A simple coding system for big decluttering projects

This simple coding system helped my client tackle the big job of organizing her house. Click to read about it and try it for yourself!

Last week I worked in Houston with a client I visited twice last year. The main goal of this trip was to thin out, sort, and better store my client’s collection of outdoor and survival supplies and gear.  Last year we worked together on paper and office supplies. She had an overload of supplies that, once consolidated and organized, resulted in a near complete stop of purchasing any more office supplies!  That gave us a glimpse into what is possible for this completely different set of materials. She’s stops the pattern of acquiring multiples if and when they are looked squarely in the face, sorted, and culled. 

She hasn’t mastered the art of letting go (who has?), but has it in her to shock both of us with the amount she can release, if done at a slow pace.  She gave the perfect metaphor for her process: 

“Kacy, this is like writing a book. You don’t edit it all on the first go ‘round.
I know this is just the first draft.”

Stating this helped tremendously in settling into a slow but steady pace of editing. We had permission to get to the first draft, with the understanding that much more will exit the house on the second draft and beyond.


We pulled everything out of the “outdoor room” and proceeded to group like with like before the great purge. These categories of unedited, newly formed groups were marked with a green sticky. When we got to the stage where she was ready to focus on letting go, I changed the stickies to pink as we put the edited groups back into the outdoor room.  This is our code letting us know that green categories are untouched and need review, while pink sticky groups have undergone a first pass. I imagine as we continue in the fall, we’ll choose a third color for groupings that have undergone the second edit.

She LOVED this coding system.  It’s bold, simple, and now at quick glance, she can see where attention is most-needed, instead of feeling like the entire room is screaming for her attention. Her homework is to just continue editing the green categories as the first edit.

The room isn’t complete. There were a lot of supplies and still are. We were victorious though in meticulously untangling bins and boxes of mixed supplies, many unopened and unused, and giving her visual markers so she can see where work was done and where there’s work to do.


Do you have a large, looming project or collection that is begging for your attention?  Are you too someone who can’t just go from point A to Z when it comes to decluttering a mass of objects? Where in your home or office can you benefit from this system of using colored labels to mark the stages of micro-projects? Please share in the comments!

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.