Getting Your Act Together in 2010 (and a Giveaway!)

Well, I’ll bet many of you within the sound of my voice…uh…er…I mean within the reach of my typing fingers :-) have vowed to get organized in 2010. I have chatted here in the past randomly about both managing your time and organizing your stuff. Well, this year, I want to talk more purposefully about both of those topics; topics which often trip a sister up, causing her frustration and resulting in lost items, missed appointments and late fees.

I hate to see tripped-up sisters. And I hate when I trip up in these areas too, which I still do more often than I’d like.

GettingOrganizedSo, to kick us off here in 2010, lets pinky promise that we will be intentional about getting our acts together. And let’s make it fun too. I will be giving away a signed copy of my book The Complete Guide to Getting and Staying Organized to one gal who leaves a comment on this post. ( It is worth a quarter more at your garage sale someday if it is signed ;-)) Along with it, I’ll include a Fresh Linen Soy Candle by For Every Body’s. (It is too cute. It has a little clothes pin floating in the top of the wax and smells like freshly laundered clothes. It just screams ‘clean’!) And I’ll tuck in an individual packet of Chocolate Supreme Hot Cocoa Mix from Private Selection.

So, the winner can burn her candle, causing her house to smell all fresh and tidy while she sips on the cocoa and reads the book. Oh, and at some point you’ll actually want to get up and implement the organizational ideas, so don’t get too comfy!

I covered today’s topic once before a long time ago, but it is so foundational that it is worth repeating. So, here we go….

I have the immense pleasure of chatting with hundreds of women every year at my events. So many of you are at such a loss as to what to do with your ”stuff”. And by “stuff” I mean the many piles I see. Piles of paper, piles of kids’ items, piles of assorted kitchen clutter, why, even piles of fabric!!! Do you know what all of those piles are? They are the result of two little words that you have ingrained into your homemaking vocabulary. Two words that you must rid yourselves of if you want to bust up those piles. Those awful two words ladies are….

“For now”

You know, “I’ll set this junk mail here for now.”

“I’ll place these toys and trinkets over there for now.”

“I don’t know what to do with all of this ______(you fill in the blank) so I’ll lay it here for now.”

Girlfriends, our “for nows” are ruining us! And do you realize that every pile is just a stack of unmade decisions? The first time I read that statement years ago in an organizational book it was a revelation for me!!

Part of the problem is that you have not made a decision about where it will go. Thus the piles of “for now”. The bigger part of the problem, however, is not where to put the stuff. It is that you have too much stuff. So, first let’s learn to do a little de-junking, ridding ourselves of the unnecessary clutter.

With what is left, we’ll find a place other than the dreaded culprit piles of “for now” where they currently lodge. And take note: the following system can be used in one room—for you gals with that cluttered home office, messy toy room or catch-all kitchen—or for the really brave at heart, in the entire house!

De-junking Basics

So here is how this works. First, you’ll need five boxes, (Or, if you are tackling a really big room or area, bins or laundry baskets.) They will hold items that you come across that belong somewhere other than where they are at the moment.

Label the first box Put Back. Inside of it place another small lidded container such as a shoe box or plastic tote. This box will be used to collect the items that are out of place in your home. The smaller container will hold items such as pens, pencils, barrettes, and coins so they don’t get lost in the bigger box.

The second box will be labeled Take Back. This will corral all of those items in you home that don’t belong to you and need to be returned somewhere. You know, library books, rented DVD’s, a shoe from your son’s friend who spent the night last week, a pan from the sweet lady from church who made your family brownies two months ago, etc..

The third box will be used for garbage. Label it Toss or Trash. Line it with a garbage bag so that when it becomes full, you can tie it up and transport it to the trash can. If you are a family that recycles, you can also have a box or bin for that purpose too.

Next, you’ll want to have a box for those items that are still in good shape, but no longer needed or wanted at your home. Label this one Charity or Garage Sale. You can even place price stickers on your things at this point if you will be holding a sale. If you will donate your belongings to a charity or homeless shelter, as a box fills up, seal it and put it in your vehicle to be ready to drop off next time you are near a donation center.

