Real Simple has grilled pro organizers for 15-plus years—here are the low-effort, big-impact practices they swear by.
Organized People Avoid the Big Black Hole.
A vast, open storage area invites mess. It’s tempting to fill all that empty space with items that don’t belong together, just because they fit—but once you do that, finding anything becomes a big chore. Compartments and containers are your fix. Add bins to an armoire to separate table linens (runners, napkins) from table accents (candlesticks, vases). Keep small pouches in a large handbag so pens, keys, and lip glosses don’t get jumbled at the bottom.
Organized People Trick Themselves With Treats.
Attach a reward to a tedious task: Tell yourself that you can get a pedicure after you’ve organized the garage or watch The Blacklist after you’ve done the laundry and you’ll actually follow through.
Organized People Say No to Spillover.
Have too many stuffed animals to fit in the toy chest, say? Exile some instead of starting another bin for the extras.
Organized People Keep the Citrus Reamer on the Top Shelf.
Look over the tools in your kitchen and consider how often you find yourself reaching for each. Standbys, like a vegetable peeler and measuring spoons, should stay close at hand, but an immersion blender used only sporadically needs to move up high. Follow this same logic for all sorts of things—glassware, linens, board games, office supplies.
Organized People Spend 30 Seconds Now to Save Hours Later.
Stop dropping everything in random piles. When you’re holding an item, decide where it goes right then. Otherwise you’ll just get fed up with the piles at some point—and lose a weekend afternoon when you’re finally motivated to put it all away.
Organized People Move Their Castoffs to the Car.
When you know there’s a box or a basket in the trunk waiting for giveaways, it becomes second nature to regularly off-load old or unused items so they’re not hogging space in the closets. A full container is a cue to officially let go: Bring the box to a charitable organization (like the Salvation Army), or mail it through GiveBackBox.com, which offers free shipping labels to send items to a local Goodwill.
Organized People Have Twice As Many Hooks (and Not One Thing on the Floor).
When you make the most of wall space—putting garden gear on a pegboard, hairstyling tools on a mounted rack, brooms and mops on a hanging organizer—your stuff stays within easy reach, but the space looks a lot neater.
Organized People Adjust Their Shelves.
It’s such a simple game-changer: Vary the shelf heights so the space fits your needs. This goes for bookcases, medicine cabinets, refrigerators, hall closets, and the pantry.
Organized People Think in Zones.
Arrange things by usage rather than type. In the pantry, group breakfast items: pancake mix, syrup, nut butters, jams. In the mudroom, create a pool-gear station: goggles, arm floats, beach towels. By the back door, set up a pet-stuff spot: leash, flashlight, treats, waste-pickup bags.