When organizing items in your home, it’s best to use systems that make the most sense to you and are simple to use. You should look at your cupboards, files, closets, or shelving and instantly know how objects can be returned, retrieved, or added to their storage space. The easier it is to store something, the more likely you are to put it in its place.
It’s almost always a good idea to store like things with like things. Your board games should all be in one closet on one shelf. Your pots and pans should all be in the same cupboard, and your wrenches in a single toolbox. Once grouped with similar items, your objects should be stored in the most convenient place for where you use the objects. Dog food should be stored near the dog food bowls, office supplies should be in your office, and spices should be in your kitchen in a dark and dry cupboard or drawer near your food prep area.
When you have like things with like things, you may need to organize the objects even more. This is especially good for things where there are more than three objects of a kind — such as papers in a filing cabinet or books on your bookshelves. The following systems are extremely obvious, which means you’re more likely to remember the system because it is so simple:
- Chronologically. You can put things in order of oldest to newest (a good idea if you want to use something up, like breakfast cereal) or newest to oldest (great for filing bills). Chronologically also works well in some people’s closets when they want to make sure they are regularly rotating through two or three week’s worth of clothes.
- Alphabetically. Great for organizing files, your address book, and other items with words on their labels (like spices in your kitchen). Alphabetical order is what people assume you will use as an ordering method whenever letters are involved.
- By size. When stacking, it’s usually a great idea to put the largest items on the bottom and the smallest items on top. You can order from largest to smallest or smallest to largest when working with objects where size is relevant to its use, like drill bits and hex keys.
- Seasonally. Objects like holiday decorations and outdoor apparel can easily be stored based on what season you use or wear them. Ordering by season means that you’re less likely to find your Fourth of July decorations in with your Thanksgiving items.
- By occasion. Similar to seasonally, when you organize by occasion you group things based upon when you use the item. This is a great idea for organizing all of your soccer supplies in a single duffel bag so that everything is together in a kit when you’re ready to head to soccer practice.
If you store textiles (like yarn for knitting or paper for scrapbooking), you might also consider ordering items by color or materials. However, color and materials don’t work well for filing things like memos — all memos printed on yellow paper were probably just printed on yellow paper because the person making the copies couldn’t find a ream of white paper. When color or materials add meaning to the object, it’s okay to consider using them as an ordering system. When the color or materials don’t add meaning to the object, it’s best to use another organizing method.
What systems do you use when organizing your things? Could using a more simple organizing method increase the likelihood that you will put things away after you use them? Not only does simple organizing make your life easier, it also makes it easier for others to return, retrieve, or add objects to a system when you’re not there to supervise.