Organizing Rules for Results

Of course, there are so many tips, tricks, tools, and tactics for helping you get and stay organized…and then there’s Pinterest, too. So, I’ve tried to narrow down a list of strategies or rules that, if you incorporate them into your daily life, will help you make progress towards your goals.

On Day 7 I laid out the Four-Step Foundation for Real Life Organizing: prevent, reduce, create, maintain. Each of these rules fits under one of those categories.

Containers within containers– if you think about it, your dwelling is one container and each room is a container within that, each piece of furniture, closet, shelf, is a container within a room. Drawers are also containers…and you can improve on that, where appropriate, by adding drawer dividers or small bins, etc. inside your drawers. The plastic shoe boxes I mentioned yesterday are containers that work well inside pantries and cabinets. Bins, boxes, baskets, food storage containers, mason jars, drawer dividers/organizers, zipper plastic or cloth bags, etc. are all examples of containers you can use within containers. Instead of incorporating the “dump everything into a storage tub” concept for storage, try adding some containers I listed above to keep items separated, organized and easy to retrieve. A great place to practice applying this concept is your purse. I’ll be back tomorrow with some ideas for organizing that container you can’t go anywhere without.

Label, Label, Label- I always say {been saying it for at least 7 years or so} “Never underestimate the power of labeling”. While you’re sorting through stuff and putting it away, etc. You may think “I can remember what I just put in that folder/bin” {I no longer think that since I had my son- my memory has failed me too many times} Regardless, labels help you & your family to visually identify what’s in each bin/folder box even before you physically touch it. Repeat this numerous times a day/week/month/year and you’ll save plenty of time by adding labels…plus, you’ve got better things to do!

Identify a Home- Everything you own should have a home. If it’s important enough to keep, it’s important enough to find a home for. If you can’t find a home for it, then perhaps it’s time to let go. Once items have been assigned a home, it is easier for everyone to retrieve and replace. You (& your family!) know where items are because they are in their place. When assigning an item a home, remember to assign a location depending on who uses the item, how frequently it is used and make the location as handy and convenient as possible, and use labels (or pictures to assist those who cannot read!).

Use it or lose it- Think of it as weeding your garden. If you don’t do it frequently enough, things get overgrown and out of control. Set up donation bags and bins throughout the house, in closets and in the garage, etc. When you find an item you no longer love, need or wear, immediately place it in the donation location. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Often times, we expend more energy avoiding a task than completing it.

Take time to put things away– Once you have a place for everything, you will know where items go as soon as they come into your hands. It takes just a minute or two to put things away (the same amount of time it takes to put them off to the side, only to be moved again and again…). Enforce this with family members- whoever takes it out is responsible for putting it away…now, not later. Think 24/15. Your belongings should never take more than a 24 hour vacation from their home. And, try to take 15 minutes a day to unclutter by walking through your home with an empty basket, collect items lying around and put them in their homes.

Stop Shopping for Sport– Call it retail therapy, if you’d like. It’s actually a lot easier than it seems. It’s time to take control of your buying decisions. We spend an excessive amount of time buying things, cleaning and storing things. Don’t buy something that’s on sale just because it’s a great price. Think twice about buying items that require a lot of extra maintenance or only have one purpose, like kitchen gadgets or knickknacks (i.e. quesadilla maker) or souvenirs that just take up space… and require dusting. Buy only when you need something. Window shop instead, if you must.

Choose Less Paper– Limit incoming paper by dealing with junk mail before it comes into the house. Cancel subscriptions for publications if they are rarely or never read. Ask yourself, “Can I access the information elsewhere?” i.e. Internet. Think twice before duplicating documents i.e. printing e-mails, photocopying. Also, don’t bring home free brochures and pamphlets, read them on the spot and jot down notes in your planner or notepad of just the information you need to reference i.e. website, name and phone number, etc.

Adopt the “One in, one out” rule– Before purchasing anything new, try to purge, donate or sell a like item. This can be applied to anything including books, magazines, clothing, and even kid’s toys. Try to get kids into the spirit of donating lightly used toys or things they don’t play with. This will also help prioritize the importance of items, is it more important to buy that new cookbook or should you hold onto the old one?

Beg, borrow or steal– Ok, maybe not so much. But do you really have to purchase the latest novel, or DVD? Borrow books, videos, and DVD’s from the library, rent from the video store, or borrow from a friend. You can also swap, borrow or rent seldom-used home and garden tools.

Do you have any rules that I’ve missed? Anything that you do religiously that works in keeping you organized? I want to hear what works for you.

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