As a professional organizer, my job is to step into a client’s home and make an immediate assessment about organizing priorities. This means knowing where to start to make a quick impact and give the client the highest return on their investment.
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this, as priorities differ based on the layout of the home, the client's possessions and their habits. Prioritizing is a very important step in the organizing process, and one you can do yourself. I designed this simple quiz to help you get started. And if you get stuck, please call me!
Before you can set priorities, you will need to answer some questions! Organizers are trained to ask the right questions to assess your needs. These will differ based on individual organizing clients, but for the purpose of this blog, we will keep them general.
Take the Organizing Quiz
Before you begin, grab a pen and pencil. As you respond to the questions, write down the number of points for each answer.
Question #1: How often do you cook?
A. Never (1 point)
B. Sometimes (3 points)
C. Often (4 points)
D. Rarely (2 points)
Question #2: What part of your home is the messiest?
A. The kitchen - everyone puts things back in different places! (4 points)
B. Hiding places - cupboards, closets, and corners (3 points)
C. The general living areas - living room, bonus room, TV room (1 point)
D. Bedrooms - we hide things in there when guests come over, and they never come out!
Question #3: How often do you have guests over?
A. Yes, we like to host dinner parties mostly (4 points)
B. Often - people are always popping by to hang out (1 point)
C. Sometimes, including family staying for the weekend (2 points)
D. Not too often (3 points)
Question #4: When I think about getting organized, I feel excited about:
A. My personal comfort and space (2 points)
B. Arranging decor and spaces my guests will see (1 point)
C. Making things clean and functional (4 points)
D. Detail-oriented stuff (3 points)
Question #5: When organizing, I get stuck when:
A. I get stuck when organizing tiny objects. I don’t know what to do with them, so I just shove them back in at the end, and nothing really changes (1 point)
B. I like organizing, I just don’t have time (3 points)
C. I get stuck when I don’t have a personal connection with the items - they aren’t mine or I don’t care about them (2 points)
D. I get stuck because I want everything to be perfect and end up giving up when it's not
That's it! Now tally up your points and refer to the list below to see where you should start getting organized. This is a spectrum, so if you fall somewhere in the middle, you could choose either of the two locations closest to your score.
Living Room (5-7 points)
The living room is a great place to organize if you want a LOT of bang for your buck, with somewhat minimal effort. Living room organization will likely involve books, DVDs and other less personal items, and is therefore usually less emotional. You may THINK your living room is pretty organized, but once you dig into the table drawers, TV cabinets and under the couch, you may realize that there is more to do than you thought. The feel-good effect of organizing the living room is real, and your guests will notice the difference!
Living Room Organizing Tips: If you have framed photos you want to keep but don't want displayed, remove the photo and donate the frame. Less is more in the living room - removing unwanted clutter in the form of old magazines, knick knacks and old appliances feels good and will give the space a fresh new look.
Bedrooms and Master Closet (8 - 12 points)
If you find that your bedrooms have become a temporary storage area for items that you’re not sure what to do with, we recommend tackling this area. Organizing the bedrooms is a big job, but an extremely rewarding one. Because there are so many of our personal items in there, we tend to put off organizing them because they are not as visible as the rest of the house. But the reality is that you spend valuable transition moments in your room - getting dressed in the morning and ending your day, and your personal tranquility will be deepened immeasurably buy getting organized. You deserve it.
Bedroom Organizing Tips: When you come across memorabilia items and keepsakes, place them in a central area to review all at once. Debating what to do with these things can derail your project. Clothing and jewelry items that you never wear but want to keep because they are attached to a memory also belong in this category - not in your closet!
You deserve a tidy bedroom!
Single Drawers, Cupboards, Storage Closets, Small Piles (13 - 16 points)
These small storage areas tend to hold a lot of clutter, and are a great place to get started if you don’t have much time. Pick one drawer, cupboard, pile or small closet at a time, and set a timer. You will get better at estimating how long it takes to organize each space, and a smaller volume of stuff means that it’s easier to make an accurate guess at how much time you need. If you have lots of messy drawers in your home, organizing these first will give you a feeling of making a big impact, without taking up a huge chunk of time all at once.
Small Storage Space Organizing Tips: Keep a trash and recycle bag somewhere out of the way, which you will slowly fill over time as you work in these areas. Grab your bags and sort things into it as you go, then put them away until you are ready for the next drawer. You have time to organize a drawer when boiling a pot of pasta, during commercial breaks or even on the phone! It’s less about making time and more about getting started so that you gain some momentum.
One drawer at a time for a tidy house!
Kitchen (17 - 20 points)
The kitchen is always a work in progress. It is never totally organized, because we use it more than any other room. You will never have a picture perfect kitchen, because you are an imperfect human and you live there! If you cook a lot and love to have guests over, having an organized kitchen will make a HUGE difference in your life. This means having the appliances and kitchen items you use most often close at hand, and getting rid of items that you rarely / never use. It takes time to organize the kitchen, so give yourself plenty of time and remember how good it will feel when you are done!
Kitchen Organizing Tips: When organizing Tupperware, match everything and get rid of whatever doesn’t have a match. If at all possible, store Tupperware in a drawer. If you don’t have one, put it in a large shallow container, with the lids stacked vertically and containers nestled together. It should never be on a shelf. Prioritize appliances and objects that perform more than one function. If you have older kids, make sure they can reach everything so that they can help out with putting things away. Labels are great in the kitchen, since there are multiple users in there. Help everyone to know where things belong.