If tackling an organizing project is one of your New Year's resolutions, my IN ORDER™ system for getting any area organized will get you off on the right foot. Beginning last July, I've discussed each step of the IN ORDER™ system:
I = Invest - Make a commitment to invest your time, energy and finances in your organizing project (read more here.)
N = Need - Determine the area of greatest need for organization (read more here.)
O = Organize - Organize every item in the space, like items with like items (read more here.)
R = Reduce - Let go of what no longer works in your life as you live it today and reduce what you keep (read more here.)
D = Designate - Designate a permanent home for every item in the space (read more here.)
This month brings us to:
E = Enclose
After you have designated a home for every item in your space, you need to decide how those items should be stored. Usually, this requires that they be enclosed in some sort of container. A container can be something as small as a basket or as large as a bookcase, filing cabinet, or closet. When it comes to containing stuff, think outside the box (literally!) Many of my clients already have numerous things that can be used as storage containers. Sometimes these are containers that have been "liberated" from their old contents, or are things that have been repurposed from another area of their home or office. Plastic bins, boxes, baskets, binders, folders, glass jars, or zip-loc bags can all be reused in new and practical ways. Particularly in an office setting, we have often unearthed enough office supplies in our organizational work (file folders, binders, etc.) that we could open up our own office supply store! Before running out to the store, consider utilizing what you may already have in your home or office, even temporarily, to contain like items with like items.
Small items should be corralled together to make it easier to keep them organized, easy to find and easy to put away. In your office, papers should be organized into file folders, binders, wall pockets, magazine holders, desktop file boxes or filing cabinets with related contents. In your kitchen, use crocks, plastic bins or drawer dividers to contain loose objects together. Closet organizing products are available for shoes, sweaters, drawers - pretty much anything you can store there! Larger items should be assigned a home - such as a specific closet, cabinet or shelf, and always stored and returned to that "container" after each use.
Once you have decided on the perfect container for every item, take a few extra moments and LABEL, LABEL, LABEL! Identifying what goes where, whether it's in a bin, on a shelf or in a drawer, makes it so much easier to find and to return everything to its designated spot. Whether you live alone or with a family, it's important that everyone in the household knows where everything belongs so you can maintain your organizational hard work!
When considering containers for your belongings, keep in mind ease of use and location. Where objects are to be stored dictates what kind of container will be used for them. Before you purchase any kind of storage container, be sure to measure the space into which it will go. There is nothing more frustrating than finding the perfect, most attractive baskets for your office supplies, getting them home, and realizing that the shelf you have designated for their home is just 1/2 " too narrow for them to fit! Also consider how often you will need to access whatever you are containing. Storing paperwork that you need to refer to every day in a lidded box in a closet, or in the back of the bottom file drawer of a filing cabinet will only frustrate you, waste time, and discourage you from putting them away where they belong each time. Think about how you live and work each day and put the things you use most often in the most convenient places.
You may have noticed that "Enclose" comes near the end of the organizing process. Often, when we decide to get organized "once and for all!", we run out to the nearest store and buy organizing containers galore. Then, we discover that those containers don't fit the space, or won't hold what we want them to hold, or are difficult to open and close, or we just run out of steam before the project is halfway done. Then those beautiful containers just become part of the clutter! Until you have moved deliberately through the first five steps of the IN ORDER™ process, you really have no realistic grasp of how much you need to contain and where you need to contain it. Only after you have sorted through every single item in the space, reduced, and designated a home for what's left will you know where you will store that stuff and in what container. In that process, you may be surprised at what you already have that can be repurposed, saving you money and keeping more stuff out of the landfill.
Enclosing your stuff in containers, large or small, and labeling the contents will make it much easier to store it, find it, and get it back where it belongs. Your organizing efforts will last longer and be more convenient to maintain over time, so that next year's resolutions won't have to include "get organized, once and for all!"
Next month: R = RE-VISIT