As an organizer, I've pretty much seen it all. I mean that I literally see everyone's stuff...all of it. I also mean that I've seen every kind of situation, from hoarders to moms that would probably be more organized than me if they only had the time.
Although every situation and client is different, I have a basic 3-step process that I use with every single client. It's a no fail equation that will at the very least provide the structure and foundation for any organizing task, big or small. Are you ready for it? I know I have you on the edge of your seat...
Step 1: Sort - Find similar items and put them together in piles, or at least keep them near one another. Physically move the items so things that go together are near each other, which may mean allocating different parts of the room for different kinds of items.
Example: All the old bank statements that you need to shred in one paper bag, all the Better Homes and Gardens issues that you plan to recycle in another bag, items to donate by the front door, and items to be recycled in a small garbage can under the sink.
No matter the size of the room or house you're working in, or the items you're sorting, this step is integral. This step is also commonly mistaken for "making a bigger mess," however I can promise you that it's necessary and you will get the job done much faster this way! Trust me. By the end of this step, you should be looking at a bigger mess than what you had before, and that's what we want.
Step 2: Plan - Now that you have your piles, sections and/or areas for similar items, it's time to go back over each area and decide how you plan to allocate those items. Trash, shredding and recycling usually take care of most of it. However, the leftovers will probably be things to donate, or things you plan to sell or give to the neighbor you have that likes to keep everyone else's stuff.
Depending on the scope of things, you may also have a fairly large pile of random items that go other places in the house (especially if you have children), and those things can also be refined into even smaller piles according to which room they actually belong.
Step 3: Relocate - Now it's time to take action! This is the rewarding part. This is the purge. Go back over your items again by category and start distributing them to the proper places. Laundry to the laundry room, recycling to your designated bin, donation to the Goodwill, etc.
This part can be a little time consuming, and again it depends on how much stuff you have, but stick it out until everything has been distributed to its proper place and there are no more piles remaining.
This is your crowning glory! Soak it in, congrtulate yourself, maybe get a little ice cream to say "good job" and then do it all over again in another room or with another project. Before you know it, you'll have Peter Walsh level skills, and you'll be equipped to deal with any kind of clutter or mess.
Like I said, if you adapt this 3-step process to anything you're working on, it will become far less overwhelming, it will be much easier to control, and you will find it to be far more efficient than just taking it one item at a time. However, I always tell everyone to be creative with it and find out what works for you!
Want to find even more organizing tips, tricks and tutorials? Check out Jen's iHeart Organizing blog. I won't even pretend like she isn't the queen of organizing! Browse her blog for a little while and I have no doubt you will also be inspired to start a new project ASAP.