After a recent return from vacation I was attempting to unpack when I realized putting my clothes away was a challenge given how cluttered my drawers had become. As you can imagine, as a professional organizer I’m pretty organized, but sometimes even someone like me needs a reboot. When I first installed my Elfa Closet system I remember planning what each drawer would hold; one for workout wear, one for PJ’s, one for t-shirts, etc. Now 8 years later it was apparent I needed more space for workout and lounge wear and less space for other items. In about 30 minutes I cleaned out my workout wear and moved it to a more accessible spot in my closet, I relocated the seasonal sweaters that I hardly ever wear to the other side of the closet, and I created a bag of giveaway items to take to Goodwill that week. Voila, my overstuffed closet was functional again! I know it sounds a little bit like organizing your sock drawer on Saturday night (this was a Sunday afternoon:-), but it felt good to be able to access the clothing items I use most and realign my system to reflect the items that are important to me now.

When I work with clients there are often remnants of systems that worked at one time, but for various reasons they’re no longer working. Some items have defined homes and other items are randomly shoved in drawers or tossed on shelves, so clutter ensues. Below are a few common areas I encounter with my clients. Hopefully you will be inspired to clear your space to make room for what’s important and useful to you now.

Rooms Taken Over By Kids Toys – If you have young kids and live in a small space you may find their stuff overtaking every room of your home. At one point you may have been able to fit all their baby toys in the living room tucked in a corner, but now they have big toys and toys that come with small parts and not everything fits in bins, and the list goes on. If you want to take back your home and keep toy management from ruling your time, you need to reassess. Think about the types of toys your kids have: Legos, Barbies, board games, American Girl, art supplies, science kits, stuffed animals, etc. What makes sense for their age and life now? Do they only play on the weekends when not in school? Have they lost interest in a particular toy they used to love? Once you have answered some of these questions you can start sorting and zoning the toys and store them in a way that works for your home, their age and size, and your family life now.

Pile of Papers – that clutter your counter, your desk, you hall table, and other horizontal surfaces. You probably own a file cabinet, but have you looked at its contents lately? If it is full of papers from 3,5, 7, or even 10 years ago, they are likely pretty useless to you now. Start to empty your file cabinet to make room for what you really need to keep and access (taxes for 7 years, proof of assets should remain versus old phone bills and purchases for a house you no longer own can go). Create an “inbox” for your papers (an actual container, not the corner of the kitchen island or your dining room table) and schedule a weekly time to process the papers inside. Our current life is more digitally based, but paper is not going away. Determine a paper management system that works for your life now.

Your Clothes – The clothes that used to fit you or the ones that went out of style 5 years ago need to find a new home. Sure you might go back there, but why do you need to hold onto this stuff? It’s getting in the way of clothes you love, fit you now, and make you feel good when you wear them. During my small closet clean out I discovered a shirt I love but forgot I had as it was buried at the bottom of my drawer. If I had not adapted my closet system for what’s working for me now, I wouldn’t have found that shirt or enjoyed the way I felt when I wore it.

Sports Gear – At one point you had all the time in the world for golf or tennis, but now your weekends are filled with soccer games and family outings. Or maybe you have an injury that no longer lets you partake in a sport you once enjoyed. Or perhaps your daughter tried ice skating, then soccer, and then baseball until she finally decided hip hop was her sport of choice. All these activities come with equipment that at one point was important to your life, but unfortunately no longer works for your current situation. You don’t necessarily have to get rid of what is no longer working, but perhaps some items need to move to the attic or a higher spot in the garage to make room for the current sports equipment you actually use and need to access.

photo credit: now via photopin (license)