Editor’s Note:  Please join me in welcoming Michelle, from Counting Willows.  Michelle is a former CPA, so the girl knows a thing about efficiency.  I was impressed with several of her guest posts on other sites where she shared honest and practical tips.  I asked her to contribute to monthly “Home Efficiency”.

What I love about today’s post is the focus on doing the work and purposely not worrying about “making it pretty”.  We are all blinded by Pinterest perfection and I think there is an epidemic going around where we are less inclined to even start a project if we can’t make it as pretty as the ones we see on Pinterest.  Michelle’s honest tips are about getting your life organized, whether or not the end result is Pinterest-worthy.  And, her Step #1 was a huge eye-opener for me!

I am delighted to be joining Teal & Lime as a contributor for 2014.  My passion is to joyfully add order to my beautiful, chaotic existence.  I say joyfully because organization and efficiency can and should be included in your household, but not so much that it becomes rigid and takes away from the fun, unpredictible, beautiful moments of life.  It is important to allow for life to happen!

My series on Home Efficiency is intended to save you time, money and sanity so you can truly enjoy life’s pleasures.  Since you follow Jackie’s amazing design blog, my guess is home decor is one of your interests.  So, let’s get started with a foolproof plan to oranize any space, so you can have more time to create, decorate and enjoy your home!

How to Organize ANY Space in 4 Simple Steps |Counting Willows for tealandlime.com

Let’s face it, I have four kids, a dog and a cat. My house is never perfect and I would not want it any other way.  Even with all of the activity that goes on, I need it to be orderly most of the time, if I want to be my most efficient self.

If you want more time to be creative and to enjoy your home and family, then organizing your spaces should be high on your priority list.  The more organized your cupboards, drawers and closets are, the less you have laying around your house.  That means…

  • You only have what you need and use
  • You can find what you need when you need it
  • A space free of clutter leads to a mind free of clutter
  • You store everyday things out of sight, so your decor can really shine and be enjoyed.
  • As a bonus, you can have folks over without much notice and enjoy family and friends that much more.

Once you start organizing your spaces, you can adopt a system to keep your whole house reasonably organized, like my Area of the Month approach.

Does all this sound great, but you feel a bit overwhelmed?

I hear you, but if you focus on just one area at a time, I promise it is super doable.  In fact, here is how to organize any space in 4 simple steps.  Keep it as small as you need to… start with ONE drawer, ONE shelf, or ONE smaller area and work up from there. Slow and steady is much better than overwhelmed and paralyzed.

4 Steps to a More Organized Life

Step 1 – Commit

Commit.  This seems so obvious, but most people miss it.   You have to COMMIT to the area you are going to organize.  You must jump in and commit to tackle what you start no matter how long it takes.  This is where picking a small space is the key for overall success.  How long can it take to organize one drawer or shelf?  Very doable.

How to Organize ANY Space in 4 Simple Steps |Counting Willows for tealandlime.com

Step 2 – Clear and clean

In order to really clean an area, you must clear the whole thing out and clean the empty space.  You cannot find and toss the jelly from 2007 if you do not remove everything from the cupboard.  If you are inspired to do so, lay down some cute paper or get some matching containers to revitalize the space.  But remember, that is optional and NOT necessary.  If you feel overwhelmed, just stick to the basics and clear out and clean the space you have to work with.

How to Organize ANY Space in 4 Simple Steps |Counting Willows for tealandlime.com

Step 3 – Purge and sort

I do some of this while I am taking things out of the space and some after it is all out in one spot.

  • Put aside things that obviously belong somewhere else.
  • Toss anything that is not useful and cannot be donated (like the jelly from 2007).

Once it is all out in one spot:

  • Combine like items.
  • Condense boxes or containers
  • Clean up what needs to stay, so it takes up less room and is easy to find.

In the photo below, the small pile in the upper right side is trash and the pile in the lower right are things that were relocated to our pantry.

How to Organize ANY Space in 4 Simple Steps |Counting Willows for tealandlime.com

Step 4 – Replace (and enjoy!)

Put the things you want to keep back in place, but do it better this time.

  • Put taller items in back of short ones
  • Keep things you use a lot accessible
  • Put things you use less often up high or down low

Here is the most important part of this step:  limit yourself to the space you have.  In order for the space to be optimally organized for you, you have to work within the space you have – period.

That means if you have more than can fit, you have to find a spot somewhere else or pare down what you own.  Exercise some tough love, and you will be glad you did.

At this point you can add fun labels, but if that is overwhelming to you right now, just get the space organized.  Once you start to make enough progress, you will have time and motivation to make things pretty later.

How to Organize ANY Space in 4 Simple Steps |Counting Willows for tealandlime.com

Let’s see that one more time with another cupboard I tackled:

How to Organize ANY Space in 4 Simple Steps |Counting Willows for tealandlime.com

Now that we have covered how to purge and organize your spaces, we can spend more time on the pretty stuff.  I look forward to sharing more about the systems that keep our family organized, and save us time, money and our sanity!  

Michelle documents her life of attempted organization in the face of beautiful chaos at Counting Willows.  Life with four kids is beautiful, messy and fun.  Here’s to doing our best and then stepping back a bit to enjoy what life has to offer.


9 Responses to Simple 4 Step Process to Organize Any Space

  1. Melissa says:

    I LOOOOOOVE this post! Thank you Michelle and Jackie! I admit any effort to organize something comes to an everlasting halt when I reach the step that (typicallly) says “measure your space then go to the store and buy containers that fit.” That might happen, um, next year??? Thanks for encouraging organization without beautification! Ahhh–I’m so motivated! I’ve only been living in this house for a month and already need to re-organize…

    • Michelle says:

      I am so glad that you are motivated! I find that once I have things organized, then I can add in the cute, fun details and it is actually FUN to do when there isn’t so much pressure. Good luck!

    • Jackie says:

      Melissa, You always crack me up…but it is so true. The important part is to organize, not spend time finding pretty bins!

  2. Amy says:

    Great tips! The pretty part is fun and can help motivate you to maintain the space, but you’re so right that it can come later- AFTER you do the work part! It’s hard to start a project when you feel like you don’t have the “pretty” parts, so your advice is great! Thank you!

  3. Annie says:

    Excellent post! I love the way you suggest to start small.

  4. Meg Merkley says:

    I would love to follow you on social media. Are you on facebook, instagram, bloglovin, g+, pinterest? Your blog for mobile doesn’t show any links. Thanks!

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