Organizing 101: How to Downsize, Reuse, and Dump

With the start of the new year, relatively speaking, it’s not unusual to be inspired into a cleaning frenzy. Take advice from a born organizer, and consider these things when looking to simplify your life.

Step 1: Get Cozy with the ‘Tude. Understand that organizing serves two purposes: visual order and mental order. Look at the (unofficial) etymology of “organize.” Notice the “organ” in that word… Organizing your things should get at the “heart” of yourself. Your space should reflect who you are in absolute humility – no more, no less. That’s not to say there can’t be books you hope to read, or sentimental trinkets from that one time in Mexico. The key is being honest with yourself; you may not actually continue to create stained glass on your own, and that’s okay because you took an art elective that you loved. Surround yourself with encouragement, and don’t worry about the cynical ghosts of unfulfilled goals of the past. Start new, right now.

Step 2: Downsize. If you are single and living alone, there is no reason to shop at Costco like a 5-member family with two strapping Dutch farm boys. Buy only what you need. You can still work out a monthly trip to “stock up” if that better fits your schedule, but make sure you don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. This is what WILL happen: you don’t need it, won’t use it, will feel guilty about not using it and therefore be unable to get rid of it, and it will collect dust. Consider foregoing fancy appliances that take up valuable counter or shelf space, and go with a handheld mixer or a bowl and spatula.

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Step 3: Reuse. Layer jackets on the same hangers as shirts, and use stacked apple crates to make a wall-dresser. Use an old painter’s cloth for curtains. Save old wrapping paper ribbons to use for new gifts or bookmarks. Put wine glasses on a bookshelf for an inviting grab and save cupboard space. Place your leafy greens on the counter in a hipster glass pitcher (with water), otherwise reserved for summer BBQs. Cover old lampshades with light paper or cloth for a new design look. Ask a neighbor for some oranges if her citrus tree is overladen, and save a trip to the farmer’s market. Buy a (working) clock at the thrift store, paint or stain the rim and change out the face with your favorite calendar picture for a new piece of practical art. Get creative!

Step 4: Dump. Go through your things. Chuck what you haven’t used in over 4 years (or less — you set the dooms date). The Psychology notes from college you were hoping to use to impress your boss? Shred. Pants you want to hem? Goodwill. No excuses, no whining. A purge will set you free for future hobbies and trends that you can’t even imagine yet.