Advice for one of our most-procrastinated resolutions: getting organized.

By Susan Brickell
December 28, 2017
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My go-to method for organizing is to sort through my belongings, and if I haven’t worn or used an item in a year, it goes into a garbage bag marked for charity. And then, I leave everything else as is. But, that’s not really organizing, as much as it is purging, right? To be honest, when it comes to organizing, I’m not sure where to begin. I live in a small New York apartment, so one would think that I must not have that much to keep in order, but I am my hoarder father’s daughter, and the contents of my space would shock you. Even taking the first steps to tidying up a room in my home is overwhelming, and I know I’m not alone. I spoke with Jeffrey Phillip, a style and efficiency expert, who touched upon the messiest room in one’s home (and truer words were never spoken), and, of course, offered up some sanity-saving tips for heading into 2018 with a clearer mindset and cleaner space.

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What are your top tips for getting organized in the new year?

Start by making a plan for yourself. It's very easy to get overwhelmed when we make a general statement that we want to “get organized.” To prevent that feeling, start with a list of specific actionable ways you want to get organized. For example, organize the kitchen drawers, the apps on your phone, your digital photos and make one photo book with highlights from each year, and your jewelry so you can see it all.

Use a label maker. Labels may seem like a trivial step because you know what something is or remember where something gets stored. However, if you struggle with keeping organizational systems in place, using a label maker to mark your areas clearly will define your organizing so that you can be held accountable. For example, if a stack of folded clothing in your closet says “crewneck sweaters” there is less of a chance you will put a v-neck sweater or t-shirt on that pile. The label serves as a gentle reminder. To make labeling more convenient, upgrade to a Bluetooth-enabled label maker such as P-touch Cube.

A simple way to keep your kitchen organization looking neat is to keep everything color- and style- coordinated. For example, stick to buying matching pots and pans from the same collection, buy prep tools and cooking utensils with similar coloring (like black and stainless steel, all white, all yellow, etc), replace a mismatched glassware collection with a matching set, and so on. Taking steps to keep your kitchen color- and style- coordinated will remove elements that create visual clutter on your cabinets, drawers, and countertops so that your kitchen will look organized more easily... even if it's really not.

What is typically the messiest or most cluttered room in one’s home? And, how does one take the first steps to successfully organizing it?

I would have to say the kitchen. It's a room I work on in almost every client's home. While it can look nice with all the doors and drawers closed, there are a lot of hiding places and ways to cover up the clutter. It involves food, which naturally creates crumbs and mess. It also involves small tools, which can easily become disorganized and messy when things don't have a proper home. It requires a lot of planning and thought to figure out how things will fit efficiently and practically. Plus, it is a high-traffic room that everyone in the house uses, which means there are multiple hands in nearly every space.

To begin successfully organizing a kitchen as well as maintain the anxiety level and overwhelming nature of the task at hand, start with an area that will give you a quick win to build the momentum. For example, begin by focusing on the utensil drawer. Remove everything, wipe it out, edit the items you've removed and put back only the utensil related items (like flatware and serving pieces). Next, expand your focus. Begin to empty each of the drawers and place the items on the countertop in like categories. Once all the drawers are empty, begin to review each category and edit the items that are no longer needed or wanted. Then, consider your layout and how to adjust where each group of tools lives in order to provide the most efficient home for everything. After everything has been assigned a home and put away efficiently, label the areas so all members of the family can identify where items should be stored. Pro tip: use drawer dividers to keep your tools neatly separated in their respective categories. Once the drawers are done, continue the same process for the cabinets.

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Which items do people have the hardest time letting go of?

It honestly varies since different belongings carry different weight for each person. No matter what room we are working in there are things that are hard for people to part with... everything from a sweater worn on a specific day to a cooking spatula just because they want to keep them all. However, that said, a standout item that is hard for most people are stuffed animals. From children to adults, a stuffed animal is something many people have a hard time parting with.

Do you have any final advice for us?

When approaching an organizing project, it's important to think of it in a similar way you think of fitness routines and diets. These things are most successful when they are approached in a way that can be maintainable with your lifestyle. Organizing is the same. If the systems you set up are not feasible to maintain, then they will not stick. It may take time to make the necessary lifestyle adjustments for your new ways of organizing to take effect, similar to when we make changes to our diet or exercise routines. The change does not happen overnight and all of us get messy from time to time... even for the most organized people. However, as long as we take the time to tidy up, make adjustments, and move forward towards our organizational, fitness, and nutritional goals we will continue to improve and be successful.

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