I have written a regular column for the Connections for Women website for years now, and I just wrote this article below for their September edition. I hope you like it.
One of our constant messages to people is to think about your organizing projects comprehensively… don’t just “clean it up” and expect it to stay that way. For lasting results, you need to start by thinking through your goals for your project and end by thinking through what maintenance tasks will be required to keep the area looking nice and working well.
Whether you’re working on a closet, garage, kitchen, or bathroom, when you are approaching an organizing project, you want to look at the four “F’s” of your room (yes, we have four “F” words!): Features, Function, Flow and Frequency.
Features: What is the “skeleton” of the room? Which features are changeable and which are not? Notice the furniture, plumbing, walls, closets and doors. Think about everything differently… what if you removed a door and left a closet open? What if you had a different piece of furniture?
Function: Another question we always ask is, “What functions are happening in this space?” Think about the functions you would like to happen here, such as exercising or studying, that you might want to add once the space is improved. Let’s take the case of a normal utility room. You might be surprised at everything that is going on in that tiny room! There are all the steps in caring for your clothing (sorting, washing, drying, folding, and ironing), plus possibly pet care needs, recycling, and storage of utility and cleaning items for maintaining the house. Each of these functions needs a dedicated zone for its supplies and required space.
Flow: How do these features and functions relate to each other? Are there any obvious patterns here? Are there any “logjams” where clutter seems to be aggregating? Why? The kitchen, mudroom or front entryway may have a logjam of clutter from people coming in and out of the house. You might notice the “chain of custody” of the items—where did they come from? Can you stop the inflow of new items in some way? If you can’t stop it, can you create a better system to accommodate it?
Frequency: How often do these functions occur and how important are they? If you exercise three times a week, the treadmill has earned its position in the room. If you exercise once or twice a year on that treadmill and otherwise use it to drape clothing over, it probably needs to go. Frequency has a bearing on where you place objects in the room, as well. Frequently used items go in the most accessible spaces.
Professional organizers have other questions and methods that we use to assess spaces, some of which I discuss in my book, The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to start with a little strategy instead of plunging ahead blindly! If you are using other, more unsavory "F words" with regard to your current organizing projects, you can get affordable help from our team of experts online at clutterdiet.com.