5 questions to ask before starting a home organization project

5 questions to ask before starting a home organization project

Has home clutter got you down? Do you have difficulty finding what you need, quickly? Have you ever walked into your own home and just felt plain old uncomfortable? 

We all feel guilty from time to time about the disorganized state of our surroundings, but taking a little time to look into some of the root causes of the mess can go a long way towards giving you the motivation to get your spaces back under control. 

Below are five questions to ask yourself before you get started clearing those desks and closets.

1. Have you recently experienced a major life event? 

Have you just had a baby? Lost a job? Downsized? Any of these events (and plenty of others) can take attention away from the day-to-day routine of putting things back where they belong. It's called situational disorganization. 

If you've been through anything stressful, whether positive or negative, give yourself a break and recognize that when things settle back down you will likely have more energy to devote to getting rid of the clutter in your home. When you do start, take things one step at a time and begin clearing the smaller spaces (like a spice cabinet or junk drawer) before you tackle an entire garage.

2. Do you go for the big sales and special offers?

If you belong to a discount club, subscribe to monthly product boxes and head out for all of the BOGO sales. It's likely that you will also overbuy on the things you truly need. Sure, getting 20 rolls of paper towels with a big price cut is great, but not if you don't have adequate storage for those 20 rolls. 

If you must shop big to stay within your budget, consider a storage "annex" in your garage or utility room for all of the extra stuff. Keep a running list in a prominent location of items you're running low on - always shop with a list! And remember, it's not a bargain if you never get around to using it.

3. Is your space over-committed? 

We talk about cramming too much into our schedules – squeezing in another call here, an extra yoga class there. Many times we also feel that if there's space in a closet or drawer, it should be completely filled. No wasted space, right? 

But really, if you can't see what's behind the first layer of stuff (thereby forgetting you even have it), what good is it to you? Out of sight is almost always out of mind. Keep drawer contents down to one layer, make sure all of the canned goods are visible, and only allow for one row of books on the shelf. 

4. Do you have common-sense systems in place?

Do you have your kitchen set up so that the cooking utensils you use most are closest to you? Have you thought about whether or not the kids can actually reach the bins that their toys belong in? 

Consider your height, whether you are right or left-handed and what a space is best suited for when you are creating storage areas. Most-used files should be out and close to the desk, while papers you only need for reference go in the filing cabinet across the room.

5. Do you live with other people? 

Roommates, spouses, children and even guests can wreak havoc with our good intentions for an orderly life. So how do we get the rest of the household on board? 

Start with some honest communication, with the understanding that other people's idea of organization will often be different from your own. If you like clear countertops and your spouse likes knick-knacks everywhere, some compromise will be in order. 

One solution is to create "zones" for members of the household, with clear responsibilities and expectations in each. For instance, if you have a home office that's primarily for work, the kids should not be leaving their toys in it. Conversely, you have to be willing to let them accept some responsibility for their own rooms. Give and take is key.

These questions are a good starting point for any organization project, big or small. Remember that organizing is not a one-time event, but rather a journey, so take the time to understand what works best for you and your family. Organization solutions that are tailored to your life are the ones that will succeed in the long run. 

About this Experts Contributor: Sara Skillen is the owner of SkillSet Organizing, providing home organization services in Nashville. Since 2012, SkillSet Organizing has specialized in stress-free, reliable and responsible organization and productivity solutions for homeowners. You can follow this contributor on Twitter @SaraOrganizes and on Google+.

As of May 8, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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