What if you could spend a weekend organizing and decluttering to give yourself some peace?
Organizing your life is often done to de-stress and have a more manageable home and life, but the process of organizing itself can feel really overwhelming. This is especially true if you’ve lived with chaos a long time and you don’t know where to start. But don’t worry, we’re going to talk about ways to do it slowly and methodically to avoid stress during the process.
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Declutter First, Then Organize
A common mistake people make when they are trying to become more organized is not decluttering first. You have to declutter and throw items away before you can ever organize spaces in your home. Otherwise, you will end up trying to organize things that you don’t even want or need. In addition, leaving things cluttered costs you in ways you haven't considered.
Start with obvious trash first, followed by whatever is causing clutter and you know you want to sell or donate. You can then eventually get to organizing what you know you want to keep.
Remember, we’re talking about small jobs—weekend organizing and decluttering. Don’t look at your whole house and try to declutter everything at once. The second half of this post has suggestions for what you can probably finish in a weekend without stress.
Don’t Force Yourself to Part with Sentimental Items (Yet)
One of the biggest problems I had with my kids when they were young was trying to give away toys that they no longer played with. They would look through the shelves, find a toy they forgot about and then insist that they would in fact play with it again. They couldn’t part with something they had such fond memories of.
You will eventually want to deal with memorable items and more sentimental belongings, but you don’t need to worry about that just yet. In fact, this should really be the last step after everything else is organized. Once you have a good routine of decluttering and keeping everything tidy, then you can sort the sentimental items.
It can be really stressful when you feel pressured to part with items that mean so much to you. This really should be one of the last things you deal with when it comes to organization. When it came to my kids, I would move those toys that I knew we were ready to get rid of to higher shelves and let them sit there for a while. If my kids never asked for them, I donated them. Your sentimental items are the same. You don’t have to get rid of things that truly have meaning to you, but we all hold onto many items just because they’ve been in our lives for so long.
Give Yourself Time and Space to Get it All Done
Stop trying to organize your entire home over a weekend or a day off. Even though the title of this post is about organizing in a weekend, I would never suggest trying to get it all done at once. That would be a recipe for frustration and ultimately giving up. A weekend is not enough time to get everything done.
In the beginning, the organization process takes quite a bit of time, even just decluttering. Do you have time to go through every drawer, every closet, every shelf, and every cupboard? Do you have time to sort: throw things away, figure out what to donate or recycle, and then go to the donation drop-off site? Finally, you also have to think about how to put everything back and keep it organized.
Probably not. You are overwhelming and stressing yourself out by trying to do too much. That’s why I’m giving you a specific list of ideas that should be doable in a weekend.
Start With Areas You Use Most Often
When it’s time to start an organization project, begin with the areas you use most often. This will be the most impactful from the get-go and will make implementing a routine of keeping things organized easier. Think about the common areas of your home, like your kitchen, family room, and entryway. Start with these areas. Organize them. Focus on keeping these areas organized first before you move on to the more difficult projects, like the garage or basement.
Use Printables to Simplify and Track
You can also use different types of printables in a binder that help you to simplify the organization process and help you track your to-do lists. This is another way to have a routine, as you have a binder full of printables that help to keep you on track. In my shop, I have an organization and decluttering journal and planner. There are printables for just about everything, but here are some to start with:
- Notes pages
- To-do list pages
- Cleaning schedule
- Cleaning lists
- Organizing lists – based on the area of your home
- Items to donate
- Items to throw away
- Items to keep and store
- Organizational items to purchase
Specific Tasks You Can Do Over a Weekend
Tackling big organizing projects can feel really overwhelming, not just in choosing how to do it, but how to find the time and energy.
However, there are many smaller organizing tasks you can complete during the weekend. There is no need to do this during the week when you already have enough on your plate. Choose a day or weekend when you have some time off. Use a long holiday weekend or a staycation to accomplish this.
Clean Out Your Refrigerator and Freezer
This is the perfect organizational task to do over the weekend. Doing this before you go grocery shopping or plan your meals for the week is very convenient. You get rid of expired food and can also write down ingredients you have as you start working on your meal plan and grocery list at the same time.
If you do this more often than a couple of times a year, it will take less time. If you can do this monthly it will make the task go faster each time. Doing this on the weekend will allow you time to remove everything and clean inside the refrigerator and freezer, including shelves, drawers, and doors.
Once everything is cleaned, organize it in a way that makes the most sense to you. Remember it's not just about how it looks, but also how it functions. Pretty won’t help if it frustrates you when you try to get the things you need often. If pretty works, great, but functionality is more important.
Organize Under Your Bathroom Sink
The weekend is also a good time to organize under the sink in your bathroom. This tends to get cluttered with toilet paper, hair styling products, cleaning products, and the random items you store there. If you haven’t organized this area of your bathroom in a while, this is a great time to take advantage of having a little bit of time to focus on it.
