How to Organize Anything in 5 Easy Steps

Quick and Dirty Tips
by Quick and Dirty Tips
Five simple steps to get anything in your home organized with Domestic CEO.
Flickr//Jessica Graves
You may not know this about me, but I’m a process person. I love to find the easiest process to complete a task and find joy in repeating the task over and over again. I like routine, and I like knowing that I am going to get a consistent result when I put effort into doing something.

When I first started working in people’s homes nine years ago, I found that many people had processes they followed for their day-to-day routines, but they struggled with finding a process for tackling projects around their homes. This was almost always the case when it came to getting and keeping their homes organized. The thing is, most of these people had already come up with a system that worked in a specific area of their home, but didn’t know how to apply it in another area. For example, they might have the most organized desk, but their pantry and closets were a disaster. What I found is that most people may have accidentally completed a process that worked to get (and keep) an area of their home organized, but they couldn’t figure out what they did to repeat it.

The five steps in this episode are ones that I have personally used over and over to organize dozens of rooms in homes. Not only have I taught these steps to clients for their own homes, but I’ve also taught them to my employees. Like most things that create lasting results, this process takes a bit of time, especially on larger projects. Results are possible in an afternoon for smaller projects, but if you are tackling a bigger project, you’ll want to plan for the possibility of it taking a second day.

Without further ado, let’s get started with the five steps to organize anything.
Flickr//Miss Treats House of Delight
Step 1: Analyze

Before I start with what Step 1 is, I will start with what it is not. The first thing to do is NOT is to go buy a bunch of organizing supplies. Ever. I totally realize that this is the fun part of organizing and everyone wants to jump right into this step. Unfortunately, if you jump in and start buying organizing supplies, there is a big chance you are going to end up giving up on the project because your containers don’t fit what you need them to, and you don’t want to go back to the store to return or exchange them. That’s the main reason people end up with cluttered closets full of unused organizing supplies. It’s ironic, I know.

As is the case with any project meant to improve function or efficiency, it’s best to start off knowing what the problems are. Nine times out of ten when I have worked with clients, one of the biggest reasons they have clutter is because they have no clue how much stuff they have. That’s why the first step I recommend for any organizing project is to pull everything OUT of its storage space and start sorting like items together. Often times, items get purchased or brought into the home, and older items get pushed to the back of the closet or cupboard and forgotten. It’s not until we empty out those storage spaces that we can truly start to analyze what we own.

I helped a busy mom organize her closet recently. She was a stay-at-home mom after having a career where she needed to dress professionally every day. When I had finished sorting all the clothes she had in her closet into piles of like items, I asked her how many of each item she thought she needed. When I asked her how many white button up shirts she needed, she replied that three or four was probably sufficient since she was no longer working outside the home. She was floored to find out she had almost 20 white button up shirts currently in her stash. That’s 15 white button up shirts alone that were able to be donated, but only because she was able to see all those extra shirts all in one place.

This step is the most daunting, but the most important, so please do not skip it. By putting all your like items together outside of the storage space, you’ll be able to think more clearly on the decisions that need to be made in the next steps.
Flickr//Dan Budiac
Step 2: Purge

After you have everything pulled out and sorted into piles of like items, it’s time to start determining what is going to be able to go back in to the storage space. The first sub-step I recommend in this process is to identify your favorite items and begin setting them aside. In the example with the white button up shirts, I asked the woman to pick out her four favorites that she wanted to keep. That was a fairly simple decision for her that we repeated with each stack of clothing in her room. Once she picked out her favorites, we could start to decide what to do with the extras in each pile.

You may think of purging as just putting things in the trash, but that is just part of the process. The term purging in the organizing world applies to any way you are going to remove items from your home. There are likely going to be things you put into the trash, but there will also be items you find that you can donate, sell, give to a friend, or repair. All of these types of items can be put into separate containers like garbage bags, cardboard boxes, or plastic totes to be removed and dealt with after the storage space is put back together.

When I go through the purging process, I like to hang signs in different parts of the room that say, “Donate,” “Trash,” “Give Away,” and “Fix.” Then I will literally start throwing items into piles under the signs. This is best done with soft items like clothing and stuffed animals, and then anything that could break gets walked over and gently placed under the correct sign.

