How to Be Organized

If disorganization is congesting your life and you’re feeling scattered and frustrated as a result, it’s time to get organized. Organization takes time, but when you get into the habit of it, life becomes so much easier! Read on to learn how to be organized.


Determine the cause of your lack of organization. Why do you feel cluttered? For some people, busy schedules get in the way, making organization difficult. For others, simply lack of motivation or know-how is the culprit. To start organizing your life, you need to acknowledge the cause and make a decision to change it.

Consider what needs to be organized. Although it’s easy to say “everything,” chances are there are specific areas in your life that have more clutter than others. Where are you the most disorganized? Consider your skills in making plans, cleaning house, or running errands. Which of these is the most stressful for you to accomplish? Remember to consider your work life, friendships, and general thought processes as well.

Organize your space. Whether it’s your home, bedroom, kitchen, home office, computer, closet, desk, or locker, you need to see what’s in there, throw away anything you don’t often use (or put it efficiently in storage), and give everything else a convenient and clearly designated space.

  • Organized doesn’t just mean tidy. The purpose of organization is to be able to find, exchange, and evaluate items quickly. However, organization can also help keep them tidy by providing a quick, logical system for adding and removing things from easy-to-use, somewhat uniform-appearing groups, and by preventing unnecessary purchases on account of misplaced items.
  • Clean out your belongings before you think about organizing (organizational tools, furniture, etc.). Don’t do it the other way around. You can only really accurately know what space you have when you’ve cleaned up. If you don’t really take a hard look at what you’re stuffing in your spaces, you’ll waste time and money organizing stuff you don’t need anyway.
  • Do you have items in your house that just take up space? Be sure to de-clutter regularly. Good questions to ask yourself in deciding: Do I need this? Will I need this in a year? Have I used this in the last year? Do I really love it? Is there someone else who could use this more? Do I have more than I could reasonably use in foreseeable future? Will I miss this if I don’t have it? If I do happen to need it, can I replace it with an equivalent easily?
  • Observe how you use your things and work out how to use your space efficiently. If it’s inconvenient to get to things (or to put them away), your organization system is more likely to fail. Make it easy to get to and put away the things you need most often. In that vein, put things where you use them most. Pots get stored near the stove, envelopes and stamps are stored in the desk, stain remover and bleach goes in the laundry room or linen closet. (It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people just put things “wherever” and then are surprised when doinganything is tremendously inconvenient.)
  • Use timers. Set a timer for how long you think a cleaning organizing task should take then work like crazy to get it done in the allotted time.
  • Know what “organized” looks and feels like. Organized spaces are simple to use. They have enough room for the items there. It makes sense. Every item in your home has a location. Organized spaces also feel calm, open, and welcoming.
  • Have a spot for all bills. Open all mail immediately and dispose of the outer envelope with the junk mail. Keep only the bill in a prominent location.

Reusable plastic baggies (like Ziploc bags) are your friends. Store away items in plastic bags. This way, the items will be compact, clean, and dust-free. But they will also be all over the place if you don’t have a storage system! Place the bags in closets, desk drawers, cabinets, and other places. Ziploc bags are convenient, useful, and cheap, so use them!

  • Try drawer organizers for drawers that are enclosed. You can purchase a wide selection or make your own by slicing off the tops of empty plastic bottles of various sizes. Milk jugs are handy because they are fairly square, but any bottle or jar will do if you can trim it so it fits in the drawer.

Put it back. Right now. Once you establish where everything belongs, you need to get in the habit of putting it back there as soon as you’re finished using it. Don’t put it on the kitchen table or on the couch and move onto something else, thinking to yourself that you’ll put it away later. That’s a big no-no.

  • Always put your keys in the same place.
  • Always put your cell phone in the same place. Have a cell phone charging station set up.

Use a planner. A planner is especially useful if you have a lot of appointments and your days are so varied that you have trouble keeping track of your schedule. For example, if you travel a lot or attend classes at various times of day, it’s much easier to carry a planner with you to consult frequently–you can’t do that with a calendar. You can also usually fit more information in a planner.

