"Organizing is what you do before you do something
so that when you do it it's not all mixed up."
Winnie the Pooh
(created by A.A. Milne)
Hi, my name is Dani and I'm an organizing-aholic. Yep, I'll admit it. I have an addiction to being organized. I love color-coding. I could spend hours arranging my clothes by sleeve-length. And, yes, I'm a sucker for a quality, multi-purpose bin. I love when everything has a place and even better when everything is in its place. This makes a time like this, when I'm days away from moving into a new apartment, both completely unsettling and unbelievably exciting. Right now nothing in my apartment is where it should be since it's all packed in boxes. You can bet all your money on the fact that everything will be neatly in a new place by the end of the weekend because, if it wasn't clear from these first few sentences, I love to organize.
I love organizing so much that I used to do it as a kid. For fun. Yes, I know, that's completely odd, and what was even odder was the fact that I was so organized that my parents' friends would come to my room and look around in awe, as if I were some kind of prodigy, a mini-genius of organization. While their kids were throwing clothes on the floor and stacking school books haphazardly in a corner, I was color-coding, filing, alphabetizing, and keeping everything contained in neatly labeled boxes. I can remember looking at them looking around my room and thinking, "What's the big deal? If I didn't organize it all, it would just be a mess and then how would I find anything?"
Organizing was easy for me because it made perfect sense. It never occurred to me not to be organized, just as it probably never naturally occurs to a disorganized person to put everything in color-coordinated files with each color symbolizing a different area of life. But, natural organizer or not, it does make a lot of sense to keep things in order. Why? It saves time (no more looking for stray gloves or missing keys). It saves money (no more buying another one because you can't find the one you swore you bought). It saves sanity (no more screaming at other people to help you find your glasses). As you can see, organization can help you out a lot. A lot, a lot.
I know being organized doesn't come easily for everyone, but I'm a firm believer that the outside is a reflection of the inside. I hate to say it, but if your house or apartment is a cluttered disaster, chances are you're probably a cluttered disaster. Sounds harsh, yes, but in most cases it's true. (On the flip-side, however, being completely organized and having everything in its place does not mean you have your life together. After twenty-five years of external order and internal chaos, I can attest to that first hand!) No matter who you are, what you do, or where you live, being organized and living in a clean, orderly environment will make you happier. This is a fact. (Well, I'm pretty sure it's a fact. If it's not, it should be because I really believe it's true.) I know you're probably looking around at the stacks of paperwork on your desk or the clutter of toys around your work space and you're shaking your head thinking, "Organize? Me? I barely have time to sleep, let alone organize." But... If you remember one thing and one thing only from this post, remember this:
The more organized you are, the more time, money, and sanity you will have.
Don't you want to be have more time, money, and sanity? I'm pretty sure more of all of those things will make you happier. Yeah, yeah, I know, happiness comes from inside, happiness is a choice (I really, really do believe that with all my heart), but you'll be a lot more likely to choose happiness if the world around you is happily organized. Make sense? Okay, so let's get started. I can't say that I'm an official expert on organization, but I'm pretty darn good at it if I do say so myself. People have hired me to organize their homes. Every boss I've had has asked me to help him/her organize his/her office. Friends have asked me over and over again to help them organize their dorm rooms or apartments or homes. I might not have a degree in this field, but I'm pretty awesome at it. And, at the very least, I'm passionate about it and that has to count for something. So here we go... Dani's tips for organizing your living space (and your life!)...
10 Best Tips To Organize Your Living Space (and Your Life)
Get rid of what you don't need. Immediately. This is something you have to take action on right away if you want to get anywhere in this whole organizing thing. Get. Rid. Of. It. You don't need it. Yeah, yeah, I know, you might need it someday. No, you won't. Trust me. I get rid of things all the time and do you know how many of those things I have later needed? None of them. Maybe I've wanted a few of them back, but never have I ever needed them back. Go through all of your stuff (and I do mean all of it) and get rid of the things you don't need or want. Give it away if you can. If you can't, throw it away. I know it's hard but you CAN do it. Don't waste another second. Do it now. Don't think about it. Don't weigh the pros and cons of keeping it or not. If you don't need it, don't use it, and don't love it (and, no, you do not love those beat up old boots of yours)...get rid of it. I'm serious, people. The only way to get organized is to get rid of all of the stuff you don't need. And don't you dare make excuses...especially excuses that involve the words "sentimental," "gift," or "special." No matter what you believe comes after this life, I'm pretty darn sure you can't take any of those special things with you so get rid of what you don't need. NOW.
