So, how do you become more organized?
We asked 30 experts to share their best tips.
Table of Contents
- Create habits of organization
- How to overcome these “stressors” when trying to eliminate clutter
- A change in the mindset
- Tips to become organized
- Pick and prioritize goals
- Identify and get in touch with your values
- Don’t take on too much at once
- Create a drop zone
- Have an open paper recycle bin
- Labeling is key
- Start with yourself
- Getting organized is a process
- Start by asking yourself if you really need the item
- Have a memory bin
- Start by measuring
- Set aside one day a week
- Play “Let’s Pretend!”
- Keep track of all tasks/to-dos/projects in a “single trusted system”
- Never rely on your memory. Write it down!
- Use the 2-minute rule
- Finding my stuff so I can go live my best life
- Being more productive
- Make it manageable
- Evaluate your belongings
- Play to your weaknesses
- Think of others
- The 5-minute cleanup
- Manage budgets and costs
- Take advantage of any technology that can help you save time
- Write down tasks
- Take note of your expenditure
- Keep your inbox clean
- Share your to-do list with team members
- Organize your email
- Review your calendar
- Schedule your to-do lists
- Accurately plan your day
- Re-evaluate your tech on a regular basis
- Get things out of your head and on to paper
- Don’t own homeless stuff
- Plan every day
- Defragment your brain
- Prioritize your A-B-Cs
- Reflect to improve
- Take advantage of task management apps
- Use the IvyLee Method
- Declutter and simplify your life
- Stay focused on the life you want
- Organize your files
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Why is it important to be organized?
- What are some examples of being organized?
- Why do I struggle in being organized?
- What are some habits of highly organized people?
- How can I break bad habits that interfere with my organization?
- How can I make organization a habit rather than a chore?
- What are some common mistakes people make when trying to get organized?
Home Organization Expert, Modular Closets
Create habits of organization
Having an organized home is a huge stress reliever and time saver. Creating habits of an organization at home will also trickle into other areas of your life. This will give you a more organized point of view in your workplace, daily schedule, etc.
So how can you begin the cycle of a more organized life through your home? A few ideas to consider:
Everything in its place
When everything is cluttered and never has a place that it belongs, it can be a struggle to find anything. Choose the best place for all your things to be, and make it a habit to put it back there after each time you use it.
It can be easy to get things you need to say, the bathroom and just leave them in the shopping bags on the floor until you get to it. Do not do this. Take the few extra moments to quickly put it all away so it can be easily found and used later.
No junk drawers/closets
If you do not use it and will not use it—get rid of it. Taking up space in a drawer or closet with things you will never use is a waste. Donate, sell, or throw away these things. Now you will have more space to utilize for organizing the rest of your home.
Keeping your home clean is part of keeping it organized. Schedule monthly closet cleanings, weekly fridge cleanings, etc. This will help you be able to keep up with any clutter and dirt that builds up over time.
Use dual-purpose furniture
For example, save closet space for blankets by getting an ottoman with storage space inside of it. These types of furniture pieces are very common and made in many different styles these days, so take your time finding the ones that work best for you.
Decluttering on a regular basis specifically help you feel and be more organized. We don’t always realize how significant our clutter is until it fully takes over our life. It’s truly frustrating to feel like your home is caving in on you, things are lost and you’re stressed from trying to manage it. At this point, we finally realize the amount of stuff we’ve accrued and how disorganized our home really is.
There are two main types of clutter, the typical clutter that covers countertops and fills closets and drawers, and the organized clutter, neatly stored but filling every orifice of your home and you have no idea what you really have.
Either way, your home is cluttered and making organization and clean-up more difficult. The good news is with some hard work and determination, you can declutter your home and keep it that way.
Before you start the decluttering process, it’s important to shift your focus on living more simply. Remind yourself often that life is so much more than the material items you collect. Many times we buy stuff to fill a void or for instant happiness. But the void is not filled and that burst of happiness passes quickly.
The more we collect stuff, the more space we need to store the stuff and the more attention it takes away from the important things, whether that’s family, friends or a hobby. A cluttered life full of stuff is actually very stressful. Here are a few tips to help you get going on the path to decluttering.
How to overcome these “stressors” when trying to eliminate clutter
I might need it someday!
Be realistic and honest with yourself regarding the likelihood that you’ll use the item in the future. If you’ve owned it for a year and have yet to use it, chances are you’ll never use it. If you have convinced yourself that you’ll use it, set a deadline for yourself by which you’ll have used the item.
Make sure the deadline is in the next few months. Create a calendar reminder and promise yourself that if you haven’t used it by that date, you’ll get rid of it.
It was a gift!
This is your home which means that you have the right to choose what to put inside of it. Hold on to things that add value to your life, not weight. Don’t live in a cluttered home because you won’t get rid of items out of feelings of guilt. Remind yourself that a gift is given as an expression of love or gratitude.
When someone gives you a gift, you appreciate the gift and express your thankfulness to the one who gave it to you. Then, it’s up to you to decide what to do with that gift.
If the result is that you decide that the gift isn’t something you’ll use or want to keep, don’t keep it. Remind yourself that the gift has served its purpose, that being to represent an act of kindness towards you from the gift-giver.
It was expensive!
The money for the item has already been spent and retaining the item won’t get you your money back. Make a decision on whether or not the item is adding value to your life. If the answer is “no,” then get rid of it. You may choose to give it to a friend or donate it to a charity.
Whatever you choose, letting it go will release you of the burden, guilt, and stress that clutter adds to your life. Use this experience to be more thoughtful and intentional when you shop in the future.
It has sentimental value!
Remember that the physical item doesn’t hold your memories. Your memories reside in your mind and in your heart, and they will remain there regardless of whether or not you keep the item.
There are several ways that you can let go of sentimental items. For example, taking a picture of the item will help you to let go of the physical item.
Another way to help you prioritize what means most to you is to choose a defined small space in your home, like a shelf, for which your sentimental items can be displayed. Then, decide which items to keep that will fit within that space. Let go of the items that didn’t make the cut.
It might be worth something someday!
It’s important to live in the “here and now.” We can’t predict what will happen in the future, which is why it’s pointless to hold on to items that may bring us joy down the road.
What you need to remember is that regardless of whether or not the item may be worth something one day, at the present time it’s taking up space in your home and your mind and creating an environment for you that is consumed with things.
