It’s the ever-elusive word that we all seem to be striving for at any given time. In fact, whenever we send out a survey or ask LWSL readers what they would most like to accomplish in the next year, “getting more organized” is always high on the list. The reality is that organization is often a process. For most of us, getting–and staying–organized is something we have to work at.
I’m often asked about my favorite organizing tips or “hacks.” If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably discovered that I have lots of ideas, organizing tools and storage solutions that work for my house and family and fit my style.
I’m sure you do, too.
But the reality is that the first step in getting organized is clearing the clutter and getting unstuffed.
When we have too much stuff, we get distracted trying to make the most of our space and fit everything in. We try to find the best solutions to keep our hundreds of Christmas decorations, fifty bottles of cleaning supplies, and numerous bins of nail polish organized and accessible. Our organization problem is really often just a STUFF problem, which means we need to pare down to the things that truly serve our needs and let go of the rest.
It sounds extreme. And yes, it can be difficult. But as I’m often looking at storage solutions on Pinterest or elsewhere online, I’m struck by how much time and effort we spend trying to come up with new ways to store MORE stuff. It’s ridiculous. We look for ways to fit hundreds of hangers in a small closet. We try to fit more toys in the toy room by installing nets and bungie cord systems—all to hold the plush armies our kids have collected. We’re always trying to come up with new boxes, bins and holders for Legos, and new solutions for Barbie shoes and Little Pet Shop accessories.
It would better serve us to get organized by getting back to basics. It’s much easier to organize the items we find useful, purposeful, and truly need. Imagine a bookshelf full of books we love, a shelf where a few of our children’s prized toys can be displayed, and a closet of clothing we carefully select and curate, where each piece fits, and is flattering and loved.
This isn’t an impossible dream. When it comes down to it, my favorite organizing tip, hack, trick, or whatever you choose to call it is this–ruthlessly purge! Clean out what you don’t need. Donate it. Give it to someone who will use it, who can wear it and who loves it. Fight the flow and buy only what you need and what serves you.
It’s not an easy concept, but when we fight the flow, we can get ourselves organized. We can cut back on clutter and pare down to the items we truly need in our homes. We’ll find we have more room, so we don’t need to opt for so many “storage hacks” and “organizing tricks” just to get our stuff and ourselves under control.
Then, once you’ve pared down to the basics, apply the following hacks to take your organization to the next level:
1. Label Everything
It sounds obvious, but give everything a home with a label. Kids, babysitters, and even husbands can navigate their way around storage and return each item to its rightful place. It also helps you to know when you’re getting low on an item (like sugar or flour, for example) or when something’s lost (like a hammer or keys).
There are about a bazillion options when it comes to labeling. You can find pretty printable label templates that fit any décor. Some labels are reusable, like rewriteable dry erase and chalkboard labels, for example. Other labels work better for items like cords. Try using bread tags or plastic printable labels to label your cords.
When in doubt, you can always write out a simple label by hand with a Sharpie. I label everything, from freezer meals to storage shelves, hangers, cupboards and bins. This way, whenever I need something, I know it’s not slung in some unlabeled box or random drawer where I might never find it again.
2. Make the Most of Vertical Space
Every corner of your home doesn’t need to be filled with “stuff.” You don’t need to store items above the threshold of every door and every windowpane. You can, however, make use of vertical space in closets and cupboards, ensuring this less-used space works for you.
Try installing a tension rod in your closet or under a sink to get better use of the space. Lots of items hang great on rods, including spray bottles, scarves, and even heeled shoes. Assess your closets and cupboards and look for dead space where a shelf, hooks, or other storage solutions could maximize your options.
3. Use Your Control Center
If you have a family control center, it can be a great spot to post your goals and to do lists for the week. One quick and easy way to change things up is to write repeating items on sticky notes, so they can easily be moved from week to week. Dry erase and chalkboards also work great for dynamic and regularly changing information, or you can use a portable planner that allows you to keep track of everything on the go.
One of the best tips for getting organized is to write down your goals, to-do lists, and tasks. I like using my Living Well Planner to keep everything in a go-to space where I can easily keep track of my own goals and plans, my family’s schedule, our budget, and even our meal plan.
