Becoming Organized Part Three: The Reset Button

Wouldn't it be glorious if there were a reset button we could press and every object in our home would be transported to their proper places? Or if Mary Poppins would just drop by for an afternoon and magically float back items to where they're stored? Alas, Mary Poppins could not be reached at the moment and the only button I could find was from Staples saying "That was Easy" (kind of sounded like it was mocking me actually...). So, we have to put our heads down and get on with the tough task ahead: decluttering, cleaning, organizing and allowing our living spaces to return to their true functions and purpose. 

From my first post in this series "The Primary Function" by this point you have acquired a notebook, pen and gone room by room identifying: 

  1. Each room's true purpose in your life
  2. What feeling you want the room to convey 
  3. Which objects don't belong
  4. Objects from other rooms that you found that should be moved there. 

In the second post of this series: "A Cunning Plan" we developed a plan of attack on how to organize each space which included:

  1. A monthly schedule
  2. Identifying which rooms to work on each day
  3. A daily schedule complete with meal plans and flowers. 

Now, we will enter the third part in my series: Pressing the reset button: Decluttering, Cleaning and Organizing. 

Going into Battle: Gather your Supplies

  • Place cleaning equipment and supplies you will be using in the near vicinity of the spaces you will be working with (vacuum cleaner, steamer, wet/dry vac, mops, cleaning caddy, various cleaning products, duster etc.) 
  • If you will be dealing with a space that will need a lot of work, has a large amount of dust or dirt etc. it would be wise to purchase a mask to cover your nose and mouth so you don't inhale any particles which may irritate your nose or throat. If you tend to get itchy or watery eyes when around large amounts of dust, a pair of goggles may be necessary to help you with this process. We're going into battle people! Come prepared
  • Music source (if you like working with music) - Radio, stereo etc. If you prefer to work with your earphones in using your cell phone go for it! Or you may just want it in your back pocket. I don't recommend a book tape or podcast for this kind of organizing. It's too easy to become enthralled with what you're listening to and lose focus. Under NO circumstances turn the TV on.  
  • A bottle of water standing at the ready. It's incredibly important to keep hydrated (all the time) but especially when you're working on this kind of project. 
  • A granola bar or snack for that extra burst of energy if you feel yourself fading.  
  • An apron - if you like wearing an apron when you clean. Personally I like wearing my apron. It has deep pockets and the pattern of the material makes me smile when I look at it.  


Assign Five Piles

Assign five areas in the space you're working in (or immediately outside the door) labeled:

  1. Keep (Items that will be kept in the space)
  2. Repair (Items that will be kept but are in need of repair)
  3. Donate (Items that no longer serve you or your home and will be donated to charity)
  4. Toss (Items that are beyond repair and are of no use to anyone will be thrown out)
  5. Move (Items that belong in a different space) 

You can use post-it notes to clearly identify each pile, a piece of paper taped to the wall - anything that will be easy to see so you can glance at it quickly when placing objects in each.

Start Your Engines

Okay, we have our little notebook (which you probably think I'm a bit obsessed about. Which I am for good reason), we have a pen, we're dressed in comfortable clothes, we have a full belly, we have our supplies at the ready, we have our piles ready to go and we have relaxing music playing in the background. Now what? Now the work starts. 

Methodically working from one corner of the room to the other: work through objects you see, objects that are already stored, items in, over, on top of and under everything. Go through each and every object to identify three things:

  1. Does it belong in this living space?
  2. Is it broken or in need of repair? 
  3. Does it have a purpose and make you happy? 

The first two questions are easy to answer when you hold an object. Its either a "yes" or "no" (Yes, this item belongs in this space. No it doesn't need repair and is not broken. No, this item doesn't belong in this space. No this item doesn't belong in this space and will be thrown out etc.) 

  1. If an item has been identified as not belonging in the living space you're working in, place it in the "Move" pile.
  2. If an item has been identified as broken, it will go directly in the "Trash" pile
  3. If an item will be kept, however is in need of repair, it would be placed in the "Repair" pile
  4. If an item has been identified as something that no longer suits a purpose in the space (or any space), is not in need of repair, is not broken and does not make you happy, it would be placed in the "Donate" pile. 
  5. When you come across items that you will keep in the space, place it in the "Keep" pile. 

