I know it might sound weird but I love mess. I really do! Please, don’t take me wrong, I know how overwhelming and frustrating clutter can be. I’ve seen the impact up close, working with clients that needed guidance and hands on help to move forward. For some clients, those spaces are usually source of embarrassment, guilty or shame. To me, it’s like a life size puzzle and I get really motivated to get it done!

What I can share from experience, is that organization is possible – even if you believe you won’t ever get organized. Actually, the idea that organization it’s an impossible goal is nothing more than fear of failure. The journey towards an organized life starts with an honest look within. Are you limiting yourself? Or are you curious about what you might learn? I vote for curiosity.

With that said, let’s get into the hands on part of breaking down any mess. I start with a very cluttered room, but the tips below will help you even if the room is not packed. You will need basic supplies like 70qt plastic bins or medium to large carbon boxes, packing tape, colored paper for sorting labels, a thick sharpie. Have water and snacks handy, put some music you love, invite a friend.

The space is so full you can barely get in

When my clients face a room with layers, upon layers of objects, most of them freeze on their tracks. Sometimes we can lose control of a space and after a while give up completely. Be kind with yourself as you get into it, as the bigger the mess, larger the guilt. My suggestion?

  1. Write down your goal for that space. What success would look like? What do you want to see after it’s done? Define priorities. Don’t try to embrace it all at once, you will probably get stuck.

  2. First, trash. Look around and remove whatever needs to be thrown away – empty boxes, packages, broken furniture or electronics, etc. Would you need junk removal? Some times trash represents a significative part of the clutter and getting rid of it will feel like jumping ten steps into the game.

  3. You can work your way into the room gathering all and putting in boxes or bins to be sorted later. This technique will clear space right away, but know you will have work ahead. Or you can sort into bins as I will explain below.

  4. In the area now open, you will have other 5 empty boxes or bins. Label them Keep, Donate, Trash, Transition (things that you will keep but doesn’t belong to the room you are working on). From there, sort through objects with the goal to reduce, purge, let go. Keep in mind that clutter is result of a conflict between the space and the amount of belongings. Keeping too much will defy the purpose.

  5. Work with every box. Not everything you will keep will go to a box. You will mostly find 10 to 50 groups of items mixed up, so few items can be sorted on its own. So, get few boxes ready for bathroom items, shoes, bags, electronics, Paper, Photos, items of sentimental value, etc. As you go new groups will present themselves. Ask yourself: can this share a box with other item or should I get this a box of its own? If you have several of the item, keep few and donate the duplicates or items you have never used.

  6. Stay away from perfectionism. You are learning a new habit, exercising a new way to relate with your space and belongings. Any desire to achieve perfection at this step of the journey will prevent you from moving forward. Just get it done – you will see how easy it is to perfect it afterwards, if you really feel like it.

  7. Put all the donations contractor’s bags, which will made easy to drop off. Move them to the garage, if you have one. Check on Google which non profits would do a donation pick up. Sometimes all you got to do is to schedule and put it all on your driveway.

  8. This process can repeat itself for a while until you sort through all the boxes/belongings. By then you’ll probably have some boxes that are ready to be addressed. Tackle them as you go, always by groups. Per example, if you have a box full of clothes you want to keep, break them down in laundry and put away.

  9. Once all the boxes are sorted through, chances are you already gave away the excess and cleared the trash. You still have few boxes in this room, but it’s ok. From now on, this room or area will be your working station, a place of transition for groups that needs organizing systems. Keep the groups contained, removing whatever you use daily from those boxes. You will get to them.

Once you tackled the scariest space, you will find easier to replicate the tips on other spaces. Each room has different organizing needs and all need specific organizing systems that will keep your hard work in place. But at this point, the clutter is no longer a monster. No matter if it’s a closet or pantry, the tips also apply. Once you see results, you will feel highly motivated to keep going!


– Pat

Tips to cut through clutter

March 14, 2021