Tempting as it may be to imagine living in a perfectly organized home, getting started on a de-cluttering project is always a bit daunting. Just in time for spring cleaning, Rachel Rosenthal, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based professional organization firm Rachel & Company, offers a roadmap for turning overcrowded, chaotic areas into places of organized calm and function. Here are her recommendations:
Focus on one space at a time. Prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed by identifying one problem area to tackle at a time. Carefully consider the purpose for the space (is it a landing zone for sports equipment, shoes, mail, etc.?) and the changes you need to make to achieve your goal. Accept that it will look worse before it gets better, but the results will be worth it.
Hold yourself accountable. You make appointments for everything else in life, so why not make getting organized as much a priority as getting your hair done? Commit to a day and time to get started, and avoid burnout by blocking off no more than 3 hours at a time to spend on your project.
Get others involved. Enlist a friend, family member, or—better yet—a professional organizer to help you go through your belongings, make decisions, and keep you motivated. Ask them to help you remove items you are throwing out or donating the same day you do the sorting so you aren’t temped to change your mind.
Set realistic expectations. Don’t expect to have your entire home organized after one session. Organizing is a process, and it will take time to work through your spaces. To keep up the momentum and stay on track, break up each room or project into mini-areas. For example, if you managed to get through your kitchen pantry in three hours, focus on your kitchen drawers during your next session. Take a “before” photo of each space to remind yourself of how far you’ve come.