We all get overloaded with stuff and things sometimes. Our lives are pretty clogged up with things we acquire, stuff we buy and items we think we need.
Whether it’s electronics, decorations, paperwork, books, clothes, or sports equipment–we all probably are holding on to things we don’t really NEED, or even use. Gone are the days when things were hard to acquire, and held on to carefully. Now we just keep accumulating stuff. It’s time to get ourselves back to a simpler, less-cluttered and more manageable state, especially if our stuff is stressing us out!
Even if you aren’t ready to go all “Little House on the Prairie” and cut back to basics, there are still some ways that simplifying can have a big impact on what you accomplish. After all, think about it–when you can’t find things, you end up wasting time. When your life is disorganized it feels stressful and chaotic. When your house is a mess you might feel like you can’t relax. You can’t see or appreciate the things you have, because it’s hidden behind things you don’t need.
Being and staying organized isn’t something that some people just “have” and others don’t. You just have to learn the habits and adopt them, and you too can keep your life organized and running smoothly.
There are a few universal organizing hacks that everyone can adopt to really get their day off on the right foot, get their house under control and to be able to clearly identify and tackle your goals.
1. Start Small
Rather than feeling like you have to overhaul your life all at once, pick something you can handle and start small. You know that junk drawer in the kitchen? The coffee table where mail piles up? Your sneakers that are tossed all over your closet? Pick one of those things to tackle at first.
When you try to do too much at once you can get overwhelmed and just give up. Set yourself up for success by giving yourself ONE thing you can handle–organize a cupboard. Decide to start making your bed each day. Do the dishes and keep the sink clean. Often one good habit leads to the next.
2. Pick Something New to Tackle Each Week
While you’re pacing yourself through “getting organized” give yourself one new project each week (while keeping up on your previous projects). That means, if you tackled the junk drawer last week, tackle the cupboard this week, but still keep the junk drawer organized.
Each week build on your success from the previous week. Now that you’ve started making your bed, or your sink is free from dishes, move on to finding a solution for your laundry pile, or commit to keeping your bathroom cabinet under control.
3. Use a Calendar
If you want to really get organized, the best trick you can have is to start using a calendar. Just like sticking to your workouts, if you write it down, you will get it done. If you don’t block out time to organize (or really, time to do anything) it can be really hard to remember and keep it all in your head.
If you feel like you’re often forgetting what you needed to do, or just aren’t able to get a handle on the things on your plate, a calendar can really help. Decide if you prefer an electronic calendar like Google, or if you prefer a paper calendar. The most important thing is to find something that works for you, and that you’ll use regularly.
4. Pare Down
When it comes to getting organized, you have to let go. If you have too many things, it can be impossible to get them under control. For every area you’re trying to organize (your home, your schedule, storage, your office), go through items and keep only the things you really use or that you really love.
It can be hard to cut back, but when you have less to organize you can assess things better. You can see what you have more clearly, and you can make more informed choices about what to keep and what to get rid of or give away.
5. Give it One Year
Having a hard time letting go of certain things? Use the “year rule”. If you haven’t used an item in a year–decorated your home with it, enjoyed it, watched it, read it, played it or used it…let it have a new life somewhere else.
Using a year as your rule of thumb works because there are seasonal items you may only use once over a year cycle (swimwear, holiday decorations, snow pants, etc.). If it’s been a few years since an item’s been used, if it’s broken, out of style, or you just don’t like it, it’s probably time to donate it, recycle it, or sell it on Craigslist!
6. Adopt a One-in One-out Rule
When you get something new–socks, video games, whatever–adopt a “one-in one-out” rule. Meaning for each item you bring in, one item must go out. So if you buy a new book, it’s time to donate a book to your neighborhood library. If you buy new running shoes, it’s time to send a pair to be recycled.
If you always make a rule that when one thing comes in, one thing goes out, you’ll be able to stave off clutter and keep things from escalating out of hand. This can be a difficult mentality to adopt, especially if you’ve ever felt like you didn’t have enough in the past, but if you really adhere to it, it works!
7. Take 20
Each night before bed, or when you get home from work (or if you’re one of those freaky morning people, when you get up), set aside 20 minutes and pick up. Set a timer, and do a focused run through your house. Pick up anything that’s out of place, tidy up the counters, wipe up the bathroom, rinse off any dishes you’ve used and put them away.
If you give yourself 20 minutes a day to do an organizing/cleaning run through the house, you’ll stay up on it and ensure that it never gets out of control. If 20 minutes seems like a lot, aim for 10 to start, and work up as you go.
8. Prep the Night Before & Weekends
Another organizing hack? Use your nights and weekends to get prepared. During weeknights most of us are stretched pretty thin. Mornings are often a rush to get out the door and get to work on time. Rather than stressing out, instead take a little time before bed to prepare for tomorrow–put your meals together, figure out what you’re going to wear, get your gym bag together.
If you have more time on the weekends, then do your cooking and preparation for the week when your schedule is a little more open. Fix some easy items like rice and beans, or soups, that you can eat off of for the whole week. You can even make sandwiches ahead! Take care of bills, paperwork and other items you can’t keep up on during your busy days.
9. Schedule Time to Make Major Headway
If you really want to get ahead, set aside a long weekend, or a couple days when you have time off, and organize like you’re preparing for a big move! Go through closets, cupboards, boxes and areas you rarely touch and do an in-depth overhaul.
Rather than trying to tackle a big project when you might get overwhelmed and tired (like at the end of a Tuesday), block out time when you can focus, work hard and make major progress. Schedule it just like a vacation, an appointment or some other occasion and then hold to it.
10. Find an Accountabilibuddy
If you need help staying organized, enlist a friend who will hold you accountable. When we feel like we have to answer to someone else, or that we’re disappointing another person, it can be harder to backslide and give up.
Ask a good buddy if they will let you check in on a regular basis. Sometimes just the act of checking in, and knowing you have to report to someone else will keep you motivated to succeed. Just like working out–having someone who holds you accountable will keep you on track!
Getting organized helps you feel like you know what you have on hand, what you need to do and what to fix for dinner (or wear). No longer will you be staring blankly at a mess and wondering how to get it all under control. Take it step by step and apply a few easy organizing hacks to be successful.