How Do You STAY Organized?

posted by Andrea | 02/8/2012

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One of the most frequently asked questions I get from frustrated readers and clients is…

“How can I STAY organized?”.

And although I could give you lots of tips and suggestions for different ways to stay organized, my simple sollution is to practice daily maintenance.

You wouldn’t expect to stay full for weeks at a time by just eating one meal, and you wouldn’t expect to stay clean forever after only taking one shower. So WHY do we all get so frustrated when our homes /closets /kitchens etc. get disorganized after we organize them one time??

Just like we should eat and shower daily, we should also do a few simple things each day to maintain order in our homes and our lives.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Purge one thing:

After Christmas, I talked about my need to purge a few more things after taking in so much extra “stuff” during the holidays. If you are still feeling a little “stuffed” and cramped after all that holiday shopping, purge just ONE thing today. I know it won’t make a huge difference right now, but think if you purged one thing each day.

Do 15 minutes a day:

Set your timer for 15 minutes at some point in the day {maybe when kids are napping or at school} and do whatever you can to pick up, organize, declutter, etc. I promise those minutes will really add up over the course of a week or a month!

Use a Basket:

I like to quickly walk around the main living areas of my house and put anything that doesn’t belong in a basket. Then if I have time, I’ll deliver the contents to their appropriate homes, or wait until I have a spare moment and do it then. I also use baskets as a place to put items we no longer need, use, or want. Then when the baskets are full, we take the contents to a local donation center.

Implement the One-In, One-Out Policy:

You can’t change the past, but from here on out, implement the One-In, One-Out policy for dealing with clutter. For example, if you want to buy a new shirt, then make sure you are willing to get rid of an old shirt before you put the new shirt in your closet. If you want to buy a new toaster, then get rid of the old toaster first. It’s an extremely simple concept that will make a huge difference in the amount of clutter that accumulates in and around your home.

Get your Family Involved:

You don’t have to be the only one who does the dirty work. Get your family involved by giving them specific {yet reasonable} organizing request. I know this can be challenging if you live with a messy spouse, but if getting and STAYING organized is really important you, then you should talk with your family members {especially your spouse} and tell them specifically what you would like them to do to help you stay organized.

Model “Good Behavior”:

I’m not naive… I know that it can be REALLY difficult to get your family on board with your organizing goals and requests. However, it will be impossible to get them on board if you don’t first model good behavior for them. Don’t leave your dirty dishes in the sink, don’t leave your clothes lying all over the bedroom, don’t leave stacks of unopened mail on the counters — if you do these things, it give them permission to do them too!

Use Incentives:

Incentives work wonders for kids… but they work for adults too! Set specific organizing goals for yourself and then reward yourself when you accomplish those goals.

For example, you might have a goal to do 15 minutes of decluttering every night before you go to bed. If you accomplish that each day for a week, then reward yourself with a night off from cooking or a coffee date with a friend. Another idea might be to reward yourself with a {small} shopping trip for purging a specific number of items from your closet.

These ideas won’t be a perfect solution for everyone, but simply doing SOMETHING every day will help you STAY organized. It’s also just a really good habit to get into {and a really great lesson to teach your children}.

How do you STAY organized?

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10 comments

  1. Lisa

    02/09/2012

    Andrea-

    I am in a major season of change and need to take control of my house again so I CAN maintain!

    I am going to declutter one hour each day for the 40 weeks of lent. I find that my procrastinated decisions and fear of not having enough” have me stuck in a cluttered home and heart.

    So I am using my Facebook page to challenge others to partner with me in:
    Cleaning our homes from Clutter ~ a 40 day journey (begins February 22, 2012)

    🙂
    Lisa

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  2. Justme

    02/09/2012

    Love your site!! Simple rule to organization……if you get it out……put it back! Easy enough, well apparently not always. Trying to teach all other members of the household this. When you walk by the garbage can, throw away the trash instead of leaving it on the counter or where ever. Bottom line, take a few seconds and do it now, or spend part of your weekend doing it then.

