3 Habits That WILL Help You Be More Organized

posted by Andrea | 11/20/2018

Last week, I shared the 10-week update on my full-house purge… 10 rooms down, 5 more to go before the New Year!

Every time I write a post like this, I get lots of emails and questions from others asking “but where/how do I get started?”

It’s true, the act of getting started is often the most difficult and seemingly overwhelming part of the entire project (“an object in motion stays in motion, and object at rest stays at rest…”)

If you’re looking for some relatively simple things you can start doing TODAY to help better organize your home and life, I promise the 3 tips in today’s post will most definitely get you moving in the right direction.

Of course, they won’t magically solve all your clutter conundrums, but they will help you get started. Practiced over time, these 3 tips will begin to form some really great organizational habits for you (and your family) — which will lead to more long-term success on your journey to becoming more organized.

Win-Win! 

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1. Put things away whenever you get them out.

This might sound overly-obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people never even consider putting something away again immediately after they’ve finished using it… or they convince themselves they will “get around to it later”.

In my opinion, this is the most basic of basic tips… but also one of the most important parts of maintaining a somewhat organized environment.

If you regularly and continually put things away after you get them out (and/or finish using them) you won’t have stuff sitting around, cluttering up your living or working spaces.

Here are a few of the many ways I practice this in my own life.

  • I put clothes away immediately after I take them off (either in the laundry or back in my closet).
  • I put food and other kitchen items away as I cook so the kitchen isn’t ever a disaster area.
  • We put toys, games, and crafts away as we play so the mess is rarely every overwhelming.
  • I empty out the van every time we arrive home.
  • I empty out (and restock) our diaper bag whenever we take it with us.
  • I file or recycle any paperwork I get out (or new papers I receive) immediately after I’m finished using them or reading through them.
  • We put books back on the shelf after we’re finished reading them.
  • I fold and put laundry away ASAP after it’s dry.

There are so many more examples I could give — but I think you get the idea.

It might be difficult to force yourself to do these things in the beginning, but after a short while, they will become new habits you do without even thinking about them — SCORE!

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2. Create a space for everything.

If you find yourself struggling to put things away, it MIGHT be because you’ve never actually created a space to put that particular item away.

Take a look around your home, your office, in your vehicle, etc. and look for things that are continually left out. Now determine if those things are left out simply because you neglected to put them away, or because you don’t know where to put them.

Refer to #1 above if you’re being “lazy” and choosing not to put your things away…. 😉

However, if you truly don’t know where to put the items, it’s time to CREATE A SPACE for them.

Consider where you use the item, how you use it, when you use it, what you use it for, etc. etc. and use those clues to then determine the best place for your item.

Once you have a place decided upon, make sure others in your home or office know where that space is, and that you expect the item to be returned to that place when not in use.

 

3. Develop routines that work for YOU.

Routines are one of those things you either really really love, or you just can’t seem to figure out.

I sometimes have a love-hate relationship with routines… but for the most part, our family functions so much better when we regularly utilize routines!

Routines simplify every aspect if our days, weeks, months, and years. They reduce decision fatigue, they reduce the number of questions and complaints from our children, they allow our days (and nights) to flow more smoothly, and they help me keep my sanity!

If you feel like certain areas of your life are more stressful, more chaotic, or more disorganized than others, step back and consider if there is a routine you might put in place to help.

Here are some of the routines that work for me and my family right now (click on the links to read more about that particular routine):

  • Dave and I wake up very early every day (even on the weekends) so we can get a good jump start on the day and so we’re awake, dressed, fed, and ready to go before our kids wake up.
  • I make weekly menu plans every Sunday so I rarely need to think about “what’s for dinner” (or breakfast) throughout the week.
  • I use a planner to keep track of everything I need to do and everything my family does (more on this in a couple weeks!) so I don’t forget things or constantly wonder “what’s happening next?”
  • I do laundry on set days and then don’t think or worry about it the rest of the week.
  • I trash, recycle, file, take action, or display every piece of mail and every school paper within minutes of it entering my home so I don’t end up with piles of paper to sort through later.
  • We run the dishwasher EVERY night after dinner, even if it’s not completely full, so it’s always clean and empty in the morning.
  • We pack lunches and pick out our clothing every evening after dinner so the mornings are less rushed and hectic.
  • We have a “full house pickup” before lunch and before bed so things don’t get too out-of-control.
  • We have a rock-solid bedtime routine for our kids that usually results in them sleeping soundly by 7:30pm (or earlier) so they are happy and rested and Dave and I get a little down time without kids at night.

You see, routines help to simplify and better organize so many areas of our life.

One note on routines — even after you find a routine that works really well for you, don’t be afraid to regularly tweak, alter, or completely change the routine if you feel it’s not working as well as it used to, or if your season of life changes.

There’s no sense trying to force a routine that no longer works for you or your family!

