“S.O.R.R.T.” Method - The Pro Organizer’s Secret For Tackling Any Space

Not knowing how or where to start an organizing project is one of the main reasons we find ourselves living with clutter. In organizing any space, whether it be a closet or a garage, the steps in getting you from clutter to tidy and organized are very much the same. These steps are the secret to knowing how to tackle any space.  

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The Frustration Behind Clutter

You’ve had it.  It is so annoying to spend so much time searching for stuff, pushing through all of the clothes packed so tightly in the closet.  So irritating that your keys keep getting lost and you can’t ever find a pen that works!  

That’s it!  You’re taking the day off on Friday and doing nothing but organizing this weekend. 

Boom!  Fist bump to you for being on your way to an organized space!  Setting aside time can sometimes be half of the battle (and really is the first step) and if you’re there, then you, my friend, get a big high five.

There are three reasons we find ourselves living with clutter.  

  • Not knowing how or where to start

  • Lack of time

  • Lack of motivation and/or energy


We live busy lives, I totally get it. Many of us, including me, have to much in our homes or have spaces that we want to declutter, purge and organize to free our mind and life but yet still have them on our to do list. Yes, even organizers, myself anyway, have clutter and or unorganized spaces! You’re not alone sister.

Knowing Where to Start

In this post, I’m going to concentrate on the first reason for our clutter, 'knowing how or where to start' and share with you my pro organizing secret to sorting a space. This will get you started on that drawer, pantry or closet as soon as you have the desire, and time, to do so.

Before you organize anything, it is important to know the process in order to get the end result you’re looking for.  

Walking into your closet, removing some unwanted clothing and moving things around won’t get you a fully organized space.  You may end up with a clean and tidy closet for a few weeks, but to purge properly and create a complete functional space, following some easy steps will get you where you want to be.

the secret

There is a simple method I use to move through the process of any project I work on.


“S.O.R.R.T.” is a simple system I have created to help you remember how to divide and conquer all of your clutter. An outline of sorts (pun totally intended) to walk you step by step through your simplifying process.

First Things First

Before I walk you through the S.O.R.R.T. process, you’ll need a few things prior to getting started. Here is a quick checklist to make sure you’re all set to begin organizing.

  1. Trash bags or trash can. - You’ll want to have these be of some size, so try to have handy something bigger than your bathroom trash can.  Extra large garbage bags work great.

  2. Recycle bins or boxes - If you don’t have a recycle can, using a trash bag or any cardboard box works.  

  3. Bins, boxes or bags for items to keep, donate, sell, and relocate.  Bankers boxes and plastic bins work really well for these piles.  Laundry baskets can be helpful as well. For donations, using a container you don’t wish to keep will save you the step of transferring items during drop off.  

  4. My handy dandy S.O.R.R.T. Organizing Labels (Coming Soon!!) - Even if you know what bin goes to what pile, label it.  It’s amazing how quickly you can forget which bin is relocate and which is donate.  Labeling will save you time and prevent you from mixing your items.  

  5. Tape.  I always have a roll of painters tape handy as it doesn’t ruin surfaces like a scotch tape would.

Now, let’s get you into your decluttering groove, and start to “S.O.R.R.T.”

Quick Tip: Just sort to begin with. You can categorize items as you sort or sort them first and categorize later. Either way, to maximize your time, just be sure to stay focused and not be drawn away by moving items to another location or deciding where something is going to go. Just sort.

The S.O.R.R.T. Process

S - Save    

When you purge and declutter a room or space, of course there will be items that stay. The goal is to be organized and tidy after all, not to throw everything away. (Although, it does feel great to purge!) Anything that you want to stay in the space will go in your Save pile.  

It’s totally OK to put things back into drawers or on shelves if you don’t have enough room to put everything in a pile. I would suggest making everything visible, however, so it’s not forgotten. If you go through a drawer and items go back in, put a post it note on the outside with a label. For example: “T-Shirts DONE”. You can then return to the drawer when you’re working with the space and moving things around.

O - Offer Up   

Selling or offering your items for donation will repurpose them and find them a new happy home. Anything you wish to donate and/or sell will go here. Make a pile for each to keep them separate.

Be sure to make a run to Goodwill or your favorite non-profit within a day or two of your decluttering so it doesn’t become another area of overwhelm in the home.  Loading your car immediately will help with this.

R - Relocate   

Clutter comes from items not having a home and being in places they don’t belong. It’s amazing how clearing a space of this will dramatically change the area without doing much.

Anything that doesn’t belong in the space, and you’re not donating/selling, needs to be relocated to another area in your home. As I noted in my quick tip above, stay focused on sorting.  

Try to resist putting things away in other spaces or figuring out where it will go while you’re sorting to avoid distraction. Put it in the relocate bin and move on.

Quick Tip: Want a quick face lift for your space and don’t have time to do an overhaul? Comb through your space with a relocate bin. Focus only on items that don’t belong and remove them. Just by doing this one step, you can dramatically clear a space.

R - Recycle   

Go green and recycle what you can by emptying boxes, separating papers from trash, etc..

T - Trash   

Well, you know, toss it. Extra large, heavy duty bags work the best. They hold a lot of items without tearing.

How to S.O.R.R.T.

  1. Gather all of your checklist items before you begin.

  2. Make a bin for each category (stay, offer up, relocate, recycle and trash) and label them with the categories above to set up your sorting system.  Cardboard boxes, plastic bins, large trash bags, etc.. can all work to corral your piles.  

  3. Start with one sub area of the space you are organizing. For example, if you’re doing your closet, begin with the floor first, move on to shelves and so on.

  4. Whether you are doing just one area such as the floor or an entire room, remove everything. The only way to see everything you have and make proper decisions is to remove it. This is why I suggest #3, starting with one sub area, and do one smaller space at a time. An entire room can be a large undertaking and will take more time. Be sure to set aside time for the size area you are working on.

  5. Load your car with all donation items immediately to prevent a new source of clutter.

  6. Take photos of everything you will be selling before setting it aside. This will save you time when you sit down to post them.

  7. Once you are done sorting, it’s time to categorize and find homes for your items. I’ll go into this more in another post, but for now, whatever is staying in the space gets put back in an orderly fashion. Group like with like and find sensible homes.

Alright, let’s recap

The secret to starting any organizing project is knowing how to start. Gather your materials and S.O.R.R.T.!

Save - These items are everything that stays in your space.

Offer Up - Separate donations and sale items and load your donations into your car immediately to remove them from the home. Set aside time to deliver them within a day or two. Take photos of your sell items before setting them aside. You can find resources for donating in the Austin area here.

Relocate - If it doesn’t belong, it goes. Remember to put these items in a bin. Don’t get distracted by putting things away while you are working.

Recycle - Go green. You can find resources for recycling in the Austin area here.

Trash - Toss it.

Now you are armed with my secret to starting any of your organizing projects. Start small and S.O.R.R.T.!

Do you use a system similar to this to declutter? If you do, tell me all about it, I’d love to know how you work! If you use this system, be sure to come back and comment so I can hear how it worked out for you!

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I'm Melynda, a professional organizer who loves helping busy women and families eliminate their clutter and calm the chaos in their homes. You want to get organized? Let’s do the thing! 

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