Week 4: How to Create Systems For Organized Living
After Week 3, you surely have some stuff left over. This week, we’ll discuss how to create organizational systems that make your stuff accessible to you when you need it, without contributing to more clutter.
Organizational systems can be physical or habitual. Physical systems refer to the tangible ways in which we curate the items in our homes. Habitual systems refer to the behaviors or habits associated with getting organized. In order to really master an organized lifestyle, you need both.
Physical Organizational Systems
There are many physical organization systems, but we’ll tackle the ones that impact the most common problem areas. Kitchens, closets, kid’s stuff and paper or mail tend to be common eye sores among the clutter inflicted. Here are some tried and true systems to help you manage organization in these areas.
- Like with like – When it comes to your gadget filled drawers and cupboards, place all like items together. For example, store cooking utensils in one drawer and dining utensils in another; glasses, mugs and cups in one cupboard and plates and bowls in another, and so on.
- Clean as you go – Before restocking your pantry or fridge, do a quick scan of what you already have. Get rid of expired items, and wipe down surfaces before restocking.
- Surface space – If it’s not something you use daily, don’t store it on the counter top. Period.
- First things first – If you don’t wear it, let it go. Set up a rule that works for you. Maybe it’s a 6 month rule, maybe it’s a seasonal rule. If it’s a winter sweater, and you didn’t wear it last season, it’s time to part ways. If it’s outdated or worn-out, pitch it.
- Shelves and rods– Closet designs are limitless, so we won’t get too specific here. However, something beyond your basic rod will make a world of difference. Try a combination of rods and shelves. Items like sweaters, jeans and t-shirts are more space efficient folded on a shelf, while more formal wear, blouses, jackets and dress pants are better cared for on a hanger.
- Like with like – See the pattern here?! Not only will you save time by storing your like items together, but you’ll find you have many more wardrobe options and combinations.
- Be a role model – When it comes time to get rid of toys that no one plays with or clothes that don’t fit, participate. Take the opportunity to let go of items that no longer serve you, so that you’re not just a teddy bear trashing tyrant.
- Set limits – Assign bins. When your kids go through that phase where they want to keep every happy meal toy, coloring book page, rock, pebble, stick, play-doh creation, etc., give them a bin, box or shelf. If it fits, they can keep it. When the box is full, it’s time to make some decisions. Even though it might just be a dried up lump of clay, teaching them how to make decisions about their stuff at an early age will set them up for success in the future.
- Take photos – I’m hereby giving you permission not to hold onto every project, card, piece of art, report card or note. We have the technology. Use it. Keep it for a week, or whatever your designated time frame, then take a picture and file it in a labeled album. “Johnny’s Pre-school Artwork” or “Katie’s Report Cards”. Consider displaying these on a digital frame. Not only will you save so, so much space, but your child’s creations will be viewed and appreciated much more than if they were stuffed in a box in the basement.
Paper and Mail
- Go paperless when possible – If you have the option to go paperless, do it. Period. Again, we have the technology. Use it. Bonus: Save a tree.
- Deal with it daily – Don’t let it pile it in the first place. First of all, 90% of the contents of your mailbox is junk, (especially if you’ve gone paperless), so take that straight to the recycle bin. Deal with the other 10% the same day if possible. How, you ask? See below.
- Take photos – If there’s not a reason to have the original physical copy of something, but you might need to reference it, take a photo, file it in a labeled folder, and move on with your life. Life is too short to stress about piles of mail.
Habitual Organizational Systems
Something common in all highly organized and productive people is their ability to commit to behaviors that directly contribute to their success. Here are few systems or rules to live by in maintaining an organized lifestyle.
Think Before You Buy
- Don’t impulse buy – Give yourself 24 hours. Do you still want it, or have you completely forgotten about the thing you needed yesterday?
- Reconsider hunting for deals – If the price is the best thing about an item, then it’s probably the best thing about the item. Purchasing something simply because of a seemingly good deal, is a bad habit likely to contribute to a home full of weird stuff like pineapple peelers and chia pets.
- Quality vs. Quantity – More isn’t always better. In fact, buying items in bulk is often a combination of poor quality and even worse production standards. Whenever possible, know where your stuff comes from and how it’s made. You can feel better about paying more for a sustainably produced, quality item that will last longer than several of the cheap ones.
- One in and one out – Need a new pair of shoes? There’s probably an old, unworn pair collecting dust in your closet. There’s nothing wrong with getting new things. Just don’t let the new things pile up on top of the old.
- Just in case – Avoid the urge to purchase or hold onto “just in case” items. Unless you’re planning a trip to the Outback or sailing around the globe (and possibly even then), you can easily acquire any of those “just in case” items quickly and inexpensively.
- Self Control – Maybe you have unlimited funds and have the ability to own all of the latest and greatest things that money can buy. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. If you’re fortunate enough to be in that situation, consider this: Giving can give you the same satisfying rush of warm fuzzies that you get from buying a bunch of crap you don’t need…maybe even more. Think about it.
Does It Add Value
- Question everything- Does this add value to your life? Maybe the value is convenience. Perhaps, it’s aesthetic. Does it bring you joy in some way? If so, by all means, indulge. If not, then don’t let it add to the clutter that is already stressing you out.
- Consider all costs – Everything you own has costs beyond the purchase price. It costs you space to store the thing, and time to care for or provide maintenance to the thing. It costs you energy to worry about losing or breaking the thing. Are those costs worth the value that the thing brings to your life?
Getting organized and staying that way is all about maintaining systems that work for you. There’s not a one-size-fits all approach, but keeping your goals and values in mind will help you be successful in your pursuit of an organized and productive life.