Q&A: Help! Where Do I Start?

Affiliate Link Disclosure B

Q: My 2012 New Years resolution is to get organized. In order to have peace I have to declutter my life. I just don’t know where to begin.

A: I have a two-pronged answer: There is a short-term fix and a long-term fix.



Determine one thing that will make an immediate, dramatic impact on how you feel and think. Think about what bothers you most right now and then think about how that problem will look once it’s solved and what project you can do to fix it. For example:


PROBLEM: You never know what to cook for dinner.

PROJECT: Make a list of five easy dinners for this week and a grocery list. Eat out once and eat leftovers the other night.


PROBLEM: Your bills are always late because you can’t find them.

PROJECT: Set up a mail and bill paying system as outlined below.


PROBLEM: The living room is always cluttered.

PROJECT: Make permanent stations for the items you consistently find: shoes go on a shoe rack in the closet; install hooks for the kids’ jackets; make a box for things that need to be delivered else where, etc..


Choose the one project that will make the biggest difference and work on it for ten minutes a day this week.


Let’s say you have a counter piled high with mail you know you have to get to. Here’s a step by step plan for getting it done quickly.


Step 1: SORT

1. Find three containers (baskets, shoe boxes, paper bags with the sides rolled down) and a clear spot to work on (your bed, the sofa, etc.)

2. Label the containers: Trash, Later, NOW!

3. Quickly sort the mail into these three categories. If you have to open the mail to see what it is, do so, but try to do this as quickly as possible.

The NOW Pile is for items like bills that must be taken care of in a timely manner or they will cause problems for you. The LATER Pile is ONLY for things that have NO time requirement (magazines and catalogs you want to look at, letter from Aunt Jane, etc.).



Immediately throw away the trash pile. Do not wait, do not move it somewhere–put it in the trash now.



1. Take the Now Pile (bills, etc.). Open each bill putting the envelope and any unnecessary papers into the trash immediately.

Look at the date the bill is due and write the name of the bill and the amount on your calendar ONE WEEK before it is due. Place the bill WITH the envelope in a file folder that you will keep in a conspicuous place (attached to the side of the fridge, in a basket on your desk, etc.).

2. Put your calendar somewhere you will see it. Check it daily and pay the bills on the day you have marked on the calendar (one week before the due date).

3. Take care of all other papers in the NOW Pile. If you have to stop, come back to the NOW Pile as quickly as possible.



Schedule ten minutes a day to deal with the Later Pile one piece at a time (while watching television, first thing in the morning, etc.).

Once you pick up a piece of mail, you have to completely deal with it: make the phone call, write the email, send the note. Once you are done with the piece of mail, file it or throw it away. It cannot be placed on a flat surface or back in the pile once you have dealt with it.


You can use the same process for clothes or other items, but the boxes or bags would be labeled KEEP, GIVE AWAY, THROW AWAY. Ruthlessly go through the clothes and keep only those things that fit well, you love and/or you have worn in the past year.




Gaining control over one area and maintaining it will give you the momentum you need to conquer other areas.



The reason many people stay disorganized is because they clean up the current mess, but fail to set up systems to prevent the mess from happening again.

If your main issue is piles of mail, make it a habit to deal with mail immediately once it is in your hand. Do a quick sort: trash in the trash can, bills in the bill folder, correspondence in your To Do basket or file. Then take a few minutes every evening to do one or two things in the To Do basket.

If you are overwhelmed by clutter, make De-Cluttering a routine. Choose one room a week and spend 10 minutes a day getting rid of stuff. Put everything in a black garbage bag and take it to the car as soon as you are finished. The next time you go out, drop it off at Good Will.


Secondly, you need to get to the root of your disorganization problem by asking yourself why things stay disorganized.


*Do you neglect tasks because you just want to relax and have fun?

Set a specific time to take care of them and THEN have fun.


Do you fail to follow through with your kids when you ask them to clean up?

Set up a consequence chart. Explain to the children that if _______ (task) is not accomplished by ________(time), _________ (privilege or toy) will be taken away. Then take it away.


Are you over-committed outside your home so that you don’t have time to take care of your responsibilities?

Decide your priorities and say no to those things which are keeping you from accomplishing them. (You can read more here about how to say “No”.)


Organization is a constant learning process of adjusting our schedules, routines, systems and personal belongings.

Don’t get discouraged by the enormity of it all. Just start somewhere. You can do it!


©2012 The Peaceful Mom-Please feel free to share this information as long as you link back and give credit to The Peaceful Mom.com. Please note that this post is not intended as professional advice, but simply the author’s personal opinion. You should seek professional advice if your circumstances require it.


Related AD Topics


  1. says

    Love this list. Something that helps me and read it somewhere; you can’t organize clutter… Very true and effective to look at the real problem. Thanks and Happy New Year 😉

  2. says

    VERY GOOD ADVICE… now to just implement it!! lol
    really, i love all of your site, thanks for putting your efforts here for us to read and learn from, may God Bless

  3. says

    My tip may not be helpful initially, but I have to admit that a bad mood can be quite helpful when you’re trying to organize. :)

    A 7 minute little project (put a hook on a wall) turned into a half hour crisis because I couldn’t find the drill in the spot where it was supposed to be after *someone* finished using it, so while I was searching for it I had a garbage bag in my hand and a box on the floor, and tossed all the stuff I had been meaning to get rid of before in one or the other (garbage or donate). Now that part of the basement is mostly clean of clutter, and the drill is back in its original space.

  4. says

    every year in April I “purge” my house for donations. Since my birthday is in April I chose to send “birthday presents” to CHKD Thrift Stores near me. =D April is right around the corner! I love dropping off boxes and bags every day of the month. =D

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *