Daydreaming of swoon-worthy curated bookcases, matching pantry storage bins, and a color-coded calendar? Those Pinterest-inspired images are more attainable than you’d think! You don’t need a professional organizer; you can just do it yourself.
Organizing your home or life might not seem like an easy task, especially if you aren’t sure where to start. And depending on your current state of affairs, getting started can certainly be time-consuming.
The good news? Once that initial organizational push is completed, it’s just a matter of maintenance to stay organized.
To help you cultivate strong organizational habits, in this article we’re sharing our favorite strategies for getting your home (and your life) organized. Even if your natural inclination is more on the messy side, these easy-to-follow tips will have everything in order in no time.
Before You Start
Once you’ve made the decision to get organized, it’s awfully tempting to just dive in. But with a little bit of prep work, you can save time and money. How? By decluttering!
Why waste time organizing things you no longer want to own? Even worse, why spend money on storage containers for those items?
Decluttering is the crucial first step to getting organized. Because once you’ve decided on exactly which items you want in your house, you can figure out how to best organize, store, or arrange them.
How to Declutter
There are a number of approaches to decluttering, but here’s the most basic (and easiest!):
- Start with just one area or room.
- Take everything out of the drawers and off the shelves so you can easily see everything.
- Make separate piles and decide with each item: Keep, Donate, or Throw Away. Be ruthless about whether you really need each item you’re tempted to keep!
- Designate a spot for every item you’re keeping. Yes, for every single one. That’s where it belongs now; do your best to return it after every use.
Decluttering can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially when you come across items with emotional ties. Tell yourself that it’s okay to keep items for sentimental reasons. You can keep your grandmother’s brooch just to look at it from time to time. It’s also okay to give them to someone who will enjoy and use it more than you—maybe your cousin would wear that brooch every week.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to decluttering meaningful objects; do what feels right for you. But remember, the less you own, the easier it is to organize and keep it organized.
Decluttering Pro Tips
Decluttering isn’t necessarily difficult, but it can be time-consuming. Make it a bit easier with these tips.
- Gather like objects. Once you see the huge pile of jeans you own, it’ll be easier to get rid of a few pairs.
- Drop off your “To Donate” items as soon as possible. Leaving donations in your house or car isn’t just messy (and the opposite of the organized vibe you want), it’s also tempting to change your mind and grab a shirt or book out of the pile.
- Check pantry and medicine cabinet labels. Ditch anything that has expired.
- Cosmetics and self-care products have expiration dates, too. Throw out any products that are past their shelf-life.
How to Get Organized At Home
Once you know exactly what you’re keeping, it’s time to get organized!
In the Kitchen
- Use the right shelves. Keep pantry items that you use often at eye level, where you can find them easily without searching.
- Group like items. As an example, keep your spices in the same cabinet, or designate a part of your fridge for produce.
- Use containers. See-through plastic containers don’t just look good, they can also help preserve dry goods (rice, crackers, flour). It’s a win-win!
- Label everything. If you’ve taken items out of their store packaging and stored them in containers, use a label maker (or empty address labels and a Sharpie) to label them. Sugar and salt look a lot alike – your morning coffee will thank you for this one!
- Take charge of your junk drawer. Junk drawers can be found even in the neatest, most organized homes. Keep yours from getting too messy with frequent clean-outs. In between, use small bins (like those used for silverware) to neatly corral small items.
In the Bathroom
- Keep countertops clutter-free. If you’re low on cabinet space, look into a small shelving unit. With some pretty baskets or sleek containers, it’ll look much more organized than a counter full of cosmetics and face washes.
- Coordinate bottles. Sure, you can keep shampoo, conditioner, soap, and so on in their original packaging. But how much more organized will your bathroom look if they’re stored in coordinating bottles, instead? Just be sure to use your label maker, so you don’t forget which is which.
- Choose mason jars. For any items that you keep in quantity (cotton balls, q-tips, makeup sponges), place them in clear mason jars. The see-through glass looks neat and organized.
- Utilize vertical storage. In most bathrooms, the space above the toilet is wasted space. A shelf or two can hold everything from towels to a spare roll of toilet paper.
- Opt for a lazy Susan. This popular kitchen tool can be quite useful in the bathroom, too! In a bathroom cabinet, it can hold smaller items— from hair gel to toothpaste to medication—in one easy-to-find spot.
In the Living Room
- Use hidden storage. Coffee tables and ottomans can store items that you want in your living room but not on display. Think board games, blankets, extra cushions, and more.
