04 Jun 2012

OK, you have made the decision to get organized. You have set aside time on your calendar and know what you want to work on. Don’t let all this great attitude and desire go to waste by not being prepared to work. You don’t want to lose half of your work time by having to run to the store for supplies. Here is a BASIC list to get you started. You won’t need ALL of these things but think your way through what you will be doing and make sure your supplies are ready for the job you want to accomplish.


  1.  Trash bags – 2 different colors. We use clear and black bags.  The BLACK bags are for trash and CLEAR bags are for donation.  This way you don’t accidentally put something in the wrong bag or wonder if you did and then have to dig through all the trash to find the donate item. The same works for Trash and Shred if you are working on an office. You can use any combination of bags that you want. The important thing is that they be VERY different.
  2. Boxes – these are for sorting the things you want to keep. They can be the filing box type that fold flat when you are done with them or just old boxes from the grocery store – it doesn’t matter.
  3. Labels for the boxes – I like post-its if the items will be put away right away. If not, use 3×5 cards and tape them to the front of the box. This way you can remove them later and re-use the box.
  4. Marker – nothing is more annoying than trying to read your labels from a distance – make it easy!
  5. Pen/Pencil and a pad of paper. You will think of other things you need to do while you are working on this project. When you do, write it down and then get back to the organizing.  You can tackle the written list later.
  6. Trash can – if possible a BIG one. We use the big buckets that have rope handles because our 32 gallon bags fit in them easily. This way you can throw away more easily – no offloading into the bag later or having to wrestle the bag open every time.
  7. Prepare snacks in advance and plan dinner either as a slow-cooker meal or go out. You will have expended a lot of energy in making decisions and carrying stuff around. You will probably just want to relax the rest of the day so make it easy to do so.
  8. Water – you need to stay hydrated in order to keep making decisions. You should strive to drink at least 1 glass every hour.
  9. Timer – this will remind you to take a stretching break or provide the motivation to go the final 5 minutes before you can take a break. This can also remind you to drink your water.
  10. If you have long hair make sure you put it up/back before you start. Hair in your eyes will be a large distraction and will also keep you from seeing everything you need to in order to be efficient
  11. Music – if you find music to be motivating rather than distracting – Go For It! I like music with a bouncy beat but whatever works for you is perfect. If music tends to be a distraction – leave it off. TV is usually not a good choice because it is both auditorilly and visually distracting. The commercials and shows are usually at different volumes so they will draw your attention to the set.
  12. Safety equipment. Depending on what you are organizing you may want some basic safety equipment. This is, of course, up to your personal comfort and level of coordination (I personally am a klutz so I go the extra mile)
    1. Step stool or ladder. Standing on a rolling chair is not your best option to reach those upper shelves – even if that is your spouse’s usual system. J
    2. Gloves – either latex or heavy duty work gloves if you are working around cleaning equipment or wood in the garage, etc.
    3. Mask – if you are working in an area with mold, dust, etc. you may be more comfortable if you wear a paper mask. For most household and office organizing you don’t need anything heavier than that.
    4. Steel toed shoes – In our company EVERYONE is required to wear steel toes when working. Even if the job is a small one and the house is not badly cluttered, it is still easy to drop something on your foot and no-one wants a broken or even bruised toe. I have dropped a bowl in my kitchen and hurt myself so I make sure that even working in my own garage I wear my steel toed boots.
  13. Have the locations you want to donate to picked out. If you will want them to come and pick up your donations have the phone number handy. You don’t want to wait until the end of your session to think about where the items are going or have to hunt down numbers etc. What often happens is the bags of donation items sit around for days, weeks or even months. The goal is to get them out of the house IMMEDIATELY!
  14. If you want to take items to a consignment shop make sure you know the shops rules for donation. Some only accept clothes of a certain age, some have to be on hangers when donated, some even require a certain type of hanger and that the clothes be dry cleaned just prior to drop off. Nothing is more depressing than going to drop off your items to be told that they are not acceptable.
  15. Wet wipes – as you clear off areas, go ahead and wipe them down – this way you don’t have to go back to dust later!
  16. Flashlight with spare batteries. Sometimes it’s hard to see in the back of furniture, shelves, etc. A lightweight flashlight will give you an instant answer to the question “Did I get it all out?”
  17. New bag in your vacuum. You don’t want to spew dust in your newly organized and cleaned room. Splurge for the extra bag or take the time to clean the bin first and your room will be complete when you are done.
  18. If you will need to move furniture around, have some of those plastic glider discs handy. This way you don’t hurt yourself moving things that could glide instead.

 Working on an office – either professional or home

  1. If you can work when the office is not open for business that is your best option. If you can’t, try to arrange for a block of uninterrupted time where you make yourself off-limits to interruptions and visitors.
  2. Turn off the phones, alerts to email etc. before you start. Otherwise you may find yourself responding to emails rather than organizing your desk.
  3. Binder clips that are a different color/style than you usually use. This way you can tell at a glance what has been sorted and what has not.
  4. File folders – manilla
  5. File folders – hanging
  6. Post-its to label folders
  7. Labeler for final files – if you want them done this way. If you use a labeler make sure you have extra tape and batteries for it or a power cord.
  8. File box for hanging folders until they will move into the finished filing cabinet. You will know that the files in the box are sorted and they won’t be mixed in with the ones that still need to be gone through.
  9. Stapler, Staples and Staple Remover
  10. Hole punch
  11. Empty binders to put sorted items into if you are the type of person that does better with binders than files. Don’t worry about wasting the money for them since you will use them sooner or later. You can label the ends temporarily with post-its or for long term storage with printed labels.

 Good luck and Happy Organizing!!

 © 2012 – Maria Spetalnik

About the Author

works mostly behind the scenes at Conquer the Clutter, supporting Maria's efforts to make the world a neater place to live.

2 Responses to Getting Started
  1. Check out organizing units at somlceape like Home Depot.Look through your stuff. If you don’t or can’t wear it, give it to a thrift store like Good Will where you can deduct it from your taxes.If you can fold it (jeans, sweaters, sweatshirts, etc.), put it in a drawer or in those boxes with lids that will fit under your bed.If you want to keep it just as a memory, see if there is storage in the attic, garage, or some other closet.Get a shoe rack that sits on the floor, or keep shoes in original or plastic boxes on the top shelf.Hang your clothes so short things are together and longer things are together. All the short stuff together leaves enough room below them for a small shelving unit for shoes or other things.Find or purchase (office supply store) boxes about 12 18 , and place side-by-side on the shelf over your hanging things with the top of each box facing out. This is so you can put stuff like handbags or sweaters in them without them falling over on each other, and you can still see them at a glance without having to take the box down to do it. Works on the floor, too, though not as well.

  2. Great cmomon sense here. Wish I’d thought of that.

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