8 Steps to Organization in the New Year

Posted by Amanda Nowak on 2nd Jan 2015

I was never big on ‘Spring’ Cleaning. Living in Wisconsin, Spring is the time I actually want to get out of the house and not be confined to my basement. I’ve found that the weeks surrounding January 1 are a great time to do a major purge and clean. It makes sense, everyone is in the spirit of fresh starts and paring down. You probably got lots of new items for the holidays that replace something else or have filled up your storage spaces a little too much. For those of us who live in areas that are freakishly cold or snow covered in January it’s the perfect time to turn up the heat and some fun music to get things done! Here are my steps to do your own New Year’s Cleaning for a more organized New Year:

1. Make a Plan 

Before I start my clean, I make a plan. If I don’t, I start in one area and end up sitting in another room reading my old yearbooks for hours with my bulging closet still staring me in the face. I take a notebook and walk from room to room, listing out all the areas that I know need to be cleaned, purged, or reorganized. This year my list looks something like this:

Living Room

  • Organize bar cart & purge glassware


  • Purge medications 
  • Organize health & beauty products 
  • Deep clean


  • Purge storage area 
  • Donate items 
  • Post items on Craigslist

2. Sort 

Once I have a plan, I start in one area and don’t move from that area until it is complete. I use 4 ‘vessels’ (boxes or bags) clearly labeled “Trash”, “Donate”, “Sell”, and “Relocate”. I tell you to clearly label because I once started putting garbage in the donate bag and it was a mess to clean up! The first three are obvious, the 4th vessel “Relocate” is what keeps you from sitting in another room reading your yearbooks. If anything goes in another room or another floor it goes in this box so you don’t leave and get sidetracked. Items you keep in the room just stay in the room, no need to have another vessel when the items are just staying put.

3. Clean 

Now that you have removed all extra items from the room, it is time to clean! And yes, I want you to do this before you organize. Putting books back on dusty shelves does no one any good. I use a little cleaning caddy and fill it with dust rags, paper towels, multipurpose cleaner, and any preferred cleaning products. Again, you do not want to have to leave the room if you don’t have to! This time of year, you should also be conscious of your cleaners and which ones require ventilation. Try to use more natural products (baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice) or make sure you have the bathroom fan on or a window cracked. Like my mom always told me, clean top to bottom so that you’re not cleaning anything twice.

4. Organize 

Look at what you have left in the room that needs to be put back together. If you have bins or containers in your house to use for this, great. If not, just make clear piles on the floor. Put like with like, thinking as specifically or as generally as you want. For example, in my bathroom I have a shelf with 3 general bins, one for hair (styling products, headbands, curling irons), one for face (face wash, moisturizer, masks), and one for body (lotion, razors, soap). In my office I have bins for binder clips, stationary, and printer paper-very specific. In my closet, I order my clothing by sleeve length and within sleeve length by color. This way I do not end up buying 5 black long sleeve t-shirts. When like things live together, they are easier to find.

JUNK DRAWERS AND ‘MISCELLANEOUS’ BOXES ARE NOT ALLOWED. If you have one of these it means you are not done organizing. These waste your time when you need to find the items in them. I grew up with a junk drawer, and I could never find anything I needed in less than 5 minutes.

5. Shop 

This is when you can decide what you need to purchase. Like is with like, so you know what items need a container and what size. This is why I say don’t purchase any containers until this point. If you go out and buy pretty containers before you know what you have, you will end up with a pile of pretty containers in the corner of your basement. If you cleaned out your sock drawer and are now left with only holiday socks, you should probably go buy a pack of regular white so you can go to the gym tomorrow. This is not permission to go crazy and fill your house back up with things you don’t need! This is to get everything put away and make sure you have what you need for your life to function.

6. Label

Wherever there are boxes or bins where you cannot see inside, LABEL. Again, you can be as general or as specific as possible, but I tend to err on the side of specificity. Labeling boxes “Christmas Decorations” is fine, but I will usually add a label below detailing what is in that particular box (tree ornaments, gift bags). My husband does this at his catering company. Any bins he brings to an event will have the general description (Cleaning Bin) with a more specific description below (sanitizer, towels, dish soap). This saves him from employees looking through 10 bins and asking him, “Where are the towels?”

7. Follow Up 

Take the trash out. Take items to donate to their final destination. Post more valuable items on Amazon, Craigslist, or eBay. Also set a reminder on your calendar a week in the future to check on unsold items to see if there is a better way to position them or if you need to lower the price. If items don’t sell within the month it is time to donate and get them out!

8. ENJOY! 

Enjoy your clean, organized home! Especially enjoy all of the free time you will have now that you know where everything is!

Photo credit: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/