Use a calendar. Get a calendar and put it in a place where you see it every day, preferably in the morning. For most people, that’s on the refrigerator, on their desk, or on their computer desktop. Wherever you put it, make it part of your routine to refer to it every day. For example, you can put it on the inside of the bathroom cabinet where you get your toothpaste. Every morning, while you’re brushing your teeth with one hand, touch today’s date on the calendar with the other, and look to see what’s marked for today and for the upcoming week.

  • Keep your calendar close at hand when sorting papers. Often, you can file or even toss the announcement for an event if it is recorded in your calendar. Your calendar can remind you to do things on time. There’s no need to rely on that stack of paper.

Try a smartphone. A smartphone, particularly synchronized with network-based personal information manager software running on other computers, is even better than paper calendars and notes because the data is searchable, it can easily be entered into phone or Web-based tasks that need to be done, and reminders of urgent information and purges of unneeded information are automatic.

Write it down! A short pencil is better than a long memory. Anything and everything you need to remember should be written down. Even if your memory is great, nobody is perfect and it doesn’t hurt to put it on paper, just in case. Record phone numbers, appointments, birthdays, shopping lists, and things to do, and record them where you can easily find and refer to them when you need them.

Taking the time to organize receipts for things going back, whether to the store or to the library, can really help. It creates order and structure, and will also help avoid not being able to return things to stores and fines.

Stop procrastinating. Possibly the toughest item on the list, procrastinating is a major detriment to organizing your life. Instead of putting things off, get them done immediately. Force yourself to get things done without waiting to finish them. If it can be done in two minutes or less, always do it right away while breaking down larger tasks into smaller pieces to make them manageable.

  • Set a timer for fifteen minutes and work like crazy during that time. Don’t get distracted, take any breaks, or stop for any reason but an emergency during the time your timer is going. Then, allow yourself to stop working on your tasks when the timer goes off. Likely though, you will continue working because you finally managed to make headway on a project you’ve been avoiding.
  • Remove your distractions, whatever they are. Often it is the internet, your phone, sleep, or even a good book. No matter what distracts you, set a period of time where you work on projects without them.

Make to do lists.

  • Make a to do list for your day. Your daily or immediate list should never be more than 5 items long, or else you’re taking on too much and setting yourself up for failure. Mark one or two of those items as things you absolutely must get done that day, and pursue those tasks relentlessly until you get them done.
  • Make a to do list for the week. Appropriate items here would be: Groceryshopping, fix air conditioner, etc. Draw from this list to make your daily to-do list. A white board or board with erasable markers can help to remember all one has to do every day, or long term goals.
  • Make a to do list for the month. This list would have more general tasks like: Birthday gift to Jill, get car serviced, dentist appointment. Draw from this list to make your daily and weekly to-do list.
  • Make a to do list for your life. Drastic, yes, but why not use this time to rethink your life and where it’s going? Getting organized is all about priorities, and it never hurts.

Follow through. There’s no point in making a to-do list if you don’t discipline yourself to complete the tasks you’ve assigned yourself. There are many ways to stick to your to-do list. Stop procrastinating, remove or ignore distractions, and hop to it.

  • If something keeps slipping to the bottom of your to-do list, take a good look at it. Is it really important? If so, get it over with, or at least get it started. If not, put it back in the long-term list for “someday” or get it off the list altogether. Don’t let yourself get hung up on something for too long.
  • If you find yourself bored, or your normal routine interrupted, you might distract and satisfy yourself by attacking the to-do backlog.

Combine similar activities. Make all your phone calls at one time. Do all your errands at the same time. Pay all your bills at the same time. Do all shopping in one trip.

Setting a time frame in which each task has to be done through out the day is another good way to keep one from procrastination, and keeping to their agenda. Having a time frame is a very effective way to organize one’s day. Knowing that one has designated a time slot for each item on the list lets one know that there is no need to rush to finish things. Just take the time that you have granted yourself and do the job well. Don’t rush to finish it. If one were to rush to finish a task, it might not have been done as accurately as if one had taken the time and done it gradually and more effectively.

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