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How to Get and Stay Organized!

Mar 07, 2013 01:40PM ● By Erin Frisch


What better excuse than spring cleaning to reorganize your life? Few other activities provide both instant and long-lasting gratification. Your family will love you when they can open the kitchen cabinet without getting a face full of cereal dumped on them, or when they can get their jackets out of the closet without fearing falling objects. There are a few simple steps that you can take to make every aspect of your life more orderly. Start small: choose a closet, a desk, or even just one drawer. Once you get the “organizational high,” you’ll be addicted, and you’ll be ready to move on to bigger projects. As they say, an organized mind is a happy one.

Step 1: Prepare. Set aside a substantial block of time, like a Sunday afternoon, to tackle this project. It’s not going to happen in 10 minutes, and if you want to do a thorough and lasting job, you need to invest a few hours. It’s also motivating and more fun to have a partner in your endeavor. Play some music and keep the room warm so you stay comfortable. While at first thrilling, organizing can give you burnout, so don’t be afraid to take breaks and leave the space when you get antsy or hungry. Like any work done right, organization will last; rushed, it will fall apart again as soon as you step away.

Step 2: De-clutter. Before you even attempt to get any room, project, space, etc. into order, you need to clean it out. Go through the space with three bags. The first is a garbage bag: throw away any trash. You would be surprised how much junk and broken pieces accumulate when you don’t have any motivation to keep a space clean. Don’t look back; just throw away anything that has no use. Simultaneously, have another bag for giveaways, i.e., things that you don’t need any more but that others may find useful. Any toys, games, tools, supplies, etc. that have been gently used but have been sitting around for a while are giveaways. This will be the bag that you bring to the Listen Center. Finally, you need a consignment bag. This is specific to closets and is to be filled with clothing that can be sold at a consignment store. Not only will you have more space in your life, but you will be richer for it! Be honest with yourself when sorting through clothes. Even if something is in perfectly good condition, if you have never used it, it’s just taking up precious space. A good indicator for this: if it still has the tags, packaging, or wrapping on it, you’ve never needed it and likely never will. Once you have all the trash, giveaways, and consignment items out of the way, move everything that is going back into the space into another room. Lay it out on a wide-open floor or a bed. You will come back to this later.

Step 3: Clean. Now that your space is temporarily cleared out, get a towel and a bucket and put some elbow grease into it. Clean off any dust or lint that has been accumulating. Vacuum the floor, and if you are cleaning your car, vacuum the seats. Vacuum all the nooks and crannies and hard-to-reach spaces that haven’t seen the light of day for years. Clean every surface with Windex or Pledge. Once your space is clean and bright, everything you put back in place will look beautiful.

Step 4: Sort and Replace. Now comes the fun part. You have all your “keep” items laid out in an open space. Organize these things into like piles; that is, by subject. For example, if organizing a secretary or desk, have separate piles for writing utensils, sticky notes, tech equipment, important files, and personal items. After you have sorted, rank the piles by how often those items are used. For example, you probably use pens every day, but those old Christmas cards? Not so much. The things that are the most used should be the most accessible, like in the top drawers or even in a jar on the desktop. Less-often used things can be filed away. Again, most-accessed things should be placed in top drawers, and least-accessed ones can be put in harder-to-reach places. Another helpful tip for replacing items and keeping them in their proper places is using labels. Be liberal with your use of labels, because if everything has a place, you won’t be tempted to throw stuff in a drawer when you can’t find a place for it. This leads to the final stage of organization.

Step 5: Maintain (and Enjoy). The most important part of organization is maintenance. If you make it easy for yourself to keep organized, you will never fall back to your original state of chaos. Explain to your family the project that you have organized, and make it easy for them to keep the project organized as well. If you have a new system of filing, or tools and supplies are now in labeled boxes, show them where everything can be found, and encourage them to return things to their places. If they find being organized as rewarding as most people do, they will happily oblige.

The rooms won’t organize themselves, but once they have been ordered, they are naturally inclined to stay so. So what are you waiting for? Start now—before spring days beckon you outdoors!

What has been your best organizing feat?

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