Once you’re through the purging process, you should be left with nice, sorted piles of what you are planning on keeping. At this point, you are ready to move on to the next step.
Step 3: Plan

Once you’re through the purging process, you should be left with nice, sorted piles of what you are planning on keeping. At this point, you are ready to move on to the next step, which is to plan the organization of the space. This is going to be much easier now that you have things sorted into piles of only the items you want to keep because you can now see how much needs to fit back into the space. You can get a count for how many organizing pieces, like hangers, you need. You can also measure the items to make sure you get the right size storage boxes for all the items.

I like to grab a piece of blank paper and draw out the space when I’m at this point. Once I have the space drawn out, I start to pencil in where each category of item is going to be put back in place. Another option is to use sticky notes to write each category of item to be stored, then place the sticky notes in the spaces you think they will occupy. Taking a few extra minutes to plan where things go will allow you to measure and buy the correct size storage containers. Just think, no more buying $100 worth of pantry organizing supplies just to realize that you bought ones that are too tall for your shelves. No more buying a carload of closet organizing baskets only to realize they are all going to hang off the shelves by 6”. By investing a few minutes into planning and measuring, you’ll make sure that each and every piece of organizing storage you purchase is going to be just right for the space you’re organizing.

Now is the time you get to go to the store and buy the fun organizing supplies! Take your detailed, planned list, and have fun!
Flickr//The Estate of Things
Step 4: Place

Now that you have everything sorted, and you have the space planned, it’s time to put everything back. This step is usually super fast because you have already followed the previous steps. When you are putting things away, use tricks that retail stores do to make the storage space really pop. In closets, hang all your clothes facing the same direction, fold all the clothes the same way, and line up all the shoes to be easily seen. In your pantry, line up cans and boxes with their labels facing forward. Setting up your spaces like a retail store will help you be able to easily find what you need when you need it, and it will help you avoid purchasing extras because you will always know exactly what you have.
Flickr//The Riley Group
Step 5: Label

Now that everything is in its place, there’s just one last step, and that’s to label where things go. This will help you to get into a routine of putting things back in the correct spot, but it will also help anyone else living in your home to know where things are supposed to go. This will help keep your home organized and prevent it from returning to the condition you just worked so hard at fixing. You can label with a label maker, stickers, mailing labels, or plain old sticky notes, but whatever you choose, label as much as you can to make sure all your hard work isn’t reversed in 24 hours.

If you have other family members, they won’t be used to this new organized way of living, so you will likely need to teach them where things go and what the new expectations are. It will take a little time to retrain everyone in your home to put things back away when they are done using them, but it will be worth it in the long run when your home stays neat and tidy.
Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.
Originally posted here:
Quick and Dirty Tips
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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3 of 4 questions
  • Cath Cath on Apr 16, 2016
    Clothes Closet Organization - What is the standard height between rods when hanging a double rod for clothing? What's the best storage for shoes - clear boxes or rack?

  • V Valencia V Valencia on May 24, 2017
    I have a two story house. I have little stashes of stuff upstairs, downstairs and in the garage. I am struggling with how to organize, not just one closet, but my entire house so it makes some sense. These things include cleaning products, holiday decor, craft and floral stuff, fabrics, etc. Can you give me any advice on where to begin?

  • Judy Judy on Aug 05, 2017
    I'm elderly and have strength, energy and mobility issues. Still unpacking after having moved from a 3 BR house to a small apartment...... over 3 months ago! I did a lot of purging before the move but I'm struggling in a place that is too messy to even let the UPS guy in. Suggestions?

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2 of 35 comments
  • Randy Peters Randy Peters on Jul 23, 2017
    Absolutely, nothing in here, comes down to buy units. no kidding

  • Bonbon Bonbon on Sep 20, 2017
    You have stated the orderly directions so clearly! I am 89 live alone with all this stuff I've collected over a lifetime. I've read the books giving all the tips on how to get it all together and just didn't know where to start. You have given me the start to finish directions. Thanks so very much. I have so much to donate and I know where I want it to go. Salvation Army Has places around the world as well as around the states. Bonbon, Brentwood,CA,