How do I start organizing my home? 

Most everyone can appreciate the idea of having an organized, tidy space to live in. But often people don’t know where or how to start. From my experience working as an organizer, here are a few ideas to help you decide how and where to start organizing your home. 

First, ask yourself a few questions. 

Which area causes you anxiety? 

We all have enough anxiety in our lives. It’s nice if our homes don’t contribute to it. Maybe something tumbles out of the closet every time you reach for a hat, or you can’t find the right spices when you’re cooking, or your favorite pants can’t be located among the 20 pairs that you never wear. If an area causes you stress, take it as a sign that it’s a good place to start. 

this office would cause me extreme anxiety

A note here: make sure the problem area is in your domain. Don’t go picking someone else’s space, like your husband’s sloppy bathroom, to start. The best way to get people in your household onboard with your organizing strategies is to set an example and work your own areas first. If the kitchen is your domain, it’s fair game. If the work shed is an eyesore but you rarely go in it, save it for another time. 

What size job can you (realistically) commit to?

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It will lead to frustration and you might create an even bigger mess to look at, if you lose steam halfway through. Keep in mind, an area may not be as simple as it seems. Sometimes opening a can of worms in one room can lead to another can of rooms in another room, and so on. Instead, think about how different areas connect and overlap in the home and plan on working those areas in tandem. Consider how much time and energy you have for the project so you can set realistic goals.

Low-Commitment Organizing 

A small project can test your mettle and get you into the organizing groove. Bathroom drawers are an easy first step. They are often mixed up and messy, and it’s amazing what 30 minutes or so of sorting, purging and re-placing will do to make your morning/nightly routines go more smoothly. You’ll improve a problem area quickly, avoid getting overwhelmed, and will hopefully build up momentum for something bigger.

Let’s say you’re still fired up after the bathroom drawers.. Maybe now you can move on to the medicine cabinet or the linen closet–someplace close by, with areas that overlap in use with those bathroom drawers. You’ll probably notice how they relate to each other, and find space for things as you rearrange.

Maybe instead of bathroom drawers, you decide to work on the craft cabinet, or a spice rack or a sock drawer or a jewelry box. Any small, manageable project will be a step in the right direction! 

Medium-Commitment Organizing 

A medium commitment job might be the whole bathroom, a kitchen pantry, or a clothes closet. 

In my own home recently the entryway had become a real eyesore. There were shoes all over the bench and the floor, and nothing fit right in the closet. To make matters worse, my husband was stomping around every morning looking for his keys, sunglasses, wallet, etc. He’s stressed because he’s running late, and it was painful to watch. 

I finally decided to take action: Project Entryway. I identified an excess of shoes as a big part of the problem. They wouldn’t all fit where they were supposed to go in the closet. I pulled all the shoes out and we purged several pairs, but there were still many left and I knew our problem was not solved. So I found an attractive shoe cabinet to go next to the closet. This freed up space in the closet shelves, where each family member has their own bin (for hats, gloves, what-have-you). Each person’s bin now had space next to it for overflow (like a saxophone case, backpack or work bag). A few pairs of easy shoes, like flip flops, are allowed on the closet floor. An extra decorative box migrated in to provide a tidy place to drop keys, wallet, and the like. 

Creating this lovely space by moving things around and adding a piece of furniture works great on paper — but some training is also involved. Husband must get into the habit of dropping his keys, sunglasses, and wallet at the door when he comes in. Otherwise he’s still stressed in the morning. 

This is a perfect example of how purging, sorting and placement are only part of the job. The maintenance part is about human behavior and habits, and we’ll discuss that in another blog post!   

Large-Commitment Organizing Job

If you want to organize a couple of big spaces together, like the kitchen-pantry-entryway or basement-garage, or even your whole house, it can be done! Just know that it will take time and will probably need to be broken down into smaller projects, even if you hire an organizer. 

I worked with a client recently who had a lot of stuff coming back into her house from a business she had recently closed. The business had taken up a lot of energy and time and things definitely needed to be reworked in the home in order for the family to operate at a higher and more enjoyable level. 

We identified the garage as the crux of the issue. The rehoused business supplies had landed there, and there were also tons of sports equipment, bikes, tools, construction supplies, and the usual gardening tools and camping gear. Focusing here first forced us to re-home the business supplies and gardening tools by moving them to the basement and the backyard, which in turn gave us an accurate idea of what would be needed from those spaces. From here we could move forward knowing what needed to be done, without having to patch things in later. 

Are you ready?

Whether your project is big or small, organizing helps you feel better in your space. While the basics of organizing are not rocket science, it can be overwhelming. Hiring an expert is a good way to get a date on the calendar and keep motivation up and ideas fresh. It’s hard work–physically and mentally–and when time or mental capacity are limited, a professional can make your organized space become a reality instead of a distant dream. 

If you have questions about a problem area in your home, don’t hesitate to schedule a time to discuss. Let’s see what we can do together!  

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! 

