REBUILD: The 7 Steps to Getting Organized

Posted on: March 14th, 2013 by Kristi | No Comments


I like acronyms and I use them often. For me, naming something makes the steps easier to remember. I use the acronym REBUILD for the organizing process.

The REBUILD System
1. Read the Space
2. Establish a Plan
3. Begin Sorting
4. Uncover Items That Go
5. Identify Homes
6. List; Locate; Label
7. Dominate Your System

Let me explain. . .

Clutter accumulates for at the least 4 reasons:
1. There is inadequate storage for items or there are too many items.
2. An area or room has no designated purpose and becomes a dumping ground.
3. There is no system in place for taking things out and putting them away.
4. Due to all of the above, decisions are delayed.

The fastest, most effective way to remedy the problem is to REBUILD.

1. READ THE SPACE: Enter your own front door like a stranger or an alien! This is necessary because we get so used to the way things are that we neglect to examine how they got that way. Consider the primary function of the room. What is its main use? How did the space get the way it is now? What habits are taking place? What do you need? Keep in mind that you don’t have to use each room for its “given” purpose.
Perhaps you have a spare bedroom that you’d like to convert to a home office.
Maybe your family room is primarily used as a playroom for your young children.
Or you need to set up a mobile office area in your kitchen for bill paying.

2. ESTABLISH A PLAN: Once you’ve decided the purpose and activities that will take place and what was stopping the space from being used in the way you want it to be used, ESTABLISH A PLAN. Where will you begin? Surfaces are my favorite starting points, as you will see results quickly and stay motivated, and because items that are out are typically the most current items in your life.

Create a list of items you do want in the space. Measure dimensions and resist the urge to cram too much into the space. For example, in the spare bedroom turned home office you’ll want room for a desk, chair, filing cabinet, and storage for office supplies. Don’t try to squeeze in the easy chair that you can’t find a place for or other stray furniture that doesn’t serve the room’s purpose.

Make a plan for how you will arrange the space. Sketch out a floor plan. Consider what activities will take place and group furniture accordingly on your sketch.

Finally, consider your storage needs. Will you need to install shelving? If your family room is doubling as a playroom, what kind of containers will work in the space to keep toys and crafts organized? Don’t buy the products yet! At the ESTABLISH A PLAN phase, you are brainstorming what you want the space to look like and how you want it to function. Buying products will come later.

3. BEGIN SORTING: Throwing things out (other than obvious trash) should NOT be your first step. Take your time and carefully sort first.

If you plan to hold an estate sale, auction, or sell to a dealer or private sale – get professionals to come in and evaluate the estate before you start tossing or donating! The experts know what apparently “worthless” items can actually be worth something – especially to estate sale buyers.

If you plan to have a garage sale, tag and clean items at the end of each sorting session. Otherwise, it will take hours for you to prepare for the sale later.

Getting Started: Start in the space that bothers you the most. Also, remember to begin with items that are out in the open, not the items shoved in drawers or boxes.

Supplies You’ll Need:
Garbage bags
Scissors or box cutters
Trash bags
File Folders/Envelopes (start with plain inexpensive manila folders for sorting – for papers
Archival storage containers for photos and heirloom quality items
Packing materials for fragile items

For large furniture and other large items, don’t let them slow you down. With large items, prepare a list of your decisions (e.g.: dresser – keep; will work well in a smaller bedroom). Use stickers and mark the items as you decide what to do with each piece later.

Sort the items in each room as follows:

1. Items that you want to keep (this includes items you are not currently ready to part with or items that you definitely use and love).

2. Items that will be given to family or friends.

3. Items to be returned to the original owner.

4. Items that will be sold (include items to be appraised).

5. Items that will be given to charity.

6. An “undecided” pile.

7. Items that need to be thrown away.

4. UNCOVER ITEMS THAT GO: Much of this task will have been started in step 3. Here are some further tips to help when deciding what should go.

Ask Yourself The Magic 8 Questions:

1. When was the last time I used this?

2. If I do use it, how often and why?

3. Is this item something I love and value?

4. Would I have to replace it if I chose to get rid of it? If so, will it cost less than $100 to replace it?

5. How many of these do I already have?

6. Does it need repair, and if so, is it worth the price?

7. Do I know someone else who would benefit a lot more from its use?

8. Will it serve a purpose in my new surroundings?

Don’t freeze – Focus!

