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Surfing the seven C’s of organizing

One of the most important talents to have in surfing is balance. And it’s the same for organizing your physical environment, your time and your life in general. At one extreme you can be too organized and anal and spend all your time maintaining and tweaking your systems and never produce anything or move forward. You may never get in the water because you’re waiting for conditions to be perfect.

On the other extreme, you can never find your keys or your checkbook or your reading glasses and spend all your time weeding through the stuff in your life and never produce anything or move forward. You’re out there living life but it’s wipeout after wipeout.

The balanced person finds just the right amount of organization he or she needs to have a productive, fulfilling life and as much peace of mind as possible. You are in the zone, catching wave after wave.

Over the years I’ve been organizing professionally, I’ve come up with the Seven C’s of organizing.


Call someone to support you. Most people with organizing dilemmas put handling them off because they hate to work alone on something so daunting, or they need the perspective of a friend or professional organizer. So give someone a call and ask for help. Then set a firm date to start. Think about what time of day you have the most energy? Are you a morning lark or a night owl? Plan to tackle your project in accordance with your energy levels.

Many clients have told me they held on to my card for a year before calling me. Making the call and asking for help is a big first step.


After you’ve identified your organizing project, get your tools together. You should have following ready: screwdriver with both Phillips and regular tips in a variety of sizes; tape measure, shipping tape, box cutter, scissors, black Sharpie pen, tablet and pen and clipboard for making notes, and of course … the Brother PT Touch labeler and extra label tape.

You might also need file folders, hanging files, plastic containers of various sizes and shapes. You will probably need rags, window or surface cleaner and other cleaning supplies, like a broom and vacuum. It’s possible you’ll need gloves and a mask if you think you’ll run into rodent droppings and other potentially dangerous stuff.


Empty the whole thing out. Most of my clients would do anything to avoid this part of the process. Whatever you’re organizing, you’ve got to completely empty it out. When you clear every item out of a space, whether it is a drawer, a closet or a whole room, it can be overwhelming. For a while you move one unorganized bunch of stuff to another area and it can seem chaotic.

Make sure you plan enough time for your project so that you do not run out of time or energy before you have put things into place. For example, if you have an hour, tackle a drawer. A closet can take two to 12 hours or more. A garage is at least a day’s worth of work, often more.


Once your space is cleared, take the time to give it a good cleaning. Vacuum, sweep, dust and do all the necessary work to make the space spic and span.


Does this item belong in this space and if not, where does it go? Or, do you need to keep it at all? Is it trash, recycle, give away, donate, consign or keep? Look at each item and make a decision. In the way that Clearing was physically challenging, this step is mentally and emotionally the most difficult and will take some time. Remember to ask questions like: Does it serve me? Does it fit? Will I really read this? Can I find this information on the Internet if I want it later?


Choose the appropriate container for the item and put it away. Your organizer can help you choose from a variety of possible solutions, as we are paid to be up on all the latest containers and gadgets out there. But if you shop at Target or the Container Store you should be familiar with enough of what you’ll need. Some of it is obvious, like an important piece of paper needs a file and a label and needs to go into a file cabinet. Or a sweater needs to be folded and put on the shelf or in a drawer.


Ride the wave all the way into the shore. Don’t forget to acknowledge yourself for your hard work, and spend some time appreciating it. Live with the new space for awhile before tackling another project. Enjoy the clarity and balance the seven C’s of organizing can provide.