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In this guest blog series, professional organizer Sarah Grierson-Dale offers a fresh perspective on the subject of home organization and how we relate to our possessions. Through studying the patterns we perform in our daily lives, Sarah offers advice and tools for change as well as anecdotes of transformation she herself has experienced as well as witnessed in her work with clients. Learn more about Sarah at ebbandfloworganizing.com and send any questions to sarahgdale@gmail.com.


Decisions, Decisions

Hello, and welcome to almost-springtime! Spring cleaning is on the horizon, and this month I want to talk practical steps to getting there.

Though we have all had a year of making best friends with our stuff, and got rid of much, I would like to offer a step-by-step list of practical actions one can take to clean a room or a house in case you’re still sitting in the whirlwind of the last 12 months.

Maybe you want to refresh as we are slowly creeping towards a more external life, or now that working from home is the new normal, you want some advice on how to maintain cleanliness and order.

For many of us, this new way of living has meant that rooms and spaces have become layered with activity and stuff. We have all had to get creative, and it’s been crazy, especially with kids in small spaces. I know it has been difficult for many people to carve out autonomous space/time. Then when it is time to clean, things are so cluttered it’s difficult to know where to begin.

So lets begin here.

I wrote this guide for a friend last summer, when I helped her reorganize her house. I was helping her turn some closet space into offices for her kids for online learning, while also making her an office for online teaching, all in her bedroom. It was a big project, and because these spaces were so lived-in by everyone, the boundaries between what was hers, the kids’, her husband’s, were so blurred. It was creating a lot of anxiety and paralysis for everyone. Sound familiar?

Below are the basics, with a few elaborations. Next month, I will talk more about cleaning as ritual, but for now here’s the guide to tackling a completely messy room.

Basic Steps to Clean a Room - Bedroom in San Francisco Home

List of Basic Steps for Cleaning and Organizing a Room

When things become out of order, here is the rough guide of how to put Humpty back together again:

Remember to start from big to small. Don’t get caught up in the details until the end. Focus on one task at a time.

If you have ADD, and seeing a space full of stuff makes your brain scramble, try to take it one step at a time. I have learned it is a more efficient way to clear out and make space. After each step is taken, a layer of anxiety is shed.

  1. Make your bed. If the sheets are dirty, change them. This is important. This is a positive way to set the stage for the end of the day, when you’ve worked hard, showered, clean and cozy, you can treat yourself to a clean bed to crawl into.
  2. Look at the room, pick up all the dishes and food scraps, and bring them to kitchen. Wash them later. For now, you are focusing on consolidating similar items.
  3. Clean up visible and obvious trash. Put a recycle bag and a trash bag in the middle of the room to add to as you go.
  4. Put all dirty clothes in the hamper, and start putting all clean clothes in a pile on the bed.
  5. Sweep out anything under the bed.
  6. Start making piles on the floor, up against a wall, on the bed, on the floor — wherever you have room. Put items with their “family” — LIKE WITH LIKE. Don’t worry about where they will go yet, just make the piles for now.
  7. Put books all together.
  8. Put kids’ stuff or your partner’s stuff in their own piles. Once finished, ask them to come take everything that is theirs and put it where it goes in their own spaces.
  9. As you go, ask yourself continually, “WHAT CAN LEAVE THE HOUSE?” If anything is outdated, get rid of it. Make a give-away pile, a sell pile, a gift pile, a project pile (things that need to get done), and add to them as you go. Make the piles of things that are to leave the house by the front door, so you remember to take them out.
  10. Put away your clothes and the remaining items.
  11. Empty trash and recycling.
  12. Do any dirty laundry, fold and put it fully away.

Voila! You have a cleaned out lovely space where everything has a home.

A lot of times, the piles are bigger projects, like socks or jewelry. We see we have accumulated many items belonging to each subsection and feel overwhelmed by the number of little things. This is often an ongoing project, but at least once everything is consolidated you can properly go through it, get rid of what you don’t need or want, and then see exactly what you have left. Then you can make an informed decision on how you want to store these things, and you see how much room is left to store it.

It is a tedious process sometimes, but in the end, the most efficient way I have found to help clients tackle the chaos.

Happy spring to you and yours! Feel free to email me with questions at sarahgdale@gmail.com. Thank you!

Sarah Grierson-Dale | ebbandfloworganizing.com

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