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In our house, organization is a priority, but that’s not to be confused with cleanliness, so don’t come over and expect to leave without any cat hair attached to your clothes. When I say we’re organized, I mean I know where I want things, my husband doesn’t know where I want things, and neither of us puts things where I want things…

There may be a lack of communication around here, so maybe if I write some of this down and let him read it, our house will actually start to come together a bit nicer (it’s really not that bad, I promise). Hopefully some of you less-organized-but-still-beautiful people out there can come away with a little inspiration yourselves.

First, keep a couple of things in mind:

a) Large- and medium-sized containers are your friends. Small containers only add to the clutter, which is what we’re trying to eliminate. If you have a few bucks to spare, I recommend purchasing some large containers. The more you can fit into one, the less of an eyesore your home or office will be.

b) White space, like in design work, is also nice in the home. Stuffing all your “stuff” into every nook and cranny makes the place look smaller and, well, stuffy. EVERY item need not be visible at all times. “Less is more” is a cliche with credibility in my book.

c) (Optional) Get rid of stuff!!!!!!! As a general rule, if you haven’t even looked at it in over a year, you can throw it out, or recycle it—that’s smarter. My husband is as sentimental as

they come, but through about ten “spring cleanings” in the past four years, we’ve managed to get rid of several boxes-ful of what I would call “crap,” and so we made room for all of my things instead. Let’s face it, I make better purchases.

With those in mind, here’s my list of practical ways to organize your home, office, and more.

1. Name a place for every item. If you read my post about finances, then you know I like to name every dollar. If you didn’t, read this. Here, it’s the same concept. Every item in our house has an assigned seat (even if it never sits there). Make sure your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/kid/dog knows where all these assigned seats are. When you’re having a melt down, it’s one less step they have to take to tidy up and make you feel better.

2. Put said item in its place. This is a simple concept, yet I’m TERRIBLE about walking into my house and just putting things on the nearest table-like thing, where they will stay until 1) I need them again or 2) my husband cleans up while I’m at work the following weekend. I recently learned of the “2-minute rule,” which apparently is pretty well-known and I’m just as sheltered as I feared, but now I’m making a concerted effort to incorporate this into my daily life. Read this article by James Clear for more on this rule (and how it can help you form habits, too).

3. Make your most used items most accessible. My husband likes to think we’re both taller than in reality, so I’ve had to break him of the habit of putting our most-used objects on the top shelves in our home. If you need it often, put it where you can easily get to it. The assigned seat for your daily planner should not be inside the desk of the home office you rarely use. That may seem like a practical place for it, but only if you’re trying to get your extra steps on that Fit-bit for the day. Also, we have large containers in our garage to store things we rarely use. Even these items are organized in the same manner. The extra blankets we can’t bare to spare are in the bottom container, while the box full of sports equipment that we rarely use is at the top so that we can look at it when we need inspiration, which is more often than we need those blankets in Texas.

4. Organize by item, not by group. Here’s what I mean: shirts go with shirts, jackets with jackets, sandals with sandals, writing utensils with writing utensils, plates with plates—you get the picture. There are few times you should organize by group, like when you use the same set of equipment every Monday night for softball practice. Go ahead and put all your gear in one place so you’re not scrambling to find everything at the last minute. That makes sense. BUT, even your workout bag can be organized in a practical way. Obviously, softballs can be in the same compartment, protective-wear like helmet, gloves, and goggles? can be in the same compartment. I think most people understand this, but I still come across a few here and there who want to load a day’s worth of work in one box and inevitably end up spending half the day reorganizing.

5. Work on one room at a time. Another flaw of mine. I start in one room, completely destroy it, find one item that belongs in another room, decide to put it in its assigned seat, and then realize that its assigned seat is disorganized, so I start working on that instead. An hour later I’m done with the second room and cry when I get back to the first. Don’t do that. Instead, create a pile of things that need to be put elsewhere, but don’t leave the first room until you’re satisfied with it.

6. Eliminate all junk drawers. Yes, do this. Junk drawers are fun to go through until you accidentally find a safety pin or a tack. Put things where they belong! Don’t “assign” anything to a junk drawer. The next time you decide to move, you’ll have a heck of a time labeling boxes “Random 1,” “Random 2,” and so on and then organizing them when you’re already tired after unloading a thousand boxes because you decided to use small containers instead of medium- and large-sized containers. Save yourself the trouble.


Photo cred: Freestockcenter

7. Roll roll roll your clothes. My husband and I can fit so much into our duffles when we roll our clothes instead of folding them. This is not a new concept, but tried and true. I’ve also found that my clothes will have fewer wrinkles when they’ve been rolled instead of folded. And it doesn’t take any more time to roll than it does to fold. How many more times can I write “roll” and “fold?” I’m done.

Roll and fold.

8. Put shoes at the bottom, and take as few as possible. I used to pack my shoes last. For some reason it made sense. But a friend led me to a straighter path. Clothes can almost “mold” around anything. Shoes can’t. So it makes sense to pack shoes first, and then add clothes on top. You’ll have room, I promise.

9. Plan each day in advance. If it doesn’t make the cut, don’t take it. Before anything ever makes it into the suitcase, EVERYTHING gets laid out on the bed, day by day—Monday’s day-outfit, Monday’s evening dress, Tuesday’s day-outfit, Tuesday evening’s swimsuit (which for me is everyday’s swimsuit), etc. Go ahead and decide which socks and undergarments you’ll wear in advance too. But that awesome pair of sneakers you love but doesn’t match any of your outfits? Leave them! This isn’t the army and the shoes won’t mind being left behind. They don’t have feelings. In fact, sometimes by limiting my options, I make my life simpler: fewer choices means less time weighing the pros and cons.

10. This one’s for you OCD folks who needed an even number. I won’t always do this, as I think it’s important for us to face our fears and to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Today I’m just feeling nicer than usual.

Making life a little bit simpler can be as easy as organization. You’ll spend less time cleaning and more time doing whatever else you do when you’re not cleaning. What hacks do you use in your home to keep things organized? Share in the comments.