It's Time to Go

by Lou Anne Dunn

January is more than just the fresh start of a new year and a chance to leave behind things that haven’t served us well. It’s also Get Organized (GO) Month, as it’s known in the organizing industry. If you have felt the stress and chaos of disorganization in the past and vowed to do something about it in the future, it’s now GO time.

Why do so many people suffer from disorganization? For some, it’s not yet a big enough problem to make a priority. For others, it’s because they’ve never been taught to organize and the thought of getting started is overwhelming. And plenty of people believe that because they aren’t organized, and never really have been, that they never will be. This just isn’t true. Anyone can learn to organize with the right tools.

I feel as though I was born with an innate ability to organize, and I now do it professionally. As such, my most important role in teaching organizational skills is to employ a set of trusted principles I’ve learned through training with the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). Both organizations educate people about disorganization and help provide resources to overcome it.

It is easier to take on an organizational challenge when you know the benefits that await. Research has shown that organizing your home can benefit your physical and mental health, increase your productivity and creativity, and positively impact your finances. Organization can be life-changing. With that in mind, let’s see if we can get you ready to GO.

Before you begin, realize that your disorganization most likely will not cured overnight. You will have to build your “organizing muscle” in much the same way you would commit to a fitness program at a gym. This process takes time, so be kind to yourself. Remember, the real goal of organization is to be able to find what you need, when you need it, without stress. 

When tackling your first organizational task, I suggest starting small with something like a “junk drawer”. Schedule a time when you can focus on doing this, and when that time comes, turn on your favorite music, take a deep breath and follow the principles outlined below: 

Like Items Together

Simply separate contents into similar categories. When organizing a junk drawer, for example, you may find pencils, tape, glue, batteries, cords, restaurant menus, keys, medications, buttons, and a host of other odds and ends. This is an exercise in sorting and eliminating. Once you have all the drawer’s items sorted into categories, throw away the things that are broken or no longer useful, such as dried-up pens, expired medications, etc.

Store it Where You Use It 

Once you’ve separated the contents into categories, ask yourself where you use the items that remain. If, for example, you typically need cords in a particular area of the house, that area is where they should be kept. Don’t worry about their exact home yet, just move them to where they will be most utilized. You will assign that space soon enough.

One In, One Out 

This is a simple principle to understand, but a tough technique to follow. It is exactly as it sounds: If you bring something home, let something go. This applies to most items in your home, especially clothing. A good motto is, “win the war in the store.” While shopping, consider what you are buying, and why, and ask yourself which item will be replaced by your new purchase. Once you get home, remove for donation (or discard entirely) the old item, but get it out of the house immediately! Your space doesn’t grow to meet your shopping habits, so this principle allows you to enjoy a little retail therapy as well as an organized home.

Pareto Principle (The 80/20 Rule) 

This principle is not necessarily one you need to put into practice, but one of which you should be aware. Originally applicable in Economics (but also now in the organizational realm), this rule suggests that individuals “use 20% of their belongings 80% of the time”. Let that sink in for a minute. This means you have a lot of stuff that stays tucked away in cabinets, closets and garages waiting to be used “someday”, but perhaps you never do. Keep this in mind as you approach each organizing project.

Lou Anne Dunn is the owner of Neatly Dunn Professional Organizing in Greenville, NC. To discuss your organizational needs, contact Lou Anne at or call
252-341-2437. For more about home organization and Lou Anne’s Transformation Through Organization workshop,