The last box in the bunch will be labeled Nostalgia. More on this in a minute.

Before starting, please determine that you will be ruthless. Promise yourself that if you have not used it, needed it (but couldn’t find it), worn it, or enjoyed looking at it in the past year—then you’re going to LET IT FLY!

Haul your boxes into your problem room. Position the boxes in the middle of the floor. Beginning in one corner of the room, pick up an article, and ponder the following:

• Is this item out of place? Place it in the Put Back box.

• Does this item need to be returned to someone or somewhere? Into the Take Back box it goes.

• Is this item in such dire shape that it is no longer usable? Then place it in the Toss box. If it is made of metal, glass, paper, or plastic, it goes in the recycle bin if you are going to add this step too.

• Is this item in fine shape but no longer needed by anyone in our family? Into the Charity or Garage Sale box it goes.

• Now here is the final question: Is this item no longer needed by anyone in our family, but one of my children (or my husband) is so attached to it that if I pitch it now, they’ll be emotionally damaged for life and, yes, someday they will be on national TV spilling their guts to Dr. Somebody about my cruel actions?

Then into the Nostalgia box it goes. All of your kiddos can have a few nostalgia boxes with favorite “keeper” items. I like to attach a note to the item such as “You wouldn’t fall asleep without this stuffed turtle by your side” or “You carried this little lunch pail on the first day of school.”

Once your question and answer exercise is finished, look down in your hand? Is the item still there? It must be:

A. Something you actually want or need and ….

B. It must be located in the proper room of the house.

Continue making a sweep around the entire room, following the same procedure with each item you encounter. Check every drawer, shelf and closet. Make certain you are taking inventory of everything you own. Be ruthless!

Every so often empty out the boxes—put back the out of place items, throw out the trash bags, transfer the storage and nostalgia items to a box that can be placed in permanent storage, and keep on truckin’! What seems like an overwhelming task will soon gain momentum.

Crank up some music you enjoy or pop in a book on cd to help the time pass more quickly. And if you are like me, you’ll discover that this concept works best when following the buddy system. Junk busting is easier with a friend who is, unlike you, not emotionally attached to your stuff. They will help you decide objectively what you will keep and what you will pitch, give away, or sell. When you come to the Tupperware deviled egg holder your Aunt Tillie gave you ten years ago that you never use, your friend will grant you the courage to get rid of it, offering their full assurance that Aunt Tillie will not suffer irreparable harm because of your decision.

It feels so good to de-junk. Every time I do it, (which for me was two and a half days last week–you know, putting away those new items received at Christmas, sorting through clothes that my kids have outgrown and ones I no longer need or wear; turning old wash clothes into rags and washing and putting away the new ones my mom got us for Christmas, etc..)

Yes, every time I do it, I understand why John Wesley said “Cleanliness is next to godliness”

It feels like a brand new start.

Try it. You’ll be glad you carved out time to do it.

And, next week, I’ll post more about what to do once you have dejunked; how to re-set up your rooms in a logical and user-friendly manner, so tune in!

Now, I will leave this post up until the end of Monday giving lots of you a chance to leave a comment for the giveaway.

It can be a comment about your worst cluttered ‘hot spot’ in your home; your biggest organizational challenge- time? paper? kid’s items? your kitchen pantry?

Or, if your are pressed for time, just leave a comment saying “I’m in!” The drawing will be random so you’ll still be entered. You can leave comments up until Monday at midnight EST. The winner will be announced Tuesday morning.

Happy organizing!!!!


  1. Oh my.. this topic is so close to my heart. I have three sweet boys that bring home piles of paper daily, along with all the other “things” that seem to pile up on my counters! I will definitely be implementing this and hoping to start the New Year out organized! Thank you!!

  2. Oh my. Maybe I can get my act together in 2012 since I missed it in 2010 and 2011. What a great, timely (lol) post for me. Thank you…I’m going to find some boxes. I may need to be rescued, though.