Organization and Productivity Specialist
A change in the mindset
How to be more organized starts with a change in the mindset. We are not all born with the skills needed to be organized, and not everyone’s brain is wired to comprehend order through chaos.
There is no one way to become organized, that will work for everybody, but small steps to create habit can help. After all, habits can be formed and learned.
First, it’s important to understand that becoming organized is a process and requires continual positive reinforcement. True change comes from within and setting clear goals will leave minimal room for failure. Becoming organized requires solid systems and repetition.
Tips to become organized
Our brains are not made to remember, but to think and be creative. By writing things down we are alleviating the “mind clutter” and allowing pen and paper (or technology) to keep us on track of important thoughts and dates.
Keep it simple by recording the ideas or dates that you want to remember in one designated area on your phone, such as Notes or Reminders, a notebook, as well as your calendar. Create the habit of noting them immediately.
Become more aware of yourself and your natural desires. Tune into the voice inside that determines the decisions you make and why. Self-discipline can push you to overcome procrastination and compulsive urges or challenges that keep you from reaching your goals to become organized. Knowing the end results will be much more gratifying than the frustration of living with the anxiety of chaos.
Be selective and mindful of your things
The amount of “stuff” we need is subjective and not the same for everyone. However, the less we own, the less we will have to take care of and thus less overall stress. By keeping only the things that you use, need, or really love, you are able to pare down considerably the real things that are important to you.
Living a more minimal life can create more time to enjoy what you really love in life. There is no need to hold on to “stuff” that you may use “one day” or that has outlived its purpose. Tap into why you may be attached to certain things in your life and guide yourself through the process of letting go.
Plan in advance
When you “forecast” and project forward events that are approaching, you are allowing enough time to plan in advance while alleviating the stress that may occur with the last-minute scrambling. Working backward from the date you need to plan for, can create enough cushion of time to accomplish tasks leading up to the event.
Create lists and gather anything you may need beforehand, so that you are fully prepared. This habit can save you an immense amount of time and stress.
Putting things where they naturally accumulate and assigning “zones” will keep clutter to a minimum. Everything has a place when we create homes and there is no confusion where to find things.
Organized people keep order by properly sorting like with like items and labeling storage spaces. Make the homes easily accessible and do not stack or stuff items that don’t belong within the designated spaces.
Often time the thought of decluttering can be either overwhelming or underwhelming. We give up before starting because we are not sure how to get rid of things. Before decluttering, educate yourself on how and where to donate or recycle your stuff.
“Chunk” down the process by starting small or in one area. Decluttering regularly creates space for acquiring new things. Set boundaries or rules for yourself as to how much you want to own of any given category.
Put in the effort to make a change by making yourself and your goals to become organized a priority. Hold yourself accountable for a certain amount of time each day or week to declutter, even if it’s only 15 minutes a day. Create a standing appointment with yourself, at the same time every day.
Set an alarm to keep you focused to accomplish as much as possible within that time frame. Incorporate the time you devote to another habit that already exists so that it eventually becomes unconscious repetition. Much like a diet, you must put in the work to see results.
Julia Egan, Ph.D.
Founder, Balancing Bravely
Pick and prioritize goals
We often feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and disorganized because we have so much to do, and we have so much to do because we are trying to do it all. The reality is that you cannot do it all, you cannot have it all, but you can pick and prioritize goals and aspects of your life.
In fact, being really intentional about what you want to prioritize is an incredible way to get organized and achieve your goals and it only takes a couple of minutes.
- Reflect and pick 3 aspects of your life that you would like to focus on. It can be so hard to limit it to 3 areas, but this is essential. It is only when you hone in and focus in certain areas that you can really make progress. Great examples to choose from include: quality time with a spouse or children, sleep, regular exercise, a work project, a personal project or a new skill you are learning. Currently, my 3 areas are:
- Developing workshop content (for my day job).
- Balancing Bravely, a resource to support women to improve their work-life balance (my passion project).
- Quality time outside with my kids (my family).
- Every morning when you wake up, remind yourself of your 3 priority areas.
- Start your day by making progress in each priority area. If it cannot be done first thing in the day, then make a concrete plan for when it will happen.
- As you are asked to do something new (e.g., take on a new project, invited to an event), ask yourself whether this contributes to your 3 priority areas. If the answer is yes, then great! If the answer is no, you may still choose to say yes, but you will likely say “yes” with more thought and intentionality than your typical responses.
- Every few weeks, reassess your 3 areas. Some may be stable for long periods of time, but others may vary, or your focus may change. As a working mom, I almost always have my kids on my priority list, but I might shift the focus – right now since it’s finally nice out, it’s “spend quality time outside with my kids”, but a few months ago it was “spend more time doing creative activities”, and before that “be more patient with my kids”.
Do you know your three priority areas? If you can’t name just three, it might be a sign that you are trying to do too much – which is probably leaving you feeling overwhelmed, disorganized, and frustrated. Imagine what it would be like to make huge progress in a few key areas and feel much more organized?
Monica Pearl Lin
Founder and Professional Organizer, Make Room By Monica
When we are completely honest with ourselves about what we need to thrive in this very moment and when we are intentional about only keeping in our lives that which serves us, our worlds naturally evolve towards a state of order and serenity.
Simply put, we can become more organized by having less to organize. So curate thoughtfully! Most people own more physical items that they need and that excess often results in costly clutter that comes at the expense of time and money, as well as personal and interpersonal growth.
The more things you own, the more time you have to spend organizing, maintaining, and in some cases, looking for those things. This takes precious time and energy away from other areas of your life. I encourage my clients to go back to the fundamental question about their values.
How do you want to live your life? Do you want to spend it searching for keys every morning or do you want to effortlessly make your way out the front door and maximize quality time with friends and family? Do you want to work overtime so you can cover the monthly costs of storage rental or do you prefer to invest that money in a vacation?
Once we’re crystal clear on our priorities, then it becomes easier to evaluate whether an item adds value to our lives or distracts us from living it. If it no longer serves us, it’s time to say “Thank you and goodbye” to that item. One less thing to organize!
