Life Style

Getting organized is easy. A pro talks about how to make it last.


There is a lot advice out there (including my own) about how to organize your home, with strategies for dealing with individual spaces or categories of items that are frequent clutter culprits. If you haven’t worn a piece of clothing in more than a year, donate it. Every time you bring home a new book, give one away. Clean and organize your pantry twice a year. But in addition to those tips, people who continue to stay organized tend to share the following behaviors and habits.

In our fast-paced lives, where work and home have become even more intertwined, having a to-do list is key to staying organized. Your list can be electronic or physical, but be sure to update it frequently and carry it with you.

There is no correct way to organize it. Some people will divide their list by personal and professional tasks. Others keep it according to deadlines: what needs to be done today, this week, this month. Creating and maintaining a list will help you remember what needs to be done, and it will give you a sense of accomplishment every time you cross off a completed task.

To get organized, start by buying less stuff

When you’re trying to get in shape, you don’t exercise all day, then do nothing for the next three months. Instead, you start with a reasonable workout and create a routine to maintain your fitness. The same is true for getting and staying organized: Consistency is key.

People who stay organized don’t wait until they’re overwhelmed by papers, packages or laundry to take action. They spend 10 or 15 minutes each day straightening up and clearing off surfaces, tossing or recycling papers and trash, hanging up clothes or filing paperwork. Every little bit helps.

Consume less, shop mindfully

Having fewer items in our homes goes a long way toward staying organized. There is a limit to how much we can comfortably fit into our spaces. If every cabinet, closet, drawer and shelf is full, it’s harder to put items in their proper places, and it’s more difficult to keep track of what you have.

Organized people shop mindfully and limit their purchases to what they need and love. Before you buy something large, such as an exercise bike or a new piece of furniture, first consider whether you have the space for it.

Empty bags, open mail daily

Bags are not for storing items; they are for getting pieces from place to place. Take a few minutes when you get home to empty the contents of your bags and put the items away. Likewise, aim to open your mail every day and immediately recycle envelopes and junk mail. Packages should be opened the day they arrive. Put the contents away and recycle the box. Returns should be completed within a week. All of these tasks take little time, and doing them regularly will save you time and stress later.

All progress is good progress. Regular tidying each morning or evening will keep clutter under control. Make a rule to clear your kitchen counters at the end of each day, make your bed each morning or put your laundry away after folding it. None of this is particularly fun or fulfilling, but it makes a difference and sets expectations for an orderly and organized home.

Prioritize the organizing tasks that give you a sense of control and simplify your day. If packing lunches feels overwhelming during the morning rush, put out their contents the night before. Or if your email inbox is a source of stress, spend 10 minutes processing emails each afternoon. I don’t like waking up to a messy kitchen, so I take a few minutes to clean up and clear off the counter each night. It makes me feel like I’m starting each day on the right note.

Good enough is good enough

Your closet does not have to be photo-ready. Your bookshelves don’t need to be curated. If you can find what you need, you know what you have and you put items away, you are organized. Don’t let chasing perfection be the enemy of living with good enough. Our homes have been pushed to their limits during the coronavirus pandemic. Many of us accumulated more than we need and want to pare down again. But don’t try to declutter your whole house in a day or weekend. Spend 30 minutes taking on one space at a time, then do that consistently. Keep your systems simple. Clothing doesn’t need to be file-folded. Cereal and baking ingredients don’t need to be decanted or sorted by color. Just putting them away in the proper place is a win.

Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik. She can be reached at [email protected].


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