As a longtime organization nerd, I’ve gathered some great tips from professional organizers whose books, YouTube videos, podcasts, and articles I’ve learned from over the years.
Professional organizers can help us assert control over our space
We’ve talked recently about the challenges of the stay-at-home orders most of us have been living under over the past few weeks, including the emotional impact of feeling like everything’s out of our control. One way to address those emotional impacts is to assert a little control where you can–and organizing your home can help with that. Here are some of my favorite tips from 10 professional organizers I’ve followed for a while.
1. Marie Kondo (author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up)
Not everything Marie Kondo teaches resonates with me, but there are a couple of tips I’ve picked up from her that really make my home feel more organized.
- Folding your clothing the Marie Kondo way, which makes better use of space and allows you to see everything you have and get what you need without messing up the whole drawer.
Here’s a link to the tool I use to fold my clothes uniformly so they can be “filed” upright in my dresser drawers. (This isn’t an affiliate link; I just like the tool and use it every week.)
- Intentionally assigning a place for every item you own. As Marie says, “The reason every item must have a designated place is because the existence of an item without a home multiplies the chances that your space will become cluttered again.”
Alejandra offers tons of organization tips on her website and YouTube channel. One of my favorites that I’ve been using lately:
- Use a timer and break down overwhelming organization projects into 15-minute chunks. This method prevents projects from becoming too overwhelming and may help you to give up the idea of perfectionism. These things together give us permission to start, knowing that the commitment is small and all we’re going for is a little progress, not perfection (which is unattainable anyway).
3. Julie Morgenstern (author of Organizing from the Inside Out and a new book, Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You)
I first discovered Morgenstern’s work many years ago and learned a lot from her books. Some of my favorite tips from her:
- “Julie’s Law of Visible, Dramatic Results.” Attack what’s visible first. Instead of starting by organizing cupboards and drawers, start with the clutter you can see: what’s on the counters, open shelves, table-tops.
- Quick-sort for quick results–move through the piles quickly, just identify and categorize, rather than making time to agonize over what to do with it. She says, “If a decision to toss something comes to you easily (and many will), great! If not, move on.” (I would add keep a trash can nearby as you’re sorting so you can easily toss the obvious trash.)
- The Kindergarten Model of organization.
4. Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, The Home Edit (business and book title)
Like most professional organizers, they recommend purging before organizing, going through your belongings and clearing out things. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I need it?
- Do I ever use it?
- Do I ever WANT to use it?
- Do I like it?
- Is it sentimental?
5. Lisa Woodruff, Organize 365 (author of The Mindset of Organization and the upcoming The Paper Solution) and our guest on episode 122
Lisa and her Organize 365 program help people all over the world get more organized. My favorite tool she recommends? The Sunday Basket — a single place where you put all the papers and other things that need attention, and a specified time each week to go through it and take care of it. Most of us have paper all over the place and lose lots of time looking for what we need. Lisa developed a system that starts with gathering all that paper into one place. In The Mindset of Organization, she suggests grabbing a laundry basket and going through the house, your car, your purse, etc.
“Finding your paper does two things: First, it gets the paper out of all the other rooms of your house. Now, everywhere you go, you’re not going to see paper. That will bring down your stress level and give you some breathing space. Second, when you put all your paper in those laundry baskets, you will know where to look for things.”
6. Cassandra Aarssent of Clutterbug (author of Real Life Organizing)
Cassandra offers a fun and personality-based approach to getting organized and shares lots of tips on her YouTube channel (and in her book). One of my favorites: Create a habit of spending just 15 minutes a day decluttering and organizing. One drawer, one shelf. To start, choose the room or area that will have the biggest impact and spend just 15 minutes each day.
“Even the most cluttered and dysfunctional homes can be transformed this way. . . . First, everyone can find time for just fifteen minutes a day, no matter how busy his or her schedule (or how lazy they feel that day). Secondly, having quick and easy projects means we can actually complete the task we start, giving us a sense of pride and accomplishment, and keep the motivation going.”
7. Kay Patterson of The Organized Soprano and our guest on episode 193
I’ve appreciated Kay’s organization tips from her YouTube channel–she’s one of my go-tos when I need a little motivation to get started on an organization project. Two great reminders she offers:
- Reduce the number of similar items you own if you aren’t actively using all of them. (How many spatulas or curling irons or t-shirts do you need . . . really?)
- Keep things where you can easily put them away. A lot of people fall into the trap of making their organization systems beautiful and Pinterest-ready, but impractical or inconvenient to actually use. If you have to choose between easy to grab or easy to put away . . . go with the latter; it’ll make it much more likely that you’ll maintain the system over time.
8. Nikki Boyd of At Home With Nikki, author of Beautifully Organized
I enjoy her videos and have been getting good ideas from her book, Beautifully Organized. Her approach is very much about combining beauty and function. She’s developed a 5-step system for going through your home one room at a time, applying the same steps:
- What is the purpose of this space? How well is it serving that purpose, and where could it be improved?
- Find the pain points. (In a blog post about mindset, Kay Patterson says, “The one thing that may help you get started in your space if you look around and you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start is to realize…that organizing is simply problem-solving and nothing more.”)
- Declutter (it’s not efficient to organize things you don’t need to have anyway). She recommends that you remove purged items immediately so you’re not tempted to pull them back out of the box.
9. Toni Hammersley of A Bowl Full of Lemons and Organized Homekeeping
From her book The Complete Book of Home Organization: When organizing a room, identify zones for use. As she says in the book:
“No matter how large or small a room is, looking at is as a series of zones is a great way to reduce clutter and maximize a room’s functionality. This is true of every room in the house, but since the living room is used for so many different purposes, the zone system is perhaps most important and effective here.”
Think of the things you want to do in the room, and create zones for each. She suggests considering a reading zone, a media center, a memories-and-keepsake zone, an area for toys and hobbies, and of course a sitting area.
10. Deniece Schofield (author of Kitchen Organization Tips and Secrets)
Create and keep an inventory of the food you have in your fridge, freezer, pantry. She suggests using a piece of graph paper with the items you typically keep in stock listed down the left side and then for each item checking the number of boxes in that row for how many you have in stock. When you use one, put an x over one checkmark, starting from the right-hand side.
Keep it inside a cupboard door near your refrigerator or pantry so you (or other family members) can easily check of items as you use them.
You make this reusable by laminating it or putting it in a clear report cover and using a fine-point dry-erase marker.
What do you think?
What’s your best organizing tip, or your biggest organizing challenge? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group or send me an email.
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