Amy R. Bloomer
Founder & Owner, Let Your Space BLOOM, LLC
Don’t take on too much at once
When it comes to becoming more organized, it’s important to start small and not to try and take on too much at once. I’d suggest a room-by-room approach that commences with the easiest space first. Creating small victories with rooms that are less intimidating builds the foundation and the momentum to tackle more difficult places.
I also recommend starting with smaller rooms. Attempting to tackle a large room first, such as a basement or a garage, often ends in frustration and failure.
Here is my 3 step methodology:
Phase 1: Discovery & Distribution
This entails going into a room and “discovering” and/or in many cases, rediscovering what lives there. Then as the stuff is discovered, it is quickly and easily “distributed” into families of similar items. This is often times referred to as the “sort and purge” which to me sounds like Stephen King’s next horror film.
Clients often dread this first step because they have to face the reality of what has amassed in their square footage. I like to position this phase as an incredibly fun and exciting experience instead of emotional and draining. Once everything has been touched and distributed accordingly, it’s onto Phase 2.
Phase 2: Decision-Making
Once you have all of the family members together in one place, it becomes very easy to make decisions about whether everyone has a purpose and if not, where they can be repurposed either internally (repurposed) or externally (gifted, donated or sold).
For example, if you’ve identified a family of 50 winter coats, you now decide if each one deserves a space in your home or if they should be distributed outside of the home (i.e. gifted, donated, or sold).
Phase 3: Determining a Spatial Zip Code (where something lives in a space)
Now that you’ve determined how many members of each family of categories need a spatial zip code, then it’s critical to contemplate what that family of things is used for and where it makes sense for them to reside.
Here’s a quick example, in one’s kitchen, all of the things needed to make and enjoy a cup of coffee should live in the same zip code. It’s simple logic but it’s revolutionary when it’s orchestrated in an intentional and thoughtful manner.
One of my favorite strategies for incorporating decluttering strategies into daily life is quite simple. A well-placed bin can help to contain items so that they don’t take over.
I encourage clients to keep either a basket or a bin at the bottom of their stairs. This becomes the “catch-all” for things that have migrated downstairs and/or out of place.
Once a day, preferably in the evening, make it a habit to put back everything you’ve accumulated in the basket. It won’t take long and it will help to maintain clear, calm spaces before retiring for the night.
Founder, Katy’s Organized Home, LLC
Create a drop zone
The clutter begins the minute anyone walks in the door. Make sure you are prepared for anyone to re-enter your house.
Where do your family members enter your house, through the garage or front door? Is there a hook for their backpack or handbags? Is there a shoe riser or basket for shoes? Is there a place or basket for hats, gloves? A hook to hang coats or a gym bag? Where do you place your keys?
You do not have to have a built-in mudroom to have a successful drop zone. These are all questions related to your drop zone. Who is entering, what are they carrying, where will be they put it and when do they usually enter. It might be as simple as one shelf with a bin for mail and a bin for keys, a basket for shoes, six hooks for coats and bags.
Have an open paper recycle bin
Paper piles, we all have experienced it. Have an open paper recycle bin in your garage and drop all junk mail before you enter the house. Don’t let those flyers and promotional cards enter!
Download Paperkarma app and snap pictures of the return address of the unwanted mail and they will unsubscribe you. Have a desktop file system for the rest of the action items. A folder: TO PAY, NEEDS ATTENTION, TO FILE. If you can separate your mail in an easy way it will make your life easier when it’s time to pay bills.
Labeling is key
Whether it’s the toy room, or a storage closet holding batteries and tools, Labeling is key. We think we will remember where everything is, but that is not always the case.
I use clear boxes only and a label on top. You can use a label maker or handwrite whichever you prefer. Then everyone in the house will know where everything belongs and can’t say, I don’t know where it is?
Start with yourself
If you want your family to be organized, you need to set an example of organization. Making your bed every day. This habit seems simple, but it sets you up for success. When your bed is neat and tidy it makes it more difficult to throw clothes on the floor.
Author | Professional Organizer & Bringer of Calm, Simple Organized Solutions
Getting organized is a process
First off, there is no magic to tidying up. There is hard work, a commitment to change the current condition, and a willingness to do the work involved in releasing clutter and all things that no longer serve you well.
After that, there is a further commitment to maintenance. I often say, getting organized is a process. Being organized is a lifestyle.
Those who want to be more organized often want to feel less stressed and less overwhelmed. The overwhelm and stress can often be traced back to the physical manifestation of clutter, poor follow through, poor organizational flow (in homes and offices), and challenges with decision-making and time management.
Getting organized usually makes space look worse before it looks better. Choose your projects with that in mind. Time-appropriate tasks and an ability to have clear cut-off points are very helpful.
Start small. Think big. If you start the simplifying process with the mindset of “I want to organize my house,” you will quickly become overwhelmed.
Chunk down large projects into smaller digestible bites and always choose time-appropriate tasks. For example, if you have 30-minutes to allocate to an organizing project, do not start in the master closet!
Perhaps a better, more time-appropriate project, would be to go through a couple of dresser drawers, the junk drawer in the kitchen, or the mail and paperwork on the counter.
Clearing clutter is simply making decisions about what stays and what goes. Everything that stays needs a home and it needs to be placed in that home. Everything that goes is either donated, gifted, recycled or sent out in the garbage. This is the part of the process where identifying the things we LOVE is employed. If we don’t love it, it gets released.
Once the clutter has been removed, follow through is employed. Putting things back where they go, doing laundry in a timely manner and putting it away, making the bed (or at least pulling up the covers), tidying up the kitchen after dinner, etc. This is the part of the process where new behaviors are employed.
If the problem is flow, implement organizational solutions that improve that flow. For example: install a hook for keys at the door you enter, install hooks for backpacks, purses, jackets nearby, place shoes in plastic bins in your closet rather than kicking them off at the door, organize bathroom products so you know what you have, take advantage of vertical space by adding shelves for additional storage.
Identify where the flow is blocked in your space, and then fix it. If you tend to dump on countertops and flat surfaces, stop! This is where clutter gets a grip and takes off like a wild, out-of-control virus.
If not enough time is the problem, it’s time for a reality check. Identify where you are allocating your time and find ways to bring balance back into your life. There is no stretching time, no budgeting time, no saving time, no spending time…time is simply time. It’s 24/7, that’s it.