  3. I was truly blessed by this. I used to be a very tidy person but illness, Lyme’s disease, has zapped all my energy and some of my mental capacities. I have lots of “not now” piles and they overwhelm me. Thank you for a simple but effective way to declutter. I think I need to do this in the third person…detach myself from the object and just give it a new home. Praying you have a blessed New Year!!

  4. I read your organizing book this summer and followed along on the facebook sessions, but of course I haven’t implemented everything yet. I still have baskets and boxes and trunks of pictures and then all the digital pics that are still in the computer.

    It’s hard to organize my husband’s desk bc I don’t know what all those little scraps of papers with numbers on them are for (important? does he even know?). I am gonna get my office in shape in January for sure! So many computer discs, electronic stuff, old magazines, pamphlets from the rest stops of interesting things to do, church notes, owners manuals. AND I’M ACTUALLY THE MOST ORGANIZED PERSON I KNOW! I’m just too sentimental about some things.

    I did throw out most of the kids’ school papers from this school year already. Only kept a few cool stories/artwork for each of them, and I may actually scan those and save them on the computer like I did for last years school papers. I figured that I don’t have any of the papers from when I was in school and I turned out ok. Why do I think I need all this stuff?????

  5. I own about every organizational book there is. I get started & then stop for one reason or another. I have depression & ADD. I like to see what I need then have so many stacks or boxes, I can’t find anything! Excuses, excuses! It’s gone from bad to worse!. 2012 is the year I’m getting my act together. I need help!

  6. This year is going to be a little different for us…my hubby is going to deploy for about 7 months which means that’s 7 months to really get everything organized! The worst hot spot for me is papers…I have piles EVERYWHERE! I think this is where I’m going to start first.

  7. Papers! I’m so afraid of throwing away papers. What if . . . I need it again? What if . . . my husband asks for it? What if . . . my kids decide they do need it after all? What if . . . that out of date ad for something I don’t even use . . .

  8. wow- where to start with the organization/ dejunking… the whole house could use it and now we would like to move.

  9. after years of being sick , and now starting to feel better the clutter mayhem is getting the best of me. Not knowing hardly where to start and seeing no end. I would so be grateful to be a winner :)

  10. Hi Karen,

    Your message is so timely that I don’t think it’s a coincidence! I feel like I’m being swallowed up by my home and all the stuff in it. There’s nothing worse than feeling so smothered. I have three girls ages 7, 5 and 3 and I am at my wits end trying to figure out what to do with their belongings. If the funds were not a primary consideration, I’d hire a professional organizer in a heart beat. So, I’m looking forward to more of your posts and the chance to win your book. I’m turning to God for encouragement as well. Thank you for your wisdom!


  11. Hi Karen,
    Thank you for your words of encouragement. I am encouraged because they remind me to put God first, to not allow my daily plans to get in the way of my fellowship with the Lord and that humor really is the best medicine. That’s one of the things I love about P31 – the humor. The often hard to take medicine, does go down better with the sweetness of humor!

  12. Can I just say how much I need this book?!? This is what struck me.

    ….And do you realize that every pile is just a stack of unmade decisions? …

    Bingo. That hit the spot.

  13. Oh I so needed this post. My plan is to “attack” a room a month this year. I will declutter and deep clean that room. Thank you for a great place to start!


  14. Without a doubt, my laundry room is my problem room. It’s so small and doesn’t have any storage area.

    Feeling inspired to clean!

  15. Hi Karen,

    I would love this book! We are moving and I want to be so much better at keeping things organized at our new house and what a perfect book to help me with that goal =)

  16. I have a kitchen drawer that is just HORRIBLE!! I hate to even have to open it and forget opening it if I have company over…=)

  17. Hi Karen,

    I just finished reading A Life That Says Welcome and loved it! Now I can’t wait to read this book.

    I struggle with finding inexpensive storage solutions that can also be used as decorative pieces (hidden storage) and don’t make putting things away a challenge.

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