How to Organize Anything in 5 Easy Steps

Five simple steps to get anything in your home organized with Domestic CEO.

Amanda Thomas
6-minute read
Episode #198

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.

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.

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.