By Kara Mason

Get Organized: A Quick-Start Guide for Your Home


Overwhelmed? Here’s where to start.

There’s scientific proof organization is good for productivity.

“Out of sight, out of mind” rings true when it comes to having a tidy space. A study from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute found that the more stimuli you have around you, the more easily sidetracked you can become.

Simply put: more clutter = more distractions. It can quickly become a vicious cycle leading to complete chaos. We’ve all been there, right?

Getting organized is good for our work, good for our emotional well-being, and even good for our physical health, but reaching that state is not always easy.

Busy schedules and hectic lifestyles can derail an organized space pretty quickly. Mail piles up, our desktops become cluttered with files, and that chair in the corner of the bedroom is no longer for sitting; it’s for outfits that didn’t work out and have yet to make it back to the closet.

Whether you’re organizing your entire apartment, a room, or just your inbox, take it step-by-step. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a totally organized lifestyle. A 30-day challenge can help you transform your space and the way you think about a tidy space.

For all those in need of organization, follow these steps to help you get moving towards a less cluttered, more enjoyable space.

Step 1. Set a goal

Take a minute and think about what "organized" means to you. Is it aesthetically pleasing? Does it help you focus? Reduce stress? All of the above? The more clear you are on what outcome you want to achieve, the more likely you are to get there - so set a goal before you start, and continue goal-setting as you go.

It could start with cleaning off one surface, like a countertop or a desk, each day. 

All goals are good goals when it comes to organization. It’ll help you visualize where you want to be and you’ll start thinking about what it’ll take to get there. 

Try to be specific. For example, set a goal of donating a box of clothes that no longer fit by the end of the week. Or cleaning out the refrigerator by your next grocery trip. Deadlines can be a highly motivating factor to actually get it done.

Step 2. Embrace lists

So you can imagine your finished product. How do you get there? A list will come in handy, especially for bigger projects. A good list will keep you on track and act as a roadmap to your goal. 

Before you even start organizing, make a to-do list, especially if you get overwhelmed easily. It’ll help break up the job and help you from becoming distracted. If you’re organizing your workspace, that might mean:

  • Going through old notebooks
  • Tossing old pens that don’t work
  • Organizing cables
  • Decluttering desk drawers 
  • Adding new storage

Details are always helpful. If you need organizer bins or office supplies, make a list and try to be specific about what you need. That will help prevent more clutter and hopefully keep things organized longer.

Step 3. Let go 

Whether it be your office desk, your closet, or the apps on your phone, getting organized means getting rid of what no longer serves you. It might be that sweater you keep swearing you’re going to wear next season (but haven’t in years) or a stack of old notebooks you just can’t seem to part with.

Clutter is the bane of organization, so letting go is a necessity. 

Some items are obvious. When sorting through the area you’re organizing, make a pile or list of things to toss, things to donate, and things you’re on the fence about. Sometimes coming back to those "on the fence" things a little later will help you decide whether it’s worth keeping. 

When you're not sure about something, ask yourself: 

  1. When was the last time I used it?
  2. Do I have concrete plans to use it in the future?
  3. Do I have anything else that serves the same purpose?
  4. Do I love it?

Organizing only what you plan to keep makes the job so much easier. Instead of rearranging piles, focus on reducing clutter and making space for your most important and most loved belongings.

Step 4. Find a place for everything 

The crux of organization is having a place for everything. An easy way to begin is by starting fresh. Take everything out of the space and start from the beginning. A blank slate can be really inspiring, especially if you’ve had trouble letting go of items or imagining a new way to lay things out.

Prioritize easy access to items that you reach for often. Sometimes organizing can get the best of us and tidiness becomes sterile or inaccessible. Making something harder to get to doesn’t mean we won’t get to it. It’s more likely we’ll create a bigger mess when we need to. Then the cycle starts all over again. 

Instead, try to organize by zone or area, with your daily actions in mind. There's no reason to shove your stapler in a drawer for the sake of having a clear desktop if you actually use your stapler frequently. Focus on making your space functional as well as aesthetically pleasing, which is possible when you're reducing unnecessary clutter elsewhere.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with shelving, hooks, and bins. There are so many places to search for inspiration, no matter what room or area you’re organizing.

Step 5. Make an upkeep plan

Organization is a journey, not a destination — which sounds pretty cheesy, but it’s true. We can’t expect ourselves to keep up ultimate organization 24-7, so having a plan after you’ve done the hard work is key. 

After you’ve finished organizing, take note of how you feel. You’ll probably feel relieved, proud, and excited about the space you’ve created! To keep that feeling, spend some time each day or week doing little jobs that preserve that peace. 

Each evening, set an alarm for a 10-minute tidy-up. Spend that time to organize your shoes, clean your bedside table, or prepare an outfit for the next day. Shifting your mindset to being proactive can help prevent a mess in the first place.

It’s the same for digital organization, if you’ve created a filing system, stick to it. If you’re finding that it’s a pain to keep up, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a signal that you need to try something different. Organizational styles differ from person to person, and it’s only really good if it’s helpful to you.