Book Review: Organizing From The Inside Out


This week at TLD we’re reviewing organizing guru, Julie Morgenstern’s, “Organizing From the Inside Out” book. Here’s our top 5 takeaways:

1. Common Misperceptions:

Julie starts off the book by mentioning misconceptions of organizing, which includes many things I’ve heard my clients tell me before:

  • Organizing is a talent

  • It is impossible to stay organized

  • Organizing is a non-productive use of time

With this book, Julie shares how we all have the ability to be organized – and stay organized by providing us with strategies and techniques including how to organize room by room.

2. What does it mean to organize “from the inside out”?

You do you: the main point of organizing from the inside out versus organizing from the outside in, is it forces you to look at the big picture while focusing on your specific needs, goals and what is important to you. If you organize from the outside in, you are diving straight into the clutter without assessing what is most important to you, what works and does not work for you, etc.

3. Where do we begin?

Julie breaks down organizing into 3 basic steps (click each one below):

Analyze: Figure out what is/is not working for you. Ask yourself “What is holding you back from organizing?” As millionaire matchmaker, Patti Stanger, always asks- why love now? Why do you want to start organizing now? What are the roadblocks that keep you from getting and staying organized? Lastly, analyze what is important to you – do you need to have a command center in your kitchen? Is it essential to keep all hairspray until you find THE one that keeps your hair from frizzing? Take this time seriously as a way to lay the foundation and set your goals for organizing so you don’t end up right back here in a few months.

Strategize: Now that you know where you are coming from, think about the different zones within your living space. Let’s take a field trip back to kindergarten. Remember how classrooms were divided into zones? Puzzle table, craft area, cubbies for backpacks. Think about your living space divided into zones. Julie calls this her Secret Weapon #1: Kindergarten Model, a way of finding zones of organization. The purpose of creating zones allows you to focus on one activity at a time, with all of the correct items stored within their zone or home.

When strategizing, define your zones:

  • Activity: Major activities that go on in the space you are organizing

  • Supplies: List all supplies needed to perform each activity

  • Storage Unit: Storage units needed to store the supplies in each zone

Let’s give an example. Perhaps you have the “prep” zone in your kitchen, where you prepare your food that you are about to cook. You might also have a “chill” zone in your living room – a space where you can relax and unwind. Within the zones that you make, see what supplies are a part of that zone. In your kitchen prep zone you might have your cutting boards, knives, peelers and in your relaxation zone you might find all of your remotes, TV guide and books. Once you sort out the items or supplies that need to be in your zone, think about how you are going to store them in designated drawers, baskets or bins. Will they be hidden or exposed? Once you have your zones figured out, you are ready for the next step.

Attack: Now we get to the fun part – ATTACK!!!! Time to kick your rear into gear! This can be the most overwhelming part, but Julie has done a great job of simplifying the organizing process. She uses an acronym titled SPACE.

S – SORT: Gather all of the items that you are going to organize into categories – perhaps it’s all of your clothes, bathroom items, kitchen utensils. If you find these categories to be too overwhelming get more detailed – shirts, toothbrushes, spatulas.

P – PURGE: My personal favorite part – get rid of all of the excess! There is no need to have 10 spatulas or 40 pairs of tights. Be honest with yourself, Julie mentions the 80/20 rule: when applying this rule to clothing, it means that we wear 20% of our things 80% of the time.

A – ASSIGN A HOME: Figure out the space where all of your TV remotes should live. In this instance, we would want the TV remotes to be in close proximity to the TV they are used for but more so where you sit to watch the TV because that’s where you’ll be using them.

C – CONTAINERIZE: This step is what some people have the most fun with – identifying how you’re going to store your items. Once you know where your TV remotes should live in the living room, are you going to contain them in a basket or bin? Perhaps there is a drawer where they can live.

E – EQUALIZE: Now that all of your hard work is done, take a step back and look at the space you just organized. Ask yourself “does it make sense?” Revisit your organized space every so often and do any maintenance required. Organizing is a work in progress, there is always something that can be switched, fixed and improved upon.

4. How long is this going to take?

Many clients ask us how long a space is going to take to get organized. It is often hard to say especially without ever seeing the space, what is there, and what systems are currently in place. Julie talks about her Secret Weapon #2: Estimate the time. Julie says people are often not realistic about the time it will take to organize a space which leads to us giving up. She says that most rooms take 1-1.5 days per room, offices take 2-3 days, bathrooms and small closets can take a few hours. Keep in mind that all spaces are different and that often times the organizing process depends on how quickly you can make decisions as to what you are keeping versus purging. Julie suggests setting enough time aside in your schedule to complete the project and putting that time into your calendar to show your commitment.

5. Motivation Sheet

Create a dream board on a piece of paper or on Pinterest to provide yourself with constant inspiration. Include the reasons why you want to get organized so you don’t lose site of your goals. Is it to be more productive, spend more quality time with your family, or to not drive yourself crazy constantly looking for things?

If you are looking for an organizing guide, we definitely suggest “Organizing from the Inside Out” to be on your reading list. Keep in mind that just by reading the book, magical fairies will not appear to rid you of the clutter. Stay motivated and have no fear in asking for help to begin and complete the organizing process!


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