The first principle of organizing is not deciding how to store your belongings—it’s deciding whether or not you need all your belongings to start with. First, decide if you really like it or need it, and then part with it if necessary. Once the stuff you don’t need is gone, organize what’s left. Your weekend project will be a lot easier if you have less to put away than you pulled out.
1. Tackle Piles of Paper
Create four piles: Recycle, Shred, File, and Urgent. Sort through any stacks you’ve built up around the house, and dispose or store as needed. Place high-priority bills in an obvious spot, so that you won’t forget about them.
2. Streamline Your Digital Storage
Taking 30 minutes to declutter your home computer will simplify your day-to-day more than you’d think, and the organization process is simple: Either file or delete. You probably have a number of random things saved to your desktop (screenshots, old shipping labels, boarding passes) that can be trashed, and when you curate folders in obvious ways (Kids, Home, Work), you’ll always know where to look for important files.
3. Take On the Fridge & Freezer
If you’re not sure what’s lurking at the back of your refrigerator (like expired condiment bottles and dubious packets of soy sauce), it’s time to address your fridge and freezer compartments. First, throw out the obvious stuff (anything that’s expired or moldy) and consider tossing half-used jars of food that are technically still good, but that you have no plans of cooking with again. In your freezer, trash any freezer-burned food or items stored away for a rainy day—if you haven’t wanted to eat it by this point, it’s just taking up valuable space.
4. Sort and Evaluate Clothing
Take a hard look at your closet. A good closet purge is one that many homeowners avoid, but the methodology is surprisingly simple: If you haven’t worn it in a year—because it doesn’t fit, shows excessive wear and tear, or you just don’t like it that much to start with—you need to either throw it out or give it away. Tackle clothing first, followed by shoes and accessories. Don’t pull everything out of your closet and dump it on your bed to sort; that step can make the project overwhelming, and may make you give up too soon. Just pull things out that you know you don’t want; you’ll be surprised at how quickly your closet gains some breathing room.
5. Donate Items from Kids’ Spaces
Kids’ spaces often contain a multitude of cheap trinkets (hello, fast-food toys)—items that kids play with for a few minutes and discard. Rather than tackling the whole room, plan a quick, no-brainer declutter: Get a cardboard donation box ready, go into your child’s room or playroom, and pull out five to 10 things that you know they don’t play with or don’t like. You can even make it a game with older kids, asking them to help you pick the items to give away to child in need. In no time at all, your kids’ space will suddenly seem a little more streamlined.
6. Check Under your Sinks
Set a timer for 15 minutes, and devote that time to your under-sink areas. There may be a number of things lurking there—empty toilet paper rolls, old makeup, cleaning bottles with a quarter-inch of solution left in them—that you can toss without another thought, instantly freeing up a ton of space.
7. Take Stock of Outdoor Space
Walk around the exterior of your house and see if you can spot anything that just doesn’t need to be there—like a broken hose, a rickety (and unusable) ladder, or a pile of plastic plant containers. Bag smaller items, and carry the rest straight to the curb. You don’t have make big decisions about larger items, like old grills or rusting patio furniture—this is not the time to completely redo your yard—but your yard will instantly feel cleaner without all those smaller pieces of junk cluttering your line of vision.