Take inventory of everything you own. Now that you've gotten rid of all of the stuff you no longer need or want (and you have gotten rid of it, right?), assess what it is you do have. Personally, I like to make lists. Once I made a list of all of my clothes (something I plan to do again post-move) and discovered that I had 32 bikinis. 32!!! Why in the world did I have so many? I have no idea. How many of them did I actually wear? Maybe 3... This was a problem, clearly. Once you do an inventory on what you own, you can see what you may or may not need in the future. If you have 15 pairs of jeans (like I do...yikes), you probably don't need more pairs of jeans. I find it really helpful to create some sort of list and to keep it with you whenever you are shopping. The process of creating a list can be a pain, but it really can help you out because it will prevent you from buying things you already have plenty of and it can help you to see how much stuff you already have (even after purging half of your home!). For most people, creating this inventory is a real eye-opener and can really help you curb your spending in your "problem" areas (which, for me, is apparently bikinis!).
Invest in quality organizing tools (and use them). Okay, this is not an excuse to go to The Container Store and go wild. (Oh, but how I love the thought of buying everything in that place!) Often when people get excited about organizing their stuff, they run right out and buy tons of boxes and bins and labels... and then come home and add those things to the ever-mounting piles of stuff they already have. Don't do this. Tempting as it might be to get excited about organizing your space (okay, maybe that's just me...), don't run right out and buy a ton of organizing things you don't need. First, assess the unique situation of your living space after you have taken an inventory. Then, look into the options online and get some ideas about what you might need. If you don't know where to start, check out #6 for some great ideas. Then, after carefully assessing everything and making a list of what you need, go into the store (IKEA, The Container Store, Wal-Mart, Target, whatever) and purchase only the things on your list. My advice would be to invest in high quality tools that will last a long time. Purchasing items of lower quality isn't usually a good idea because they're likely not to survive moves, children, pets, and any other destructive forces you may have in your life. Assess, then invest.
Learn the benefits of color-coding. If you haven't noticed from reading my blog, I love color. Love it. And in addition to making my life a happier place, color also has some great benefits. It makes things easy to identify and helps you to keep things divided into specific categories. For example, let's take the example of a filing cabinet. If you use colorful files, you can use different colors for different areas (such as health, work, kids, car, etc.). The next time you're looking for information on your car, for example, you'll know to look for the blue folders. You can also do this with kids or family members, by allowing them to pick a color that they like. After everyone in the house has a color, you can use that color to label things, to put their paperwork in color-coded files, to use colorful bins to hold their things... Sounds a little crazy and it might not work for everyone, but at the very least color-coding files can be so, so helpful. Plus, all of the colors really can boost your mood!
Keep your things in logical places. Seems obvious, right? Well, it should be, but it's not always. Take a look at your kitchen as an example. Do you have all of the things together that should be together? For example, is your coffee near the coffee pot? Is your tea near the teacups? Sometimes I find that things are not necessarily where they should be because we tend to group things by general categories (food, pots, pans, plates) rather than grouping them in ways that make sense for us. Don't worry about traditional conventions if you want to have an organized place. Think about the way you do things. Think about the way your family does things. Then figure out what makes the most sense for you. Keep the things you use where you use them. This can save you a lot of time and will make your household routines run more smoothly. The best way to put this point into action is to think about what you're doing while you're doing it. Stay in the moment when you're getting ready in the morning and ask yourself if your things are really in convenient places. Figure out the way you do things and arrange your things to suit you and the way you do things.
Read up on organizational tips and tricks. This, not surprisingly, is one of my favorite things. I love to read about new organizing tips and tricks. I cannot tell you how many things I've learned from reading books, magazines, or websites that I've implemented in my own life. My very favorite site is Real Simple, but I would also recommend checking out Life Organizers and More Than Organized, two sites that also offer great organizing solutions. In many cases, you can get organizing tips sent right to your in-box, which will help you stay on track and will be helpful in suggesting new ideas for your new and improved organized life. I would highly recommend signing up for Real Simple email alerts (and subscribing to the magazine too if you don't already). I've gotten so many great ideas from both the site and the magazine and if you're at all interested in keeping up an organized life, this is definitely one of the best resources out there. (In fact, I love it so much that it's now become my secret dream to work for Real Simple...okay, not so secret anymore. Real Simple, I'm ready when you are!)