Of course, there are many other tips and ideas I could share (and probably have shared over the years) in attempts to help calm the clutter and bring more order to our lives. However, I don’t want this post to be overwhelming… so I’m sticking with 3 for now!

My main goal for this post is simply to get you moving forward!

Pick one of these tips and start working on it TODAY (maybe even right after you finish reading this post!) If it’s not too horrible, add in another tip in a few more days, and then the 3rd tip next week.

Before you know it, you’ll be regularly practicing all 3 tips and well on your way to enjoying a more organized home and life!

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13 comments

  1. Wendy

    11/21/2018

    This is great advice, Andrea.

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  2. Sarah

    11/20/2018

    I’m always saying to my kids ‘well you don’t ever lose your toothbrush do you – put stuff away nicely and you’ll know where to find it! I think it is annoying to keep repeating myself to them but it’s just so true, you have to put stuff away. I don’t have enough spare brain space to track everything!

    I read The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin a while ago (you’d love it Andrea) and he also advocates finding a place for things rather than letting them float around. You can’t argue with scientific research and toothbrushes!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — love this! I’m totally going to say that the next time they lose a beloved toy!
    Also, I’m going to look up that book right now. Thanks! 😉

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  3. Meghan

    11/20/2018

    My car is definitely the area of my life where I can apply all of these tips. I feel like I’m always running from one thing to the next and never take time to deal with it purposefully each day. Plus, when I’m out of it I can push it from my mind. I’m anticipating getting a new vehicle soon, so I’m going to work on cleaning out the console and glovebox of this vehicle now. The last thing I’ll want to do is deal with this SUV when I have a clean one. Also, I need to get systems in place so my new car doesn’t turn into a disaster.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, cars can be tricky because you don’t “live” in the mess. I think it’s a good idea to start working on your car now though — especially if you’re in the market for a new vehicle soon!

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  4. Monica

    11/20/2018

    I’m a newly married reader, brand new homeowner, and hoping to start our family soon. Just wanted to say that your articles are truly helpful and I always learn a lot from you! Many thanks from one who is learning a great deal about “how to become a domestic goddess” from you!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yay! Congrats (on the marriage and the home!) How exciting!

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  5. Michelle

    11/20/2018

    Great advice. I’ve followed your blog from almost the beginning. Long before Clara was born. It’s so fun to ‘hear’ the change in tone over the years as you’ve grown your family and gained experience. At the same time, the same simple tips still work for all these different seasons. Also, I think your work is very important. You are an encouragement to people. You are raising four people who will appreciate the stability and routine you gave them in this unstable and chaotic world they are growing up in. Sometimes it may seem you get up and do what needs to be done, repeat. Keep fighting that feeling because the truth is there is so much strength in that. My grandmother did that and her example continues to inspire me as I try to raise my family. Thank you for sharing your life and advice online. It matters

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    Barb Reply:

    Agree… I couldn’t of said it better. 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — what a fantastic compliment Michelle!
    Thanks so much!

    And yes, a lot has changed over the past 8+ year of blogging, but these tips are still in constant use at our home!

    [Reply]

  6. Christine

    11/20/2018

    I have 2 questions:

    1. Do you take your diaper bag out of your van when you get home every time or do you only bring it inside if it needs restocking?

    2. Re: #2, I am a big believer in every thing should have a place, but what if you have to create that place in your home? I’m talking about things you know you want and need to keep, but your current home doesn’t exactly have the right space for it? (For example, no office or desk area for storing important files, etc.)

    Thanks Andrea! I’m on the red eye flight from LA to Chicago and I laughed when i found myself thinking, I’m up earlier than Andrea Dekker this morning! 🙂

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    Lea Reply:

    I was just going to scroll down to write about #2!

    For us it was a game changer. I truly had thought that we couldn’t be tidy because our home was “too small” (900 sq ft for 4 now adult-sized people plus 2 others 3months of the year) and we didn’t have an “office” for all the paper. Paper is the bane of my existence and we have a LOT that I am not comfortable scanning and pitching (medical files, business documents, etc.).

    It finally dawned on me that if it is in my house, it has to have it’s own space. I started really critically looking at the space we had and the items we were storing. A tall filing cabinet (3 drawers) went into the end of one closet for more permanent paperwork and a filing “basket” (for lack of a better term) sits in the living room bookcase for more transient things. Neither take up much space but work well for us.

    I started using this for other ideas as well – a space for projects in progress (kids’ school projects, my sewing, hubby’s computer projects, etc.); a space for collecting items for donation; a space for upcoming event items (operation Christmas child boxes are the latest there); etc. Each is just a shelf or part of a shelf in the living room bookcase or our entry closet but it makes a HUGE difference for us.

    It turned out that we just had a lot of things that I (or someone else) wanted to keep for a variety of reasons but didn’t really need to keep. Realizing that difference has been a game changer and we actually have way more space now than before.

    Hope that’s helpful,
    Lea

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    this is such a great example of WHY everything needs a home… especially in smaller spaces!
    Thanks so much for taking the time to share!

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