If you know someone who you deem to be organized, ask them how they do it. You will likely find that they either never sleep (highly unlikely), or they have placed healthy boundaries around their time and they fully understand what their priorities are. They are comfortable saying no to others when needed, and they allocate time for their own self-care. This is what I refer to as the “know your no” phase.
Owner & Home Organizer, Spiff Organizing
There are so many different levels to getting organized from decluttering tips to creating a functional, yet visually pleasing way to display your items. I have clients from all ends!
Start by asking yourself if you really need the item
When was the last time you used the item and check if you will use the item in the near future. If the answer is no or if you don’t have any sort of attachment to the item, donate it to somebody who can use it.
Have a memory bin
I always recommend a “Memory bin” for clients to keep the important memories in a safe stored place. Storage bins are best for this- I suggest one large one or two small ones per person. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind, so once you eliminate the clutter or the things you don’t need or use, you will feel much more relaxed in your own space.
Start by measuring
For perfecting your drawers or pantry, always start by measuring! Pick out a style that goes with your home (natural baskets, wire baskets, acrylic bins, etc..). Measure what will fit and format the storage solutions to your shelving or drawers. Remember to maximize space!
If you have a really tall shelf, using a low bin wastes tons of free space that could be utilized. For clothing in dressers, try the file folding method to maximize the space, a google search can show you the correct way to fold if you’re unsure.
Set aside one day a week
For mail and papers, set aside one day a week to go through your papers. Paper trays are great for dividing your “to do” papers. Create a tray for bills and another for something else you get often (return labels, coupons you plan to use in the near future etc). Mail should be gone through right as you get it so it doesn’t pile up- the majority if not all is garbage anyway!
Professional Organizer & Productivity Consultant, Mindful Decluttering & Organizing, LLC
Play “Let’s Pretend!”
There are as many creative and stimulating ways to have fun with organizing as there are creative people, but below are 4 ways that have worked for many folks. To employ these techniques, we will be playing “Let’s Pretend!“
Pretend you are a kindergartner
The very first principle of organizing anything is to put like with like. Kindergartners know how to do this and have fun at the same time! Items can be organized by size, by color, by shape, or by when, where or how they are used.
To play this game, simply gather the items to organize onto a decent sized surface such as a bed or table. Then begin to sort. Start with broad categories and then subdivide each category for faster progress.
Pretend someone is coming to visit
Nothing will make you notice where pockets of clutter and disorganization have accumulated more than pretending that you are a visitor coming to your home for the first time. Notice with a non-judgmental curiosity which things seem out of place or disorganized.
Pick one small area to improve, then take a break and celebrate your success. After a breather, pick another small area and continue the game until you feel proud to invite someone into your home.
Pretend you are moving
In this game, imagine that you are moving to the home of your dreams and that in this home, you wish to live minimally, having only what you need. It may help to pretend that you are moving to a smaller home and that at least 20% of your belongings will have to go.
Pretend you are a professional organizer
A professional organizer will assess objects in your home from a place of detachment and practicality. She might kindly ask, “How do you use this?,” “Where do you most often use this?” or “Which objects in this space are your treasures?“
Whichever game you choose, you will be more likely to achieve your organizing goals joyfully if you shift your perspective and see organizing as a game rather than a chore!
Time Management and Productivity Coach
Keep track of all tasks/to-dos/projects in a “single trusted system”
Keep a single system for capturing, organizing, prioritizing and documenting tasks. Having all your to-dos in a single place allows you to know that you are not forgetting something.
You want to be able to know that if you are not getting to something it is because it’s been properly prioritized below other things you are getting done. And having it all in one place allows you to actually properly prioritize because you have all the data.
If you are using your email as a to-do list, and your voicemail, and you have a paper list somewhere, and notes on your phone, and unread Slack messages, you are not able to properly prioritize. You’re seeing the trees, but not the forest.
This means that not only are you may be working on the wrong things, but you are wasting time context switching between these systems all the time.
Never rely on your memory. Write it down!
Attempting to use our memories to keep track of what we need to do isn’t very effective and it actually increases stress. We want to use our brains for thinking about and focusing on the task at hand, not for remembering that you need to pick up milk, or call back your mom, or write that report.
If you sometimes feel like you are not present (at work, at home, on the phone), it’s often because our brains are working overtime trying to hang onto all that stuff we know we have to do.
And when our brains are trying to hold onto all that stuff, it’s very hard to focus on the present, making us feel much more disorganized If you have a thought about something to do, just write it down in your system and move on.
Use the 2-minute rule
If it’s going to take less than 2 minutes, just do it now.
- A paper comes across your desk; file it.
- You see a mess on the floor; clean it up.
- You get an invitation; RSVP.
Following the 2 minute rule allows you to keep your list and system in check. If it takes less time than 2 minutes, it’s not worth putting in the system, and it’s not worth thinking about again. Just do it now, check it off, and don’t think about it for one more second.
Organizing Coach, Your Organized Life
Finding my stuff so I can go live my best life
Organization isn’t about boxes and bins; it’s not complicated filing systems or fancy products. Being organized is about finding my stuff when I need it so I can go live my best life.
I’ve worked with organizing clients for almost a decade and the key to getting and staying organized is connecting to the why – “why do I want to be organized?” It isn’t about the look or the desire to have a showcase space – it’s a feeling of calm and productivity that comes with being able to find our stuff when we need it.
In order to create an organized space, and organized life, we have to be intentional. Intentional in what I buy – space is finite. Intentional in what I keep – do I love it or need it? Keep it. Otherwise, let it go.
Intentional in how I spend my time – am I choosing activities that raise me up and lead me to live a productive life of service to myself and others? Intentional in how I eat and move my body?
Organizing isn’t about our stuff; it’s about what we truly value in our lives.
Professional Organizer, H2 Organizing
Being more productive
One easy way to stay organized is to understand what it is, it is not just being clean and neat, it is also about being more productive. People have anxiety when they are not in control and taking back control of your space is one area of your life you can control. Your stuff is not really the issue, it is time that is challenging.
To avoid just hiding items in the closets, attic, and basement or buying bins to “solve” the problem, you have to review what you own. It is not about tossing or getting rid of stuff, that leads to regret.
Instead, focus on why you are keeping something and where is the best place for it to live in your space. This can’t be done without setting aside the time to do correctly.
CEO & Founder, inkWELL Press Productivity Co.
