Get organized in January with these quick uncluttering and organizing tips

January is Get Organized Month, or what the organizing community refers to as GO Month. It’s the time of year when home and office organizing supplies typically go on sale at major retailers and when people start acting on their organizing-themed resolutions. It’s also the time of year when professional organizers tend to hold public events in their communities talking about organizing and uncluttering strategies. Check your local papers to see if any of these events will be held in your area.

When organizing, it’s best to unclutter first. Pull everything out of a space and sort it into piles: keep, purge, and other. Keep obviously means that you plan to continue to store and/or use the item. Purge can mean that you intend to trash, shred, recycle, or donate the item to charity. Your other pile is for objects that need to be repaired, relocated, returned to a friend or family member, or some other special action needs to be taken. Once all of the objects from the space have been sorted, you need to deal with the purge and other items immediately. If you don’t, they’re likely to cause you much frustration in the coming days. Trash what needs to be trashed, donate the objects that can be donated, return items to friends, and drop off objects that need to be repaired at the repair shop.

Once all the purge and other items are handled, take a look at all the objects you have in your keep pile. Do you need to do another round of uncluttering? If you’re feeling more courageous about purging items, now is the time to do it. When you are satisfied with your keep pile, sort the objects into new piles of like items — pencils with pencils, envelopes with envelopes, jeans with jeans. When everything is in piles by type, examine what you have and compare it to your storage systems. It is only at that this point that you should consider going out and buying organizing systems. Before you do, though, look through your house or office to see if you already own something that could hold and organize your objects. If you do, you don’t have any need to go out in the cold to buy anything.

If you decide to buy organizing products, check out the sales going on this January. The Container Store has a 30 percent off sale on all its Elfa closet organizers. Home Depot has all their storage and organizing items on sale through January 29, including their Martha Stewart line and many Rubbermaid products. And don’t forget to check out your local retailers that might also have sales on organizing items.

Before putting objects away, be sure to clean the space where the items will be stored. Wipe down shelves, replace shelf liner if needed, and vacuum out all the dust and spider webs. Repair or replace any storage items that are damaged, and make the storage area inviting. You are more likely to use a storage system if you like it.

As you’re putting items back into their newly cleaned storage spaces, be sure to put the items you access most often in the most convenient locations. Objects you access less often can go into the less convenient locations — and the heaviest of these objects should be stored lower to the ground so you don’t hurt yourself when you retrieve them. Put lids on things that aren’t accessed enough that they might collect dust, but keep objects you access regularly open to speed up retrieval time. Try not to stack anything more than three objects deep. Most importantly, know yourself. If you’re someone who has difficulty putting items back where they belong, make it as simple as possible to put items back in their places. A four-step return action will mean you probably won’t ever return the item back to where it belongs — one-step and two-step return actions are the easiest. Keep things simple.

What projects do you have planned for GO month? Share your plans in the comments.

11 Comments for “Get organized in January with these quick uncluttering and organizing tips”

  1. posted by Thrift Store Mama on

    After spending time over the summer de-cluttering small spaces (a single drawer, 1 shelf of a cabinet) and then spending the fall establishing a regular charity drop-off routine and selling un-needed items on Craigslist and e-Bay, my personal closet, bathroom, and linen closet are in sad shape. I need to devote some of this time to ME and MY space and get those areas in shape. I also want to move around some of my Elfa shelving/drawer systems and re-appropriate a drawer unit to my scrapbooking area to be better organized so that it’s easier to scrapbook for 30 minutes here or there.

  2. posted by Daisy on

    I disagree with including trash in the same category as purge. Touching/dealing with things you know are trash TWICE is a waste of time and energy. Having a trash bag/box/bin while you are sorting will clear the area faster as well- as soon as it is full you take it out and empty it- seeing things leave the space quickly and seeing the clearer cleaner space faster is motivating.

  3. posted by Jackie on

    I definitely need to get more organized this year! Would love to not feel rushed and frazzled every day! I need to get my home, work place, and mind organized! Thanks for the article :) I’ll make sure to keep this in mind along with tips on keeping my 2012 resolutions

  4. posted by chenoameg on

    I have been able to start the new year off by decluttering my filing cabinet, which is very satisfying.

    I always forget how exhausting it is to throw away pieces of paper, though.

  5. posted by Michaela on

    I am working on getting my five year old’s room together – which is a combination of decluttering (twice already), painting, putting up baseboard, and finding storage solutions that work. I have been decluttering so much this last year. Its becoming easier to move furniture and stuff around to finally get around to the next level of work – painting and finishing off areas that I could not touch before (too much junk in the way!).

    But the thing I really dread – the part that is really neglected – is my basement. I am determined to cut down on the clutter but its really emotional and hard sometimes. I get easily overwhelmed and end up only doing a box or small area at a time before I have to walk away.

  6. posted by Caroline on

    As a derailed owner of my own organizing business, I am finally healthy enough and not resistant enough to really get in there and clean up my office files (I had to switch to starting up and building my husbands business 3 years ago)

    Although I was barely hanging on for 3 years, I was delighted to see that putting in a good system and infra-structure at the beginning, allowed the chaos to be fairly minimal over the years.

    The hardest thing for people to understand is that any system you develop is not static, and taking care of all your stuff never ends. NEVER. Finding tricks to make it easier, as Erin talks about, helps. Good luck all!

  7. posted by Habitat for Humanity ReStore on

    Erin gives great advice and encouragement on taking advantage of this time of year to organize and unclutter our spaces. If you’re in the DC area, and you’re motivated to make a resolution to unclutter (or become more green) and support a great local cause, the Montgomery County Habitat for Humanity ReStore is holding a contest you may be interested in. Visit http://www.restorenation.wordpress.com to share your resolution. I will definitely share her advice and encourage our readers to visit the blog. Thanks for the great post!

  8. posted by Linda on

    Last summer we bought an ELFA system for our office closet and it was worth every dollar. The staff at The Container Store guided us on measuring the space and thinking through what we needed. They offered ideas, but were not pushy. They were real pros!

  9. posted by Lidia Varesco Design on

    With a new baby in the house, my goal is to make space in our 2 BR condo for strollers, swings, play gyms, etc — as well as convert my office into the baby’s room (and relocate my office…somewhere!) it’s a tall order but I’m optimistic!

  10. posted by maids Eden Prairie on

    It is very relaxing to stay in a household free of clutter. However, it seems that achieving this can be a very heavy task. In order to lighten up the load in decluttering your space, you have to prioritize on things that need to go. You can either recycle or give them away. Organization is very important so that this activity can be fun.

  11. posted by Alisa on

    My plan for this month is to convert a small storage closet into a “hideout” for the kids. I will be purging and reorganizing. I also really want to get my office cleaned up and organized. It’s a mess. Finally, I want to finish organizing the garage. It’s mostly done and I love the bins we set up so we can take stuff to Goodwill and the consignment store easily.

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