
Do you want to know the one secret to maintaining an organized home? Assigning every single item in your home its own specific place to live, and at the end of the day (or week), putting every item back into its home. It is literally that simple. And that quick. If you have followed the commitments above to keep only what you need and to have your family on board, it actually takes very little work to maintain. But let me repeat that: it takes very little work. It does not take zero work. You do have to put everything back in its home every single time. If you buy anything new or bring any new item into your house, it needs to be assigned a home. It’s the only way this can work.
COMMITMENT 6: CONTAINERS
Once everything is purged and assigned a home, (and only then) can the binning begin. Let me repeat that. You must purge everything first before buying containers. I did not buy one bin or make one label until my house was purged of every single item I didn’t love or need or use or want.
I did spend time and money investing in bins and labels because I believe that when our space looks beautiful we are more likely to keep it beautiful. Containers contain. That is their job. Don’t buy any more than can be kept in a container. That is the key to maintenance. Labels tell us what to do. Most of us can follow directions.
COMMITMENT 7: #RESET
It was not easy. There were days I procrastinated and cried and got angry. But I have felt a million pounds lighter since I did it. And then something amazing happened, I started purging relationships and plans and other things that were standing in my way of living the life I truly wanted. Life still gets chaotic, and spaces still get messy. So I started doing a nightly, weekly and monthly reset. The idea was that each night I would set myself up for a successful day the next day. Each week, I would take time to get my house back to baseline so that all of my hard work from the past year would be maintained. And each month, I would do something to move me forward in my organizing journey.
I know that these commitments are game-changing because they not only changed my life, but they became the pillars upon which I built Grid + Glam. And less than two years later, I have been able to help hundreds of families just like yours. I hope these commitments resonate with you, and inspire you to find your own path. Remember, some items ground us and make our house a home, while others weigh us down. Only you know in your heart what items to keep and what to toss. Don’t let anyone else’s path or journey dictate that for you.
Good luck, friend. And please keep me posted on the year YOU were committed!