Your control center is a good place to keep important numbers, mail and correspondence you need to address—all in one easy-to-reach spot. Keep your coupon organizer, your meal plan, and any other regularly used tools at the command center as well. This will save you time and energy when you have to search and tear up your house just to find something.
4. Plan Your Meals and Learn to Slow Cook
Freezer meals have been a game-changer for me. In terms of organization, I can’t tell you how helpful and productive it is to review your meal plan, cook once a week during Sunday prep, and then have hot, delicious and nutritious meals at-the-ready.
No longer do we have to run to the store for one ingredient right before dinner. Meals aren’t a dreaded struggle after a long workday. I know what I have and know it’s ready to go. I can throw meals in a slow cooker in the morning and have something exciting and yummy on the table for dinner, with almost zero effort.
If you haven’t tried freezer cooking or meal planning, there’s no time like the present. Not only will it streamline your grocery shopping and help you make the most of your ingredients, but it will save you time, energy and yes, sanity every single day.
5. Simplify Your Wardrobe
When I started my 40 Hanger Closet, it seemed a little bit daunting, but I have to admit, I was tired of sorting through clothes that didn’t fit, didn’t go with anything, and didn’t make me happy. Now I can honestly say that when I get dressed every day, I feel great. I know everything in my closet fits and looks good. I’m careful with my wardrobe planning and purchases, only buying classic, high-quality items that pair well with other items.
I’ve cut back to mostly easy-care items, so I don’t have to stress out over ironing, dry cleaning, or anything that requires too much work and styling to look great. Keeping my wardrobe simple and stocked with quality, classic items, has been a life-changing organizational hack.
If you want to get started, it’s simple. Go through your closet and figure out what you truly love and what you could do without. Keep only things that fit, are in good repair, and make you feel confident and great. I found 40 hangers is a good number to give me enough variety and choices but still keep things under control. I never lose an item and I never stand there wondering what to wear.
6. Address the Problem Areas First
Is there a dreaded area of your house you hate to tackle? Maybe the pantry gives you a panic attack or your daughters’ hair accessories are out of control? Tackle those areas first and be ruthless. Purge anything you don’t need. Get rid of anything expired or out of date.
Once you’ve learned how to Eat That Frog and overcome your most challenging task, you’ll be psyched to take on the rest. Try finding new solutions. If throwing mail on the desk means bills get lost, maybe you need to make some baskets to house incoming mail and apply ”if this, then that” rules to get a handle on the flow.
Rather than continuing to try to apply the same solution to a problem and get frustrated when it doesn’t work, accept you may need to find a new answer. As much as I would love backpacks to always go up to bedroom desks, they usually end up slung on the floor or by the door. So instead of fighting it, I’ve placed a lovely basket at the bottom of the stairs where backpacks can go right when they walk in the door and wait for someone to take them up on their next trip.
7. Find Solutions You’re Excited to Use
Find storage solutions and organization tricks you’re excited to use. If you have pretty labels, painted jars, or an inbox for your mail that matches your décor and catches your eye, you’re much more likely to embrace it. Get your kids on board with storage ideas and solutions. If they help organize a desk drawer or take time to wrap and label each cord and tuck it in a toilet-paper-roll cubby, chances are they’re going to feel ownership and want to help preserve the organized space.
So often, as moms, we think we need to tackle projects alone. We forget to enlist the help of our spouse and our kids, then we feel disappointed and let down when they don’t cooperate with the upkeep. Instead, get the whole house excited about organizing. Maybe your husband will find his inner-carpenter by hanging pegboard for tools in the garage or mounting magazine files inside cupboards to hold plastic wrap.
I find my daughters really embrace new ideas. They really do want to help and jump right in when we try something new. When we cut back on toys and started focusing on experiences rather than things, they took to it faster than I did! They were coming up with creative and fun ideas and new ways to play and find joy.
When it comes to getting organized, finding ways to make the process enjoyable, nourishing and rejuvenating can help you change from simply a one-time solution to a lifestyle. Living with less and getting unstuffed can help us feel more at peace and in control. It can help us appreciate what we have and let go of the things we think we need. We can stop looking for fulfillment from our “stuff” and start finding joy from within!
Share Your Tips: How do you stay organized?