People always ask how I can be so organized. Well, the truth is–I have to be. Without organization, it’s quite likely I’d be a total slob. You know John Belushi’s character in Animal House? That’s me without drawer dividers. Don’t believe me? Ask G.
Luckily, I’ve discovered the more organized my home is the less messy I can be. It’s nearly impossible to leave my bathroom products scattered all over the sink now that I have little cabinet baskets perfect for my hair products. And my shoes–once scattered across my closet floor–are now neatly lined up in my lovely organized closet. And my handbags? Never an issue (some things are just sacred). But my point is–once things have a place–a functional place–it takes little effort to make sure they find their way home.
Sound like a plan you want to sign on to? Here are the 7 steps I take (the 12 steps are my other program) to get started–whether I’m organizing a drawer or an entire room:
1. Decide on the function of the space and stick to it. If the closet in the hallway is meant for linens and toiletries then the CDs and baseball hats need to find a new home.
2. Purge. Go through everything and sort it out into 5 categories—Keep, Relocate (items you want to keep, but don’t belong in the space), Sell, Donate, and Trash. If there are items you can’t decide on, put them in a separate box and put it somewhere out of sight. If you find yourself going back to that box to fish things out, those items may be keepers. However, if months go by and you haven’t reached for that box once–it needs to go. Sell it or donate it and let it be someone else’s clutter.
3. Assess how you use the space. Where do you have a natural tendency to put things? If your keys usually end up on the counter closest to the front door, then make a space for them there–not somewhere else across the room. Work with your current habits. Any organization system–no matter how pretty it looks–will only work if you actually use it.
4. Develop a plan for your space. What’s going where? Think about how you like to access the different items you need to organize. Personally, I hate any organization system that requires you to move one thing to get to another thing. One example–stacking lidded boxes. Sure you might stack those boxes back up all nice and neat the first day post-organization. Maybe even the first week. But what are the odds you’ll keep it up when you’re in a hurry or feeling lazy? Slim to none, sister. Before long your old mess will reappear. Avoid the stack!
5. Shop. After you’ve done the first 4 steps, you can look into what additional items you need to help achieve your plan. Too often people jump to this step and go out and snatch up all the canvas totes they can find. But you can’t really know what you’ll need until you have a plan for your space. Use organization products that work for your needs. Don’t try to make your needs fit into an organization product. And don’t forget to shop in your own home, too. Look at the items you’ve currently got that can be repurposed to serve an organization or storage need.
6. Put your space back together again. Live with it for awhile and see how it works and feels. Edit your space until it works for you and feels just right.
7. Maintenance. If your space begins to get out of control again, review steps 1-6 and ask yourself where you might’ve gone off track. And be honest with yourself. Nobody likes a liar. Have you purged all unnecessary items? Are you working with your current habits? Is your plan for the space working for you? Are you stacking, dammit?!?
I’ve found that when I can’t keep a space clean, it’s probably because I haven’t organized it yet, or I haven’t organized it correctly to meet my needs, or I have way too much stuff for that space and need to purge. The safe money is on the bet that I will always be a messy person, but as long as I stay organized I can keep it in check. Or at the very least–clean up quick for any last minute guests.
Other Organization Rules I live by:
Think vertically. A lot of times space is limited horizontally. But if you look up, there’s often plenty of open space from one shelf to the next, or from the floor to the ceiling. Go up instead of out. Add more shelves. Or add hooks on walls and doors to hang things.
When purchasing furniture, choose pieces that have at least 2 purposes. Look for a coffee table with storage inside, an end table that doubles as a magazine rack, a console table with drawers. Put your furniture to work for you.
Garage sales and Craigslist–get familiar.
Now roll up your sleeves and show that closet who’s boss! And be sure to report back–I’d love to hear how my organization tips worked for you. Something I missed? I’d love to hear that, too!