Simplifize Your Life: Organizing Basics Part 3/Step 2 – Assess

by Vanessa Hayes

in Organize Anything Series,Organizing,Uncategorized

Ok…here we go.  We’re moving on to Part 3 in the Simplifize Your Life: Organizing Basics series.  In the last post we discussed the first step in the organizing process: Needs.  Now we’re going to talk about step 2: ASSESS.

Armed with the knowledge of your priorities and how you want your particular space to look, function and feel, now you can take a closer look at that space. You need to properly ASSESS your space and here’s how you are going to do it:

  • Identify what’s working for you. You may think that your entire space is a mess but take a closer look.
    • Are there particular objects, items, furniture or routines that are working just fine?
    • Let’s say your entryway is a complete mess; shoes are everywhere, backpacks lying on the floor, mail strewn all over the place.  Yet the key rack…that’s actually working out just beautifully.  You always know where the keys are and never loose them.  That system is working so keep it…it’s all the other stuff you need to tackle.
    • Or let’s say you have a good routine of checking your mail, sorting and filing it everyday but you’re having trouble finding what you need because your files are stacked on top of one another.  The routine is great…you just need a better way to file your papers.  You may want to check out a couple of my previous posts on filing and creating an action file.
  • Identify what’s not working for you. This may seem like the obvious but really take a hard look at not only your physical clutter but your routines as well.  Here are a few examples:
    • Is meal prep a pain because frequently used items are not conveniently placed and you find yourself constantly going back and forth in the kitchen?
    • What about the office?  Do you have files and papers stacked up where you can’t find anything, or are your bills and important papers located in different areas making making it frustrating and tedious to pay them?
    • Do you have storage bins in your kid’s rooms and play areas that aren’t being used because they’re not conveniently located?
    • Do you battle with your spouse or significant other over a particular space in the bathroom because that’s where both of you store all of your personal items and toiletries? I speak from experience on this one…my husband has the sink next to the medicine cabinet  mirror which I like to use to primp.  He’s always having to wait on me to finish or gets bumped to the other side (sorry, honey ;o)
    • Or are your morning routines a mess trying to get the kids packed and out the door and you find yourself running around trying to figure out what they should wear, what to make them for lunch and if they finished all of their homework?
  • Evaluate your habits. Be sure to differentiate natural habits that makes sense versus habits forced by necessity (ie: eating at the couch because the dining table is too cluttered).
    • Where do you dump your mail? In the entryway, kitchen table, countertop, or office?
    • Where do your kids dump their shoes and backpacks?
    • Where do you sit down to eat…the table, bar, dining table or in front of the TV?
    • Do you use the front, side, back or garage door for entering the house?
    • Do you like to get dressed in front of a mirror, in the bathroom or bedroom?
    • Where do you do bills…in the office, kitchen or next to a computer?
    • Simply determine if these habits are working for you or not.
  • What’s in the space that shouldn’t be there? Check out what items don’t belong and make a note of where they should go.
    • Are toys in the office, kitchen or master bedroom that shouldn’t be?
    • What about the kids’ backpacks, coats and shoes?  Are they lying around the living room or on the dining table instead of at the “launching” pad or in their rooms?
    • And what about that treadmill?  Do you really want that in your master bedroom…a room that you want to be tranquil and peaceful?
    • I understand that space may be a limiting factor but just remember your vision and goal for each space.  If something is in the space that shouldn’t be or you don’t want to be there, start thinking of a better place to make its home.
  • Determine what is essential to you. Pick out the items that you know you’ll absolutely need…and the ones that you don’t need.
    • Perhaps in an office you know you’ll need a desk, chair, computer and filing system…these are the absolute essentials.  Maybe you don’t necessarily need an extra couch in there taking up valuable space.
    • Or maybe you have a computer that you use all of the time that you store all of your personal and work information on but you’re still holding on to your two old ones that are just taking up space on a desk or in the storage cabinets.
    • In the kitchen you know you need the microwave, coffee maker, a few pots and pans and utensils…do you really need 2 coffee makers or 10 different spatulas?
    • Perhaps you’ve determined your food processor is important because you use it quite frequently but the bread maker or toaster oven…not so much.
  • Map out your space. Like a surveyor, you need to take measurements and mark the location of key features in your space.
    • Take measurements of windows, wall space, shelving units, closet spaces, dressers and other essential furniture items.  Measure the length, height, and width of shelves and furniture.
    • Make note of the placement of doors and how they open (they may limit placement of furniture but you might be able to use the door itself for additional storage).
    • Also make note of where your cable and electrical outlets are located but don’t let that influence you too much on placement of things later (there’s always a work around).
    • This is also a good time to think “vertical.”  Take note of space you might be able to use for storage like: behind doors, above windows, above the top shelf in closets, etc.  There are lots of things that can fold down from the wall like murphy beds, fold down tables, desks and ironing boards.
  • Identify your limitations. Identifying your limitations will help you during the next two steps of purging and organizing.  Things to consider and take note of are:
    • Legitimately tiny spaces
    • Lack of closets or  built-in shelves
    • Too many windows or low ceilings
    • Awkward shaped space
    • Not enough lights or electrical outlets
    • Limited wall space
  • Envision zones and functions in your space. Think about how to organize your space into zones just like in a pre-school or kindergarten classroom.  These rooms are divided into zones for specific activities:  dress-up, story time/reading, projects and crafts, toys, cubbies for storage, coat racks and cleaning stations.  It’s really quite brilliant and quite simple. If you think like this you’ll go a long way in your organizing efforts. Here are a few examples:
    • A kitchen might have the following zones: food prep zone, coffee and beverage zone, dry food storage zone, dishwashing zone, and cooking zone.
    • A master bedroom might have a sleep zone, dressing zone, and a reading and relax zone.
    • A family room might have a media/TV zone, a reading zone, a play/toy zone and a small desk/homework zone for the kids.
    • And a basement might have a media zone, fitness zone, guest bedroom zone, laundry/utility zone, etc.
  • Get every household member that uses the space involved. Just like in the first step of determining your “needs” you need to get everyone involved in the process of assessing the space.  They may point out things you didn’t notice or forgot. They might also explain their ideas for the “zones” of the space, explain their essential items or describe their natural habits and limitations.
  • Take “before” pictures of the space. Oh I know you may be dreading it but believe me, you’re gonna love taking the “after” pictures and looking back to revel in your glory!

Now that you’ve done your Assessment following the guidance and examples above, you should have an easier time purging and organizing your space.  Think of the Assessment step as your planning phase for a major project.  You know where you want to go but you need to identify what your challenges are and what’s working and doesn’t need to be changed. That’s what this step is all about.

Now…on to the very challenging yet very rewarding next step in the Simplify Your Life: Organizing Basics series Part 4/Step 3: Purge. Keep your eye out for this post next week on Wednesday, 8 July.  But before that we’ll have our weekly video Quick Tip on Monday…an easy dinner recipe!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

R Mitchell May 3, 2015 at 1:07 PM

This is really very helpful!

cindy October 16, 2015 at 3:07 AM

Need help in my area for purging And getting organized I live in South Jersey

Vanessa Hayes October 20, 2015 at 11:12 AM

Cindy,
I would go to napo.net and look for a professional organizer near you. You can also look up NAPO New Jersey…I believe they have a Chapter of professional organizers. Best of luck to you!

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