How to Get Organized with ADHD

Adult ADHD challenges focus, attention, and concentration, and when it’s not recognized it will cause frustration when organizing a home. ADHD folks (whether diagnosed or not) are often energetic, creative and enthusiastic people  — but they have different ways of processing information. It’s easy to feel discouraged and frustrated when the typical  organizational systems that look so pretty on Pinterest just don’t work. It’s a relief to know that those systems aren’t for everyone, and that there ARE ways to get and stay organized with ADHD — it just takes different techniques and strategies. 

Where’s all the stuff?

Organizing Strategies for ADHD 

Different methods and strategies for organizing are necessary for folks whose brains are wired differently. These techniques are described and outlined very well in the book, “Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD.” And while this book focuses on adults with ADHD, I find that many of the techniques are good for just about anybody. It’s a busy world, we all have more stuff than we need, and it’s easy to get distracted, especially with so many forces vying for our attention. Juggling schedules alone can require the expertise of a professional project manager, not to mention managing all the household tasks such as laundry, meals, self care, home maintenance, pets — the list goes on, and on. 

Fighting Distraction with ADHD

ADHD folks, who tend to vibrate on a higher frequency, are easily distracted with so much stimulus. Let’s take an example: the morning shower. You might grab a towel from the linen closet, and glance in the bedroom and see the dog’s brush, which you’d been looking for earlier, so you grab it to put it back in the doggy bin in the kitchen, when you see that the paper towel roll is empty and you’ll need those for packing lunch, so you run downstairs to grab an extra roll where you see a pile of laundry that needs to go in the washer, and then you’re taking a load of clothes out of the dryer… pretty soon it’s 20 minutes later and you’re still not showered!

In this example, we want to eliminate all unnecessary steps to make systems fast, simple and convenient. Keep that towel on a hook next to the tub, with shampoo, conditioner, razor, and anything else needed for a successful shower on open shelves. Open shelving allows you to see everything, which might mean you have “unsightly” shampoo and conditioner bottles on display, but such accommodations are necessary to help an ADHD person get through daily processes with ease and efficiency. The sacrifice of a “pretty” system is well worth the efficiency gained. 

A few more takeaways from Organizing for ADHD:

  1. Reduce inventory 
  2. Prioritize ease of stowage over ease of retrieval 
  3. Vertical storage is helpful 
  4. Store on wall or shelf, never the floor
  5. Only touch it once – do it then, don’t put it in a pile for later
  6. Eliminate duplicate items  
  7. Name your cabinets and shelves (plates, sock drawer, etc) 
  8. Make “rough storage” areas easy to access and well-lit and ensure there is “flex” room for long-term items and short-term needs 
  9. Make sure the item is conveniently located, easy to retrieve, and even easier to put away

More on Rule 1 for Organizing with ADHD (the Golden Rule)

 Inventory must conform to storage! 

Purging, getting rid of, or letting go of stuff is almost always necessary in order to make sure inventory fits in its designated spot. We live in a culture of stuff, and it’s easy to amass things even when we are not trying. The giveaways, the trinkets, the kitchen implement you bought on impulse at the grocery store that now sits unused in a drawer… we’re encouraged to buy more stuff, all the time. And it takes a mighty force of will and near constant vigilance to stem the tide. Particularly for those with ADHD, too much stuff can cause immense distraction and lead to feelings of overwhelm or even burnout.

The Brutal Purge 

In the book, the author calls it the “brutal purge,” meaning, relentless banishment of unnecessary stuff from your house. We’re not talking necessities or occasional luxuries — you obviously need a number of things to survive and you’re allowed to have luxuries too — particularly if they bring you joy. We’re talking about the stuff that finds its way into your house that doesn’t really need to be there, which has stayed because of inertia or a misplaced feeling of duty, guilt or obligation. I enjoy a good purge more than most people probably do, but it’s a particularly helpful, and I’d dare say essential, step for getting organized when you have ADHD. 

Sure, with any brutal purge you might let go of something and regret it later but, keeping the big picture in mind, that just means you’re doing it right. Don’t be afraid to let things go and remember that just about anything can be replaced if need be. 

Organizing Tip: Make it Easier to Put Away Than to Retrieve 

For ADHD folks, it’s easier to start things than to finish, which is why we make sure it’s easier to put things away than to retrieve them. This means you must have room for it where it belongs, which usually means you have to get rid of stuff to ensure there’s a proper place for everything (see Rule #1). Let’s say you have a few minutes and want to pick up the scarf you’re knitting for your niece’s birthday — the crochet supplies live in a basket in a closet which you can easily grab – and when you’re done it’s easy to throw stuff back in the basket, which at some point will be returned to the closet (and it will meantime will stay contained in the basket, not scattered all over the coffee table). 

Obvious Placement Means Everyone Can Help! 

You don’t want to keep an extra stash of anything down in the basement that you’ll forget about — or that only you know about. Don’t keep extras in some random drawer to be forgotten. Items should be stored where they’re used so they can be stowed in one single motion. In a family household, this allows everyone to help out because it’s obvious where things go, and cleanup is quick and easy. 