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  3. KimH

    02/08/2012

    Routine, routine, routine! Like clockwork.. I leave home at about 6:45 am and dont get home till 4:30 or 5:00, later if I have to stop somewhere.. and then I still have to cook supper, clean and do the things I want & need to do.
    The things I bring in with me at the end of the day have a place & go there.. never even think of possibly doing anything else with them.. I dont lay stuff down anywhere and I dont let others either.
    Its always a work in progress since Im not home much.. but we do what we can, when we can..

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  4. Elizabeth@ReadySetSimplify

    02/08/2012

    I’m totally one of those people who wants to do it once and be done. I know it’s ridiculous! I’m trying to figure out this maintenance thing. I think the 15 min. a day thing has been working for me the best. Still more to figure out, though. Thanks for all of the tips!

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  5. Liz C

    02/08/2012

    Regular purging and loads of help from the minions. My husband and a few of the children are more clutter-collector-y than I tend to be, so it’s a training process. My big areas right now are de-junkifying our basement storage area, my fabric stash, and then looking at the shelves in the garage. We still have a rented storage unit (three years after the house fire that put everything into storage!) and I want to be DONE this spring… so that means selling off or donating anything that won’t fit in the tiny house or the garage. I’m determined!

    Developing good habits is the best thing I can teach my kids. Yes, we deal with mail right away. Yes, we have trash cans in each room. Yes, we go through the clothes regularly. It’s important to learn how to streamline! I have a dear friend who struggles with “how much is enough”–and the chaos it adds to her life is really frustrating. How very much I want to be able to just GIFT her a non-guilt, free-release attitude!

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  6. Lisa

    02/08/2012

    Having a home for everything makes it so much easier to maintain order. If you don’t have a home for an item, it’s so much easier to just NOT put it away, because you don’t really know where it belongs anyway.

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    Emily Reply:

    Oh I like that Lisa! Good tip!!

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  7. Firesparx

    02/08/2012

    I agree about maintaining…but sometimes I have a bad/busy day and it seems like all hell breaks loose. My biggest mess are my clothes. I’ll be good and put them away every night, but then I’ll have one night where they end up on the floor… I call that item “the seed” (remember in elementary school learning how to grow crystals? You started with a small “seed crystal ” and then magically the crystals grow from there.) So from then on out most clothes will end up on the floor. It’s like subconsciously I think “What’s the point of putting this shirt away when all those other ones are on the floor?” I think this can be attributed to my perfectionism. It’s all or nothing for me!

    But having realized this weakness I have I strive really hard to not plant a “seed”.

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  8. Jen

    02/08/2012

    I LOVE this! I am very organized and “clutter allergic” like you and my friends are constantly asking me how I do it? I don’t have better advice than to say “Don’t let it get away from you!” I keep our home free of clutter on a continual basis. That way, nothing has a chance to pile up. Because once it starts to pile up, then it’s easier to just keep adding to the piles! (Hoarding: Buried Alive anyone? HAHA)

    I think the “maintenance” part is the hardest for people to understand. Our family doesn’t know any different! And, consequently, we live a simple, organized and clutter-free life! And, believe it or not, I have a daughter who is almost 20, who has thanked me several times in the past couple years for providing a clean and neat home! It really DOES make a difference! She is getting married in August and I am hoping the tradition will continue! 🙂

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  9. Emily

    02/08/2012

    Love what you said about keeping it up! I specify each day of the week for a different house keeping task. I would always right long lists of things to do and found that I never got anything accomplished. For example, thursday is laundry day and that is all I focus on that day (besides kitchen clean up and general pick up to keep things tidy). I think I do about six loads of laundry and fold and put everything away too. Thankfully my 5 year old loves to fold laundry now which is a huge help. Wednesday is bathrooms (clean and change all towels), Friday is vacuuming and washing floors (my 3 year loves to do this). I have found having one area to focus on each day actually keeps my house cleaner and more organized! We also do afternoon pick up, where we race around the house and tidy up quickly before starting dinner (and purging a ton of stuff has made this easier too). I highly, highly recommend the book “Large Family Logistics” by Kim Brennaman (works for families small and large alike). She introduced me to this concept and even my husband is noticing a difference! 🙂

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