Here are my 5 tips to upping your organization without flipping your entire life upside down!
Make it manageable
One of the biggest issues with organizing is that it can quickly become an overwhelming task. We remove everything and pile it up in the center of the room, look at this giant pile of “stuff” and then think to ourselves, What in the world was I thinking?!?
Instead, focus on one small space at a time. I tell people to start in one corner and work with one drawer or cabinet at a time. Remove the items, give the space a quick wipe and then decide what needs to go back in the drawer, what goes into recycling and what needs to live somewhere else.
Continue around the room in a clockwise direction until you’ve gone full circle. This method makes the task feel easier because you can block off 15 or 30-minute chunks of time to organize each day (which feels achievable and less exhausting than tackling the entire room at once).
Evaluate your belongings
We have a tendency to overvalue the items we already own – this is called the Endowment Effect. When it comes to getting rid of items, we immediately start overvaluing them… the book sitting on your shelf you haven’t read in years, the shredder still sitting in the box, the not-your-style-artwork your aunt gave you that you never hung.
Whether or not you get any use or enjoyment out of them, subconsciously the very fact that they are yours make you value them more highly than if they didn’t belong to you.
We often place more value than they are actually worth just because we don’t want to have to buy a new one or because of the “what if” syndrome that we all use to rationalize keeping things that we don’t really need.
When you lay your items out and take a look at them, ask yourself a few questions. We can ask the obvious Marie Kondo question, “Does it spark joy?” but some items —like the cheese grater in the kitchen—aren’t exactly joy-inducing items! Try asking a few subsequent questions like: Do I use it? Do I need it? Do I love it?
If you are feeling the tug of the endowment effect, try bringing in an accountability partner to help. If the person is not physically there with you, a phone call with suffice! Call up a trusted friend and ask them to help you assess some of your items if needed.
Play to your weaknesses
While we’ve all heard it’s important to play to our strengths, it’s equally important to keep in mind our weaknesses. Creating complicated organizational systems isn’t going to do you any good if you aren’t the type to keep up with it.
This explains why you may have tried organizing in the past to only feel like you failed… we need to embrace our perfectly imperfect selves and then create systems to work to our advantage. Create an organization that works for the way you work.
Designing our systems to work with our strengths and weaknesses sets us up for success. This is true because when we fight against our natural tendencies and inclinations, we wear ourselves out.
If you are not the type to want to place paper clips into a tiny little container in your desk drawer, then acknowledge and accept that… and plan for putting paper clips into a tray that sits on your desk. Small simple changes can make a difference in you feeling successful and keeping your life organized on an on-going basis.
Think of others
Sometimes parting with items can be difficult, so to make organizing any space easier, I choose a charity to focus on. An organization close to my heart or a cause I care about deeply and I think about them every time I sort through a drawer or cabinet.
You see, charitable organizations can either use the items I no longer want…..or they can sell them to make money that can help further their mission… a mission I care about too. I’m helping put money into the hands of the organizations who are doing something I consider worthwhile.
But I also think about the woman who shops at that thrift store the organization runs… I think about her working hard all day, and then heading to the second-hand shop where she moves slowly through the racks of tchotchkes and old pots and pans hoping to find something that might make her space feel more like home.
She wanders the shelves, and there she spots my perfectly good, new-with-tags shirt that I never wore and her day has just been brightened. I just made someone else’s day.
Simply by going through our things, we can have the power to brighten someone else’s day. Get rid of the dusty coffee maker, the sweater you swore you would wear but never did… get rid of the guilt while you clear out the clutter.
In my opinion, thinking of others is the biggest secret to helping you organize.
The 5-minute cleanup
You know that feeling you get when you clean out a cabinet? The one where you want to keep opening the doors again and again just to see how clean and organized it looks?
That’s a great feeling, but it’s actually possible to feel that way every day — you just need to make a plan to keep up with your organizing. (This is why, too, it’s important to make sure your systems fit your weaknesses!).
My favorite method for keeping my organized is the five minute clean up. I do a five minute clean up at home, but I also do it at my office too! I integrate the clean up into my end-of-the-workday routine, so I can feel good closing up the work compartment in my life and go home to focus on family.
Having a routine where you close up work for the day, can really allow you to feel satisfied with the work you’ve accomplished.
An end of the workday routine doesn’t need to be complicated — the easier it is, the better! Simply take a few minutes to put away any files you got out, clear your desk of excess clutter, dump out the half-finished coffee in your cup and give it a rinse.
I do a quick daily download exercise as part of my end of day routine and I leave that sheet of paper sitting in the middle of my desk as a way to help jumpstart tomorrow’s morning. When I walk out of my office at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve already set up tomorrow for success — and that’s a good feeling to end your day.
Manage budgets and costs
A home is most people’s largest financial asset and biggest expense. Yet most homeowners are completely unorganized when it comes to managing their home which often times results in a “money pit” situation.
Consumers don’t have a home inventory, are under-insured, forget to do preventative maintenance which increases repair and energy costs, are over-budget on remodel projects, and lack financial visibility into all their home finances and total cost of ownership.
Homeowners really need to get organized regarding managing their home as the financial asset and expense that it is. Consumers should track the changing nature of the estimated value of their home, their mortgage balance, their home equity and have a budget for typical household expenses like utility costs, property taxes, insurance policies and more.
Homeowners should also manage budgets and costs for all their remodeling projects. These are investments in your home and you need to keep great records for tax and future resale purposes.
In addition, create a calendar of preventative maintenance tasks that need to be regularly done. This saves money by making sure your home’s equipment, appliances, and building materials are operating efficiently which reduces monthly energy bills and avoids expensive fix it / repair costs.
It is also important to have a home inventory which assesses the total value of your personal property to make sure you are properly insured on your home insurance policy, and you are prepared in case disaster (fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, etc.) were to strike your home and you have to file a claim with your insurance company.
Many consumers will try to create their own digital systems to manage all these aspects of the home. But there are also dedicated digital home management platforms like HomeZada that really help homeowners get setup and make managing the financial aspects of your home much easier.
CEO & Co-Founder, Mailbird
Take advantage of any technology that can help you save time
Today’s business environment has jumped into the future with fast-paced teams and a culture that revolves around innovation. Therefore, an organization is often the key to being successful, and it’s important to take advantage of any technology that can help you save even 10 minutes a day. Just like money, time also adds up!
