How to Start Small When You Organize

How to Start Small When You Organize Your Home and Office

Start small when you organize your home
Stuart McCall/Photographer's Choice

When I offer clients organizing tips, I always start with "start small". Starting small when you organize your home (or life) just makes sense. My inspiration? Mark Twain once said,

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex and overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."

Who am I to argue with America's favorite wordsmith?

A few tips on how to start small when you organize:

Choose One Space to Begin, Not the "Whole House"

I like clients to begin by organizing their kitchen or office junk drawer for three reasons:

It's manageable, impactful, time efficient and most importantly, encourages them to keep going! Then they follow my list of rooms and spaces to organize the rest of their home in a precise order starting with storage spaces. This way they tackle one room or one zone in a room at a time so they do not attempt to organize their entire home in one weekend. It can be done, but it's tough. (More on that in the section on motivation)

Separate Out Collections in Rooms/Spaces

By this I mean, don't try to tackle your living room in one sitting, but do take on your magazine collection or organize the cable clutter, behind your TV or computer. The following day, work on decluttering your coffee table.

  • Rather than organize your entire bathroom in one sitting, take 15 minutes today to purge your medicine cabinet of out-dated toiletries, the next day organize your linen closet, the third day install the proper storage implements like hooks or additional vanity shelving.
  • Rather than organize your entire bedroom, start with your night table.
  • Choose a 30Minute Project and complete three a week.
  • Sort and store one of the following groups in your closet: boots, sweaters, t-shirts, socks.

You Need to Stay Motivated and Focused

Working on a small projects help you stay motivated because you get some early wins.

The sock drawer is done? Great!  This may be the opposite of Marie Kondo recommends in the "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up." In it, she recommends you tackle your whole house at once, but that would require most people to take a week off of work and ship their spouse, kids and critters off to another location. it's just not realistic.

Instead, focus on one room (Kitchen), one zone (Baking Zone), one collection (Pans and Cake Pans) at a time. Tackle that, then move on. 

Completing a series of smaller organizing tasks allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment without becoming overwhelmed. Lisa Zaslow, Organizer-in-Chief and Founder of Gotham Organizers advises you to begin with a visible area, "start with a place where you'll see results quickly and pace yourself.

Here's a list of 30 minute projects to get your started: 30 Minute Organizing Projects