Are you looking for practical, no-nonsense tips on how to be organized?
Do you need some help keeping things neat and tidy around the home and office?
The good news is that anyone can learn how to be organized.
All you need is the drive, determination, and persistence to make your organized dreams a reality.
And don’t think for a moment that this skillset exists in a vacuum.
Even organized people refine their organization techniques from time to time.
There’s always something that can be improved upon, reworked, or streamlined.
Organization is, after all, a habit best practiced on a regular basis.
In this thoughtful post, I offer six simple tips to show how you can be organized.
All you have to do is incorporate these smart tips into your daily routine and you’ll soon be on your way to a more organized life.
Ready to start? Let’s begin!
Organize like items with like.
One of the key techniques used when it comes to being organized is to make sure you’re matching similar items with similar items. It doesn’t matter whether you’re organizing clothes, books, makeup, or paper, the aim of the organizing game is to end up matching like with like.
While this is an extremely basic concept, you’ll be surprised to hear this concept alone gives people quite a bit of trouble. It’s all about viewing things through a different lens than what you’re already accustomed.
If you want to truly understand the “like with like” concept, you have to get into the habit of objectively looking at items in your home or office simply as items of a certain type. Once you’ve done that, you can take things to the next level. And you guessed it, the next level is to match similar items with similar items.
Here’s a simple example for you. Let’s say you’d like to organize your clothes closet. You’ve already removed items from the closet, so it is empty and ready to receive items.
Now, your first step would be to assemble the clothing from your closet in one area in your bedroom. This could be on top of a freshly made bed, counter, or dresser top.
Once you’ve finished assembling all of your clothing, you’d take things one step further and would match similar items with similar items. You’d gather t-shirts with t-shirts, slacks with slacks, jackets with jackets, and so on.
As soon as you’ve organized similar items of clothing with one another, you would then hang the clothing items neatly one, by one, in your closet.
See how easy that was? All we did was take similar items (clothing), grouped them together, and took things further by grouping similar items (t-shirts, slacks, jackets) together. You can apply this “like items with like” approach to almost anything: from pens with pens in an office supply cabinet, to canned soups with canned soups in the kitchen pantry, to personal items with personal items.
So, the next time you are looking to organize a collection of miscellaneous items at home or at the office ask yourself, “Am I organizing like items with like items?” If the answer is yes, you’re well on your way to a more organized way of living. If the answer is no, you’ll need to stop what you’re doing and take an objective look at your progress thus far.
Choose an organization method…and stick to it.
Believe it or not, there are countless ways to organize items. You can organize items by shape, size, color, or function, just to name a few! (If you’re looking to expand your horizons when it comes to organizing like items with like, be sure to check out my post, 40 Thoughtful Ways You Can Organize Items by clicking here).
Now, while you do have the freedom of organizing items however you so choose, you have to follow the second cardinal rule of organization. And that rule is: once you select an organization method, you absolutely must follow that method to the letter.
Wondering why this is the case? Things can become quite confusing if you’re constantly switching back and forth between different organizing methods. Retrieving items will become more difficult to locate and storing items will become a hassle, too.
For clarity’s sake, let’s go back to the closet example we gave earlier. Let’s say you’ve decided to organize your clothes by clothing type, t-shirts with t-shirts, slacks with slacks, and so on.
You regularly replace clothes into the closet following your organization method of clothing type. Later in the week, however, you decide to organize your clothes by color and set about making the necessary changes in your closet.
The only problem is that you haven’t made a solid decision as to which organization method you’ll use. You find it more and more difficult as the weeks pass to locate individual items of clothing because you’re constantly working with a pseudo organization combination of clothing type and color.
Now, this isn’t to say that you aren’t ever allowed to change organization methods. You can always choose any organization method you’d like for any organization project. The point I’m trying to make here is that once you select an organization method, you need to stick with it. This method will literally set the framework for your organizing habits in the months to come.
You have to be one who sets, and regularly maintains, your organization method of choice. If you don’t, you may be in for a rude awakening when you attempt to find something! Do yourself a favor: be adamant when both setting and following your organization method of choice.
Give items a permanent home.
If you want to be able to easily locate items, you can’t go wrong giving items a permanent home. You don’t think twice about finding opened condiments in the refrigerator door or nor do you bat an eye when it comes to locating your favorite sundresses in your closet. So, why wouldn’t you give all those books, files, crafts, or appliances a permanent home in your home or office space?
