Organizing Basics 

Make space for more important things!

What is organizing? 

Organizing isn’t cleaning, or tidying, or making your closet look like a Pinterest board. It’s the act of creating a functional, pleasing space which is clutter-resistant, because everything has a place.

How do we organize? 

The order of operations usually goes something like this:

  1. Gather — Pull everything out — ideally, everything! If you’re working on clothes, get all your clothes from the whole house — coat closet, seasonal bins, and anywhere else you may have stashed things. Load it all in one place – I like the bed for clothes. 
  1. Sort — Group like with like. T-shirts, sweaters, leggings, etc. Sort by color and use (active wear, work wear, special occasion). Now you can see how much you have. 
  1. Choose — Rather than “getting rid:” of stuff, you are choosing what works for you and what makes you happy. Conversely, you’re letting go of things that don’t work. Maybe something has a bad memory attached, or it’s never quite fit right. Maybe you bought it because it was on sale but you don’t really like it. Maybe you have more of one item than one person would ever need. Ask yourself: how many [pairs of black leggings] do you need to live a successful life? 
  1. Purge — The less stuff you have, the less you have to take care of. Maintaining things costs time, money, and space in your home. Do you really want to spend time dusting that ugly tchotchke that was gifted to you? Do you want to waste packing paper and storage space to safeguard it? If you don’t love it, someone else might consider it a great find at the thrift store. Paring down allows space for the things that matter to you.
  1. Place — Put your chosen items where they belong. Designate a shelf, drawer, or appropriate and convenient spot for this thing to live. You’ll want to consider how, when and where you use this item so the placement makes the most sense. This is also the step where bins, labels, cubbies and other products can help define spaces. If it doesn’t have a place, you create one for it — or else let it go
  1. Remove — This is an important step! If you leave your unwanted items around for too long, they may find their way back into your closet or drawers, where they’ll continue taking up space and mental energy every time you look at them. It’s important that once you’ve done the emotional labor of letting go, you do the physical labor of getting things out of your house as soon as possible.  
  1. Maintenance — Things fall apart. It’s only natural. But when you create systems — by designating places for things, labeling, and holding a line about what gets to come in your home — habits are easier to form and a system reset takes less effort and time. 

Removing Stuff – Where to Take Everything? 

We don’t have a Planet B, and taking care of the Earth is everyone’s responsibility. Attached you’ll find an extended list of locations you can take almost anything, in order to get things where they’ll most likely find a second life and to avoid the landfill whenever possible. Here are the basic ideas: 

Consign/Resell — If you have something of value, it can be worth the time and effort to consign, or sell online on your chosen platform (Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, Poshmark, to name a few). Remember that online selling takes some effort, what with staging and photography, communication with buyers, and arranging shipping or meetups. If you don’t want to sell it yourself, you can enlist someone to help you for a fee. Don’t fall into the trap of “I’m going to sell this one day” and start a pile that never goes away.  

Donate — Donating is easy, because you can drop things off and they’re out of your life forever. Thrift stores such as ARC and Goodwill are great, and for more specific items (such as a piano or a bike), you can usually find a place. 

Buy/Sell Nothing Groups — Usually found on Facebook, these groups are great, especially if it’s something thrift stores won’t take (such as an inflatable kiddie slide) or something you don’t feel like hauling (a heavy piece of furniture). Often you can post a picture and a description and said item is gone within a day or two, better yet to someone who really wants it.  

Hazardous Materials — Many people have old chemicals and cleaners that have been lying around for years. They can be disposed of properly by contacting city waste services. Denver offers one pickup a year for residents for a small fee. 

Not sure? Check this link for a list of resources of where to take unwanted stuff in the Denver area.

Preventive Measures — How to Stay Organized

  • No. 1 Tip: Buy less! It’s better for your bank account and better for the planet. 
  • Purge frequently. Get rid of broken or outdated things that are no longer of use to you.  
  • Fix recurring issues — if something bothers you often, take action to fix it.  
  • Enjoy life – read (library) books, make art, go on walks, hang out with friends. 
  • Shop when you need something, not when you’re bored. Use a shopping list and stick to it. Avoid impulse purchases!

Professional Service

Sometimes it’s too overwhelming to start. Hiring an organizer can make all the difference. Whether it’s simply a consultation to define and set goals, a block of hours or a series of sessions to get through the physical and mental labor, it’s amazing how extra eyes and hands can help. And there’s nothing like a date on the calendar to motivate! 

Eco-Conscious Gifting

With the holidays upon us, many of us will soon be inundated with stuff from Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa presents. Whatever your holiday traditions may be, your celebrations will be even better if you keep in mind the earth’s resources when making your gift purchases. 

Consider Consumables
Some of my favorite gifts are consumable products. Tea, soap, candles, olive oil, wine and chocolate are all welcome gifts, and they don’t hang around someone’s house forever taking up space.

Choose Quality
If a longer-lasting gift is in order, try to choose quality over quantity. Gifts made from better materials hold up longer, and will ideally have an extended next life if their first owner chooses to let them go. 

