Whether you’ve been inspired by Marie Kondo’s tidying up methods, need to clear away years of clutter, or simply want to make some positive changes in your life, getting organized and developing new habits to stay organized can change your life for the better. Ready to make this year your most organized year ever? Read on!
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Everything in its place
A simple statement, but with huge impact. Let this be your mantra as you begin cleaning up, clearing out, and putting away your belongings. Take a look at your countertops. You might have a utensil crock for cooking tools and a knife block for your cutlery, but do you otherwise have scattered items randomly placed that could be living elsewhere, like potholders, chip clips, pens, mail, snacks, etc.? Everything should have its place. Is it convenient to throw the mail on the counter when you walk into the house after a long day of work with your arms full? Sure, but it’s a bad habit, and you know it. Do you stuff grocery bags in random corners of the kitchen? Try a bag organizer. Can’t find ingredients in the fridge when you’re looking for them (or find them rotting away in the back a few weeks too late)? Compartmentalize your fridge. Make a home for food-storage containers, their lids, pot lids, and other hard-to-stack but often-used items.
Start small: Room by room, section by section.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re trying to get started. Sure, there’s a lot you can do in the laundry room, but that could remind you of the clutter in your clothes closet, which can remind you of how dusty and overcrowded your bureau or nightstand is getting, and all of a sudden you’re in a spiral of overwhelm, opting to skip it all and just watch another episode of Fixer Upper, hoping for inspiration and wondering where you can buy a giant wall clock.
Remind yourself that Rome wasn’t organized in a day (or something like that) and that this is going to take time. Sure, you should clear off the empty water glasses and old receipts from your nightstand, but you’ll get to it eventually. Pick a room, and stick with it until it’s done. Now, in that room, pick a section. Chip away until you’re done. Don’t be tempted by that easier task across the room — focus on one area at a time, give it your all, and then move on knowing it’s done.
Make checklists with incentives.
When I was in college, I took a business management course, and although that was (what feels like a million) years ago, one thing my professor told us stood out among his generally snoozeworthy lectures. He said: Incentives work.
Since then, I’ve managed teams of people in various jobs, and that piece of advice has always proved true. Even for myself! “Okay, if I can go through all of the stuff in the fridge, throw out expired condiments, and disinfect the glass shelves, I’ll buy myself a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy” (Because it’s so, so good.)
So, starting from the top:
Choose a room.
Choose a section.
Make a list of everything you need to do.
Give yourself an incentive.
For example: Room – Bedroom. Section – closet. Checklist: Pull out clothes that I haven’t worn in at least two years, pull out anything that’s outdated, try the “spark joy” method, get rid of wire hangers, put all clothes back neatly, sweep floor. Incentive – Buy some nicer hangers and lavender sachets to make it always smell like spring.
Find a worthy cause, friend in need, or other way to donate
What’s even better than “out with the old”? In with the new. Donating items (housewares, curtains, clothes, books, furniture, kids things) can make a world of difference for someone in need. Sure, you’ll feel great because you’re doing the right thing, but they’ll feel even better because when times are tough, it’s inspiring to know that people care, whether they’re family or strangers.
Get an “I’m not sure” bin
Whether you’re a full-on commitment-phobe or just a little nostalgic, it can be hard letting go of certain things that you no longer need, but might have some sort of attachment to. If you’re not sure whether you’re ready to let go, first decide whether it’s a healthy attachment; if so, drop it in the “I’m not sure” bin. Keep it out of sight for a few weeks or months, and if it stays out of mind, you might feel more ready to say goodbye. Or, you might realize that it’s worth holding on to. But, instead of spending time agonizing over if you should keep it or not, toss it in the bin and move on.
Practice better habits
Getting organized is one thing; staying organized is another. I’m not saying you should aim to have your home look perfectly staged, dust free, and compartmentalized every day for all eternity. But, look out for those little bad habits that you can change. Drop a few crumbs? Sweep them up and put the broom back in its place, even if it goes across the house. Don’t let that stack of half-read magazines pile up. Small actions over time can make a big difference.