10 Tips to Help You Get Organized (Once and For All!)

Use these roadblock-busting strategies to put your stuff in order—now.

If you've been feeling the need to get organized, but haven't managed to do it, here's an extra bit of motivation: Putting your belongings in order can boost your mental health. And is it any wonder? It's stressful when your disorganized self can't find your keys, your winter boots, or that sweater you borrowed from your best friend (who would like it back now, please).

Fortunately, time management and organization expert, Julie Morgenstern, has several organizing tips that will help you take those crucial first steps. Here's how to get organized, along with some strategies to keep up the momentum once you do.

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Shift Your Mindset

Organizing takes time and energy—precious resources you're more likely to commit if you have a strong objective. Consider the benefits of organizing your life.

  • An organized desk helps you to focus on your work.
  • An organized pantry makes you a more efficient grocery shopper.
  • An organized calendar allows you to plan time with loved ones, improving your relationships.

So, use one of these reasons as your motivation. “Don’t get organized just to make things look good,” says Morgenstern. “It should be a gateway to a bigger goal: saving time, saving money, or simply getting access to the things you own.” Remind yourself of the distractions, anxiety, and stress that you will eliminate, and focus on what you're going to gain from it.

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Give Everything You Own an Address

Everything you own should have a place where it belongs. Jackets go in closets or on hooks by the door. Keys go in a dish on the counter. Bills, letters, and other important mail items go in a designated basket, while junk mail goes straight into the garbage bin.

If you have a pile of books on the floor next to your bed, ask yourself, "Do I want my books to live there?" If not, select the one you're currently reading to keep on the bedside table, and the rest should get a new home (preferably on a bookshelf or book nook).

03 of 10

Take Baby Steps

Seeing the fruit of your organizational labor can be very satisfying—and motivating. Start small with something easy like a kitchen drawer. Experience the pleasure of opening that drawer and being able to instantly find everything you need. Chances are, you will want to repeat this feeling.

Morgenstern suggests starting in the smallest space you spend the most time in. That way, you can accomplish the task in a manageable amount of time and see the product of your hard work regularly. Organizing a bathroom drawer, your handbag, or the inside of the refrigerator should leave you motivated for other projects.

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Scale Down Your Stuff

Too much stuff can make organization a real chore. If you can barely close your socks and underwear drawer, it's probably time to cull your stash of undergarments. As a general rule, you ought to have enough space to see everything you own when you open the drawer or cabinet.

That said, you don't have to throw everything away to accomplish the task. If you feel you have the correct amount of socks and underwear, you don't have to toss them out. Simply separate them into two drawers. Sometimes the solution to organizing your clothes is to buy a second dresser.

“Organizing is about designing a system that makes you more efficient in whatever you are trying to do,” Morgenstern says. “As long as it allows you to find things, by all means, put all 20 belts on the closet door!”

05 of 10

Make the Payoff Visible

If your issue is not so much starting the process as finishing it, Morgenstern says to write down your goal on a sticky note and hang it up where you can see it. It will make the payoff visible and will also serve as a reminder.

In larger areas, like a closet, Morgenstern suggests working methodically (top to bottom or right to left) with designated breakpoints: “That way you’ll see the results from where you left off as opposed to a haphazard space.”

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Do What You Need to Do to Focus

Some people are motivated by background music. Others need to avoid distracting music while they're working. Morgenstern says these types need to turn the stereo off. “Organizing involves a lot of decision-making, and if you’re playing music and singing, your brain is otherwise occupied,” she says. The exception is if you’re playing something instrumental that genuinely blends into the background.

If you are prone to reach for your phone every time you hear a text arrive, put it on silent mode. Your friends and family can probably wait for an hour or so while you get your linen closet in order.

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Get Everyone Involved

If you share a space with others, don’t simply dive right in. If the people who share your home are not on board with your changes, you will hit a roadblock to getting organized.

Morgenstern suggests working together to design an organizational system. Her motto here is: Analyze, strategize, and organize.


“Each of you should identify the objects in the space you are always looking for,” she says. “It has to work for everybody for the system not to fall apart.”


Collectively figure out what the space will look like when it’s complete. Imagine the organizational genius of a kindergarten classroom, where similar items are grouped together into activity zones (like sporting equipment, for example).


Everyone can help sort and group the items, purge, and box items up for donations before implementing the shared strategy.

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Use Organizing Tools

In some areas of your home, organizing products can be a lifesaver. Consider these options:

  • Clean out the makeup products from that messy bathroom drawer (while tossing out the expired ones), and put the essentials in a makeup organizer on the counter.
  • Pick up the loose boxes and cans from your pantry floor, and stack them on some freestanding shelving ($95, lowes.com).
  • Put all your cleaning products together in a plastic bin ($13, containerstore.com) under the sink.
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Set a Timer

It probably took a while for your home to get into a state of disarray, so it's probably not going to be put back in order in 15 minutes. Knowing that this might be a long process, establish how much time you're willing to spend on organizing each day. At the same time, you don't want to stretch the process out, slowly weighing each decision about what to do with each out-of-place item.

Setting a timer is a great way to tackle both of these issues. If you know you have only one hour to complete an organizing task, you will see it as a reasonable, achievable goal. But you'll also have the motivation to get it done within the time window you've set yourself.

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Help Your Future Self

Now that you've found places for all of your things, help yourself to recall where those places are. “We’re all too busy to remember everything, so use attractive, uniform labels to make it clear where items belong,” says Morgenstern.

She also suggests building in a rule for daily maintenance. “Every time you leave a room, put everything back where it belongs and set it up for its next use. It shouldn’t take more than two minutes if every item has a home.”

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