Avoid Plastic Toys if Possible
There are a lot of cool plastic toys, but kids tend to grow out of them quickly. I often help clients get rid of piles of plastic. Yes, you can donate them to the thrift store, but they don’t last forever, and will most likely end up in a landfill one day. Wooden toys, books, art supplies, or clothes from an eco-conscious retailer are good alternatives.

Regear Gifts
Is it ok to buy someone a used item? Some will say new is the only option, but in my opinion, if the item is  in good condition, why not? There are some great consignment shops with beautiful clothes and, especially in Denver, regear shops with really high-quality outdoor supplies — bikes, tents, hiking poles, etc. If you have time to wait for shipping, Poshmark and similar websites offer quality brands for much less than retail price. Best of all, your gift won’t require new resources and the waste associated with manufacturing. You’ll save money, and save the planet. 

Shop Local
Of course, it’s always nice if you can support a small business when you make a purchase. Instead of Amazon, try Etsy, a local brick and mortar store, or a holiday market. Shopping is more fun when you can get hot cocoa and a churro, and it feels good to support an artisan who’s made something with care.  

Clutter causes undue stress and can interfere with easy living. If you’re allowing new items into your home, it’s a great habit to also let go of some things that you don’t need anymore. Tips from my blog on Marie Kondo-style wisdom can be found here,And for details on where to donate your stuff responsibly, read this post here.

Thanks for reading and best holiday wishes to all! 

Get Rid of Almost Anything, Responsibly

If you have too much stuff in your home, you are not alone! Americans collect stuff like it’s their job, and we’d do well to curb this habit. But our consumerist culture and habits make it easier than not to amass things that we don’t need. 

Keep it Out of the Landfill

Decluttering and reducing your load is always a good idea in my book. When you let go of belongings you don’t need, it frees up space and energy for more important things. 

And keeping the earth’s limited resources in mind, it’s best to rehome things by reselling or donating. If that’s not possible, try to recycle. If it’s hazardous, make sure it’s disposed of properly. The landfill should be thought of as a last resort. 

If you’re ready to say goodbye to a few or many things which no longer serve you, I’ve compiled a list of thrift stores in Denver, consignment shops in Denver, and donation sites in Denver for you to check out. If what you’re looking to unload is not on this list, check here for a more complete list of donation sites in Denver, or get in touch and I will check in with my network to find an answer.   

Donate, Resell, or Consign in Denver

Reselling clothes, furniture and gear can put money in your pocket and provide value to someone else for a good price. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are great platforms to sell big or small items, as long as there is demand and you have the time and energy for it. Make sure to do some research to price appropriately – just because something cost a lot when you bought it doesn’t mean it’s held its value. Beware of scammers, and know that sometimes people will be flakey on such platforms. I like to gather a few interested parties just in case the first (or second) one doesn’t work out.   

Consigning is easy but of course the shop takes a cut and they can be particular about what they’ll accept. Rags, Common Threads and Wilderness Exchange are my go-tos in Denver for clothing and gear. Check out Joy’s Consigned Furnishings and Design Repeats  for furniture.

Donate items that are usable and still in good shape at your local thrift store. In Denver I like ARC or Goodwill.  

Habitat for Humanity’s Restore is my favorite place to donate building materials such as working appliances, a ceiling fan, plywood, drywall sheets or even cinder blocks.  

Give things away online if thrift stores won’t take them. Great platforms are Buy Nothing and Freecycle, where you can post and someone will usually come quickly to scoop your free item, saving you the transport. Facebook has local “buy-nothing” groups in nearly every city. I once posted an inflatable kid’s slide that the thrift store wouldn’t take and had it gone in less than a day, with a grateful mom on the other end. 

Specialized donation sites include Dress for Success, geared towards helping people get a career wardrobe, and Clothes to Kids, which allows kids to “shop” in a well-stocked store and get new-to-them outfits for school. A more complete list of specialized donation sites can be found here

Of course, a good purge takes time and effort, especially when you’re being careful about where stuff ends up. It’s not unusual to feel too overwhelmed to start. It can be helpful to call an organizer, not only for help with the physical labor, but also to help motivate and keep the plan in place.  

Proper Disposal of Hazardous Materials 

Denver provides once-a-year pickups on toxic waste such as bleach, varnish, lawn fertilizers, household chemicals and similar nasty stuff, for just a $15 copay. For a full list of accepted materials and to schedule your hazardous materials pickup, click here

Recycle Old Paint in Denver

Denver partners with a few paint retailers to recycle paint. Greensheen takes any number of old cans of paint to recycle and turn into new paint. Here’s a list of more retailers that may recycle old paint in Denver.   

Donate Scrap Material

Scrap metal is a useful material! Don’t toss it in the landfill. Take it here.

Where to Take Old Medications

Old medications can be dropped off at most any drug store. Head towards the back, near the pharmacy, and there is usually a drop box to dump your expired or no-longer-needed medications safely.

Avoid Landfill to Respect Earth

As an organizer, I help people let go of a lot of unnecessary stuff, which helps them feel better in their spaces. As an environmentally-conscious human, I strive to help them divert as much of that stuff as possible from the landfill. Letting go of stuff responsibly often means extra effort, but it’s the right thing to do to save landfill space and to respect the earth’s valuable resources. 

Denver’s Recycling Facility