4 Secrets to Avoid Organizing Overwhelm

Avoid Organizing Overwhelm

Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of clutter in one area of your home? Does it seem to be too large to tackle, so therefore, you don’t start? Instead, you can learn how to manage – and complete – your organizing project. It is natural to view a room as one project, but you don’t have to! One of the comments on the Testimonials Page of my website is the following:

“I listened to what you said about tackling a huge project by knocking the jobs out one by one instead of trying to do the whole thing in one fell swoop. Your advice was amazing!”

Here are four tricks to help you avoid overwhelm on your next large project.

  1. Resolve

One pattern I see when helping people organize is that there is a space away from the main living area where clutter is stashed. This could be a spare bedroom, an office, a garage, or an attic. Why are these rooms so stuffed with clutter? Barbara Hemphill, an expert in productivity, defines clutter is “postponed decisions.” When you don’t feel like making a decision, the spare room can become a natural spot to stash something you intend to think about…later. One of the tools that will help you complete a large project is to resolve to make decisions as you sort. I am not saying it will be easy, but you do need this tool in order to move forward.

  1. Start Small

If the spare room has become a dumping ground, then you may want to break it down into smaller projects and treat your large project as multiple small projects instead. Divisions could include the top shelf of the closet, the left side of the closet, the right side, and then the dresser. Each time you sort, remember to eliminate what you no longer use, love, or need. Follow through to the end of that section, so that your room is usable while you work the process (more about that, below).

  1. Calculate Volume

The spare bedroom, by definition, it is an extra space. It tempts us to stash things there that have no other permanent home: decorations, spare linens, holiday supplies, gift items, mementos, old photos, grandma’s china, toys, etc. The variety itself can be part of the problem. Let’s assume for the moment that you have roughly twice the items that will easily fit into your spare bedroom’s storage, including the closet, a dresser, and underneath the bed. As you sort, keep this quantity in mind, so that 50% of what is there must leave the house in order for everything to fit easily. That does not mean you need to get rid of 50% of your photos, but if you keep them all, then be more aggressive in purging your vases or your gift wrap to result in an overall reduction of half. The percentage is up to you; just remember your goal of being as organized as you want to be.

  1. Follow-Through

No matter what room you are organizing, each time you sort, you will have items to donate and discard. Take care of these right away! One way is to set a schedule, so that when you sort on Saturday, you drop off the donations on Monday. You won’t truly have a different space until you take care of this step. Once you are finished sorting and purging the entire space, then you can reorganize according to what you are going to keep.

Now, let’s apply these rules to a garage. Did you know that, for middle-class American families, “three in four garages are so packed with stuff that there is no room for a vehicle?” Like the spare room, the garage is a natural spot for clutter. In addition to what belongs there (gardening supplies, sports equipment, tools, and the car), we often find postponed decisions. Apply the rules like this:

  • Resolve: Say to yourself, “I am ready to make decisions about what I no longer need, use or love. I want to be able to park my car in the garage.”
  • Start Small: Break your garage into zones, either by quantity (one third today, one third next Saturday, one third the following weekend), or by item type (tools, sports equipment, file cabinet, cleaning supplies, gardening supplies, etc.).
  • Calculate Volume: Take an honest look around your garage. How do you want to use your garage, and what belongs there? What does not? How much volume will you need to reduce in order to accomplish your goals?
  • Follow-Though: Each time you have an organizing work day, be sure to remove the donations and discards. Donate the toys your kids have outgrown. Sell a bicycle you no longer ride. Take old paint to the hazardous waste station. Do your follow-though before your next session, and you will start to see progress, which can be motivating. Plus, you’ll have more room to work.

Have you worked on a large space recently? What tips do you have that helped you?

2 thoughts on “4 Secrets to Avoid Organizing Overwhelm

  1. We’ve had a spare room since becoming empty-nesters, and for quite a while it was a depository for old computers, empty boxes, and anything else that we couldn’t be bothered to get rid of. I asked a friend whose husband repairs and restores computers to bring a cart and take away everything he could use. That made a big difference, because those things are heavy! Once I cleared everything else, I’ve made a practice of treating the room as if it was being used (even though it’s not). It keeps stuff from accumulating and makes it more pleasant to walk by.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janet, I love the idea of treating the room as if it were being used. That could be a helpful mind-set.


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