The Easy Way To Get Organized For Busy People

No project can be done all at once. But even the process of breaking it down can overwhelm some of us – particularly if you don’t like step-by-step processes. Here’s how to fix that issue AND get organized quickly.


“I don’t know where to start. It’s overwhelming!”

That’s what most clients say when we’re consulting on an organizing project. It can be daunting, but it’s like the old saying goes – How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

No project can be done all at once. But even the process of breaking it down can feel overwhelming. You say to yourself, “Not only do I have this project but now I have to outline it first? Like with Roman numerals and phases and stages and steps? AARGH!”

Yep, we hear that all the time. So, if you can’t break it down, how can you hope to achieve your goal? How can you get to California without a map?

The answer is…Just start walking west!

Same goes for getting organized without clear-cut steps. Just start. It’s really that simple. Pick up the item that’s closest to you.

Gail Blanke, author of “Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life,” advocates asking, “Does it make me happy? Do I really need it? Would I pass it on to my children or other people I love?” If you can’t answer yes to at least one of those questions, it has got to go. (By the way, “throw out” here just means to get it out of the house, preferably by selling, donating or recycling it.)

Getting rid of clutter is the crucial beginning of any organizing project — and sometimes the end, as well. There’s an expression, “Clear desk, clear mind.” It’s hard to sit down at a messy desk and feel inspired to begin working.

Space is calming. It invites creativity. Clutter blocks creativity because it fills in all the gaps with stuff that’s already been created.

Okay, so back to the mixed metaphor of the edible elephant and walking west to California. Find ways other than outlines, maps or flow charts to measure your progress. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Use time as your metric. Set a timer for an hour, for example, and go through items, decluttering, until the timer goes off. If you did this every day, by week’s end, you’d have really made a dent.
  2. Use empty boxes and plan, for example, to fill one donation box per day for a week.
  3. Work outward from where you are. Let’s say you’re sitting at your desk. Pick up each item on the desk, asking the above questions — do I need it? Do I love it? Would I pass it along to a loved one? When you’re done with the desk, look at what’s around the desk. Keep moving outward, bit by bit every day for a week.

As professional organizers, we at The Betty Brigade see many homes with unbelievable amounts of clutter. Sometimes the homeowner has passed away, and we are called in to clear out the home and ready it for sale. It’s astonishing how much stuff accumulates when you’ve lived somewhere for 50 years and raised a family there.

When I need inspiration to declutter my own home, I imagine my family having to come in and deal with it all. Once I see my own clutter as a burden to my loved ones, I have no trouble parting with it.

That’s the ‘negative’ motivation, and it’s a good one.

The ‘positive’ motivation for me is knowing the luxury of having space. As a culture, we undervalue space. We think of it as nothingness, when really it’s something very special.

Space has infinite potential. As soon as you put something there, that space is defined and unavailable for anything else. But when protected and left empty, space contains every possibility, and that nurtures our creative selves.

How do you feel when you walk into a clean, clear room and sit down to work? I feel calm and restful. I feel the flow. That’s because the creative spirit can stretch, move and breathe. There is room for me there.

Something could happen there. Anything could happen there. That’s the infinite potential in space. It invites flow and stimulates inner energies.

Let this be the year we celebrate space — the final frontier! Let’s start organizing.

I’d love to hear your ideas on decluttering. Any tips to share? Special roadblocks you face? Feel free to comment and share.

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