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Home Organizing: Where to Start?

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For those of you who feel like you have the bandwidth to dive into some home improvement projects, you may feel overwhelmed or unclear about what to tackle first. One of the most common questions I receive about editing and organizing a home is simply, “where do I start?”

I’ve given this a lot of thought, based on my experience editing and organizing hundreds of homes, and while I’d love to give you a quick simple answer like, “you must start with your entry!” my real answer is that you must start by clarifying your values and shifting your perspective and mindset.

Before you set up a donation station, or start ordering products, or really take any action at all, consider the following:

Start with Gratitude

It’s easy to focus on all of the things you want to change about your home, but it’s equally, if not more, important to increase your awareness of how much you already have. Start small with these prompts: Is there a roof over your head? Do you have working heat, clean drinking water, and electricity? A cozy couch or chair you love to read in? Does your home have light streaming in the windows or beautiful original light fixtures or other details you love? Take a look around your space and allow yourself to feel gratitude that you have a space at all.

Start with a Purchase Pause

Most people have no idea how much, or how often, they consume, until they slow the party down, get quiet, and really pay attention. When you commit to a purchase pause, you not only limit the volume of stuff entering your house, you’ll also be able to observe how often you have the urge to acquire new things. When I go on a spending freeze I usually commit to a period of a month, and I just jot down any non-essentials that I have the urge to buy for later consideration. I’m always shocked at how often my brain tells me I *need* something. By feeling the urge, allowing it, and moving on without racing for your credit card, you’ll also start to develop more trust with yourself and make better decisions moving forward.

Start by Clarifying Your Intentions

Before you dive into editing and organizing your home, it is crucial that you first clarify why you want to, and what your specific goals are. You’ll need a truly compelling why to help get you through the process of slogging through housewares, papers, mementos, etc. so make sure it’s a juicy one. It also helps to clarify a vision for exactly what you want to create. This vision can help you stay focused and committed when resistance rears its ugly head…

Start with Deliberate Consumption

If you feel stressed out by your stuff, you almost definitely have too much stuff. Why bring more stuff into your home and life? But, if after you’ve edited and organized your space you find that there are things you need, shop thoughtfully. When you really realize that every single item you bring into your home needs to be cleaned, organized, cared for, and maintained, you will likely think twice about what you buy in the future. Ask yourself: “Is this item truly worth the space it will take up in my home?” before pulling the trigger. It is also important to invest in high-quality items that will serve you for years to come. Take time to consider quality and craftsmanship, even if it means you have to wait and save up.

Once you’ve slowed your spending, clarified your intentions, and increased awareness of how much you already have, you have my permission to roll up your sleeves and get down to business.

And since I hate when people are evasive about answering questions, I’ll answer directly here too. It doesn’t actually matter where you start (i.e. which room or project), as long as you finish. So if you’re totally overwhelmed, start with a small space like your entry or closet. If that feels like too much, just tackle a single drawer or clear a surface. Check out my #15minwin challenge on Instagram and see what you can accomplish in just fifteen minutes. Remember, small steps lead to big change. The most important thing is just to start.

Need some support with your organizing goals? Click here.

Image Credit: Vivian Johnson Photography 

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11 comments on “Home Organizing: Where to Start?

  1. Shira, thanks for encouraging us all through this time of living in a suddenly changed existence. Very timely, helpful and appreciated.

  2. This is one of the best pieces on organizing I’ve ever read, because it focuses so beautifully on important big ideas that often get overlooked. I love your emphasis on the need for gratitude and for clarifying our values. I think people often organize for organizing’s sake, but you remind us *why* organizing can make such a difference. Thank you!

  3. Have been reading your Blogs and gleaning your insights ever since I had brunch at your table with your family and Uncle Rob. Your style, energy and ease of being, blessed me.
    I’m gleaning from you. Thanks.
    Another thing I do to slow my consuming is take a picture of it rather than buy it. Rarely if ever have I had a regret and clean up is so easy. I just hit delete.

  4. Shira, I LOVE the line that asks “Is this item truly worth the space it will take up in my home?” When I ask myself that, I can truly make a much more clear choice about a lot of items that I really don’t NEED!! I also love that you said it doesn’t matter where you start, the important thing is TO START!! You are such a great motivator!!
    -Mary Kay Hunsaker

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