There are many ways to get organized. Skilled professionals and corporations market a myriad of special techniques and organizational products. Most are too complicated for the less-inclined. Just these two simple rules can go a long way in helping you avoid the chaos of disorganization.
“Right Place, Right Away” Rule
Items in your home should have its own place. It isn’t as difficult to achieve as it sounds. Chances are, you already stash things in specific places: Kitchen utensils have their own drawer. Oral hygiene items are in the bathroom. You don’t keep dessert spoons on top of the washing machine or your toothbrush on the living room coffee table. Things have their rightful places, most often near the spot they’ll be put to use.
Designate the one place you’ll keep your keys, purse or briefcase, the remote controls and even the receiver for the cordless phone. True, the purpose of a cordless phone is to be able to use it anywhere in the house but after use, put it in its designated place—which bring us to the next half of this rule: put things back right away.
This is where most clutter-prone people falter. It may be laziness, procrastination or the misguided belief that there isn’t any time to put things back where they belong. So the half-empty coffee cup sits on the desk, the wet towel lies on the floor and the magazines are left scattered for everyone to step over. If you’re really worried about wasting time, don’t let mini-messes become big build-ups that demand a whole day to clean. Put the tiny seconds and minutes—the nooks and crannies of your day—to good use by taking care of small chores, like putting a item in its place, right away.
If you’re really lazy, remind yourself that a quick gesture now will spare time for fun later. Ask yourself how would you rather spend your weekend? Cleaning and organizing or having fun? Putting things away now is a small and easy price to pay for a lot of freedom later.
Procrastinators are gluttons for punishment because with every postponed action, not only do they add one more thing on their to-do list but they add one more nagging cloud to the dark worries that hang over them. Unburden yourself by doing something right away. Cross off one more item on your mental to-do list and feel relief!
“Like Attracts Like” Rule
The second simple organizational rule is to keep like things together. Some people as children were never taught to categorize but it is a basic principle of functionality. For those who seem to collect multiples of the same type of item (nail files, match books, combs, screwdrivers), the easiest way to keep them from scattering into clutter is to gather them into groupings. All the combs should be kept together. Same for other like items.
Use bins, drawers, boxes or just sections of a closet rack to keep like items grouped together. It just makes good sense that all the wrapping paper is in one bin or that winter sweaters are on the same shelf. Sporting equipment should be stored in the same area of the garage, not in the hall closet where items that go out the door (umbrellas and guest coats) belong.
One might think that it is good to keep one of everything in each room for convenience sake but unless you’re organizing an office building, you don’t need a stapler or ballpoint pens in every room of the house. If a particular item is used regularly in two different rooms, for example scissors in the kitchen and in the home office, then it makes sense to keep them in both places. But other than a box of tissues that may be used in every room, most of the time, it is best to keep like items together.
Positive Ways to Enforce the Organizational Rules
Make keeping these two easy rules fun and you’ll develop your new organizational habits quickly. Don’t see them as an unpleasant task. Give yourself and others incentive to keep the “right place, right away” and the “like attracts like” rules by making it a game. Have family members try to “catch” others breaking the rule and let them earn a marble for their own jar. When the family member remembers to keep the rule, he earns a marble for his own jar. Filled jars earn fun rewards. (They don’t have to be costly. Think of piggyback rides or homemade cookies.) If you’re living alone, set up your own reward system with treats that appeal to you.
Those who have trouble with organization lack the innate personality traits that drive one to pay attention to details; they find it difficult to spend time taking care of one little out-of-place item. It’s best to keep the solution simple, and these two rules can go a long way in helping to achieve a more orderly lifestyle.