So you wanna organize your house/office/car/life? I’m no expert; I’m just a woman who really enjoys organizing things, and have gathered a few ideas along the way. Here are the basic principles I use to make my organizing decisions!
You seriously, really, truly don’t need that much stuff
The simplest way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it. Go through your stuff and get rid of the excess. The Marie Kondo method to get rid of stuff is to hold the thing you own in your hand and ask, “Does this spark joy?” and to throw it out if the answer is no. Which is actually a pretty decent system in some ways. I tend to use this criteria:
- Does it have sentimental value?
- Have I used it in the past year?
- If I have not used it in the past year,
do I have a specific and timely plan to use it?
That last one is a little tricky—sometimes our “projects” build up, so you’ve got to be harshly realistic with yourself here. If you save these projects and don’t do them within a year, it might be time to get rid of them.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about deciding which things you should keep and which you shouldn’t, a good first step is to get rid of duplicates. You don’t need more than one first aid kit, backpack, broom, etc. Depending on your laundry situation, you probably don’t need more than about 2 weeks worth of socks and underwear. Unless you entertain a lot, you probably only need 3 cups/plates/bowls/etc per family member in your home.
A few years ago, I started doing occasional “purges” of our (now my) household. Every six months or so, I’d go through the apartment and fill a few garbage bags and boxes with things to get rid of. And every single time I did, I’d think, “Okay, that’s it. That’s the last time I can do this. I absolutely need everything I have left.” And then a few months later, I’d do another purge and find dozens of things I didn’t actually absolutely need. It may take some trial and error to figure out what you do and don’t need. But I highly recommend purges.
Don’t bring home useless clutter
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but Americans have a weird obsession with “swag.” We take home goodie bags and gifts and end up with a lot of plastic stuff we don’t have any need for. So if you’re at a conference or meeting or party, and they offer you a tote full of promotional items, you can either politely decline, or take it home and then donate it/get rid of it.
And as a reminder: Don't buy and bring something home just because it's a really good deal. If you don't have any need for 20 mason jars, don't buy them just because they're 10 cents each. Even though it's tempting. ONLY buy and bring things home if you have a specific and immediate plan for them.
Keep similar items together
Not only does this make things easier to find, but it also just makes sense. Put all of your board games on the same shelf, or in the same area. Same with tools, craft supplies, electronics, etc.
Everything has a place
And I mean everything. Your keys. Your purse. Your shoes. Your batteries. Your spare change. Because if your belongings don’t have a place, where are you going to put them when you want to tidy up the clutter?
Think about your routine
This will help you decide where to put things. When you come home from work or errands, what do you do with your stuff? Do you throw it on the couch? Leave it by the door? Consider a small entry way table, or a crate by the door. In the morning, when you get dressed, do you coordinate your shoes with your outfits and check out the look in the mirror in your room? Then keep your shoes in your room. But if you tend to just throw them on as you leave, maybe keeping them in the entry area makes more sense.
Not like, as a value judgment. But your psyche will rest easier if things simply “look” tidy. This is also a kind of cheat for those who don’t have the kind of visual OCD that I do—things can be messy as hell INSIDE the drawer, but when the drawer is closed, viola! Tidy! Learn to love opaque containers. Embrace cord clips and ties. Put things in boxes, behind things, under things. I’m a huge fan of cube storage solutions, because of how versatile they are. I also dig simple wooden crates. The aesthetic is flexible, and they can be used for lots of things.
I know a clear storage solution makes sense because you can see what’s in the storage container. But A, it’s visually messier. B, you can’t see everything at once. C, labels are your friend. I’m a big fan of chalkboard labels (you can get chalkboard paper!).
Display sentimental/artistic stuff
Once you’ve got all of your practical stuff organized, you can find ways to display the things that are especially meaningful to you. Cube storage solutions are your friend, because you can either put cubes in the spaces and treat them as drawers, or you can treat each cube space like shelving. Also, shelving in general is your friend.
If you’re into houseplants and art, you can spread these things around your living space interspersed with the pictures of loved ones, souvenirs from travels, or gifts.
A thought about gifts: Marie Kondo talks about this idea that if a gift once brought you joy, but keeping it around doesn’t serve you, it has already served its purpose in the moment you received it. Sometimes we keep gifts from others out of guilt, even though the gift itself is never used and doesn’t make us happy and just takes up space. That’s understandable. But think of it this way: When people give gifts, their intention is to make the receiver of the gift happy. And it probably did make you happy when you received it. But if it no longer makes you happy, then it has fulfilled its purpose. You can thank it for making you happy, and say goodbye to it.
There are two aspects to this. One is if you’re not sure if you’re ready to make a leap into minimalism. Take all the things you think you don’t need, put them into boxes, and then put them in storage. During the next few months, you may find that you actually DID need that other frying pan you thought you could live without. You may also find that you don’t need ANY of the things you put in storage. After a year or so, it’ll be easier to get rid of those things.
The second aspect is that sometimes we have seasonal items that we only use for part of the year. It makes sense to have a temporary storage solution for those things. I’ve got a few plastic tote boxes in my bedroom closet. During the winter, they hold bathing suits, shorts, sandals, sunhats, etc. Nowadays, they hold winter coats, scarves, snow boots, etc. Every spring and fall, I do a shift and switch out what’s in storage to prepare for the coming months. This is a simple way to keep things out of the way when you don’t need them for months at a time.
Final thought: You can break your projects down into simple, manageable steps
I’m a weirdo who is sort of thrilled at the idea of re-organizing a room or a closet or a desk. I sincerely enjoy the process. But if you’re NOT like that, and still want things to be organized, then break things down. Instead of saying, “This weekend I’m going to organize the house,” sit down and break that huge project into small afternoon or even 10-minute projects. Hang the list somewhere and go through each item, one by one.
Here, I even made a simplified checklist!
(You can get a downloadable version by clicking here.)
OR, if you really want to get down to business, you can use THIS epic and detailed downloadable list for inspiration (click link for download)! This is a list I made myself, highly inspired by the “Konmari Method" (Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic), and my own experience. Uh, fair warning...it's like 8 pages long. BUT, it's really really really broken down into very small steps. Your own living space will likely demand totally different projects, and you may come up with totally different solutions, but this can be a good place to start. Pinterest also has loads of ideas, as well.