Have you ever come home from a long day at work and not feel the peace you expected? The first thing to meet you as you came up the drive was a bicycle laying in the grass—which needed cut—and an overflowing garage. Inside, dishes filled the sink, shoes lay strewn about the entryway, and toys decorated the living room floor. Follow these 10 simple steps to organize your life.
Studies show that cluttered spaces cause depression, anxiety, and lack of focus. And all of this steals our peace.“Dealing with clutter and living a more organized life,” said Nealey Stapleton, a professional organizer from northern Virginia and owner of The Organizing Boutique, “is super important for our health, both mental and physical.”
Multiple items in our visual space keep us from focusing on what is important to us, she said. “And the embarrassment and shame, not wanting to have people over, causes us to isolate ourselves from friends and family.”
If this describes you or someone you know, there is hope. Stapleton shared the following 10 ways to organize your life. And the best part? They’re amazingly simple.
Organize your life by giving everything a home
You’ve heard the adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” That statement holds a lot of truth when it comes to living an organized life. Knowing where something belongs makes the task of cleaning so much easier. Every home has its “hot spots” or places where things collect. Likely, at your home, the table just inside the door is a hot spot, as is the top of the dryer, the coffee table, and the nightstand. Professional organizers agree that if you clear these horizontal surfaces daily, by returning items to their proper place, your home will stay tidier.
One in, one out
While the first rule to controlling clutter in your home is to stop adding to it. It might sound unreasonable when you come home from the mall with bags of clothes and home furnishings that you couldn’t pass up. After all, who can resist a buy-one-get-one sale at the department store? If this sounds like you, adopt the one in, one out rule. Every time you buy a new shirt, take a shirt out of the closet and give it away. Each time you buy a new book, take a book off the shelf to give away. When you buy a new coffee mug, get rid of one in the cupboard. This process is critical when it comes to making room for the things that really matter.
Have a specified bag/box for donations
When you remove that shirt from the closet or coffee mug from the cupboard, you need a designated place to put it. “I keep a bag in my closet for donations,” said Stapleton. “When it is full, I tie it shut and take it to the thrift store.” A box or bin next to your back door for other items you want to give away keeps them all in one place and prevents them from getting put back in circulation.
Get things off the ground
If you despair over cleaning your floors because there are too many piles to pick up before you can sweep, get your belongings off the floor. If you have to clean the yard each week before mowing, get your kids’ things off the ground. Storing your family’s belongings off the ground or floor not only gives your place a picked-up look all the time but makes it easier to maintain.
One of Stapleton’s favorite tools to organize your life with is the turntable. Also called a Lazy Susan, she uses one in her refrigerator for the barbeque sauces her husband loves to have on hand. They are great for spices, vitamin or medicine bottles, and in the bathroom, too.
Stacking plastic drawers
These little organizers are great for sorting and storing everything from makeup in the bathroom to dog treats in the kitchen to hardware in the garage. “Get the stacking variety,” suggested Stapleton, “so you can reconfigure them to fit your space.”
If you want to keep bicycles and sporting equipment off the lawn, use wall organizers in your outdoor storage building. Making sure you have the hooks anchored properly to hold the weight of the items, everything from baseball bats and fishing poles to bicycles and kayaks can be stored on the wall. If your child can’t lift his bike up to the hooks, use a rack in the driveway or beside the garage to stand the bike upright.
Make it easy
If your child has to climb up to reach a shelf and remove a bin to retrieve an item he uses regularly, chances are it won’t be put away. Stapleton recommends mesh bins for balls and play equipment used regularly. You can see through them and they keep everything from being strewn around the yard, mud room, or another storage area.
Use clear bins
Plastic storage containers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Stapleton prefers clear. “The clear bins let you see what is inside without having to open it,” she said. “And use the lids,” she added, “to protect what’s inside.”
Have a system to organize by
I used to use a system with index cards to organize my life. When I packed a box to put in the storage building or garage, I labeled it with a letter of the alphabet. Each box had a corresponding card with that letter. On the card, I wrote a list of what was inside the box, and where I stored it. I kept the cards in alphabetical order in a box made for filing index cards. When I wanted to find something, like size 2T boys clothes, for example, I’d look in the box of index cards for a card that listed 2T boys clothes. When I found it, I could see that those clothes were in box G stored on the top shelf of the garage.
Today, there are many apps that can replace your box of cards. I like Trello. And with most apps, when you want to find something you just type it in the search bar—no need to thumb through a hundred cards.
Having a system in place for cleaning is important, too. Begin by creating a master list of cleaning jobs—everything from washing windows and cleaning gutters to mopping floors and doing laundry. Then, sort the tasks by frequency—yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly. For instance, cleaning the gutters might go on your quarterly list and mopping the floors on your weekly list. Now, plug each task into the appropriate day of your calendar. Keeping with the same examples, you might have cleaning the gutters on March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1 and mopping the floors every Saturday.
It may not come natural.
According to Stapleton, even though some folks seem to be born organized, for the rest of us organization can be a learned behavior. “A lot of clients call me and are hopeless,” she said. “It’s never hopeless. You can learn this.”