The Transition Network

New York City Chapter

Getting Organized - Taking The First Steps

(Posted March 1, 2018)

Getting Organized - Taking The First Steps

By Sharon Lowenheim
When people learn that I am a Certified Professional Organizer®, the response is usually, “Boy, I could really use you!” It’s a universal feeling that the things we own are taking over our lives. (Even I feel that way sometimes). The longer you live, the more stuff you accumulate.

When you are ready to regain control, what are the most important steps to take?

1.   Start small

Do you feel overwhelmed by the size of your organizing problem? You may not know where to start. The Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Pick a small area –one cabinet, or one corner of a room, or one shelf in a closet – and start there. Don’t move on to another area until that one is done.

2.   The best time to get organized is now

Many people say that they will get organized when they have a completely free weekend, or when they can take a few days off from work. There are several problems with this approach. One is that it postpones getting started. Another is that higher priority tasks always crop up, and the seemingly free block of time rarely ends up being used exclusively for organizing. Plus, spending a full weekend organizing can be exhausting! It’s better to start in small increments -- an evening here, a few weekend hours there.

3.  Buy organizing products last

Stores like The Container Store and Bed, Bath & Beyond are full of great organizing products. However, buying organizing products should be the last step, not the first. The best organizing products in the world will not solve your organizing issues – they will just add to your clutter. Start by sorting the different types of items to be organized, and getting rid of what you no longer need. Next, decide how you are going to organize what’s left, and where you are going to keep it. Measure how much stuff needs to be stored. Only then are you ready to start shopping for organizing products.

4.  Stay focused on decision-making

Clutter, it has been said, is the result of postponed decisions. The process of getting organized is thus one of decision-making. However, some people get distracted from making decisions and start reading through unread papers or going down memory lane while reviewing photo albums. It is important to stay focused while organizing. Items that need detailed review in order for decisions to be made should be put aside in a “Review” pile and dealt with at another time.

5.  Eliminate the phrase “just in case”

We all know the frustration of throwing something away and then regretting it later because you suddenly find the perfect use for it. To compensate, we then save too many items, “just in case”. However, the amount of storage space taken up by those “just in case” items – which will most likely never be used again -- far outweighs the inconvenience of having to rebuy things that we have discarded in error. Unless you can think of a use for something right now, let it go.

Sharon Lowenheim, MBA, MSE, is a Certified Professional Organizer® and owner of Organizing Goddess®, Inc., in New York City.  "Organizing with Ivy League polish and a New York attitude" since 2006, she has taught organizing skills to actors, accountants, business coaches, consultants, designers, doctors, entrepreneurs, financial advisers, health and fitness professionals, homemakers, insurance agents, lawyers, photographers, programmers, retirees, salespeople, social workers, students, writers, teachers, tour guides, and others.

She can be contacted by e-mail at or by phone at (212) 510-7823. Visit Sharon on the web at

Material from, 16:35:59 July 26, 2021.
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