For many people, starting the sorting and decision-making process is as difficult. The task appears to be so overwhelming! All you can do in this situation is to start somewhere and to approach it step-by-step, pile-by-pile until the job is finished.

I stress keeping focused as much as possible because it’s so easy to do a little bit here, a little bit there and never feel like you’re getting anywhere.

Stick with what you are working on until it is finished. You’ll feel better because you’ll be able to see what you have accomplished and this will give you momentum to continue the process.

As you go through room by room, gather similar items together to evaluate the total volume of items. Then you can go through them and choose which you want to keep (SORT and then UNCOVER ITEMS THAT GO).
Items will probably change category as you go through – hopefully you will realize you can part with more than you think you can!

Check everywhere! Do not be hasty throwing things away – inspect everything.

Also go carefully through boxes, books, pockets of clothes, envelopes and other unlikely areas. You’d be surprised at the number of stories of unexpected stashes of money, jewelry, historic documents and other treasures found hidden away.

Keep items you’re donating or giving to friends or family in one room or area of the house, preferably in labeled boxes or labeled trash bags and somewhere that you don’t go very often.

Or better yet, once you have a lot of items ready, call the people whom you’d like to have it, whether it’s your family or a charitable organization. Get items out of your reach as soon as possible. It’s so easy to change your mind or to start pulling items out of the pile.

I always tell people that one of the easiest places to start with clearing a house is telling their family that it’s time to come get their stuff! Don’t feel guilty if you take this step. Tell your adult kids that it’s time for them to collect the things that they still have stored at your house. Tell your young kids that it’s time to give some toys and clothes to other children in need.

Allow plenty of flexibility and time for the sorting and trust the process.

Plan to spend one or two hours at a time (at most) working through the sorting process.

This is not a task that you can do for long periods of time at any age – there will be too many emotions and memories stirred up because in essence you are sorting through the years of your life.

Take time for recalling memories, share stories with friends and family.
Take pictures of items that hold special memories prior to throwing out or giving away.
You can even make (or send off to be made for you) a memory quilt.
And be easy on yourself and flexible when making decisions.

This is a very important and valuable part of the later life transition process. Allow yourself time to remember and to grieve losses. Don’t rush yourself to make too many decisions at once.

If you can’t make a decision about something, then set it aside and think about it for a while until you do come to a decision. I tell some clients to place undecided items in a labeled box, store it out of sight and if in 3 months you haven’t used any of the items from the box, they go. Also remember that you can change your mind about any item as long as it’s still in your possession. If you’ve started early and are planning ahead, you should be able to work at a pace that is comfortable for you and your situation.

To Store or Not To Store

Sometimes temporarily storing items can be a good interim step for families – especially if you are waiting to sell at auction or have them shipped or given to others.

If you have to empty a home quickly, storage may be a good option until you have time to thoughtfully sort the contents.

However, you don’t want to end up paying monthly storage fees for years as a result of postponing decisions on what to do with stuff. Make sure you have a plan for the items if you decide to store them – keep a specific time frame in mind.

5. IDENTIFY A HOME: After you have sorted your items, what is left must be assigned a permanent home. This is where you will store the items and set your habits around storing the items. For example, even though the dining room is often used for that purpose, if you decide to use that space as a playroom, bring in the toys and decide where to store them. This is also the time when you start thinking about the next step.

6. LIST; LOCATE;LABEL: Once you have determined the use of each room/space, what you are going to keep in that space and where you want it, then it’s time to make a list of containers and other organization products that you would like to store the items in. Measure, measure and then measure! Add these measurements beside each item on your list. Once your list is created it is finally time to do what most people do at step one, locate the items and purchase the items you need. The final step is labeling. I recommend a label maker (I use a Brother P-Touch). Label as many items as possible. This is not done just to make everything look nice or to show off your hard work (which you should), this step will be a huge help in achieving the final step.

7. DOMINATE YOUR SYSTEM: Dominate is a strong word, but I didn’t pick it just because I needed a D word. I selected it because you have to be strong and vigilant to keep your hard work working! Labeling helps you put things back where they belong. It also gives family members no excuse not to use the systems you set up effectively. You also have to dominate your system because you need to be strong at this final stage. It takes a long time to get rid of an old negative habit and replace it with a new positive habit. If you do some backsliding (falling back into old habits), forgive yourself and move on!

——Rebuilding cluttered homes through organizing, teaching and understanding to produce lasting change.

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