I’m not talking about one of those 12-piece children’s puzzles but one with 1,000, 2,000 or 5,000 pieces.
Imagine now how much more challenging that puzzle would be to assemble if you’d lost the box it came in and you didn’t know what the final image was supposed to look like.
Now try assembling that puzzle knowing that several puzzle pieces of different puzzles got mixed in together.
Lastly, consider that puzzle, once assembled, is actually supposed to do something for you. Not just sit pretty on a table.
Get the picture?
Can you see why you may be feeling puzzled by organizing?
Organizing a room, any room, whether it be a basement, a bathroom a bedroom or a broom closet is like assembling that mega-piece puzzle.
So stop beating yourself up because you haven’t been able to get organized. There’s a reason. It’s not easy and it takes time!
Here are the steps you’ll have to go through to get the puzzle assembled.
Envision the result. Get a picture in your mind of what you’d like the final puzzle image to look like. This is as much about functionality as it is about aesthetic.
What do you want to be able to do in this space that you can’t do now?
What would you enjoy about this space if it were organized and uncluttered in the way you envision?
What’s essential? And by essential, I mean what has to stay in the room for you to do what you want to do there?
Don’t consider the non-essential items just yet. That comes later.
Sort the puzzle pieces. In the context of a room, that means figuring out what you have. In a cluttered room, items appear to blend together. That’s because our brains are working harder to distinguish one item from the next. That’s also why it can feel so overwhelming to get organized.
When you are dealing with hundreds if not thousands of pieces, this can take time but it’s the easiest part of the process because all you’re doing is sorting. Sort by type not by how you use it. For example, if you have 5 pairs of scissors group them together vs. “the scissors I use for wrapping gifts” or “the scissors I use for crafts.” This only makes the process more complicated.
Resist the urge to purge. You don’t need to make any decisions yet. And you shouldn’t because it will only slow you down.
Identify which pieces belong to the puzzle. Now that you are surrounded by like piles of puzzle pieces you’ll be able to see and more importantly decide which of the pieces don’t belong.
The key here is to only keep items that you use, enjoy or support the function of that space. Don’t be tempted to keep things because you “might” make use of them some day.
As you purge or decide to part with items, get them into a box if they belong elsewhere but don’t move them yet. Wait till after you’ve sorted your space. If you think your friend Jane could use it, put a label on it that says “call Jane” and set it aside. Don’t call her now. Try not to make this a barrier to your process. Get everything you’ve decided to donate or dispose of out of the room as quickly as possible. This will help you move on to the next step.
What’s left should only be the things that fit with your “image” of what you want your room to be and do for you.
Do you want a den where you can read your favorite books and watch your favorite movies?
Do you want a basement where you can do your laundry, make simple household repairs and store and find your seasonal items quickly when you need them?
Do you want a home office where you can do your work without visual distractions and feel productive at the same time?
Remove the extraneous pieces. If there are pieces – that is objects – that don’t fit with your picture, then strongly consider letting them go. What’s the point of keeping a puzzle with pieces from another puzzle? That’s like trying to connect puzzle pieces that don’t even belong together.
Once you have all the right pieces, now it’s time to assemble them.
Determine the location for each piece and the best way to hold the pieces in place. Just as you would with a regular jigsaw puzzle the pieces need to fit the space as well as each other. The “best fit” is determined both by what function it serves in the larger puzzle, and whether it “fits” you and your habits.
I had a client who was on the petite side. She had this fancy hanging pot rack she got as a gift. Every time she cooked, which was often, she would have to climb up on to a step-stool to reach the pot she needed. The rack may be a nice way to organize pots for some situations but not if you can’t reach them or worse, risk falling every time you go to make dinner.
Contain and maintain the puzzle. Once the entire puzzle is assembled, it actually becomes whole. It’s as if all the edges, tabs and grooves of the puzzle pieces have melded together to form one three-dimensional space.
Over time you can accommodate new pieces – provided they replace older one’s that have lost value and meaning. Otherwise your puzzle starts to break down and you’ll quickly find yourself back where you started.
No longer a pile of pieces, your completed space now reveals the image of what you had intended; Your efficient kitchen, productive home office, peaceful bedroom, organized closet. You have transformed the puzzle into a place to live, work, relax and enjoy. You have solved your puzzle.