Numerous apps can help you make the most out of your time in the workplace or in your home office. If you take the time to download even a few, you’ll find that the stress of sifting through handwritten notes and attempting to remember what’s on tap for the day will be a thing of the past.
This organizational app can be absolutely instrumental when it comes to working solo or with a team. Once it’s downloaded to your smartphone and computer, it allows you to set up projects, quickly assign tasks to team members and even share documents. You can easily see all of your incomplete tasks at a glance, as well as check on the progress of a particular project.
All communication regarding tasks and projects can continue in the comments, so it’s simple to double-check instructions or briefings. Asana will also let you know when you have a task due, with a ping to your mobile app, allowing you to easily work on the go. Plus, you can utilize Asana with multiple organizations, including for your own personal use.
Next, picture a messaging app that is designed for businesses to ensure that you’re never a click or two away from an instant response from a team member — all without ever having to make a call. You can download this innovative app to your smartphone and computer, ensuring that you never miss a beat.
Messages can be sent through various channels, typically a different one for each client or project. That way, you can easily review older messages or talk to the entire team about an upcoming task.
You can opt to receive desktop and smartphone notifications, with a handy snooze feature for private time. Additionally, you can also integrate other beneficial apps and programs, such as Google Drive.
Lastly, an intuitive email client can offer integration to both of these apps and more, enabling you to do everything — all in one place. An email should be something that helps you stay organized — not waste more of your valuable time.
Ensuring that there’s a spam filter in place can be critical, and you should pay special attention to any email lists and newsletters, being sure to unsubscribe if you don’t click on them at least 50 percent of the time.
Be sure to set aside a certain amount of time to work through your emails every day, not letting them build up. Keep the five-minute rule in place — if you can reply and move on in that time or less, do so.
While everyone has their own organizational routine, I find that utilizing the tools at my disposal is the surest way to cut down on the manual organization, stress and late work nights. I hope they can be beneficial to you in some way!
Certified Mindful Lifestyle & Stress Management Coach
Steps to becoming more organized:
- Get a calendar book, the old fashioned, write-it-down kind. Writing reinforces neural connections in your brain, making it easier to remember things and reinforcing an organizational mindset.
- Schedule everything into your calendar book. This includes time spent at work, getting ready in the morning, appointments, etc. Block off time for yourself, too, and make it an inviolable appointment.
- Take an assessment of where you’re spending your time, and what could be done to make it more efficient. For example, can you do your food shopping on the way home from work? Could you rearrange your errands to spend less time doing them?
- Make lists. Before you start your day, write down tasks that need to be done. Prioritize them as urgent and important, important, and things that can wait.
- Be flexible. Have a plan A, Plan B, and a Plan Q if necessary. Remember that there will always be times when things don’t go as planned; be solution oriented and prepared. “Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.”
- Delegate whenever possible. Could the kids be doing more chores? Can you assign mundane tasks to an employee working for you?
- Start organizing your physical space. If this seems like a gargantuan task, break it down into small, bite-sized segments and schedule them into your calendar book. Start with a drawer, a desktop, or a counter and make your way up to closets.
- Keep things like glasses, keys, and other daily use items in a specific place. Make sure they always land there so that you won’t waste time looking for them when you need them.
- Give away things you no longer use. If you haven’t worn an item in a year, donate it. Throw away or donate old appliances or gadgets that you no longer use or are broken to free up space.
- Before starting a project, assemble the tools you will need so you don’t waste time hunting for something. When the task is finished, make sure the tools get back to their assigned places.
Co-Founder & CEO, Cleverism
Write down tasks
When I am in the middle of something and an idea suddenly pops into my head, I always write it down. The act of writing down tasks clears the clutter from your mind so that you can remain creative all day.
Take note of your expenditure
Part of me being organized also includes knowing exactly where the money is spent. I always write down my expenditure which helps me track profit and loss and returns on investment. If you don’t know where to start, simply start with a spreadsheet.
Keep your inbox clean
I always keep your inbox clean and organized. When I don’t need an email, I either archive it or delete it. I normally answer all of the emails in the morning and that’s only once a day. Don’t just answer them as they come. Take your time and then reply with a clear head. Keep your inbox in check and don’t let email overload distract you from your main goal.
President, THGM Writers
One of the best ways to be more organized, that few people think of, is to share your to-do list with team members (family at home, colleagues at work). Why does this work?
First, somebody might see something on your list that they can do better or faster, and – boom! – one more thing accomplished.
Second, people see when you are most occupied and won’t bother you, especially if they see high-concentration activities.
Note: that might not always work with teenagers, and I say that from experience. But even teenagers can be trained to respect certain boundaries, and sharing a properly annotated to-do list might even work with them.
CEO and Founder, Psi Health Solutions, Inc.
Organize your email
When checking incoming email, do something with it. Delete it. Respond and delete. Respond and file. Or file it and calendar a reminder to deal with it at a later date when it’s relevant.
Objective: clear the inbox so you are not looking at the same email over and over. Saves time and keeps one on task.
Review your calendar
Review your calendar at the end of the day for what is happening the following day. You will then know what is coming up the next day and can plan accordingly, and you won’t waste time because you forgot an appointment.
Schedule your to-do lists
Schedule your to-do lists via whatever calendar program you use. Don’t rely on memory. This will clear your mind to focus on the task at hand and accomplish completing the other tasks later and on time.
Accurately plan your day
If you haven’t tried it, check out Todoist. While there are many Kan-ban style software solutions out there to assist with project management, I find Todoist’s format useful for my personal to-do list.
You can assign a date and time stamp, set up recurring reminders, drop links to a website, etc. It has a satisfying check-list style feel, and each day is organized by the time you assign.
My pro tip is to drop an estimated time-length in front of each task so that you can accurately plan your day and see if you need to push something off to a future date.
Co-Founder & COO, Chargebacks911
Re-evaluate your tech on a regular basis
Technology changes so quickly, and if you’re like me, you’re always interested in trying the latest gadget. Often the new tech replaces old tech and that can lead to a house or office full of unused devices that are simply gathering dust … and adding to the disorder.