The good news is that this area is small and very easy to organize. You can get it done in less than an hour, and it doesn't cost anything, aside from possibly some organizing bins. Take everything out of all of the cabinets and then sort by use. It’s hard to organize things when similar items might be found in more than one place.
Grouping things together will allow you to have an accurate picture of what you have. Then you can decide what will fit where. Then, you can get a few baskets or bins if that makes sense, but buying the bins before you know what you have usually puts you in a position of making things fit instead of creating a usable system.
Organize Your Pantry and Cupboards
An excellent weekend organization project is with your pantry and food cupboards. This is another area often overlooked because you really only open those cabinet doors when you need to get food or put it away. The next time you have a free afternoon on Saturday or Sunday, take some time going through your cupboards and food pantry.
Just like with the bathroom cabinets, you need to start by pulling everything out. This might be a bit more overwhelming than the bathroom because you probably have many more cabinets in your kitchen. Not only can you throw away old and expired food, but you will discover a lot of food you probably forgot about.
This happens on a regular basis to people who struggle with executive functioning or ADHD. You don’t know if you have something you need because you didn’t check the cabinet before you went shopping, so you buy more and then you have a bunch stocked up and falling all over the place. Or you bought one specific item for a recipe and then never made the recipe, so the ingredient was forgotten.
This is a fact of your life. We can try to change it by building new routines for shopping, but sometimes, it will still happen. I suggest that once you empty the cabinets and throw out all the old stuff, group similar items together, just like you did for the bathroom. How you group them only needs to make sense to you. Therefore, you don’t have to put all canned goods together if it makes more sense to you to put all red food together. Do what will work for your brain.
You can then organize what you are keeping, by using a combination of bins, baskets, and can organizers. I am also going to suggest you get a small list and tape it inside the cabinet door. This will be especially useful for lower cabinets or deep cabinets that you cannot easily see to the back of. Just keep a note for yourself about what’s in that cabinet. If you want to get super specific, you can also keep count of how many of each item. This will help you to know when you’re running low on something.
Declutter Your Closets
When was the last time you organized your closets? It has probably been a while. If you have a free weekend, this is a great project to get done. Typically, it starts with decluttering, as closets tend to be the area where you collect items that don’t really have a designated place.
Pull everything out of your closet and sort it into keeping, throwing away, and donating. We’ve all heard the Marie Condo way—if it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it. I’m not a spark joy kind of person. I ask, “When was the last time I wore this?” If it’s been over 6 months (maybe a year), why do I still have it? This doesn’t mean you have to get rid of something. I have some clothes I pretty much only wear when I go to conferences. If it still fits me and I like it, I’ll keep it a while longer—at least until the next conference. If I don’t wear it then, it’s gone.
Once you have sorted everything, you can then put the trash and donating piles into bags to be dealt with later, and organize what is going back into your closet. When you see everything out on your bed or floor, it is easier to choose an organizational system that makes sense for your closet.
Go Through Mail and Paperwork
If you don’t have a Sunday routine where you go through the mail and other paperwork, then at least schedule a bit of time during one weekend a month to do this. Mail can pile up very fast, especially with letters and bills you don’t need to open right away. Get a shredder at home so that you can dispose of mail you don’t need to keep. The rest can be filed away so that you are able to reference it in the future at any time. Once you have a system in place for mail, going through it once a week will become a quick job that only lasts minutes.
Clean Out the Junk Drawer
Lastly, the weekend is a good time to clean out junk drawers in your home. These are often in the kitchen, as you need a place for all the random objects, like tape, batteries, scissors, pens, notepads, and other odds-and-ends. If you have a junk drawer, try to go through it when you have some free time over the weekend, to remove items you no longer need and just make it a little cleaner. If you have multiple junk drawers (no shame here), this job might take multiple weekends. That’s okay. Use the same process for each drawer.
Remove the contents. Get rid of trash and thing you no longer use. Then group by use or type. Once you know what you have, you can decide if it’s going to stay in the drawer and how you will store it.
Create a Declutter/Organization Routine
The final step is to create a routine where you declutter regularly and keep up with maintaining your organization. Again, this is about taking baby steps if you want to avoid becoming too overwhelmed. The routine won’t begin until you go through those initial stages of decluttering, cleaning, and organizing.
The routine itself depends on your lifestyle and what your schedule looks like. Check out this post that will give you additional ideas about how to create a routine. To begin, consider carving out a few minutes each day to just do a couple of small tasks. This might be in the afternoon before picking your kids up from school, evenings after dinner is cleaned up, or early in the morning. Take advantage of these quiet moments to do a few minutes of organizing.