The “ideal” organized house that you see on The Home Edit isn’t a realistic goal for someone with ADHD or even most “regular” people. So let’s let go of that unrealistic goal, and  instead focus on the benefit of a system that works to simplify life, reduce stress, and allow for ease and efficiency with household tasks. 

There’s a greater goal at stake here too. Beating the “culture of stuff” — reducing intake and consumption —  is better for the environment, saves money, conserves the earth’s valuable resources, and helps us all move towards a more sustainable, happy, stress-free lifestyle. What’s not to like about that?

Ready to purge?

Find out where to donate your stuff responsibly here.

Need help getting started? Get in touch here and let’s get started!

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

Letting Go of Gifts

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purposeMarie Kondo

You don’t need to hold onto something just because someone gave it to you.

For many people it’s hard to let go of stuff, period. But gifts are a special category. Oftentimes I can tell that someone doesn’t really like the thing. But they say with resignation, “Oh, I can’t get rid of that, Aunt Martha gave it to me.” Well, I’m here to tell you: You CAN let it go!

Marie Kondo, whose methods started a tidying revolution, says in her book that once a gift is given, its job is done. The gift is meant to give the giver the pleasure of giving. So once Aunt Martha has given you that pine-scented potpourri candle, she’s gotten her joy. You’re not doing yourself or her any favors by burying it in a box and letting it decompose. In fact, the candle likely has a better life out there somewhere, once you release it by donating or giving it away.

Point being, if you are only holding onto something out of a sense of duty or guilt, you’re better off losing the negative vibe by letting it go. And it’s likely better off too when it finds its highest and best use.

While we’re on the subject of gifts – I believe consumables are the best gifts because they’re the least imposing. Chocolate, wine, coffee — even movie tickets, lottery tickets, or plane tickets. These don’t hang around making anyone feel obligated, guilty or annoyed for not liking the thing.

Gift better! And find it in your heart to let go.


How Marie Kondo’s Book changed me

Find More Space by Letting Go: Marie Kondo’s “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” 

This book has been around for a while but the wisdom and practice that Marie Kondo shares has been foundational for me with home organizing. Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the book.  

  1. A dramatic reorg of the home causes dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. According to Kondo, tidying up is a one-time affair. You don’t want to be organizing and decluttering for the rest of your life. You do it big, everything within a fairly short amount of time (say, a few months or half a year). Make it transformational and you’ll be living a new life with fresh clarity and purpose. After that, you maintain.
  2.  The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house is in order. Visualize what you hope to gain through tidying. What’s your ideal lifestyle? One of her clients said, “A more feminine lifestyle,” which included more baths, essential oils, classical piano, yoga and tea. Identify WHY you want to live like that. Keep asking why until you get to the root (to be happy?). It’s easier to get rid of things when there is an obvious reason to do so. 
  1. Tidying starts with discarding. Sort by category, not by room! In this order: clothes, books/papers, komono (miscellany), mementos. Review all of your clothes, not just the stuff in your closet. Bring everything to the same place so you can really see what you have and identify redundancies. Next, books, and so on. 
  1. All you need to do is look at each item, one at a time, and decide whether or not to keep it and where to put it. It’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. 
  2. You are choosing what you want to KEEP, not focused solely on throwing things away. 
  3. Everything must have a place. Existence of an item without a home increases the chance for clutter. 
  4. Don’t get rid of other people’s things without their permission. You’ll lose their trust  when you get caught (speaking from experience — you will likely get caught!). The best way to deal with an untidy family member is to start with yourself. 
  5. People often hold onto unnecessary items because they’re afraid to let go of the past, or else have a fear of the future. 
  6. It’s easier to find things when you’re purposeful about what you own. You’ll know what you have and won’t have to dig through clutter to find it. 
  7. Things that are cherished shine. The things you keep should “spark joy” and make you feel happy. 

People might say Marie Kondo’s way is drastic, but that’s the point. If you have courage for such an undertaking, good things will happen in the process. Letting go of what’s not needed and keeping only what makes you happy can truly buy freedom, new perspective, and make space for what you really want to do. 

I convinced my husband to “Kondo” our clothes. He was reluctant, even dismissive at first, but he saw that I was doing it too, which was at least fair. And our office drawers reorg had gone fairly well. We got everything out from our regular closet plus the spare closets downstairs and laid it all out on the bedroom floor. Piece by piece, we decided if it deserved a place in our home. We both found clothes that we hadn’t seen in a long time, that we had missed, and have moved back into regular rotation. He kept some nice suits from his lobbying days, but we still managed to let go of about 10 bags of stuff!

Now our main closet holds nearly all of our clothes, and we have so much more room in the closets downstairs. It’s much nicer for  guests when they come to have a place to hang their belongings. It has also allowed some reallocation from the under stairs closet, which was jam packed. More breathing space, less dust, easier to find things. Win-win-win.