Many of my clients can get organized with my help but the next challenging step is creating habits to stay organized. As I work with my clients, I share ideas on maintaining the organizing systems I have established with them. Part of the hard work is sustaining focus on being organized and the benefits of being organized. It takes weeks to really hard-wire a new habit! But if you can get that deep in the habit-building, you might have made it stick. Of course, we are happy to help get our clients back on track should a life event throw things off. Below you will find my favorite tips on how to stay organized, and a few on how to get organized.
12 Habits to Stay Organized
Commit to keeping one space clutter-free. Typically, a kitchen counter, the island, the bathroom counter, or the nightstand are great places to start. The counters seem to be a natural dropping spot for random things we’re not making decisions about yet. But clutter begets clutter so if you intentionally create an empty space, it may just create the desire for more empty space! If you find yourself wanting to set something down, ask yourself questions: what is this for?, why do I want/need to keep it?, does it have a natural home somewhere else?, do I need to create a home for this? Eliminating indecision will help keep things from piling up.
Commit to a full laundry cycle. Laundry seems simple but most of my clients struggle with all or part of the laundry cycle. Tell yourself you will wash, dry, fold, and put away every load you start. And you will do the complete cycle within the day you start the wash. Once you get behind in laundry, or any life chore, it becomes harder and harder to initiate the catching up process.
If you are already too far in the hole with laundry, I have two suggestions: First, declare laundry bankruptcy. This means you will allow yourself a one-time opportunity to take it to the laundromat to have them wash and fold it for you. My clients are so thankful for permission to do this and most had not even thought of the option. Second, if you have a bin of unmatched socks, declare bankruptcy here too. Toss them out and start fresh! And make your life easier by buying a quantity of socks that are all the same colors and brands so you don’t have to hunt down that one matching sock. You’ll save yourself time because this makes folding laundry much faster!
Wash dishes at least once a day. Once dinner is complete, get the hand-wash items taken care of and load the dishwasher. Make it a new rule in the household to immediately take your dishes to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher. Don’t make excuses or make it harder than it needs to be. I have clients who develop elaborate “pre-washing”rituals which just causes the process to be complicated and more time-consuming than necessary. Today’s dishwashers are much better than 20+ years ago. Many sense how dirty they are and adjust themselves. Just scrape off the chunks and put them directly into the washer. Don’t rinse them or take a sponge to them. If you’re going to do that, you might as well just hand wash everything. But if you use the dishwasher, you’ll save water!
Clear out the refrigerator weekly. The best day to do this is the day before garbage day. This way you won’t have smelly, expired leftovers in your kitchen for days. If your refrigerator is fairly cleared out, you’re more likely to see the good leftovers and use them up. You’ll save yourself money!
Meal plan weekly. Now that you’ve cleared out the old food from the refrigerator, it’s time to plan for the week’s meals and then shop. Look at your calendar to see which days you can cook, which days you may need to pull something out of the freezer or have leftovers, etc. Write down what you will make each day and then create your shopping list. I highly suggest using an app for your list so you will have it with you at all times and you can add to it whenever something pops into your head. Meal planning will save you time, calories, and money. You can learn more about meal planning in my previous post.
Manage your shoes and coats. The first thing I see when I walk into a client’s home is a pile of shoes and coats. It is intrusive and blocks the walkway. Homes are not built to house all of the shoes and coats for all of the people in the house by the door. There are many ways to manage this but you will need to establish new habits to stay organized. You can rotate shoes and coats seasonally, storing the out-of-season items in the back of a closet or in a container in a storage area. Another option is to only keep a couple of pairs of shoes (or coats) by the door for each person. Those should be the ones you wear the most frequently, like shoes to walk the dog, shoes for the gym, or a favorite pair to wear to school. The rest of the shoes can be kept in each person’s bedroom. If you say you don’t have room in the bedroom, then some purging needs to happen, and/or a storage device needs to be purchased. You can learn more about how to organize your entryway on my blog.
Reduce the Volume
So “no thank you” more often. People often have stuff they don’t want or need any longer and they try to pass it on to friends or family. It comes from a good place in their heart but I give you permission to say, “No thank you. I’m so blessed to have so much in my life. I don’t need these things but I’m sure someone you donate it to will be so grateful.” If you really can’t get away without taking the items, drive directly to a place where you can drop off donations. Don’t even bring it into your home. It is highly unlikely that the person who gave you the items will ever know that you donated them. Learn more ways to say “No Thank You” on my blog.
Stop buying in bulk. I cannot emphasize this enough! You think you are going to save money but most people are not saving as much as they think. Just because the price per unit is great doesn’t mean it’s a good deal for you. It’s a good deal for the store though. You will buy more than you need, it will get lost in your home, and you will end up re-buying, buying containers or shelves to house them, or even hiring me to dig you out of the hole. Buying in bulk is especially worthless if you live in a small place and/or have a small household. You can read more about the warehouse club saving myth on my blog.
Unsubscribe from monthly subscriptions. This is a new phenomenon I’m seeing in homes. The advent of a subscription to a monthly toy box of goodies for your kid or dog or makeup for you, for example, becomes too much very quickly. I see boxes piling up in homes that never get opened. This is a clear indication that what’s in the box is really not needed. An add-on to this one is to shop less online. These boxes are also piling up in homes. If you don’t find yourself opening the box up quickly, maybe you didn’t actually need what is in there. For the things that get shipped to you, the new habit to stay organized is to open the box as soon as possible, put the item away, and recycle the box. Keep a box cutter near the door to facilitate the process.
Prepare for tomorrow by getting things ready tonight. Your day will start off smoothly, you and your family will be in a better mood, and you will have a more productive day. Lay out clothes, make lunches, check the calendar, get gas in your car, charge your phone, put things that need to go with you by the door, etc. Read this post to learn how to get the kids ready for school independently.
Get your bills and statements electronically. Come join us in the 21st century! Paper bogs most of us down so why not eliminate it? If you’re afraid you won’t see the bills in your email, you can set up one email address for bills, or have them flagged as important when they come in. The other option is to have them paid automatically and you can review them when you want to. Most everything is available online so even if you decide you want to see the bank statement for 3 years ago, you can likely get it on your bank’s website. Most institutions keep 7 years of data easily accessible. Check with yours to see what they have available so you can feel confident about switching over.
Reduce junk snail mail and email. The less stuff we have to deal with the easier life is. You can unsubscribe from emails with one click. You can hop online or make a phone call to unsubscribe from magazines and catalogs. Go to DMA Choice to suppress junk mail. It won’t end it all but it sure will help! Whatever junk mail still makes it to your box can and should go directly into recycling. It doesn’t need a stopover on your counters!
Give one of my tips a try and see if you can build from there. I bet you will find that even taking on one of these new habits will make your life better! It is amazing how tackling one or a few of these foundational areas of your life will bring relaxation and clarity to your life.
Did you find one or two habits to start working on? What are some of your favorite habits to stay organized? Please share in the comments.