Now it’s time to organize! If you have followed our tips and cleared your clutter, organizing will be a breeze. For example, a simplified and clutter-free drawer often requires little or no organizing because everything in the drawer will be visible and accessible. And as we have said before, and as Victoria Moran so aptly describes in her book Shelter for the Spirit, “you can’t organize clutter.” Clearing first has saved you time that may have been wasted trying to organize your clutter and you’ve probably also saved money by not buying containers or organizational systems for things you realized you no longer need.
Below are a few keys to organizing:
– Find a home for everything: Even an item that is not clutter can become clutter if you don’t have a place for it when it’s not in use.
– Make your stuff accessible: We are more apt to put things away if we find a home that is easy to reach and near where we use the item. So you’re less apt to put away that fancy serving tray you use on special occasions if you’re storing in the top shelf of your garage. Ideally, find a place for it near the kitchen or dining room.
– Make space for your things: We’re more likely to put it away if we don’t have to cram it in a cabinet or move other things to put it back.
– Clean your shelves, closets, garage, etc…: Honor your things with a clean home and a clean space; you will be motivated to keep it organized.
– Make it really easy to put away: Really easy! This is similar to make it accessible, but it’s worth emphasizing. Go with your strengths and accept who you are—if you won’t open a cabinet door in the bathroom to access the wastebasket, better to compromise a bit on aesthetics and keep the wastebasket out. If you are a pile person, don’t try to file. If you won’t lift the lid off the laundry hamper to put things inside keep the lid off. If you won’t hang up your jacket on hangers, get hooks. If you like to drape clothes rather than put them away get a chair, table, stool, or ottoman in your closet to drape.
– Same place all the time: Be consistent and return your items to the same place each time you put them away (we will get in the habit of putting it away more easily if the things are returned to the same location).
– Prioritize storage: Surround yourself with what you use on a daily basis by keeping the everyday items accessible and store the rest in the less convenient places. This is particularly helpful if you are short on space. If you have a set of twelve dishes because you like to entertain and a family of four, try keeping half the set in your easy to reach shelves and place the rest somewhere else, such as a lower cabinet that is not as easy to reach.
– Keep it simple: If our systems are too complicated we will not use them. For example, you do not need to alphabetize your bookshelves!
– Make it beautiful: You will be more inspired to keep things organized if you make your things look beautiful—even objects behind closed doors in cabinets or closets. Try grouping objects to cut down on visual clutter. For example put all the stuff such as shampoo bottles, soap etc… by the bathtub on one tray. Take price stickers off your fruits and vegetables, take the plastic off the paper towels before you put them in the cabinet—anything you do to make your shelves look more appealing will inspire you to keep it organized.
– Think out of the box: Kitchen items don’t necessarily have to go in the kitchen. Put things where they are easy to reach and where you use them/ need them, not necessarily where it “makes sense.” I spent this entire year having clutter on my kitchen table because each day the kids would bring home their school work and I would have to go down a set of stairs to their playroom where I kept their preschool and third-grade school workboxes to put it away. Because I had to go downstairs, I rarely did it and the piles would move from the kitchen counter to the dining table to the coffee table until I finally motivated. And all because I had the idea that only kitchen stuff belongs in a kitchen. Finally, I changed the pattern, I put the boxes in a linen closet outside the bathroom right near the kitchen. And voila—now as they bring their work in I walk six feet away and put it away immediately—no more clutter!
– Temporary home: Some things will only be in our lives for a short period of time so we only need to find a temporary home. Open baskets with handles can be great for things that only require a temporary home. I use the baskets above for temporary projects like holiday cards. I keep pens, stamps, and the cards and envelopes in the basket so I can have everything at my fingertips whether I decide to work on them in the kitchen or bedroom. The baskets are attractive so I can leave them anywhere and they don’t get in the way or look unsightly.
– Go digital: Typically, it is much easier to maintain, search for, and organize digital items. It certainly takes up less space and requires less cleaning. Scan as much as you can. I sent my paper and photos to be scanned by Scan Café. We also transferred our CD’s and videos to digital files.
– Rotate: Keep things you do not use on a regular basis out of your daily rotation. This works especially well for kids’ toys and seasonal items. Store them and then take them out as needed. If you have a large collection of some sort, but not a lot of space to display your things, you can also rotate the collection. Display a portion of your collectibles, then every few months out those away and display another portion.
– Clear labeled plastic boxes: Use clear, labeled plastic boxes for things you are either not sure you will keep or are not sure where to keep. Not knowing where something goes can paralyze the clutter clearing process and not knowing where something is causes anxiety. Make some choice if only grouping similar things in one spot. Not sure what to do with old photos and letters? At least put them in one place—a stack of clear plastic containers are better to look at than stacks of items or dealing with the anxiety of not knowing where they are. This way they are in a box, all together, labeled, and ready to organize when you’re ready.