Work through each item in the space you're focusing on quickly. Trust your instinct when deciding on an object's end result. As you work through this process you will become quicker and more efficent at it. At first you may feel like you're going slowly when decluttering. Rest assured that the more time you spend honing this skill of decluttering, the more enjoyable and quicker it will be. 

Sometimes you may stumble upon an object that has sentimental connotations. When that situation happens, really look at the object to identify if it makes YOU happy. Not if it makes the person who gave it to you happy, or the person who last owned it happy. This is your space, not someone else's, so you must look at each object on how it makes you personally feel. 

When you come across an item that must be kept in the room because it serves a purely functional roll, but maybe doesn't spark any good emotions, write that object down in your book in the corresponding page. This may be an item that you may look to replace over the next months or years with a peice that brings you true joy and happiness. 


I’m not talking about a superficial quick wipe-down of all surfaces - I’m talking about a DEEP clean.

As the space you're working on has been emptied of all its belongings, now is time to clean. I'm not talking about a superficial quick wipe-down of all surfaces - I'm talking about a DEEP clean. The kind of clean you do before your mom comes to visit. The kind of clean where you don't want to put anything back because it smells and looks amazing. THAT kind of clean. 

Using the products you love you will:

  • Dust all surfaces
  • Wash all windows and mirrors
  • Wash all bedding (if working in bedrooms) 
  • Perform appliance maintenance if working in kitchen or laundry (This involves running cleaning cycles on appliances. I use vinegar to clean my coffee maker, dishwasher, kettle and garbage disposal. I use baking soda to clean around the kitchen sink and then spray with vinegar to get rid of any grime as well)
  • Wash all hardwood and/or laminate floors
  • Steam clean all curtains (If you have a steam cleaner - awesome! If you don't, there is a hack you can use with your iron. Simply plug the iron in with an extension cord, and then once heated press the 'steam' button to spray the curtains. Afterwards shake out the curtain and make sure there are no wrinkles.)
  • Power clean showers, toilets, bathtubs and floors (if working in bathroom) 
  • Vacuum upholstery and furniture
  • If you're working with children's plastic toys, run them through the dishwasher in a mesh bag to get rid of any germs and grime. 
  • If there is any laundry in those rooms, add a load in the washer. 
  • Any additional cleaning you may want to do 


Packaging up Items to Go

To begin our organizing process, package up items that will be:

  1. Donated to charity or a friend
  2. Thrown out

Clearly mark on bags and boxes (whichever you're using) whether it will be donated or thrown out. Immediately place those bags near a main door so you can easily transfer it to your vehicle to dispose of (or, skip that step and just put them in the back of your car!) 

Moving Items to Assigned Living Space

With the pile labeled "move" quickly identify which living space each item belongs in and place them in that room. If that is a space that has already been decluttered, cleaned and organized, identify a home for that object to reside in and put it away

For example: If you have completed this process in your master bedroom, however discover a beloved figurine from your childhood (that you absolutely adore and want to see in your bedroom every day) move that item into your master bedroom and find a prominent place to display it. Find these items a home - don't just throw them in the room. 

Take out your Notebook!

What we're left with after seeing to the "Move", "Toss" and "Donate" piles is our favorite objects that need to be placed back into the newly clean and sparkling space and into their new homes. 

This is the part where you get to be creative and design a space that truly fulfills its purpose and your vision!

Looking at your notebook, turn to the page of the room you are currently working in. Look at the notes that you wrote for the feeling that you wanted the room to portray. What keywords did you jot down for that space? What colors did you write down that are your inspiration? Were there any visuals that you included for that space? Now is my favorite time in this whole process! This is the part where you get to be creative and design a space that truly fulfills its purpose and your vision! Now that the space is completely clear and clean, can you see your vision clearly when you look at the room? Take a minute and just appreciate how exciting it is that you get to design a space that is exactly what you want!

