Do It For The Kids

I completed this project a while ago, but still wanted to share it with you all. I think it’s a great example of the vast difference organizing can make and how much stuff can be in one (seemingly) tiny space!

Once I start organizing, people are often amazed at how much they had crammed into one spot, whether it be a closet or a drawer or garage. That’s one reason I almost always start by taking everything out. More often than not, the majority of stuff that was crammed in the back, you’re not going to miss!

I completed this particular project for the church I was attending at the time. This was one of several closets in which the preschool and children’s ministry program kept supplies. After nearly breaking my leg more than once trying to find an item for a Sunday morning lesson, I proposed a major clean out and reorganization of the whole closet.

The first step was getting everything out of the closet. No small feat! Thankfully the closet was attached to a large classroom that I could use to “dump” all the contents during the clean out phase. I tackled this during Spring Break while the students were away.

If you’re shocked, join the club! This was one of my first major projects, and I could not believe how many books, props, games, and toys all came out of that little space. But I was committed! I was not going to let a few (hundred) stuffed animals stand in the way of success.

The next item of business was to sort through the piles.

I donated. I discarded. And eventually whittled down the contents by at least a third.

Cleaning out a shared space can be a little more challenging than cleaning an area that is solely yours. I got rid of items that were clearly out of date, broken, or no longer being used. However, just because I wasn’t using certain toys or materials, didn’t mean no one was using them. During the process, I spent time consulting with the children’s team to discern which items should be salvaged or spared.

Cleaning out a shared space can be a little more challenging than cleaning an area that is solely yours.

By this time, putting the items back in the closet was the easy part! When there’s 1/3 less stuff, there is automatically more space and room for a good system to be established. Also, as a bonus, I did not have to purchase any supplies for this project. So many items were discarded that there were plenty of empty bins and boxes to repurpose as I needed!

Items went back into bins by category- musical instruments, balls, animals, etc. There were a lot of categories! Afterwards, I also went back and applied labels in many places.

Labels are essential when several different people are using the same space! They serve the important function of reminding everyone where things belong. If there are no labels, people will stick things anywhere!

Labels are essential when several different people are using the same space!

There is something about seeing “Books” on a basket that prevents someone from putting a DVD there. More than likely, they’ll keep looking for the “DVDs” container. I think we all really want to be rule-followers at heart.

The finished product was a dream come true. Not only could I find everything, but there was room to spare!

Organizing When You Don’t Know Where To Start

Sometimes all it takes to get organizing is a little motivation. But how exactly does one come across motivation? You’d think that dealing with a messy closet or playroom day after day would be enough of an incentive, but often it has the opposite effect. When you don’t know how or where to start, often the easiest solution in the moment is to shut down and deal with it later.

But meanwhile the mess continues, and you grow more and more agitated. It’s time to stop the cycle! Below are a few tips to get you started tackling your organization challenge. Once you take these few brave steps forward, you’ll be surprised how easily the momentum comes!

First things first,

Pinpoint the Problem

Be more specific than “it’s a mess” or “this room is driving me crazy!” What in particular are you losing sleep over? Do you need more storage? Do you need to do a massive clean out and donate a lot of items? Do you need to develop a system that will prevent disorder and chaos in the first place? Get specific and honest about your situation before you start to do any hands-on organizing. You are the best person for this job! You don’t have to write anything down, though you can if it helps. Only once you’ve pinpointed the specific problem can you move towards making progress.

Verbalize a Solution

Once you’re identified a distinct problem, the solution should come naturally. Say your problem is something like, “This closet contains a bunch of miscellaneous items. I don’t even remember what’s in all of these boxes!” Great! But now what? Even though the solution is often implied, go ahead and verbalize it (at least in your head).

Your solution may be simple, like “I want to figure out what’s in here, clear out the things I don’t need or want anymore, and arrange the rest nicely so I can find what I need in the future.”

It may also be helpful to develop your solution into a more elaborate list so that it resembles an action plan. Pulling from the example above, your solution might look something like:

  • Take everything out of closet
  • Go through all items. Decide what to keep, what to trash, and what to give away. Also pinpoint any items that might best be stored elsewhere.
  • Sort remaining items by category, i.e. decorations, office supplies, sports gear…
  • Store remaining items however appropriate (using same containers or purchase storage solutions as necessary)
  • Label everything!

Making a bullet point list can be helpful to break down the process and your thoughts, but it’s not necessary. Whatever is helpful to you (simple or thought out) is what you need to do!

Start Small

Now that you know where you are and know where you’re headed, how do you get there? The best way to start is to start small. An easy success will get you excited and start some of that momentum rolling.

If your kitchen is out of sorts, start with one drawer. Work towards your stated solution for that one little area. Purging, organizing, and beautifying one little space will be so fulfilling! You’ll find yourself thinking, “Wow, if only the rest of my kitchen was like this!” and realizing that it can be. You can make it happen. You can conquer the rest of the kitchen just like you conquered that drawer!

Keep Going

Starting small and having success there should naturally produce some momentum, but don’t let that fire go out! Keep working on your project until you’re are finished. Whether that means working 30 minutes a day or knocking it out in a weekend, don’t let too much time lapse between organizing.

Set a date by which you want to have the project completed, and hold yourself to it. Sure, unforeseen life circumstances might pop up and you might have to adjust, but working towards a goal – not just a solution, but a time goal- will put pressure on yourself to keep going when the going gets tough. I didn’t say it was all going to be easy!

If All Else Fails…

After going through these steps, if you’re still stuck or get stuck along the way, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. Maybe going through everything is taking wayyy longer than you anticipated, or maybe you’re at the final stage and just don’t know how to arrange your remaining items purposefully. You can seek the advice of a professional organizer for simple consulting or to get in there hands-on and complete the project for you. There is no shame in asking for help, especially when it gives you back your freedom and peace of mind!