We seem to have a problem letting go of old tech. You know what I mean: everything in your house is wireless, but you still keep a box of old stereo cords. You’ve upgraded your router twice: the old ones are still sitting on a shelf. Why? Maybe we’re not sure we’ll like the new version. Maybe we think we’ll need a back-up someday. Or maybe we’re thinking about how much the thing cost in the first place!
I laugh because I was one of the worst offenders, but our family finally decided that once a year, we go through all our electronic devices and do something with the ones we’re not using. Sometimes we repurpose: a smallish TV we no longer used is now a large monitor for my kids’ laptop.
Sometimes we sell: turns out, there’s actually a pretty good market for a complete PS3 system. And some things we simply donate: there are multiple charities that love to receive your unused cell phones.
This annual purge cuts down on clutter, makes us reassess what we’re really using, and oversimplifies life. Plus—I shouldn’t admit this—it makes me feel like I’ve got a room for that new gadget I’ve been eyeing!
Author | Attorney | Real Estate Broker | Business Consultant
There are two things you need to do to feel more organized.
Get things out of your head and on to paper
Writing down your to-do lists and tasks will help clear your brain for the more important work of being creative and thinking things through. Don’t waste brain bandwidth by using your brain as an agenda or list.
Don’t own homeless stuff
That means that every item in your home should have its own home within your home. Homeless items become clutter. Design your workspace and living space so that you know where everything is supposed to go, and you can avoid piles of homeless clutter
Author | Artist | Founder, intograsp.com
Plan every day
Needless to say, planning is the first thing that will make you organized. You have to make it a habit to write a plan every day. The plan will save you a ton of time.
First of all, make a long-term plan. Divide it into smaller steps and set some short-term goals. It is crucial to write everything down. Very often, we plan to do a lot of things but during the day we forget something.
In short, a written plan organizes our thoughts and helps us not to think about what to do next. So, we can concentrate all our efforts on the particular task. When we see our to-do list on the paper it is easy for us to prioritize the tasks.
And the best part! When you finish something you can cross it off the list. This will give you the feeling of the small victory which will motivate you to keep going.
Defragment your brain
First thing in the morning, jot down a list of everything that’s on your mind at the moment. Those things are nagging at your attention, which means they are dragging down your energy and distracting you, preventing you from doing your best.
Get them out of your head and onto paper, where it’s easier to deal with them.
Prioritize your A-B-Cs
Go through your list and label everything A, B, or C.
“A” means that it absolutely must get done today or you’ll face consequences. “B” means that you should do it. “C” means that it would be nice to get it done, but it’s optional. After that, look at only your “A” tasks and number them for urgency: A1, A2, or A3. A1 means that it’s on fire. A2 means that it’s urgent. A3 means that it’s important, but not an emergency.
Start your day by tackling one of your A1 tasks. Do nothing else until it’s done, and then handle each of the other A1 tasks. Then move on to an A2 task. Finish all of those before you start your A3 tasks. Don’t do anything else until all of your “A” tasks are done. Eliminate distractions. Be ruthless if you have to. You will instantly turbocharge your level of organization and productivity.
Reflect to improve
Every night, reflect back on the day. List three things that went great about today, and one thing you could have done differently. If it’s something you can do tomorrow, add it to your to-do list.
Founder & Principal, Texas Hard Money
Take advantage of task management apps
Whether you’re trying to maintain your business tasks or personal tasks, there’s plenty of helpful apps that can help you manage your to-do list in an efficient manner.
As far as business goes, it can be extremely difficult to track and manage your own tasks- let alone tasks within different departments of your company. Thankfully, there are task management sites that are designed to connect different departments and help organize and track the status of projects.
A personal favorite online tool is called Asana. I can see what is going on in each department, who is in charge of what task and whether they are on schedule. I can get an overview of everything going on in my business without having to ask individuals.
If you’re looking for an app that helps you with everyday personal tasks that aren’t work-related, Todoist is a great option. The easy to use app allows you to create daily tasks and manage them based on categories; personal, shopping, errands, etc. You can prioritize these tasks and check them off as you go.
Founder, Tea Cups & Tulips
Use the IvyLee Method
What works for me, when it comes to being more organized and getting stuff done is using the IvyLee Method. It’s a 100-year-old method used to help with productivity.
Every evening before I go to sleep, I write down 6-7 tasks I have to do the next day in order of importance. The reason I don’t write more than 7 assignments is that it can be overwhelming. The next day I focus on one task at a time and any unfinished tasks I move to my next day’s to-do list.
Always make sure to start your day with the unfinished tasks first. Then I rinse and repeat. It works because it’s simple, and it keeps me on track with the things I need to accomplish.
Founder, Mom Money Map
Declutter and simplify your life
If you declutter, you’ll have fewer items you’ll have to organize. You essentially won’t be reorganizing the clutter!
It’s important to keep in mind that there are 2 types of clutter: physical and digital clutter. An example of physical clutter is a kitchen appliance you haven’t used in over a year. An example of digital clutter is a file you’ll never reference that’s just taking up space on your hard drive.
Stay focused on the life you want
Every morning, I turn on the voice recording app on my smartphone and I make a recording for myself about what’s happening today and who I want to be or how I want to show up for the day.
While I am making the recording, I am conscious about letting my intuition drop in things I need to remember, ideas to make what I’ve got planned go more smoothly, ways to bring more joy into what I have planned, magical moments I can create for others, etc.
I keep my daily schedule in front of me, so I can easily see what meetings or deadlines I have today, as well as the creative projects I am working on.
I also use this daily recording as a way to remind myself of my bigger goals — long term dreams that are essential to me. Because I am holding these bigger dreams in my consciousness, there are always ways in which I am able to weave these into whatever I am doing today.
As I’m recording, I might jot down a word or two on my daily planner: “Oprah!” “One Million Love Lists!” “Celebration VIP Weekend!” Just seeing these words connects me to my dreams and keep me focused on them.
Making this recording helps sets the stage for the day. It tells my mind what it needs to remember and invites in ideas for better, more efficient ways to do things. Often, something will drop in such as, “While you are out buying flowers for the video recording, go to the post office and get stamps!”
All the credit for this practice goes to my spiritual teacher, Cheri Huber, who started this Recording and Listening Practice as a way to help train our brains to be more loving and kind.
By making and listening to these kinds of recordings, we get to stay focused on the life we want instead of reacting to what comes at us — either internally or externally. This practice helps us be intentional and consciously loving toward ourselves.
