Getting organized needs quite a bit of practice—for most of us, anyway. There are a few people that seem to have been born with an OC gene that programs them to clean every bit of clutter and automatically put things away in their proper places. That gene must be nonexistent in my DNA because my room always seems to be in a perpetual state of disaster, with clothes strewn everywhere and documents on the bed, shoes in different corners and cosmetics bursting out of the drawers. It’s a wonder I manage to know where anything is! My college roommate Lesley used to follow me around with a portable vacuum cleaner and room spray, clucking and sighing in despair at the mess in my corner.
Then I read this article about how holding on to so much clutter has a manifestation in your personal life. Basically the bottom line was that if you wanted to get your life in order, you need to start cleaning up your stuff first. Makes a lot of sense—how can you be calm and put together when your things are all over the place? If you want good things to come into your world, you need to make room for it. Ever watched the bizarre reality show called “Hoarders”? You’ve got to believe these people have a whole truckload of issues, and I didn’t want to turn into a psychopath with 500 cats in the house. So I started a big cleaning up spree at home to shoo out the negative vibes and bring in more of the good stuff! Here are some tips you might be able to use when you attempt to organize your stuff:
- Get rid of the junk in your closet. I’d say at least 1/4 of the things you have really don’t need to be there. Survey your closets and remove all the clothes you haven’t worn in at least a year because they were too tight, too loose, don’t fit right, have some sort of irreparable damage like a stain or hole or fade marks, or are not even your style in the first place. Be ruthless. Never mind the price tag or the fact that it’s never been worn—it’s useless in there anyway! Put all of these clothes in a big cardboard box, seal it well so you don’t get tempted to dig them up again, and send it out as soon as you can. That should leave you with clothes that you love, flatter your figure best, and can wear relatively often. Do the same for shoes—take out the shoes that hurt whenever you wear them, or just don’t seem to mesh well with any of your outfits at all. Only keep the best quality footwear that make you look and feel good.
- Get rid of the junk in your toiletry kit. All the makeup you’ve accumulated over the years that are starting to discolor or smell funky has got to be tossed into the trash asap. In fact, any lipstick you haven’t used in a year and mascara open for more than 4 months needs to go too, as well as all the follies of the past—like the foundation that’s way too light for you and makes you look like a Kabuki dancer, or the orange lipstick that looks awful with your skintone, or the perfume that makes you or your boyfriend sneeze uncontrollably. Out, out, out! You should only be left with shades that match your skintone and coloring perfectly and enhance the beauty that’s already there, and scents that complement your personality well. Everything else that does not achieve that purpose, you can do without.
- Get rid of the junk in your shelves. The editing that you just did for clothes, shoes and toiletries should be done for your books as well. Donate to a book drive or to schools. You should only keep your absolute favorite titles and books you fully intend to read over and over again. The rest were just stories for entertainment and should be given away. Same goes for magazines. Unless you’re a Vogue collector, you really don’t need to hang on to old issues. Send them over to paper recycling drives…better yet, get an iPad and just download your favorite magazines and books so you’ll never have to buy the printed versions and deal with storage and space issues later.
- Cluster things accordingly. Now that you’ve cleared out about 25% more space in your closet, shelves and dresser, you’ll have more leeway to group things according to kind. For example, hang all your jackets and blazers on the leftmost side of the rod from lightest color to darkest. Follow with pants and then skirts. For dresses, start with the most often used like office sheaths, then the casuals/weekenders and summer dresses, then the cocktail dresses and formals. All cotton t-shirts should be folded neatly and grouped together in the shelf, and make sure to allocate a separate drawer for undies, another one for swimsuits, another for gym clothes, and space for what I like to call ‘seasonal’ apparel—beach cover-ups and terrycloth dresses for warm weather, or sweaters and thermals for cold weather. This way you can keep track of all your clothes and you’ll see if there are redundancies, like too many black pants and blazers, too many striped T-shirts, etc. You can make a second cut of stuff to give up at this point, or at least make a mental note not to buy similar things in the future as you have more than enough.
- Invest in shelves, racks and containers. Oftentimes the reason our closets are such a mess is because we didn’t take the time to ensure there were enough compartments and drawers to help organize it. Invest in proper shelving first, and then you can also buy those clear stackable plastic boxes for the rest of the stuff like undies, swimsuits and miniaudere clutches. Build a shoe rack and organize them according to office shoes, ballet flats and wedges for weekends, sandals and flipflops, glam heels for nights out, rubber shoes for the gym and boots for travel. As for toiletries, make sure your bathroom also has hanging shelves where you can put your shampoos, conditioners, body washes, etc . instead of dumping them all somewhere. For makeup, you can get one of those pro containers that can house the entire beauty arsenal from foundations to shadows to lipstick. Otherwise, compartmentalize your drawer so you can group each kind together, and even classify which ones are for day use and which ones are for night.
- Look for innovative ways to organize. I know someone who bought shower curtain hooks and placed them on hangers to use to hang her belts, so she could easily find them. So ingenious! You could also get a framed corkboard, cover it with pretty fabric and place hooks on it to keep your accessories in order, like chunky necklaces and earrings. You can even use a cupholder (the kind that looks like a tree with branches) to stash your bangles. You’d be amazed at the space you save!
- Label your things. Now that you’ve covered your closet, bathroom toiletries, shoes, and makeup, it’s time to move on to the smaller stuff—knickknacks, documents, etc. I find that labeling works wonders to help you track the whereabouts of things. For example, if you keep receipts, put them all in a brown envelope aptly labeled, and file the envelope in one of those standing file holders. Do the same for your credit card statements, payslips, utility bills, bank statements, time deposit certificates and the like—all in separate labeled folders. That way, you have a record of all your investments, bills and payments and can easily look them up in order. If you keep news clippings and photos of interest, put them in a box for future reference. And for flyers (delivery service, etc), store them in a clearbook by the phone. Or better yet, save them digitally and get rid of all the paper!
- Keep an inventory. If you want to go the extra mile, you can keep an inventory of your stuff. This helps so that you know exactly what articles of clothing you own and you don’t forget anything, even if it’s in the laundry or lent to someone. You’ll also never have the excuse ‘I have nothing to wear’ again. Get a notebook (or an excel spreadsheet) and list down items by kind, color and category. This includes scarves, accessories, belts, everything. It’s major work, I know, but really makes a difference in terms of keeping track of your things—and reminds you when you’ve accumulated too much. It would be nice to start the year with a big purge, like a detoxification of sorts, and start over fresh.
- Maintain the order. Having gone through all the steps above, your room should now be looking significantly cleaner and more livable. You should be able to move around clutter-free. In which case, do try to maintain this by putting things in their designated place after using them instead of leaving them lying around everywhere again. And do it as soon as possible, because procrastinating just makes things build up and you’ll end up getting so lazy to clean up after yourself when there’s so much to do.
Once you’re done with all the spring cleaning, survey the place and breathe. You’ll feel lighter and so much better. And yes, there is room for many more good things to come.