Non-Conventional Organizing Techniques For The Rest Of Us

• Do you find that you have difficulty getting started on an organizing project?
• Wish you had a magic wand that could make it all tidy?
• Do you read organizing books and try to follow all the steps and it just doesn’t seem to work?

Perhaps those “traditional” ways of organizing like: thinking logically and linearly; breaking things down into steps; de-personalizing things and working on your own just don’t work for you.

I would like to share eight “non-traditional” ways of organizing from one of the gurus in the organizing industry, my colleague and author, Judith Kolberg.

“Muttering Game”:

When working on papers in particular, pay attention to what you say outloud while going through the papers. Some mutterings are: “I HAVE GOT TO CALL THESE PEOPLE!” (Returning phone calls) “Keep the lights on!” (Bills to pay), “Get smarter” (things to read), “This may come back to haunt me” (annoying things-that will be great to be done), “Why can’t I find this when I need it” (things you are always looking for), “If I win the lottery” (future purchases.) Then make your file names your “mutterings” rather than the boring labels of “Calls/Bills/Read/To do.”

Treasure Hunting:

When you are not sure where to start in a cluttered area, stand at the doorway and look around. Pull things that you know right away that you definitely want to keep, or definitely live somewhere else, or definitely need to be donated or definitely is trash. Bag up the donations and trash.

Friends, Acquaintances, Strangers:

Pull together a bunch of like items (bags, t-shirts, books, mugs) and spread them out on a counter, table or something waist high. First select all your “friends”- the best of the best and then put them away or back where they live. Next select the “strangers” –items you know you will never wear/use or didn’t remember you had- go with your gut on this. Put them in a donate bag or trash depending on the condition and get them ready to exit right now. You are left with the “acquaintances” – these things come in and out of your life and not staying too long- donate or put them in a “ponder” box for a week. Come back to them and make a decision.

Body Doubling:

Invite a friend over who is non-judgmental and can keep their mouth shut.  Ask them to physically be in the space when you are de-cluttering/sorting an area. They will act as your assistant. You make the decision and ask them to put the item in the proper place. Whether it is the “donate” box, the “lives somewhere else” box, the trash bag or back in it’s “home.” Just by having someone with you, will keep you accountable, motivated and focused.


To eliminate distracting clutter, put sheets over the areas of the room that you don’t want to see. Work only on the area that is exposed. For example, cover the bed, desk and floor leaving the dresser exposed. Sort the items on the dresser only.

Set up an immediate reward:

Plan a fun activity immediately following an irritating task. For example- pay some bills and then peruse Pinterest for 20 minutes. Use a timer or the time will escape you!

One-Minute Wonder:

Anyone can do something for a minute. Ideas: collect all the dirty cups and put them in the dishwasher, pick up all the magazines and put them in the recycling or fold one basket of laundry. Just getting started is often just what it takes.

Create a Crisis:

Invite people over so that you are more motivated to get things sorted and cleared. Sign up for the summer rummage sale and work toward that deadline.

My hope is that you try one or more of these techniques and find that your organizing efforts are more fun and more effective. Want to share your successes with me? Write a quick e-mail to Lynne at


Lynne Poulton is a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®), Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD®), Level II Hoarding Specialist and Owner of Wholly Organized!® LLC. Lynne partners with people of all ages to address the physical and emotional clutter in their lives to make room for what matters most.