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Organizing From the Inside Out

Organizing From the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life. Julie Morgenstern.
Henry Holt & Company, Incorporated, September 1998, 247 pages.

Why do you want to declutter, to get organized? To waste less time finding things? To spend more time with your family doing what you enjoy? To save the money you spend purchasing duplicates? To find what you really enjoy having but haven't seen for a while? Decluttering isn't about throwing things away. It is about giving yourself access to things you love.

Julie has steps to follow along the road of organization/decluttering. They are easy to remember with the acronym SPACE.

  • S for Sort
  • P for Purge
  • A for Assign a home
  • C for Containerize
  • E for Equalize

Start small. Pick a bookcase or top of the television. Pick something visible, not boxes under the bed or things in cupboards.

Start out by observing what is working among your chaos. Is the rest of your kitchen a disaster but your spices in perfect order? Why? Is there better lighting over your spice drawer? Do you alphabetize? Do you group spices for their use? Do you just plain like your spice rack and enjoy putting them away? Why does it work for you? Can you apply that answer to the trouble spots? Keep those thoughts in mind as you work with your space.

Go through everything in your chosen area to see what's there (sort). Why are certain things piled there? Is it more convenient there than somewhere else? Do you have duplicates? Trash? Things that belong elsewhere?

Next, purge unnecessary items. Throw away trash. If items belong elsewhere, move them to the area they belong but (and this is critical) do not take the time to declutter that area before finishing this one! You can assign a specific home when you organize that space. If you have extra items, perhaps you could give them to a local charity shop, or sell them at the flea market or a yard sale. I guarantee there are people in need of your excess items and will bless you for it!

After purging items, assign a home. Decide where you are going to put items in your space. Naturally, this depends a great deal on the amount of room you have. Depending on what it is, you will probably need to measure it to make sure it can fit. Put things where they make sense to you.

Next, containerize. If it needs to go in some sort of container, use your measurements to determine the size of the container. Pick something you LIKE and that is easy to use (this is very important!). I think this is where knowing why your successful spots are working helps you the most.

Julie's term equalize is an odd one. Essentially, it requires you to quickly put things in their home at the end of the day. Occasionally, you need to evaluate to make sure your organization is working.

Julie's book and video are much better than my brief message at explaining the details of her system. I urge you to give it a try.


Organizing is the process by which we create environments that enable us to live, work and relax exactly as we want to. When we are organized, our homes, offices and schedules reflect and encourage who we are, what we want, and where we are going. ~ Julie Morgenstern, Organizing From the Inside Out

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On the suggestion of some people here, I bought Julia Morgenstern's book, "Organizing from the Inside Out". I read most of it (the pertinent parts, anyhow) yesterday, and all I can say is WOW. She makes it sound so freakin' EASY and SENSIBLE!!! I had no idea.

For those of you who haven't read it, her main theory is that you have to plan out your organizing strategy BEFOREHAND to set yourself up for success. She uses the model of a KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM. She said in a kindergarten room, all the stations are set up as self contained units with the appropriate-sized storage containers and homes for all items. For instance, at the paint station, there are jugs of paint underneath the easels, jars on the easel, jars big enough to hold all the brushes and hooks for the smocks. When a teacher tells the kids to clean up, the five year old KNOW that the brushes go in the jar, the smocks on the hooks. It was PLANNED beautifully.

She says that you must organize a room at a time, and when strategizing, you should work with what you have and WHO YOU ARE. If you are the type of person who reads while watching teevee, you should have a magazine rack or bookshelf BY the couch. You shouldn't have to walk across the room to put things back, when they most frequently wind up in a different place. Make the home for that place where is usually is.

BRILLIANT! Who knew it was that easy?

She also tells you as a preliminary exercise to look at WHAT'S RIGHT in your home. Even squalorees have usually one system that works for them. If something is working, she says think about why, and try and repeat that system. For instance, one woman in the book had a disastrous closet, but the belts were all hung neatly. That was because there were as many hooks as there were belts, and it was on the door and in a lit area. The idea was to light up the rest of her closet and have as many cubbies and hooks and hangers as there were items. BRILLIANT.

Reviewer: JojoP