Time to rethink your routine.

By Katie Holdefehr
November 18, 2020
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Despite our best attempts at home organization, many of us have some habits that undo our efforts. Just ask the top of my dresser, which holds a growing pile of clothing. The hamper may be only a few feet away and available drawer space located directly below, yet clothing magically lands atop the dresser instead. These clutter hotspots may be different for each household, but there are some common ones—think kitchen counters and bedside tables. The problem: once we've picked up a habit, like tossing mail on the counter when we walk in the door, it can be tough to break. Here are some easy organization systems you can set up to help adjust these routines.

It's all too easy for paper to pile up, especially if you're in the habit of dropping mail on the counter or entryway table. No one can blame you for this habit, when you're tired and just got home, the last thing you want to do is sort through bills and attend to paperwork. 

Set up a system: Place a small, stylish wastepaper basket in your entryway or next to your kitchen counter, so you can toss out unwanted catalogs right away (when you have time, contact the companies to unsubscribe). Use a bin or tray to corral the mail you need to keep. Consider switching to online billing where possible—it won't help you reach inbox zero, but it will keep your kitchen counter clear. 

Credit: Christopher Testani

It's the oldest speed-cleaning trick in the book: toss everything in the closet before guests come over. But this method won't actually help you stay organized and it won't make it any easier to find items later. 

Set up a system: If you tend to let things pile up on the floor of your utility closet, follow the advice of the pro organizers at Horderly and install shelves that reach down to the floor. This way, you'll be forced to consider what you store and find a home for it on the shelves. 

When you're tired at the end of a long day, it's tempting to toss dirty clothes onto the first available surface you see. 

Set up a system: Invest in a laundry hamper that has a lid (so you can hide dirty clothes when you need to), but leave the lid open. Place the hamper in the most convenient location possible. When you're tired, even little deterrents like removing the lid or opening up your closet can discourage you from staying organized. 

If the problem is clean clothes that need to go back in the closet, consider leaving a few spare hangers near where you get dressed. When items are within arm's reach, you'll be more likely to stick to the system. 

Credit: Urban Outfitters

Especially if you have kids or a big family, you may be used to finding sneakers, boots, and ballet slippers littered around the house. 

Set up a system: Add shoe storage to your entryway or mudroom and get in the habit of taking your shoes off when you walk in the door. Find a shoe rack that fits your style, whether that's a minimalist bamboo option with space for your yoga mat ($129, urbanoutfitters.com), or a concealed storage cabinet from IKEA ($99, ikea.com). 

Shopping habit bigger than your storage space? If you're running out of room in your closet, kitchen, or kids' playroom, it's time to follow the golden rule of organizing. 

Set up a system: Adopt the one in-one out rule. If you're adding a new sweater to your collection, donate one you no longer wear. If your child gets five new toys for the holidays, donate five toys they've outgrown. It's a simple habit that will make sure you never exceed your home's storage space.