Organize your files
Similar to laundry, I think we are facing the increasing pile of digital clutter more and more. Our phones are filled with photos and videos that capture life beautifully, but do we ever go back and reflect on the memories and all those precious slices-of-life?
Some steps I take to keep the digital clutter organized include:
- Go through your photos on your phone once a week whenever you have some downtime. Delete any poor or duplicate shots, trim videos to include just the good snippets, and mark your favorites with a heart.
- Online Back-up. If you enjoy reflecting and capturing the stories behind the moments but don’t want to share on social media, find an easy-to-use app to organize the photos, videos and allow for captions or short stories.
- Create your own yearbook. Take all the photos and videos you’ve favorited along the way and create a printed keepsake photobook or video slideshow to remember the year. I use iMovie to build yearly family videos putting my favorite photos and videos in chronological order, adding some text to the bottom, and setting it to the music we are jamming to through the past year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it important to be organized?
• Enhanced productivity: An organized environment helps you to focus better and complete tasks efficiently, resulting in higher productivity levels.
• Reduced stress: Keeping things tidy and structured minimizes the time spent searching for items or information, which in turn decreases stress and frustration.
• Better time management: An organized lifestyle enables you to allocate time more effectively, ensuring you meet deadlines and accomplish your goals.
• Increased self-confidence: Being organized cultivates a sense of control and accomplishment, fostering greater self-confidence and motivation.
• Positive impression: A well-organized person is perceived as responsible and reliable, creating a positive impression on others, both personally and professionally.
What are some examples of being organized?
Being organized isn’t just about maintaining a tidy living space; it encompasses a broad range of habits and practices that can be applied to multiple aspects of our lives. Here are different manifestations of being organized:
• Physical space organization: Maintaining a clean and clutter-free environment by regularly decluttering, labeling items, and creating designated spaces for belongings.
• Task management: Utilizing to-do lists, prioritizing tasks, and setting deadlines to stay on track and avoid procrastination.
• Time management: Allocating time effectively by breaking down tasks into smaller steps, using a calendar or planner, and setting aside time for personal and professional development.
• Financial organization: Keeping track of expenses, following a budget, and setting financial goals to ensure financial stability and growth.
• Digital organization: Organizing digital files into folders, using cloud storage, and implementing a consistent file-naming system to quickly locate and access important documents.
Why do I struggle in being organized?
It’s not uncommon for people to face challenges when trying to maintain an organized lifestyle. Some factors that contribute to the struggle of being organized are:
• Lack of routine: The absence of a consistent routine makes it difficult to maintain organization in your daily life.
• Procrastination: Putting tasks off can lead to disorganization as tasks pile up and become overwhelming.
• Overwhelm: The sheer number of tasks or responsibilities might feel daunting, making it challenging to establish and maintain organization.
• Limited organizational skills: Some individuals may not have been taught effective organizational techniques or strategies, making it harder to stay organized.
• Perfectionism: Striving for perfection can hinder organization, as the fear of not being perfect may prevent you from starting or completing tasks.
What are some habits of highly organized people?
Organized individuals tend to exhibit specific habits that contribute to their overall success and sense of order. Here are a few of those winning habits:
• Routine creation: They establish daily routines and stick to them, which helps maintain consistency and organization.
• Prioritization: Organized people prioritize their tasks, focusing on high-impact activities and ensuring timely completion.
• Decluttering: They regularly declutter their physical and digital spaces, keeping their environment tidy and functional.
• Effective time management: Time is utilized efficiently, avoiding procrastination and multitasking while setting realistic goals.
• Planning ahead: Planning for the short and long term is essential, using tools such as calendars, to-do lists, and planners to stay on track.
• Adopting the “one-touch” rule: Highly organized individuals tackle tasks immediately when possible, minimizing the accumulation of clutter or unfinished tasks.
How can I break bad habits that interfere with my organization?
Bad habits can be obstacles to achieving a well-organized life. Breaking bad habits that hinder organization can be achieved through the following steps:
• Identify the habits: Recognize the specific habits that are causing disorganization in your life.
• Determine triggers: Understand the triggers or situations that lead to these habits, helping you develop strategies to counteract them.
• Replace with positive habits: Substitute the bad habits with healthier, more organized alternatives.
• Set realistic goals: Establish attainable and measurable goals for habit change, allowing you to track progress and maintain motivation.
• Hold yourself accountable: Share your goals with a trusted friend or family member who can offer support and encouragement during the process.
• Be patient: Breaking bad habits takes time and persistence, so be patient with yourself and recognize that setbacks may occur.
How can I make organization a habit rather than a chore?
Transforming organization from a chore to a habit can lead to lasting improvements in your life. And the following strategies can help you kick off:
• Start small: Begin with manageable tasks, such as organizing a single drawer or creating a daily to-do list, to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
• Create a routine: Incorporate organization into your daily routine, making it a consistent part of your life rather than an occasional task.
• Set realistic expectations: Understand that perfection is not achievable, and focus on progress and improvement instead.
• Reward yourself: Celebrate your accomplishments and reward yourself for maintaining organization, reinforcing the positive habit.
• Find inspiration: Surround yourself with inspiration, whether it’s through social media, books, or podcasts, to help maintain motivation.
• Seek support: Connect with like-minded individuals who are also striving for organization, sharing tips and offering encouragement to one another.
What are some common mistakes people make when trying to get organized?
• Overcomplicating the process: Trying to implement complex organizational habits can lead to confusion and frustration, making it more challenging to maintain the actions.
• Procrastination: Delaying tasks or waiting for the perfect time to get organized can result in an accumulation of clutter and disorganization.
• Lack of prioritization: Failing to prioritize tasks can cause individuals to focus on less important tasks while neglecting high-priority items, hindering overall organization.
• Attempting too much at once: Taking on too many tasks or trying to organize an entire space in one go can lead to overwhelm and burnout, making it challenging to maintain motivation and organization.
• Inconsistency: Organization requires consistent effort and maintenance. Neglecting regular upkeep can result in a quick return to disorganization.
• Setting unrealistic goals: Expecting immediate or perfect results can lead to disappointment and demotivation, hampering long-term progress.
• Not adapting to personal needs: Relying solely on generic organizational methods without tailoring them to one’s unique needs and preferences can make the process less effective and harder to maintain.
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