8 Best Organizing Tricks of All Time
Can't tackle it all at once? Introduce one small change from this list every weekend and before you know it, you’ll start seeing results.
Start by thinking about what's keeping you from being neat. If it's your bedroom, the cause of clutter and mess is often the spot where you're storing clothes. If you find yourself constantly wrestling with drawers—they're too shallow or too heavy, they stick, or they're broken—replace the dresser and being tidy won’t be nearly as taxing. A fully functioning replacement piece will save you time and energy for many years to come.
Choose Uniform Containers
Using a set of the same containers will instantly neaten up a space and help create a uniform and organized cabinet or pantry. Opt for square containers as opposed to round ones so there isn't any wasted space on the shelf when nestled up against each other. When possible, choose clear bins so that the contents can be easily found. If you opt for opaque containers, be sure to label them for the same reason. Biggest tip of all: If there’s empty space, leave it. “Hybrid” zones are trouble and will only lead to more clutter and require more work down the road.
To buy: OXO Good Grips 10-Piece POP Container Set, $100, amazon.com
Avoid the Paper Pileup
It’s tempting to drop a stack of mail on the counter and walk away—promising yourself that you will deal with it later. Instead, try going straight from your mailbox to the recycling bin. Once there, quickly sift through and toss out unsolicited junk mailers, flyers, and postcards. Then file the rest as they are dealt with: school forms, bills, etc. Reduce the paper floating around your home by immediately marking events on the calendar, and then recycle the invitations. Overwhelmed by bills and receipts? Put them into a letter sorter to handle at the end of each week, so they are streamlined and accessible.
Have a Donation Bin on Hand
Designating a place where you can put items you want to donate will prompt you to eliminate clutter before it has a chance to pile up. Try keeping a bin easily accessible. You could keep it tucked away in a hall closet or consider stowing it in the trunk of your car—then you won’t have to do any heavy lifting when the bin is filled and it’s time to donate. Toss in old toys, ill-fitting clothing, and other unused items regularly; when the bin is full, give the items away and start over.
Store Items Where You Use Them
Giving yourself easy access to essentials keeps your house orderly on a day-to-day basis. Place sets of folded sheets inside pillowcases, and stow each in the room where it will be used. If they are too far away, you’ll forget where you’ve hidden them and will waste time searching. Keep a bottle of glass cleaner under your sink in the bathroom to make quick clean-ups easier. If the solution is not easily accessible, you’ll likely get distracted before you make it back to the bathroom to complete the task. Better yet, if you’ve got a multi-level house, stash a full cleaning caddy on each floor so you don’t have to lug one up and down the stairs.
If you have a pile problem, tell yourself this: “Everything in a pile is a deferred decision.” When you had the item in your hand, you did not decide where it should live so you set it down. The next “decision” landed on top of that one, and so on, leading to a stack of indecision. Change the habit: stop and think, “Wait, where should this go?” The extra seconds spent putting it in its correct spot will save you many minutes down the road. And nobody’s perfect: It’s okay to have a basket of “action items” so long as you also schedule a time to put them away.
Attach a Guilty Pleasure to a Chore
Plan an organizing session right before an activity you enjoy, like watching a movie or reading a book. It takes away some of the negative charge and motivates you to get the task done efficiently. If the task does not require your undivided attention (say folding clean laundry), you can watch your favorite show at the same time, or listen to a podcast or audiobook. You might even get so engrossed, you won’t notice the time passing—and your chores just became less tedious.
Give Yourself an Out
For times when you’re just too tired or busy to put things away: have one (and only one!) drop spot in each room for that stuff. Use a collapsible bin as a “loading dock” and keep it tucked away in a nearby closet. But be careful not to just let your things sit for too long. It’s important to set a deadline to put those pieces away (at night when the kids are brushing their teeth or in the morning when you’re starting a new load of laundry), because you don’t want your stuff collecting dust.
To buy: Collapsible Canvas Bin, $13, target.com