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Getting organized: back to basics

Editor’s note: The following is a blog entry for “Ms. Simplicity” that appears on the Echo Press website under Areavoices. It is written by Melissa Schmalenberger, a professional organizer based in Fargo, North Dakota.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the big picture that I forget about the tiny steps that compose and make up the big picture. Exhibit 1, your honor, my bathroom cabinet.

I had things overflowing and it was a mess. I had to move things to grab other things. I ended tipping things over, it was out of control. I just kept looking at it and I knew what I wanted it to look like, but I just kept on with my day to day activities. Finally I had enough of the knocking stuff over. It was a Sunday night and I wasn’t going anywhere so I decided to tackle it! This is the exciting life of an organizer!

Here are the riveting steps in play by play format.

1. Pull everything out and wipe out the area. All of a sudden everything was out of my cabinet and I was wiping down the cabinet. It was like someone had taken over my body, I was just doing the steps. There was no stopping me!

2. Sort the items into trash, donate and keep. I had a full garbage can of old and expired items as well as things ready to be donated that I know I will never use again. I looked at nail polish and asked myself, I get my nails done at a salon, am I ever going to paint my nails again? Nope…out went the polish.

3. Get others involved. I called my husband up to sort through his stuff. He realized that he hates wearing contacts and in fact hasn’t worn them in two years. Out they went. He was now able to get all of his items back in his bin and he no longer had items that were flowing over and getting knocked over.

4. Categorize the items. I started putting like items together. I take a lot of baths and I have lots of bath products but until I put them all together I didn’t realize how many I had. Now I could see how many I had all in one place.

5. Containerize the groupings. It isn’t until you go through the sorting and purging process that you should even think about putting things in containers. I personally always use clear containers when things are out of site. I don’t need beautiful decorative boxes if it is going to be in a closet. I need clear bins with straight edges (no wasted space) and with a handle to grab in an instant. Luckily I had just purchased the bins as this project has been in the back of my mind for a few months now. So when the time came, I was ready!

6. Label. Even if you think it is obvious, label anyway. It never hurts and it makes people think that you are super organized! Even if you have a category called “junk,” label it and it will make you feel better and impress your friends and family. I had a client where we had a label called “misc.” and her son wanted to know who Misc was as he didn’t understand the abbreviation.

So make sure that when you label, everyone knows what you mean!