5 more organizing (and practical) principles to help you stave off clutter

To help keep clutter at bay, it can be helpful to keep a few tried and true organizing principles in mind. When you weave them into your day-to-day life, you’ll have a path to follow so that you can keep your spaces organized and feel less stressed when things get a bit overwhelming.

Last month, I shared six organizing concepts and today, I have five more for you to review.

To maintain order, start thinking about your lifestyle and then …

Create habits and routines that work for you

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” — Aristotle

Being able to keep things in order is hinged on routines. If those routines fit your lifestyle, are easy to follow, and you (or others you delegate to) keep up with them regularly, you’ll have a greater chance of kicking clutter in the arse. Organizing strategies are not one-size-fits-all, so be sure to test a few to find the ones that mesh well with your current lifestyle.

Everything must have a home

When the items in our homes and offices don’t have a designated space to live, you may find them scattered about in several areas. You might also be tempted to throw them all in a box to review later. In reality, though, when the time comes to sort through them, they’ll probably continue residing in that box if there’s still no specific place for them to permanently go. The good news is that once they have a home, you’ll be able to put them back where they belong (instead of putting them down) and find them easily when you need them.

Keep frequently used items easily accessible

It can be extremely frustrating if you always have to move other things to get access to the items you use often. You’ll also end up wasting a bit of time and chances are, you probably won’t put anything back in place because of how difficult it is to reach them. Instead, put the things you use frequently close by and in the same place all the time (your favorite pen and notebook on your desk, your keys on the hook by the door, your earbuds in the gadget box). Put the other things that you don’t use all the time on a high shelf (or behind your frequently used items).

Group like items together

By now, this rule of thumb is probably permanently etched in your mind. I say this tongue in cheek, but I couldn’t leave it off the list because it works extremely well. When you gather all the similar items in your home or office, you immediately know how big your stash is and you avoid buying duplicates. Which also means you’ll be saving a bit of money and add a few minutes to your day because you won’t be searching high and low for your stuff.

Don’t buy something simply because it’s on sale

…or because you have lots of coupons. Getting a great deal on something you’ve had your eye on can make you feel happy, almost triumphant, especially when that thing is something that you need and will use. But, sometimes sales can tempt us to buy things that we don’t use or even like. The result can be an overgrown pile of things that gather dust and take up space that could be used for things that you actually use. Before opening your wallet, think about how much you and your family will realistically use the product you’re about to buy. If you won’t really use it, why not share the deal (or coupon) with someone who really needs it?

12 Comments for “5 more organizing (and practical) principles to help you stave off clutter”

  1. posted by Dorothy on

    Corollary to #5:

    Don’t accept “gifts” if you don’t need them.

    I’m a quilter active in the on-line community, including on a couple of “stash-busting” lists. I can’t count the number of times people post that someone gave them gobs of fabric that they “had” to accept.

    Look, you never, never have to take on someone else’s clutter. Just because they have the good sense to get rid of it doesn’t mean you have to take it into your space. It simply is not your responsibility.

    I recently fell into this trap. An acquaintance was trying to unload her deceased mother’s stash. She said this was great fabric and her mother was a quilter, so she was ‘sure’ we could use it. A couple friends and I picked up 9 cartons which, we were told, was the tip of the iceberg. The fabric was old, dusty, and mostly useless. I think there were one or two pieces that were suitable for quilting. Now those cartons sit in my garage, gathering more dust, until I cart them off to the local Goodwill which has a fabric recycling program.

    Lesson learned!

  2. posted by SusieR on

    “Group like items together”

    This one REALLY works for me. I used to wonder where the flashlights, batteries, radio, candles, etc. were whenever a storm was coming. Now it’s all on one shelf: the STORM shelf. Makes me panic less!

  3. posted by Ottawa Storage Expert on

    This post is just timely. What with all the Black Friday madness happening soon? Just because it’s on sale, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should have it. Know the difference between a want and a need. That’s one step to decluttering your home.

  4. posted by Jakeline on

    Hi Erin

    It would be a good idea a post about some habits or rutines that are working for you and your readers.