Master the art of the to-do list. Alright, I know that for the less organized (sounds nicer than disorganized, right?) the mention of a to-do list pulls up an instant frown. To-do lists can really seem like a pain sometimes (especially if you're the type that's not likely to cross anything off of one), but they really, really do help you to stay organized. You can create daily to-do lists, weekly to-do lists, work to-do lists, home to-do lists...the possibilities are endless! And, really, honestly, they work. Not sure how to get started on your new to-do list adventure? Check out this great article, Building a Smarter To-Do List from 43folders. After reading that article, I was even more certain that a to-do list habit is a great one to start. Sometimes it feels like a pain in the you-know-what, but it really does make everything feel more organized when you write it down (or type it up) and then work through the various tasks one by one. Also, I find that writing down what I have to do frees up space in my mind so I can think about more important things.
Put everything away right away. I cannot tell you how important this is. So, so, SO important. Once you've created a place for everything by getting rid of the things you don't need, assessing your space, and organizing it, you have to keep it up. If you organize everything but then don't put things in their new organized home, the whole organizational thing will be a waste of time. And no one wants to waste time, right? Right! So don't. If you make the effort to organize, make a point to upkeep all of your hard work. In addition to putting everything away right away (and, yes, I do mean right away...not two days later), make sure to assess whether or not the places you are putting your things are working for you. If you find that it's a pain to reach the bin of scarves on the top shelf in your closet so you never want to put your scarves away, find a way to move that bin so that it's more easily accessible. It's your life and those are your things so it's up to you to make them work for you. Make sure that it's easy for you (and your family/roommates) to put things away. The easier it is, the more likely you'll be to do it!
Be creative with the things you already have.Real Simple has a great section in the magazine and online called New Uses for Old Things in which you can find tons of great ideas for taking things you already have but don't use (but this shouldn't really be the case if you got rid of everything in #1!) and making use of them. Real Simple has great ideas, but you may have some ideas of your own. Take a look around at all of the things in your living space. What can you use differently? What do you have stored away that you could use right now? For example, if you have a few vases stored in a closet for the next time you receive flowers, think about a way that you can bring those vases out and use them (to hold things? as decoration?). If you start working out those creative muscles of yours (yes, I know you have 'em!), you'd be surprised what you'll come up with. Just because something was designed for a specific purpose doesn't mean you have to use it for that purpose. Be creative!
Do not have a junk drawer/box/room. Ever. I've put this one last because I want this (and #1!) to stick with you. Do. Not. Have. A. Junk. Drawer. Ever, ever, ever! Create a place for everything -- a neat, organized place -- and if you do there will be no need for a junk drawer. Junk drawers (and rooms and closets...) are bottomless pits of disorganization. They encourage you to be disorganized by allowing you to have a place to put all of the things you don't know what to do with. If you come across something that doesn't have a place in your home, create a place for it. If you don't want to create a place for it, it's probably junk and you don't need it so throw it away. There is no need whatsoever to have a place where junk or bills or random things can gather. Everything should have a place and things that don't deserve a place should have a place in the garbage. Seriously, if you're committed to being organized, don't let yourself fall into the junk drawer trap. Even if it's just one drawer, it will bring you down. Avoid it at all costs!
As you can see, I'm pretty into this whole being organized thing. Not only do I find that it really helps me to live an uncluttered life, but it's actually a lot of fun for me. Whether you find organizing fun or not, I can pretty much guarantee you that you'll feel a lot better if your home is organized. There is something about clutter that makes people feel unsettled and, if you want to have happiness in your life, it's not going to help you if you look around you and see a big mess. I know color-coding isn't for everyone, but give the whole idea of organizing a shot. Tailor these tips to work for you. I really do believe that creating an uncluttered, organized space can help you feel better about your life so give it a try! Because I'm always looking for new ideas and am always happy to share my ideas with you, I want to know...
What do you do to stay organized? What tips do you have to share with us?
What organization trials have you been faced with lately?