Organizing is never something that I do, it just happens. If I look at a shelf and a pile of items to go on it, there is no thought process that really goes on, I just put the items on the shelf and there they are, all organized. I however think that this happens as I have conditioned my brain over the years to see a pile, break it down in my head of how to process it and then place it accordingly. The basis of the conditioning is to live by these 5 rules which can be applied to an area of your life: your home, your desk, your car…you name it.
1. Only buy and keep things that are useful or beautiful.
I learned something interesting after my apartment flooded one year and I lost cards, letters, old journals, pads with a few pages of paper left, fabric scraps etc. It felt amazing to not have to store it all and made me never want to deal with any of it again. 3 great reasons to NOT hold on to things. They are purely sentimental (but nothing you ever want to look at again like cards, childhood mementos); could maybe serve a purpose one day (scraps of paper, fabric) or because it was expensive (old electronics, clothes).
2. Everything in your life has to have a place.
Every single time you bring something new in or get rid of something in a space, take a moment to reorganize and make new homes for everything. The secret to staying organized is to stay on top of it! There should be homes for everything. This means your keys, the milk in the fridge, your toothbrush and on and on. My bathroom was low on storage, so the first thing I did was to buy something to give my stuff a home. Make sure when shopping for storage that do a little planning ahead and includes room to grow. I could only fit something small in here without it looking weird, so I reorganized what I needed to actually be kept in the bathroom and moved some things out to a cupboard in the bedroom. Remember that where things live is a constant evolution, I’m always moving things around and rearranging.
3. When you’re finished with something, put it back in it’s place immediately.
Do not leave the flour on the counter because you may bake again tomorrow or the colored pencils all over the living room table in case you want to color again later. However note that if you find yourself leaving the same things in the same places that are not where they belong, then you need to assign them a new home closer to where you keep leaving them. In my pantry, I keep a big basket for dirty dishtowels. This is due to once upon a time, the towels never making it to the laundry room, but sitting in a pile on the floor. Now the dirty towels have a home and no more pile on the floor! Also note that if it’s an ongoing project, temporary places need to be established for everything involved (like stick all those colored pencils in a pretty cup).
4. When organizing and storing items, use similar storage containers for ease of stacking and to reduce the visual clutter.
Once you get your matching containers, do not just fill those big bins and baskets with a chaotic jumble of items. Within each storage container should be a system and finding what you need within your storage systems should be instantaneous. All of our photos are kept in decorative, same size boxes in a big closet where we store seasonal decorations, winter coats and scarves (which are in the bins under the coats) that we use mostly when we travel north. The photos are organized chronologically in the boxes, the clothes by item and activity level (snowboarding, NH winter worthy, mild winter) and holiday decor in bins by by holiday and what they are (christmas lights in one box, halloween outdoors in one, halloween costumes, and on and on). I never have to look for more than a few seconds for something in this closet because of this.
5. Group like items together for both storage and everyday items.
Above I explained how similar items are great to store things, but what about for everyday? A great example is my closet. Sure there are the obvious such as jeans or socks or blouses grouped together, but some areas there are so many of something, like my dresses, that it needed to go deeper. So I started thinking about how I get dressed. I am usually getting dressed for either a. something low key, like errands; b. day time more dressy activities like meeting and lunches; c. dinner or cocktail parties; or d. more formal night time events. Keeping these in mind, I grouped dressed by these categories and within the categories I arranged them by sleeve length (strapless all the way to long sleeves). This makes it so when I am getting ready for a meeting, I am looking at only a chunk of clothes right for that time of day and activity, if it’s chilly, I look more to the right and if it’s super hot, to the left. I do the same with shoes, toiletries (hair products, lotions, face products), food (oils, vinegars, teas, spices, herbs), dishes (china, everyday), studio supplies (findings, gems, glass), and all sorts of other things. The more you break down a selection of items, the easier it is to find things. Add chronological, color or alphabetical orders to the mix and it can get amazing!
I hope this list inspired you to flex your organizational muscles, happy organizing!