Think of this scenario: If your house were burning and your family, pets, and purse were already out of harm's way, what else would you want to save? Probably not the blender that only works on one speed, the china you inherited but never use, or the photo in which you're not exactly looking your best. Which begs the question: If those things aren't worth taking, why are they in your home in the first place?
There's no reason to be surrounded by things that don't work, that you don't need, or that you don't even like. As a professional organizer, I help my clients figure out what they should keep and what they should kiss goodbye; then we figure out how to make what they have work for them. You can do it yourself by following the steps I've outlined:
The Ground Rules
1. Everything you own should have value, either because it's functional or beautiful or you just love it. Remember the question of what you'd grab if your house were on fire; that's your baseline for determining an object's worth.
2. Every item needs a place where it "lives." Setting things down on the coffee table or kitchen counter creates piles and confusion. My clients mock me when I say, "Where do your keys live? They live in a bowl or on a hook by the front door"—but you never lose anything when you put it where it lives.
3. Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is supposed to help you get more things done quickly, but when you try to do 19 things at once, everything ends up incomplete. You're trying to simplify your life, so simplify your approach to getting organized. Now let's get started.
The Crammed Kitchen
Your kitchen is a food preparation area, not a storage space. The idea here is to weed out what you're not using, then put similar items together and in the best places.
Appliances: Machines that are broken or aren't used are just taking up space. If your Crock-Pot has a missing lid that you say you're going to replace someday, or you're keeping the bread maker just because it was a gift, get rid of it.
Food containers: All your plastic storage items should have corresponding lids. If you don't have one or the other, it's a recycling item.
Pots and pans: If there isn't a lot of space in your kitchen, use a pot rack. If you have the space, hang them along the wall for fast access.
Knives: If you're short on counter space, consider the type of knife block that fits in a drawer.
Plastic bags: Everybody has a plastic bag full of other plastic bags. Use the ones you have for trash can liners, or take them back to the supermarket for recycling. Keep canvas shopping totes in the car so you don't accumulate more plastic bags. Mesh shopping bags roll up small enough to be kept in your handbag for unexpected trips to the market.
Cookbooks: Unless you're a collector or you have a lot of room, edit them. How often do you use the cookbook? If you've had it for years but it's never gotten a single stain or burn from use, donate it.
How to go from swamped to sane—now!