Starting with the larger furniture (dressers, tables, chairs etc), start bringing items back into the room. The larger items must go in first to find a home that works for them! This is a great time to move furniture around to find the optimal placement for them. 

Were there items you found in different areas of your home that you wanted to move into this space? Now is the time to go and find them and give them a new home! 

Go through each item in your "Keep" pile and slowly start bringing them back into your space. This is the point in the process where you get to be creative! Look at the items you want to display and be able to see every day. The items that make you smile by just looking at them. That bring back wonderful memories or just simply make you happy. Now look around your space and see where you could assign a home for them and display them prominently. 


As you bring objects back into the space you will discover where you need to arrange storage containers or systems. You may find that you have a large number of momentos that you would like to keep in your bedside table, which would need a permanent home as to not roll around. Maybe you're working in an office space and would like a storage system to keep pens and highlighters together. My absolute favorite thing to do in this situation is look around my home at storage systems that I already have. A glass jar works fabulously for holding pens and highlighters. An old shoe box lid can contain smaller items in a drawer so they stop rolling around. Get creative and look around your home for something that would work in the space! I always like to think that purchasing storage solutions is the worst case scenario.

Some hidden storage solutions you may already own:

  • Shoe boxes - both the top and the bottom can be used to corral objects together, as well as using the entire shoe box as a container to store items. 
  • Baskets that were originally used for flowers or gifts - these are great for holding towels, games, toys, bathroom accessories, scarfs etc. 
  • Gift boxes
  • Small paint cans - Old paint cans can be cleaned out and used to display office supplies like pens, paint brushes, clips etc. 
  • Larger paint cans - these cans be cleaned out or simply emptied and dried out and used to store cleaning supplies, umbrellas, sticks, firewood etc
  • Binder clips - can be used to clip together cleaning supplies, fabric. They can also be used to hang items from command hooks.
  • Command hooks - These are my favorite storage solutions and I use them everywhere in my home! They can be used to hang towels, robes, clothing, cleaning supplies, the list is endless.
  • Candle jars - old candle jars can be used to hold food, office supplies, jewelry, bracelets, hair accessories, makeup brushes, flowers etc.
  • Ice cream jars - if you know me, you know I love to use ice cream jars to store food in my pantry. 
  • Mason jars - what can't mason jars be used for? 
  • Large cardboard boxes - these can be used as storage containers for larger items like off season clothing, old toys in a toy rotation, supplies for the home, cleaning items, storage under a sink for daily cleaning supplies. 

Look around your home and see the hidden treasure trove of storage solutions that are already available to you!

There are situations where you need to purchase a storage system because you simply cant find something that works that you already own. In that case before you jump onto Amazon or the Container Store, first figure out EXACTLY what would work in the space and what would work for you! If you don't like drawer systems, dont buy them! Take the time to investigate all the options available to you, and then purchase something that will work and continue to work in the space for years to come. 

The Finish Line

Continue working on the space you are in until you have found a home for each and every object you come across. Work methodically, keep your head down and power through. When feelings of being drained start to overtake you, step away and enjoy a snack. Stick to your schedule that you decided on as much as you possibly can. Celebrate the victory of finishing a space by taking a second and just admiring all the work you have done!

In Regards to Children's, Pre-Teens and Teenagers Rooms

When working on your child's room or nursery, please be sure to include them in the process as well. Younger children will not understand what's happening to their space and therefore may become upset at all the changes to their immediate surroundings. Keeping them as involved in this process as possible will help tremendously with their feelings about their rooms.

If you have an older child, have them take ownership of their space. Also understand that an older child's space is THEIR space. If your child chooses to live in a room of chaos, then shut the door and let them live the way they please. Eventually, I can gurantee you, your pre-teen or teenager will become tidy because of the rest of the house being clean and organized, and a need for them to feel proud of their space. Just give them time!

Next Up

Join me next week in my series we dive into developing systems that will help you maintain your newly organized space. 

Yours in Organization,