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These 5 Simple Tips Are Sure to Help You Stay Organized

small kitchen island

Design: Cathie Hong Interiors; Photo: Margaret Austin Photo

If I had to describe my organization process, it would definitely be “organized chaos.” You see, slow and steady really isn’t my forte. On a typical day, I rush from my co-working space to my exercise class to a work event to dinner with friends. While I know stopping to actually organize my belongings has a lot of perks, my inner hastiness is never really feeling it.

Instead, I put important papers, spare chargers, and stamps somewhere—anywhere—and trust I will remember their location the next time I actually need them. Fine, this isn’t exactly a “process.” But since I have a good memory and have lived alone for five years, it works for me. 

When I moved from New York City to San Francisco to live with my boyfriend, my organized chaos method moved across the country with me. Simply put, our apartment isn’t conventionally organized: there are no labels or minimal storage bins, and “what goes where” is a highly contentious conversation my boyfriend and I have on a semi-regular basis.

But recently, something changed. Maybe it’s because I binge-watched Get Organized With the Home Edit in two days or stare at all my untidy clutter day after day, but I finally feel motivated to get organized. In fact, I recently picked up a retractable spice rack for my kitchen cabinet and am already seeing the perks of having a real system. And, if a mere spice rack can give me a huge sense of relief, just imagine what an entire organized home can do.

If a mere spice rack can give me a huge sense of relief, just imagine what an entire organized home can do.

That said, I know that getting organized can be easier said than done. I asked Joanna Wirick, professional life and home organizer in Omaha, Nebraska, how I can make this my most organized year yet. If you’re looking to do the same in your own home, her advice below is bound to help.

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Start Off Slow

Organized pantry with white wire bins.

Breathing Room Organization + Styling

Let’s face it: turning over a new leaf can be hard. Studies show approximately 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by late February. Whether your organizing quest is part of your “new year, new you” makeover or a random, mid-year desire, it can be difficult to make it happen. 

“One reason large aspirational goals like, ‘I’m going to be organized this year!’ fall by the wayside so quickly is that it’s too broad of a goal,” Wirick explains. “We need to break that aspiration into smaller goals, like folding the laundry and putting it away each time the laundry is done or placing your purse and keys in this specific basket every time you come home.”

To make your organization goals feel more manageable, try to take on a new project every week. For example, you can tidy up your kitchen cabinets one week and take on your closet the next. By the time spring cleaning season rolls around, your home will be in good shape.

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Get Everyone Involved

Whoever first said, “it takes a village” was definitely referring to getting organized. Sure, creating a system can be a one-person operation when you live alone, but not when you have roommates or a family. “Everyone needs to be on the same page with the organizing expectations you have and where specific items go,” Wirick says.

Perhaps the one thing trickier than getting all your roommates on board with your organizing ambitions is making sure they don’t drop the ball. To help, Wirick recommends for everyone to take ownership of different areas.

“This is a great time to divide up responsibilities,” she says. “Individuals can be ‘in charge' of specific areas of the home––it can be that person’s job to check that area once a week to make sure everything is where it needs to be.”

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Work With What You Have

Organized closet with neutral clothing.

Breathing Room Organization

Ever since Marie Kondo popped onto the radar, organizing has often been associated with decluttering. While it’s a good idea to part ways with items that do not bring you joy, there are other ways to keep clutter at bay. For starters, it’s a good idea to give every item a home.

“When items have specific places to live, it takes the guesswork out of putting things away and prevents items from ending up in those random places,” Wirick explains.

Another way to work with what you got? You can create the illusion of a decluttered home by getting rid of excess packaging.

“Not only is the packaging loud visually,—which makes a space feel more cluttered—it hinders you from seeing how much you have of something,”  she adds. Two small tweaks that can make a huge difference? Yes, please. 

04 of 05

Be Patient

In a perfect world, you could snap your fingers and your home would be in pristine shape. But, in reality? Tidying up your home takes time, which is why so many people ultimately throw in the towel.

“Getting organized doesn’t happen overnight,” Wirick explains. “Going through items is hard work mentally and physically. It takes an investment of your time. And once a space is organized, it takes commitment to keep it that way.”

Just like lifting weights or learning a new language, organizing is a skill that takes time to master. Be patient with your home and yourself—after all, you’re human.

“When people have a growth mindset—knowing that it takes time, there will be setbacks, and there will be lots of little successes—they are starting off on the right track,” she adds.

Just like lifting weights or learning a new language, organizing is a skill that takes time to master. Be patient with your home and yourself—after all, you’re human.

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Enlist Some Reinforcements

Behind every tidy space is a slew of storage bins, shelf dividers, and label makers. If you’re hoping to get your home in order once and for all, there’s a good chance you’ll need to replenish your arsenal. To help, Wirick shared her favorite organizing essentials.

Basic Natural Wood Hangers
The Container Store Basic Natural Wood Hangers $78.00

“This set creates space by letting your clothes breathe and it’s visually appealing," says Wirick.

 ProKeeper Baker's Storage Set of 6
The Container Store ProKeeper Baker's Storage Set of 9 $60.00

“Dry goods containers are perfect for keeping flours, grains, and beans fresh and easy to grab,” says Wirick.

Water Hyacinth Storage Bins with Handles
The Container Store Water Hyacinth Storage Bins with Handles $920.00

“Storage bins like these wicker baskets help you group similar items together,” says Wirick.