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Organizing Advice That Didn't Work For Me

organizing method alternatives

It seems that everyone is trying to get organized these days and there is no shortage of advice on how to do it. As a professional organizer I take in a lot of information and ideas so that I can use them in my work with clients. I first try out these ideas myself, and while I’ve found a lot that have been effective a few simply have not been. Here is some expert organizing advice that hasn’t worked for me, along with the alternatives I use instead. Keep in mind that different techniques work for different people, and just because something didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying.

1. Marie Kondo’s folding technique - If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo, the organizing pro from Netflix’s Tidying Up and the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you are probably living under a rock without internet access. Her KonMari method of decluttering has everyone asking if their things "spark joy" and emulating her precise technique for folding clothes. After I read her book I gave my drawers a KonMari makeover by folding everything into tight packages so that they stand upright. The big advantage I found to her technique was that my clothes took up much less space in my drawers. The downside was that unless the folded clothes were tightly packed together they fell over and became less than tidy. Another feature I didn’t like was how wrinkly my clothes came out after being folded this way. The last thing I want to spend my time doing is ironing my t-shirts.

What I do instead: I have found that downsizing my wardrobe considerably has created all the tidiness I need. I use conventional folding methods (all those years working in retail paid off!) but I keep the piles small enough that retrieving an item from the bottom of the stack isn’t too difficult. And I will admit I have retained her folding technique for my socks and undies, since that drawer is full enough to keep everything upright.

2. The Minimalist’s 30-Day Minimalism Game - Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (AKA The Minimalists) are known for their website, books, documentary (on Netflix), and podcast on living a meaningful life with less. One of their techniques for decluttering is something they call the 30-Day Minimalism Game, where you get rid of a single item on day one, two items on day two, and so on for thirty days. They recommend partnering with an organizing buddy to see who can complete more days of the challenge.

Personally I find this method unrealistic for myself and others. By the middle of the month you will need to dedicate a significant amount of time each day to identify 15, 20, or more things to get rid of, and that seems to be setting yourself up for failure. While a challenge should, by definition, be somewhat difficult, it should also be possible to complete it without upending your everyday life.

What I do instead: I’ve developed my own organizing challenge that I’ve been completing twice a year for the last three years. It’s called Five Five Thirty, and the rules are simple:

spend 5 minutes a day get rid of 5 items repeat for 30 days

I have found that it only takes a short amount of time each day to declutter five items and that this is something I can easily tackle alongside my other responsibilities. I do the challenge every April and October and it’s going on right now! You can join me and my private Facebook group while we get rid of the excess at Dare to Declutter!

3. Courtney Carver’s Project 3/33 - Many people have written about capsule wardrobes and Courtney Carver is one of the most well-known. In her version, you select 33 items of clothing including shoes, accessories, and outerwear to make up your complete wardrobe for the next three months. The point of this challenge is to simplify getting dressed every morning and to reduce the overwhelm of having too many options. I love the idea of creating a capsule wardrobe for a single season but I have yet to attempt it.

My hesitation has to do with feeling too limited, particularly with accessories and outerwear. Carver herself advises us to modify the challenge to fit our preferences and lifestyle. I could benefit from letting go of perfectionism and give this a try even if I can't follow her rules to the letter.

What I do instead: I have successfully minimized my wardrobe by reviewing it twice a year and weeding out things I'm not wearing. I limit my hanging clothes to a reasonable number of items that fit into my closet and abide by the 1-in, 1-out rule when I purchase anything new. Limiting the color palette of my wardrobe has also helped me create more outfits with fewer items.

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