  5. posted by Mopsa | Inspira fundo on

    Simple, but great ideas. Thanks!

  6. posted by Ann on

    I don’t belong to a warehouse club because of the allure of buying something because it is a “ggod deal”. Pssshaw to that. I believe in this after hanging Christmas lights at my in-laws’ one year. My brother in law’s girlfriend was there – a known “frugalitarian”. It was a little chilly for Southern California and we all kept jamming our hands in our pockets – until Ms.Frualitarian pulled out a bag of 18 (I am serious – 18) pairs of knitted gloves…18 pairs. I was blown away. I asked her why she would buy a bag of 18 pairs of gloves and she said…wait for it…”It was such a good deal!” AT THAT MOMENT I was converted to an unclutterer forever…It was a lesson in the ridiculous.

  7. Profile photo of

    posted by djk on

    Again, excellent, practical tips. I’ve improved PEEP and keeping like with like, which makes for a home that runs more smoothly than before. A bonus? DH doesn’t play the “honeywhere’smy” game anymore, because he knows the wanted item is in its home, where it’s supposed to be.

  8. posted by Krystl on

    Gosh Ann, I would hate to be your sis-in-law! My question: were you thankful for the gloves and comfort or would you have prefered she pull out one pair for her, one for her boyfriend and let you all suffer alone in the chilly winter air because you weren’t prepared?

    Living in a region that has sudden temperature changes, I ALWAYS have multiples specifically of gloves (the small, stretchy kind), thick woolly socks, and a couple extra umbrellas. All of them are for guests, are placed in a specific location out of the way in my apartment and take up little space. When I give them out, I am NEVER expecting them to be returned (kind of like the tupperware that never comes home). To me that is fits the definition of “being prepared” and not cluttered.

    I am single and technically I suppose I could get by with 2 pair (when one pair dries out, I wear the other). However, I would hope that my guests would never look down on me being prepared for their comfort when the need arises. I have often given these things out when heading out for a spontaneous walk or as they are heading into stormy weather to go home (or showing up like drowned kitties when the weather turns). It is part of being a hostess for me. No one has ever expressed the disdain I feel in your post.

    PS: As to the 18–I would snap them up because they were a good deal, too. I use them, gift them and the price would let me do just that.

  9. posted by Sandra on

    For Jakeline: A few simple habits that work for me are:
    Put my purse and keys in same place everytime I get home.
    Empty trash items from car when I’m filling car at gas station.
    Keep bills to be paid in one location so they are ready to pay on Saturday mornings when I do bills.
    Cull my magazines and catalogs once a week. (These are the ones that I like and don’t immediately recycle.)
    I’m trying to add a routine to go through food in our basement freezer on a regular basis. We have a number of foods that have been lost in there for years. Emphasis on trying.

  10. Profile photo of

    posted by Zora on

    As pointed out in the forums: sometimes “keep like items together” has a proviso: if it’s an item that you commonly use in several different places in your house, it makes sense to have several items, one to be stored in each place. The example given in the forums was scissors. One or more pairs with the sewing stuff; one pair in the kitchen; one pair in the bathroom if you need them to cut open toiletries, pill packets, and the like.

    If you only have one pair of scissors, you’re going to have go fetch the scissors, then put the scissors away, again and again. Enough that someday you won’t put them back and you will have to play “hunt the scissors” the next time you need them.

    There are few items that are used often enough, in enough places, that you need multiples. In addition to scissors, perhaps one would want several brooms (indoor and outdoor brooms) and pens (desk, kitchen, bedside, etc.).

    And of course each of the multiple items should have its own place (preferably within arm’s reach of where you use it) so that you always know where to find it.

  11. posted by Jakeline on

    Thank you very much Sandra!

  12. posted by Marie on

    I know I’m late to comment, but I wanted to add advice I first heard from the Get-It-Done-Guy, which was; File For Retrieval.

    That advice has made a big difference in how I approach decluttering and filing. If I file so that I can find it again, I have to think where I would look for the information or item if I were looking for it in the future. If I’m not likely to go looking for it in the future, (or likely to look elsewhere other than in my own files), then I likely don’t need to save it at all!

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