Obviously, this is a time when hiring a professional organizer would be the best option! But when that isn’t possible here is what I recommend:
1-Get someone to work with you. Chose someone who will be supportive of you getting rid of the things that aren’t helping you in your life right now and will help you be objective. You might offer to help them with their own project in return for their help.
2-Focus! Try to get rid of all distractions, make the most of this time! Arrange for the kids to be playing with friends somewhere else, put your phone away, don’t worry about other chores etc. Multitasking gets all of us into trouble with many unfinshed projects and piles!
3-Decide on a specific room or area, like a closet, and when you’re ready to declutter and organize, completely finish it before you worry about anything else. Chose something you can reasonably do in one decluttering and organizing session. Take “before” pictures.
4-Decide on a specific amount of time and start a timer. I don’t know what it is about having a timer going but it can be a great motivator to keep you focused and working faster. It also helps you remember that you won’t be doing this forever. I recommend 1 hour if your working by yourself and 2 hours if you have someone helping.
5-Quickly look over the space and decide what 3-5 items are most important to you and pull them aside. Then think through what needs to happen in this space and what you like about it and don’t like about it.
6-Take everything out of the space (except heavy furniture) and put it in another room or space. As you are taking everything out of the room, sort it into bins, baskets or piles of like things. Example: all electronics together, all paperwork together, all office & school supplies together, obvious trash in the garbage or recycling bins etc. Don’t stress and don’t try to make decisions at this point just pull everything out as quickly as possible.
7-After everything has been cleared out, vacuum, dust and wipe off all the surfaces in the space. Be sure to move the furniture so you can get behind and around it to clean. And once again, be as quick as possible.
8-After the room has been emptied and cleaned take a step back and look at the space. Is there furniture in there that isn’t necessary? Could furniture be placed in another arrangement? Think it over for a few minutes and then move things accordingly.
9-Next, head into the space where you took everything to be sorted and get bags and boxes ready for items you want to donate and garbage and recycle cans out and ready for trash. Also, get a laundry basket or large bin to put items that don’t belong in the room you are decluttering so you can put those items away later and not get distracted.
10-Now sit down next to one of the sorted piles and quickly go through each item. Put keep items aside, donate items in the proper bag or box and throw away the trash. Don’t agonize over what stays and what goes, just be as fast as you can. Continue until you have gone through every category. Have your helper take full donate boxes and bags out to the car to be dropped off as soon as possible. They can also bring you new categories of items. You are the only person who can decide what stays and what doesn’t so focus on that and let your helper do everything else.
11-Next, take the items you have decided to keep into the clean, empty space and start placing them where it makes the most sense and looks good. Try to put things as close as possible to where they will be used (dishes close to the dishwasher, DVDs by the TV etc.) and keep like things with like. As you are putting things away you will notice somethings might not fit nicely and that is the time to pare things down a little more and add more things to the donate boxes and trash.
12-When you are happy with the placement of things add labels so everyone that uses that spaces can easily find things and put things away. Just because it’s obvious to you doesn’t mean it will be obvious to everyone else!
13-Give your family members, co-workers or whoever is going to use the newly organized space a tour. Show off your hard work proudly and help them take ownership in it as well. Point out the labels and ask for their help to keeps things organized and clutter free.
14-Enjoy your organized space! Take “after” pictures and compare them with your “before” pictures. I’ve found this helps clients keep up the organizing in other areas of their homes/lives. Decluttering really does become addictive and really does improve your life!