The metal element governs the Autumn. It’s about turning inward and organization. The lungs are also associated with the metal element, and the lungs are where we hold the emotion of grief. So naturally, this is a time to sort through nostalgia.
One of the biggest misconceptions about my job is that people think they need to go through their stuff before I come over to help them organize it. The bulk of the work I do with clients is in that initial sorting stage. It’s helping people go through their stuff. When I first get introduced to a new client, they almost always tell me that they need to go through their stuff and get rid of things before I come over to help them organize it. For most people, the hardest part of the whole organizing process is usually this first step- sorting. That’s where all the baggage is. It’s usually where the holdup is, and the place where people need the most help.
The difference between clutter and storage is whether it’s sorted or not. Neatly piled boxes of assorted miscellaneous unmarked items are really just clutter that looks nice. Clutter is a bunch of unsorted memories. Storage is when items are clearly sorted and can easily be identified and accessed. If you have boxes of assorted books, photos, paperwork, and memorabilia, you aren’t alone! But you’ve probably gone through a lifetime of being shamed for having so much stuff, and so inviting a Professional Organizer over to help can seem intimidating. But here’s the thing, I work for you. I’ll never make you get rid of anything, nor will I shame you for having too much stuff. My job is to help you turn your clutter into storage, if that’s what you want. My goal is to help you create system for accessing your memorabilia in a way that feels good to you.
As a Certified Professional Organizer, I have spent thousands of hours helping hundreds of clients get organized. I love it. It’s so much fun. I feel extremely lucky to have the job I have! Even if you don’t hire me to help you transform your clutter into storage, I want to share some of my top tips with you.
- Understand that you will probably need to make a really big mess before things can get better.
- Sort like items together. It may seem like an obvious thing to do, but categorizing things isn’t always straightforward. The best way to do it is to create broad categories, and then refine the categories as you go. Let’s say you have 3 boxes of books, old letters, photos, and other mementos that span 30 years or more. Generally, I would recommend to separate the books in one category, the letters in another, the photos in another, and then the mementos in a separate category. Once those are all sorted, you can go back and categorize the books, photos, letters and mementos in ways that make sense. It would be nearly impossible to categorize them correctly in the first go-around. You simply wouldn’t have all the information you’d need.
- Let’s say you’ve just done a great job sorting a section of your project, but you need to put everything away, so you can walk across your floor, sit on your couch, sleep on your bed, or eat dinner at the table (or use whatever surface you have been using for organizing). DO NOT put the sorted items back into a drawer of unsorted items. This essentially undoes the work you’ve just done. Designate an empty drawer, box or bag for items that have been sorted, and label this clearly. I love to use post-it notes (reinforced with clear tape) or blue masking tape and a sharpie to clearly label the “pre-sorted” items. This creates a work flow so you know where you left off.
- If it helps, give yourself permission to keep everything. If you start your organizing project with the mindset that you “have” to get rid of stuff, it can put you on the defensive, and you’ll be “under the line of choice”. You know you’re under the line of choice when you feel fear, doubt, worry, judgement, shame, guilt, or a lack of forgiveness.
- When you feel peace, joy, happiness, love, connection, humor, patience, discernment, and faith, you’re operating above the line of choice. When you’re above the line of choice, you can access your body’s innate intelligence, your intuition. Tune in to what your body feels like when you’re above the line of choice and below the line of choice. This will help you move through the organizing process with ease. Does organizing just stress you out too much? Is it possible to rise above the line of choice? What activities can you do that will pop you back into a clear mindset? Will a few deep breaths do the trick? Do you need to stop and take a relaxing bath? Does music help? What snacks help fuel your body to stay strong and present?
- Once you’ve sorted everything you need to sort, is there anything you’re ready to let go of? If it hadn’t been obvious, you may want to ask the question out loud, or write it down on a piece of paper. The answer will come to you. And it could be a “no”- you’re not ready to let anything go. Respect that, and keep it all. But humor yourself and ask before assuming the answer is no.
- Once you’ve loosely sorted things, it’s time to go back and refine how those categories are subcategorized, or if the categories are good enough as they are. It’s totally up to you! Clearly label categories as you go so that you don’t forget where things go.
- Now it’s time for the pretty containers and nice looking labels! I know it’s always fun to try to get these ahead of time, but it really pays off if you can wait until the end. That way you’ll know exactly what you need!
- If you have a large amount of storage, you may want to consider creating a catalog system so that you know what you have and where it is. Digital photography makes it so easy to do this, especially once items have been properly organized. In most cases, waiting until the end to do this step will help ensure accuracy for your catalog. If you’d like some ideas on how to create a simple digital catalog, send me a message!
Want to take it a step farther?
Sign up for my free 4 Day Color to Declutter Challenge.
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