Six Tips to Get More Organized at Home
I have been trying to get organized since 1993.
Since those days in my first solo apartment, I have made close to 20 moves. Through each of those apartments and homes I’ve tried almost every storage container or system you can dream up. Notebooks, file folders, bins, baskets and boxes, drawer organizers, trays, you name it, I’ve owned it. I don’t think I have ever met a storage solution I didn’t love.
With all those moves, I have had more naturally occurring opportunities to de-clutter and re-organize all my stuff than a lot of people.
And to be completely honest, there are few things that make me happier than cleaning up a space and making it more organized and functional…and especially prettier. You have an unruly closet? Awkward storage problem? Need help organizing a pile of stuff? I’m your girl.
Here’s the thing, y’all. Getting organized is important. It can make life so much easier. You don’t have to spend the last 10 minutes before you walk out the door hunting down what you need. You know where to put the mail when you open it so the kitchen counter can actually be used for kitchen-y things. You don’t waste time or money buying extra items (scotch tape, anyone?) that you know you already own but can’t find….can I get an amen?
I have been organizing my stuff over and over every time I moved to a new place. For decades. So I’ve had to do it a thousand different ways. I have a little experience in this area. So learn from me, grasshopper.
Here are my best tips as you try to make your own life more orderly. Let’s Marie Kondo together!
1. Have less stuff.
I hate math. Words are my thing, not numbers. But even I can do this simple equation…the less stuff you have, the easier it is to organize. (Mic drop. 🎤)
I know, right!? Your mind is blown.
I’m here to tell you that I have wasted SO MUCH time trying to organize stuff that I should have de-cluttered instead.
In her book, The Joy of Less, Francine Jay writes: ‘We don’t want to devote valuable space to unused stuff; we want to save it for the good stuff!’ We also don’t want to waste valuable time organizing stuff we don’t need and shouldn’t keep just for the fun of it. I know you have some other hobby you’d rather spend your time on. (If you don’t, call me, I will help you find one.)
I’m not saying you have to de-clutter all your stuff this weekend. But as you start organizing, it is worth asking yourself if you maybe should be getting rid of some things instead.
2. Give everything an address.
Everything you own needs its very own home. EVERY.thing. Bills need a folder. Medical paperwork needs a notebook. Winter clothes need a bin or a closet. Your mixer needs to go in the guest closet. Paperclips, instructions and warranties, extra phone cords, random craft supplies. Extra pens. Batteries. The scoochy feet you put on furniture when you want to rearrange it. EVERYthing needs a designated home.
This eliminates the decision fatigue (or postponed decision making) that comes with “now what am I going to do with this?” by already knowing where everything belongs. When you don’t know where to put things, or it is inconvenient to put them away, that’s when they start to become clutter.
3. Don’t get aspirational.
Having a bill paying folder upstairs in the office doesn’t help you if you open your mail in the kitchen. Here’s something I know about you: that bill will sit right there on the counter indefinitely. No judgment, lovely friend…I know this because I have done this!
Don’t use organizing to try to force yourself to do things the way you think they should be done. That won’t work. I don’t care how many times you play the Barney Clean Up song, putting stuff away just isn’t that fun.
Make your organization work around the way you actually live your life. Keep things you use often as close to where you use them as possible. Extra bars of soap aren’t going to help you if they are in the upstairs hallway. Store them under the bathroom sink. And bill folders should be near where you open the mail.
This leads me to…
4. Think outside the box.
We store things a certain way because that’s what we are “supposed” to do. Hogwash.
In order to stay organized, which is the whole goal, you have to sort things in a way that works for you. This requires thinking outside the box. Or bin. Or basket.
For example, dressers aren’t just for clothes. I have one that holds all my gift wrapping supplies: gift bags in one drawer, tissue paper and scissors and tape in another, ribbon in a third.
I used a bookshelf in a kitchen that didn’t have enough storage. My own bills go in a little rolling cart that holds all my housekeeping paperwork. My jewelry lives in small colorful bowls in a big tray on my dresser.
Move things you don’t use regularly to a harder to reach location. Who cares where you put your blender if you only use it at Christmas! Think outside the box…put it in the guest room closet if you have more room there.
Get unconventional about the way you organize your stuff and make it work for YOU.
5. Make some limits.
Consider your in-out equation. This is another math problem that even I can do. IF things come in, but things don’t go out, you are inevitably going to have a clutter problem. Again and again.
So limit the amount of space you are willing to designate for certain things. My maximum clothing situation hangs in my closet or in two bins under my bed, for winter or rarely worn items. If I can’t make my clothes fit in those spaces, it’s time to let some things go. Better yet, it makes me evaluate more closely the things that I even want to bring home.
This works for kitchen utensils (one drawer), towels (one shelf), even my beloved books (two bookcases). YOU get to choose the limits…but make some. It will increase your awareness of how much you have.
6. Give yourself the gift of space.
Francine Jay says: ‘Think back to the first day we moved in to our house or apartment. We walked around the bare rooms, imagining what life would be like within its walls. How wonderful it felt to savor the space before a single box was unpacked!’
We love our stuff. But there is also a feeling of expansiveness, lightness and possibilty that comes with empty space.
There is no rule that says we have to cram every corner of our homes with stuff. And it is a heck of a lot easier to organize when there is some elbow room.
So have an empty drawer. Or try to empty one shelf. Somewhere. Gretchen Rubin tried it in The Happiness Project and reflected: ‘An empty shelf meant possibility; space to expand; a luxurious waste of something useful for the sheer elegance of it.’ How lovely is that?!
You know we all have waywayway too much stuff. So aim for an empty space. See how that feels. I bet it feels pretty good.
With organization comes empowerment! -Lynda Peterson
Getting organized is an experiment, not a one and done. De-cluttering is a process, not a one and done. But conquering your clutter is a feeling like no other.
The most important thing is to begin. Baby steps. A drawer here. A medicine cabinet there. As you go you will realize that you need less than you thought, that there is no ‘right’ way to get yourself organized, and that there is a lift that comes when you give yourself a little space. Happy organizing, my friends!!
What ideas do you use to organize your own home?! Please share…we all need the help, let’s be honest. 😉