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Get Over Overwhelm—Getting Started

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How do you get started organizing when you feel completely overwhelmed? One step at a time sounds logical, but it doesn’t answer the question, “Which step do I take first—and why?” Truly, when the task is big, any step is the right one. A start is what’s needed. So let’s talk about some quick and dirty ways to get unstuck and to begin the task of digging your way out of your project. Pretty soon, you’ll be sweeping up after the project is done.

  1. Pick a five-minute task first—organize your sock drawer, or one kitchen cabinet, maybe the spice shelves, or the pots and pans.
  2. Organize your purse—it’s a microcosm of your house! Empty it completely, throw out the trash, reduce the number of items you carry. Use zipper bags to collect similar items such as makeup or coupons.
  3. Use a ticking timer as a way to keep you focused. Set it for short amounts of time (15 or 30 minutes), work until the timer goes off, then do the happy dance. Repeat as often as you’re willing, even if it’s only once a day.
  4. Start by moving things back to the right rooms. Call it the first pass. Things are already messy, so moving things from room to room won’t hurt anything. Just pick up anything that’s not in the room where it belongs, and move it to the right one. Don’t worry if you have to make a space! There are sure to be things in that room that need to come out anyway, and that next move will free up space.
  5. Pick a room, any room. Now pick a drawer, or shelf, or table top. Focus on clearing that one space. Don’t forget your timer! Throw out trash, relocate things to their appropriate places, straighten up and contain what needs to stay.
  6. Here’s an easy one! Clean out the medicine cabinet. Get rid of all the expired drugs. Mix them into coffee grounds or cat litter and bag them tightly for the trash. (Don’t flush them down the toilet!) You can also drop them off at some pharmacies that will dispose of them properly.
  7. Pick the worst closet—the one you can’t walk into. Set your timer, and just clear the floor. Throw out trash, make decisions about what to keep and what can be donated. Make your goal to clear the floor completely. If it means you have to pull something off the shelves to make room for something on the floor, then go ahead and make room. Either way, you’ll be pulling out donations and making it easier to walk into the closet next time without tripping.
  8. Try the 27-pieces game! Take two bags and walk around the house. Pick up pieces of trash for one bag, pick up things to donate for the other bag. Keep going until you add 27 things to each bag. You don’t have to clean anything this way, you’re just hunting. Eventually you’ll get to 27, and you’re done. It’s a great way to start when you can’t decide on a place to sort yet.
  9. Linen closets are easy! There are many big items and lots to donate. Sort the sheets and towels and take the leftovers to a veterinarian—they can use them, and you need the space. 

These are the program notes from the February 24, 2011, meeting of the Houston Clutter Coaching Meetup Group. The group is free and open to the public. Visit the meetup group page for information about upcoming meetings.

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