- Install floating shelves. Display your newly curated items without cluttering counters or tops of furniture. A few floating shelves will hold picture frames, candles, collectibles, and other living room decor.
- Arrange bookcases. Who says bookcases have to be just for books? Once you’ve decluttered, your shelves might have fewer books. You can fill in the spaces with whatever you want: small statues, pictures, anything at all.
- Corral the reading mess. One of the biggest culprits when it comes to messy living rooms is reading materials. Newspapers, magazines, and books stacked on end tables make the room messy and disorganized. Invest in pretty baskets for storing your “to read” pile.
- Create a kid’s zone. Kids’ toys can easily take over the living room. Rolling storage bins can keep toys and games in a designated spot, yet easily accessible for the little ones.
In the Bedroom
- Flip hangers. Although this organizing tip will take you all year, it’s well worth it! Flip all of your clothes hangers backward. Only flip them the right way when you’ve worn that item. At the end of the year, you’ll see exactly which clothes to donate: the ones you haven’t touched in 12 months.
- Roll clothes. When you have a stack of shirts in a drawer, it’s easier to grab whichever one’s on top. Instead of folding your clothes, roll them up and arrange them 2-3 rows wide. Then when you open a drawer, it’s easy to see all your options at a glance.
- Use shelf partitions. If you try to store purses or other unstructured items in one long row across your closet shelves, chances are they’ll end up looking messy. Use clear dividers across your shelves to keep items standing up. It helps them hold their shape, last longer, and look neater.
- Group your clothes. Pants with pants, shirts with shirts, dresses with dresses. Keep items together so you can easily find what you want to wear. Bonus points if you color-code them , too!
- Store seasonal items. You don’t have to have all of your clothes in your closet or dresser. Stow your off-season items; only leave the items you’re currently using in your closet. Having more space between items helps avoid wrinkles—reducing your ironing!
How to Organize Your Life
Once you see how easy it is to organize your home, you might be ready to take it a step further by organizing your life. The key to an organized life is time management. Here’s a list of hacks so that you can spend less time procrastinating and more time focusing on the important areas of your life.
- Prioritize your to-do list. Let’s face it most people have to-do lists that are a mile long. But if you really want to stay on track, a prioritized to-do list is a better option. Write down your entire task list with your most important tasks at the top, so you can be sure you get to those that truly matter.
- Write it down. No matter how important and unforgettable you might think something is, write it down. Whether you use a notes app on your phone or a notebook and pen is your call. Choose whatever works best for you.
- Delegate. You can’t do it all yourself. Really. Enlist family and friends to help whenever possible, so you’re not frazzled trying to accomplish everything at once. Or hire help: a pool cleaner, house cleaning service, or meal delivery service can actually save you money (and your sanity) if it gives you time to finish your work calmly.
- Keep a calendar. Maintaining an up-to-date calendar will help you avoid missed appointments or scheduling conflicts. Calendar apps for your phone can even be shared with family members so everyone’s on the same page.
- Use timers. Time-consuming tasks can feel overwhelming. But instead of procrastinating or avoiding them altogether, use a timer to set reasonable time limits. When the time is up, you can move on to the next item on your to-do, guilt-free. It may take longer to finish that large task, but progress is progress!
- Clean up as you go. Going to bed with a sink full of dirty dishes? A couch piled with unfolded laundry? Tools all over the garage floor? No, thanks! Taking just a few minutes to pick up after yourself throughout the day means you can end the night with a neat, organized home, without having to rush around tidying up at the last minute.
- Find balance. Once you get bitten by the “organizing bug,” it’s tempting to spend much of your free time organizing your home and your life. But that enthusiasm might not be sustainable in the long term and can lead to burnout. Better to take hours or even days off and enjoy activities that emphasize self-care: meditation, exercise, time with family and friends, etc.
Organized people aren’t necessarily born; they’re made. And while changing ingrained habits isn’t easy, it is doable.
Once you’ve put in the time and effort to get organized, make sure you’re sticking to a good maintenance routine. Have a set time in your daily routine to clean up and declutter, for example, or start each week by going through your appointment calendar.
It may seem like a challenging task, especially when you’re first starting out. But when you realize how nice it is to be able to find important papers easily and see how neat your organized home looks, you’ll be happy to make the effort.
Follow our organization tips, stick to your maintenance schedule, and at the end of the day you’ll enjoy the zen feeling that goes with having an organized home or life!
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