It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by an organizing project. If you’re staring at that overstuffed closet or maybe a cluttered family room where it feels like all the stuff left out is yelling at you, you may imagine burning everything down and starting over. But before you consider arson, try this simple formula to get your space in check. And it doesn’t start with a trip to The Container Store.
Julie Morgenstern, an icon in the productivity and organizing world, coined the acronym SPACE. It’s really the only formula you need to get started, and it’s an approach I use with every client. The reality of the process looks a little different with everyone because we’re all different people, but the basic approach is the same. No matter what treasures we find in those mystery boxes, it’s all part of the process.
Here are the basics of the SPACE approach to organizing.
The first step is arranging things in similar categories. Put like with like, which can be general or specific. Maybe you’re putting all books together in one place, or maybe you’re getting more specific and putting all graphic novels together.
Once you have like items together, you might see some duplicates. I’m known for having lots of plain black t-shirts, but I don’t really need 18 of them. As you look at those similar items, pick your favorites and purge the rest. If they’re in good condition, you can donate them, sell them, or re-gift them. (Bonus tip: repurpose old t-shirts as cleaning rags for the home. The material isn’t wasted and you save money on a “new” rag.)
Now that you have similar categories together and a better idea of what you’re keeping, you know what you’re working with and likely have a better idea of where it will fit. Time to assign it a home! I like to think in zones where the more frequently used items are closer at hand and stuff that’s more for reference or archiving purposes is farther away. This is where it’s helpful to remind yourself of your vision or goal for the space. Are you the kind of person who prefers things out where they can be seen or away so there’s a clear surface? Knowing your personal preferences will give you valuable insight to what will be most helpful to you.
Now we’re finally to the point where we start thinking about containers! Most people think this is step one in an organizing project, but it’s really step four. Don’t buy bins first! Now that you know what you’re going to store and where, you’ll be able to find the right containers. This step creates the structure for your stuff, helps limit how much of it you have, and makes sure it doesn’t spill over into other areas. Most of my clients have plenty of containers already, whether plastic bins, wicker baskets, fabric bins, or repurposed cardboard boxes. All those Amazon boxes are a great option, and you can always art it up a little with some markers or washi tape if you don’t want a plain brown box.
Evaluate / Equalize
Once you’ve worked through the previous four steps, you’ve essentially created a system for yourself. Now it’s time to play test it and see how it works. Most people decide to make a few tweaks at this point as they see how the new system works in action. It’s a living process, and that’s okay.
While these five steps are really pretty simple, it can still be daunting if you have a lot of stuff you’re trying to organize. But taking it one step at a time is the way to go. If you need some extra guidance to work through this process, reach out for a free consultation. I’ll help you untangle one knot at a time.