It’s definitely worth giving all items within your home or office a permanent storage location. Not only will you be able to quickly locate items when you need them, it will be easier to put things back when you’re finished using them. We’ll talk more about this in just little bit…
When finding permanent homes for items, you must consider the item’s:
- Usage – Is the item used on a regular basis or occasionally? You’ll want to store frequently used items in an easy-to-access location.
- Location – Is the item stored in the correct location in the home or office? Ideally, you should store items closest to the location where they will be used.
- Size – Is the item small or large? If it is small, what are the best storage options based on location and usage? If it is large, will you need to make some adjustments to your proposed location to accommodate the item?
Return items to their storage location.
This tip is an absolute must if you want to keep things organized in a space. If you think you’ll be able to get out this habit, think again!
You can assign storage locations for appliances, makeup, clothing, or office supplies in your home or office until the cows come home. But, if you don’t replace things where they belong when you’re finished using them, your organizing efforts will be in vain.
Get in the habit of returning items to their storage locations when you’re finished using them. With practice, this action will be like second nature: once you retrieve an item, and use it, you’ll immediately return the item back where it belongs. In most cases, returning an item back to a storage location shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
Need help wrapping your head around this? Here are three opportunities during the day when you can return items to their storage location:
When you’ve finished working on a project or assignment.
When you’re finished crafting, pack up and store the glitter and glue gun. Finished doing housework? Put away the vacuum cleaner, dust cloth, and cleaning solutions. And, when you’re finished cooking meals, put away leftover food in the refrigerator, and wash and dry tableware, utensils, pots and pans.
At the end of the work day.
Take 30 minutes at the end of the work day to put away and prepare items for the next day. You can return office supplies to the supply cabinet or desk drawer, return files to the filing cabinet, replace tools in their designated storage area, and wipe down countertops and workspaces.
At the end of the day at home.
Add tidying up your home to your evening routine. Before you take out the trash, lock windows and doors, and get ready for bed, spend 15 minutes picking up and/or returning items to their storage area.
Work within your personal preferences.
When it comes to being organized, you ultimately get to decide how organized you’d like to be. That’s quite a relief, right?
You get to decide how you’d like to spend your time and energy in a way that works for you, and your lifestyle. At a very basic level, it’s all about understanding your personal preferences, and then working within those preferences.
Some people like to organize items on a broad level, while others like to organize items on a narrow level. There are even people who like to use a combination of the two in their lives.
Believe it or not, all of this counts as being organized. What matters the most is that you can find what you need when you need it, and are satisfied with the organization system you’ve selected for yourself.
So, just because your neighbor organizes their canned soups alphabetically by soup type in kitchen, doesn’t mean you have to do the same. You might choose to store your canned soups with dry soup packets, or come up with some other organization method that works well for your needs. The possibilities truly are infinite!
Don’t forget, it takes time to organize and keep items organized. Be choosy about how, and when, you’ll spend your energy and focus when it comes to keeping things organized.
Practice organization everyday.
Organization is just like any other skill. Like it or not, you have to practice it on a regular basis if you want to improve your skills. And of course, the best way to practice organization skills, is to actually organize items on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, people often have the misconception that being organized will take away hours of their time. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Being organized will flat-out save you time; you’ll be able to simply find what you need with ease.
What will take away solid hours of your time is an unruly, unmaintained, and disorganized space. That translates to countless stressful hours spent sorting, digging, and searching for items…and repeating the dreaded process anytime you need to find something.
You can look at it this way: would you rather spend five hours searching for something or spend a mere five minutes putting something away? The choice is yours!
Being organized doesn’t have to be a labor-intensive process. Putting items back where they belong only takes a couple of minutes, if that.
Try spending five to ten minutes a day tidying up your home and office. If you are consistent in your work, you’ll be able to keep clutter at bay and keep your living space in tip-top order.
And the best part about all of this? Not only will your living and workspaces be neat and tidy, you’ll have time to actually enjoy and use them to your heart’s content. That’s not a bad trade-off, now is it?
How about you? Which of these points surprised you the most? Can you think of any other habits you’ll need to adopt if you want to be organized? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!
A version of this post was originally published in 2018.