Conquer your organizational paralysis with the triage method!

Conquer your organizational paralysis with the triage method!

Have you ever wished/wondered/considered if there was another way to approach your most daunting home organization challenges?

I’m not referring to bins, cubes, label makers, hangers, boxes, shoe stackers, vacuum sealers or any other type of paraphernalia that are touted as the “keys” to finally getting your LIFE. IN. ORDER.

What if there were another way?

There is - the triage method!

The word triage comes from the French word “trier” which means "to sort" or "to sort out". The triage method has its roots in emergency medicine and involves assigning patient care based on urgency of need. The concept of the triage method has since been used in business settings as well as medicine to create a framework for prioritizing projects.

Okay, stop snoring, we’re coming back to organizing which is why you started reading this in the first place! 😁

Let’s look at this with examples of how utilizing this method could help you chug through some of your home org challenges.

Scenario A - preparing to downsize

You have lived in your home for thirty-plus years and are now getting ready to pack it all up and move to a condo in the city / townhouse on a golf course / houseboat on a canal / colony on Mars if the whole SpaceX thing gets sorted / etc.

Your home is not an uninhabitable hoard-y disaster area or even close to it but you realize that you just have so, so, so much stuff. As you review the contents of your home you are shocked by the sheer volume of belongings that one can accumulate over a lifetime, especially if one has the space to store them.

 Scenario B - just moved into first house with new baby

Congratulations! You have a new address and a new human! Both are very exciting life phases and to go through both at once is, well….hellish at times? What is that loud crying that won’t stop? It’s the baby again…no, wait, it’s you 😭

Your home is in the pre-lived stage, you don’t have any reference point for where everything should go even if you did all the advance measuring and planning. It’s like trying to organize mist - you can sort of see it but not get your hands around it. 

Even though these are two very different situations, managing them has the same solution: 

The triage method! 🥳

So what are the basics of this concept? 

First things first. 

i.e., do the most important thing first.

i.e. priorities, people!

Going back to the medical reference, hospital ERs will prioritize a patient who severed a finger while carving the Thanksgiving turkey over a patient who burned his foot slightly with a George Foreman grill (see The Office - American version - Season 2 Episode 12) even if the GFG foot injury arrived in the ER first.

Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? Perhaps even simple?

Yes to both. Apply the following basic triage steps to any home organization situation that is confronting you and watch the magic happen. 🪄


Identify the tasks that need prioritizing, no ranking, just write ‘em all down.

Prioritize the relative urgency of each task by assigning number ranking:

#1🔥hot, hot, hot! This cannot wait!

#2❗important but not critical

#3 🕟to be done after #1 and #2 tasks, not urgent

Execute the tasks in order of importance, no rethinking or drifting between priorities allowed!

Show me how!

Let’s run Scenario A, Preparing to Downsize, through the triage process as an example of how this works. Let’s say you’ve sold your house already so we will skip the steps of getting your house ready to put on the market (that would be a whole other triage scenario).


What needs to happen to get this house downsized and you ready for your next adventure? Probably some of the following:  *reminder, it’s a brain dump, not in any ranked order yet

✔Buy a billion boxes and rolls of packing tape

✔Sort and pack hard copy personal/financial files

✔Clean out kitchen cabinets, throw away expired items

✔Sort and pack photo albums and framed photos

✔Go room by room taking inventory of contents

✔Designate one area for “things to keep/pack”

✔Designate one area for “things to give away”

✔Call family to come for first dibs on the giveaway pile

✔Arrange charity donation for any remaining items

✔Separate everyday items from special occasion/holiday items

👍Listed above are all legitimate and necessary tasks to prepare for a move, especially one that requires getting rid of a number of belongings. However, if you were to just start working through that list randomly without prioritizing each action item it would be a DISASTER! 🤯

Perhaps that is slightly dramatic but jumping into any project without prioritizing creates a lot of wasted time and energy, those are commodities that you don’t have in excess during a big move!

So let’s do this right. Identify the very priority, the one that if you don’t do it first will cause some repercussions 🧨

In this case, your top priorities should be:

✔Go room by room taking inventory of contents

✔Designate one area for “things to keep/pack”

✔Designate one area for “things to give away”

Before you start touching everything, write it up by room. You do not have to be crazy specific down to the last pencil but a general summary is important. It will help in planning and executing everything that comes next.

As for designated areas, you can’t sort, pack, organize, etc. unless you have a specific place to do so. Random piles in many rooms can lead to accidentally donating the family silver or the family dog.

Next priorities could be:

✔Clean out kitchen cabinets, throw away expired items

✔Separate everyday items from special occasion/holiday items

These tasks are important but don’t have to be at the head of the line. They require medium level thinking and executing.

Non-urgent-but-must-be-done-nevertheless priorities come next:

✔Sort and pack hard copy personal/financial files

✔Sort and pack photo albums and framed photos

SIREN SOUNDS, BIG WARNING HERE! There is danger lurking within these seemingly innocuous tasks and you must not allow yourself to get sucked into the abyss! 

When we say “sort and pack” it does NOT mean to sit down cross legged on the floor and start leafing through car repair receipts which then makes you wonder if you ever did take it in for the 30,000 miles check up? And wait, I’ll just go back through my calendar to see if I can figure it out and oh my god I totally forgot Alex’s bday and sh*t she’s going to kill me let me hop online real quick and see what I can find from that one Etsy store she likes and….

Don’t even get me started on what happens if you get sucked into piles of photo albums, Memory Lane is about 82,399 miles long.

You get the picture.

Save the curating of paperwork and photos until after the move. You’ll have time since you’ll be in bed with a bad back from showing that you can still carry one end of the dining room table.

Other end of list priorities are:

✔Call family to come for first dibs on the giveaway pile

✔Arrange charity donation for any remaining items

Once you know what you have left to pack you can:

✔Buy a billion boxes and rolls of packing tape

Now start packing and breathe a sigh of relief that you are as prepared and organized as possible.

So while home organization triage is not the life or death kind, it’s still important. It will help you to keep your wits about you during stressful times! 😌

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