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Top 10 Practical Organizing Tips

Here are my top 10 practical organizing tips that will have the most impact in the least amount of time (IMHO!). Start with one or two until they become habit, then add more one at a time. This isn’t going to solve all your problems with clutter, but it’s a great start!

1. Make sure you have enough wastebaskets. Look around your house and note any places where you have left things that you meant to throw away. This is where you need to put a wastebasket or recycling bin. You just need a small one- get something nice that will fit in the décor. You might think you should be taking your garbage to the main trashcan every time you have something to throw away, but most of us don’t. We put it down “for now”, then forget about it.

Work with your habits- if you like to sit on the couch and go through the mail there, put a recycling bin there. I guarantee that a nice wastebasket looks a heck of a lot better than a pile of old mail!

2. Empty your wastebaskets whenever they get full. This is the habit that will make the most difference. A full wastebasket encourages you to put the trash somewhere else “just for now”.

Imagine you’re making dinner in a hurry and need to toss potato peels, packaging or scraps away. You look over and your wastebasket is overflowing. You don’t have time now to empty the trash, so what do you do with your new garbage? If you’re like most people, you balance it precariously on top of the heap, put it on the floor next to the bin, or leave it on the counter “for now”. This is how trash piles up.

When it’s garbage/recycling day, I go around and empty all the wastebaskets regardless of how full they are. It make each week feel like a fresh start.

3. Assign everything a home. Easier said than done, but if you make it a habit of always putting the scissors in the top right drawer of your desk, you’ll always be able to find them. How about starting with your keys?

4. Of course, in order for #3 to work, you have to do #4- put things away when you’re done using them.

5. Store things in groups. Keep all your tools in the “tool drawer”; put all your cleaning supplies in one cabinet. Now you’ll know where to find whatever you’re looking for. The exception to this is #6.

6. Store things where you use them. If you read magazines in a particular chair, put a magazine holder next to the chair. If you pick up dinner on the run, put some napkins and wet-naps (and a trash bag) in the car.

7. Deal with your paper mail every day as soon as you come home. See my entry on “Taming Mail”.

8. Make lists. I love lists- there’s something reassuring about writing a task on a list. If I write “Replace the light bulb in the garage” I feel like I don’t have to worry about it anymore. It’s on a list! I know it sounds weird, but it works. The kind of list(s) people find useful vary, but they can help you figure out what you need to do and cut down on worrying about what you haven’t done.

9. Get one calendar and use it. Choose whichever type works best for you: the desk blotter calender that sits on your desk, one-a-day, standard one page/month that you keep on the fridge, electronic one on your smartphone or computer, a day planner, or a little pocket-sized calendar that banks used to give out. Just use one and put everything in it: appointments, reminders, birthdays, upcoming events. Take a look at it every once in a while to see what’s coming up and you’ll keep it together. Check out my upcoming article on using calendars effectively.

10. My favorite: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If you’ve got a big project ahead of you, break it down into smaller bite-sized pieces. Do one bite now, one bite later, etc. For example, don’t think “Clean kitchen”- that’s too big. Break it down into wash dishes, empty trash, wipe down counters, toss out old food in fridge, wash microwave, and vacuum floor. Individually, the smaller tasks aren’t nearly as scary!

What’s your favorite organizing tip? Let me know in the Comments section below.

About the author


I am a professional organizer in Buffalo, NY. I focus on helping people who are overwhelmed with all the Stuff they have in their lives. My specialties are: Decluttering, Downsizing, Clearing out a Home after a Death, Moving, and Hoarding. Visit my site at http://www.IHaveTooMuchStuff.com or contact me at beth@IHaveTooMuchStuff.com or (716)791-7293.

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