There's no right way to organize your home. Whatever strategy you choose just has to work with your lifestyle, habits, and tastes. But there are a few tried-and-true strategies that can enhance the effectiveness of any system. From being aware of clutter hot spots to identifying red flags that your organizing method isn't working, we learned some smart approaches to getting organized from the pros so you can save the time, money, and stress that come with living in a den of disorder.
STEP 1: MAKE IT EASIER TO PUT THINGS AWAY
Make everything a one-handed operation. For example, don't hide your laundry basket in the back of the closet. Instead, use an open bin that you can throw your clothes into from across the room. Avoid lids at almost all costs. Using open containers for things you use often like toiletries and cooking supplies makes it easier to put them away. This advice even applies to garbage cans. Brown recommends investing in one with a lever you can step on to pop the lid open. The fewer steps, the better the organizing system.
STEP 2: DON'T BUY STORAGE CONTAINERS UNTIL YOU'VE PURGED
When people want to get organized, the first thing they usually do is run out and buy storage supplies. The point is to evaluate why you have so much stuff to begin with—not find new ways to house your junk. You won't have any idea of what you really need in terms of containers or shelving until you've purged. While deciding what to keep and what to toss, always remember the 80/20 rule. It's the theory that most of us only use 20 percent of what we have. That's a good starting point to realizing you are surrounded by a lot of things you probably don't need. Plus, not only will slimming down your stuff save you money on storage supplies, but it'll save you the headache of going through excess items in an emergency or last-minute situation.
STEP 3: LOOK FOR SIGNS THAT LET YOUR SYSTEM ISN'T WORKING
If a room still somehow looks messy after you've cleaned, it's time to improve your organizational system, which should allow you to tidy up in 15 minutes or less. Once you've pulled out what you don't need—to either throw away or donate—the next step is to group things together based on use or occasion and store them in open containers.
STEP 4: ELIMINATE CLUTTER HOT SPOTS
Flat surfaces like your dining room table, entryway table and kitchen counters tend to accumulate piles faster than any other spot in the house. But if that doesn't work, last-ditch trick is to physically block any surface that has become a clutter haven. For instance, if you put a flower arrangement in the middle of the dining room table and set it with placemats, you're sending the message that the space is no longer a dumping zone.
STEP 5: SORT SMARTLY
When you're ready to roll up your sleeves and take on an organizing project, follow these steps to restore (and keep!) order: First, do it in one shot. Set up a staging area, like the dining table, then empty whatever you're organizing so you can spot doubles, giveaways, and must-saves fast. Then use organizers like clear containers and baskets without lids so you can quickly access what's left of your pared-down collection. Lastly, label everything—even if you think you'll remember, mark boxes and bins with easy-to-read descriptions so there's no second-guessing later on.
STEP 6: ARRANGE ITEMS ACCORDING TO HOW FREQUENTLY THEY'RE USED
Keep the items you use every day in plain sight—or at least at eye level. The things you use daily should be the easiest to get to. While the things you use once in a while should require a step stool. This is where high shelving comes in handy. Things you use only once a year should require a ladder. Not only will this storage system make it easier for you to find the things you use often, but the items you don't use regularly will stay organized until you need them.
Often clutter becomes such a fixture, you look right past it. For a new perspective, imagine you're a guest in your own home. Take note of things a visitor would notice that you've been ignoring. Then, refresh the room back to its original state by eliminating what's making it appear disorganized.