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C is for Clutter-free

My Seven C’s are an easy guideline for accomplishing spatial organizing projects. If you can remember Calendar, Collect, Clear, Clean, Categorize, Contain and Celebrate, you have all the strategy you’ll need to create some order.

Start with the calendar. Estimate how long it will take to do the project and put some organizing appointments for yourself on the calendar. If you feel like you can’t possibly estimate how long an organizing project is going to take or where to begin, you probably need to hire a professional to help you with an assessment. That’s where the second part of this step comes in: “Call for help.”

Next, collect all the supplies you are going to need for the project ahead of time. If it is getting your paperwork organized, make sure you have a labeler, label tape, file folders, a file cabinet, an in-box, a stapler — whatever you think you might need for the project. This is another area that a pro can help you with by either bringing supplies or giving you a customized shopping list. Trash bags and bags or boxes for donations, shredding and recycling are also important.

The third C is Clear. You’ll need to completely clear out the space you want to organize. This will help you see it in a new way. It will also keep you from trying to take shortcuts in the process, which really prevent the final results from lasting very long.

It’s almost impossible to separate “clean” and “organized.” Now’s the time to clean the space because it’s easier when it’s empty. You could still find your tape measure if you put it into a dusty cupboard, but psychologically, you will want to retrieve it and replace it if the experience is as pleasant as possible.

Categorizing is where the organizing adage “keep like with like” comes into play. With paper, the alphabet is tried and true for a filing system. For a closet, all pants stay together, blouses, sweaters, dresses, etc. If you have to separate things because you run out of space, make sure you divide the category in a logical way. For example, if you don’t have enough room for all your dresses in one closet, divide them into day dresses and evening wear.

Categorizing is crucial in how your systems will work for you in the long run. Spend some time really thinking about how you use something or how you think about it, and also how much of it you have in order to properly categorize it. Of course, trash, donations and consignment are also important categories.

When you are using containers, the sixth “C,” always leave a little room for growth. Your closet should not be so full that you can’t squeeze another blouse on the rack or sweater on the shelf. If it is, you might need to go back to the categorizing step and purge a little more assiduously.

Your containers should work well and be as attractive as possible; no screeching file drawers or cabinets that tip over when you open the top drawer. Sometimes, waxing the rails of a dresser drawer makes all the difference in how user-friendly they are, and may mean your daughter starts putting away her own laundry.

Celebrate your success. Enjoy the ease your organizing triumph (an orderly tool box, a revamped closet, tidy drawers, a real filing system) has given you and let it show you, over a few weeks, what needs to be tweaked before you continue on to the next project.