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?
Uncluttering is a process, not something that happens overnight or that has an end point. Sometimes getting more organized can feel overwhelming and chaotic, but there are some basic principles you can use to stay focused on maintaining order. Here are five practical tips I often share with my clients (and use myself). They tend to be useful for many situations and can help you conquer clutter.
Use positive self-talk
It can be very easy to let negative thoughts clutter your mind, especially if you find it challenging to master a particular organizing strategy. And, since your actions are typically driven by your thoughts, you can find yourself feeling down and stressed, two emotions that can stop your uncluttering plans in its tracks.
Though your goals may seem daunting at first, remember that it’s normal to meet upon a few stumbling blocks. But, and this is the good part, you will get through it as long as you keep trying. Replace negative self-talk (“I will never get this place organized”) with more positive statements (“I’m getting more organized by doing a little at a time”). And, coordinate your uncluttering with things that put you in a better mood, like playing your favorite music, exercising, or calling a friend who makes you laugh. You’ll feel less stressed and be able to get more done.
Wait before making impulse purchases
Whimsical purchases can really creep up on you, even when you have your list in hand as you’re shopping. The tricky little buggers appeal to your sensitive nature and convince you to leave the store with them immediately (because they’re special and just right for you). If you don’t get them straight away, who knows what catastrophes might happen?!
Rather than making an impulsive purchase, regain some emotional (and wallet) control by focusing on your list and waiting 24 to 48 hours before buying “that thing.” You could stretch that timeframe to 30 days, if you wish. Usually, after a bit of time to to think it through, you’ll come to a better decision about whether or not to buy it. That doesn’t mean you won’t go back to the store to collect that special item. It simply means you’ll give yourself adequate time to think it through before taking it home with you. This can save you some time and another trip to the store if you decide that you don’t want/need it afterall.
Use the “one in, one out” rule
Another way to limit those impulse buys is to think about the one thing you currently own that you’ll let go of when/if you bring the new item home. This also gives you some time to consider if you truly love (and need) the new item. If you’re working on uncluttering, you might even use the “one in, two out” rule to raise the stakes a bit.
Without a list, you will be lost. Yes, I know there are people who can keep entire novels in their heads and remember every detail. Most of us are not like that, so why rely on your memory when you can just write things down (or do some smart phone data entry)? Lists are great for capturing just about anything and can help you remember things you don’t do on a regular basis, or you might otherwise forget because you’re feeling stressed or rushing around a lot.
Two of the most common ways people use lists is to record their to do’s and needed grocery items. But, you can also use them to keep track of:
- Favorite travel supplies
- Places you’d like to visit
- Seasonal maintenance activies
- New processes (like a new filing system or steps to completing a new project)
- Ingredients for a new recipe
- Home improvement ideas
- Your bucket list
- Things you’re going to donate
When leaving a room, always take something with you
One of the things I often ask my clients to do after an organizing session is to maintain the order that has been created in the space we worked in. The goal is to keep the momemtum going and encourage organizing activities so these actions can become part of the client’s regular routine. A fairly easy way to maintain an area is to leave it better than how you found it. Before leaving a room, take something with you that doesn’t belong (like glasses from the coffee table to the kitchen, mail on the kitchen counter to the mail processing station). These small steps can go a very long way to helping you keep things looking and feeling the way you want them to.
Use vertical space
Organizing products can save you from having stuff strewn about your home, office, and car. But, sometimes those products can have big footprints and take up a quite a bit of floor space. “Going up” or using vertical space (walls, backs of doors) removes that hinderance and gives you another option to store your stuff. You can still mount products without permanently installing them by using adhesive-backed products (like Command Hooks by 3M).