3 Easy Ways to Stay Organized


"Taking care of our things - placing them where they belong
when we see them gumming up our lives -
can be one of the most powerful, if subtle,
forms of bringing our selves
and our homes back into balance."

Stephanie Bennett Vogt
Your Spacious Self

It's one thing to get organized.

But it's another thing entirely to stay organized.

And in my opinion, that's where most approaches to organizing fall apart.

Staying organized needs to be easy. It needs to be effortless. It needs to take the same amount of time OR LESS than it would take to stay disorganized.

Otherwise, in the heat of the moment, when you're tired, rushed, or even the slightest bit "not in the mood", you are likely to take the path of least resistance...and if your stuff isn't set up to be uber easy to stay organized, it won't stay that way.

Here are my top three favorite, easy-peasy ways to stay organized:

1. Eliminate (or reduce) the need for folding

When I was in college, I worked at a couple of retail clothing boutiques. And the first thing any retail gal learns is how to fold (the retail way)... because you end up folding clothes. All. The. Time.    

You know all those beautifully organized tables with gorgeous sweaters and glittery t-shirts and jeans? 

I could spend thirty minutes creating a masterpiece of organized, folded-just-so sweaters, and helplessly watch it get destroyed in three minutes flat by one lone shopper...even one who was careful and neat.

I started noticing the same thing in my own closet. I was really good at folding and stacking my clothes. My closet shelves looked great...until I needed to get a sweater or a pair of jeans out to wear. It never failed that the one I really wanted was in the middle of the stack, and as careful as I was, the stack always needed straightening again afterward if I wanted it to still look neat and organized.

(I had the same experience when I folded things in drawers.) 

It took me years and lots and lots of folding and tidying up before I wondered if there might be an easier way. It had, quite honestly, never occurred to me before because I just assumed that's the way you were supposed to organize a closet: by folding stuff.  

For me, the easy way was to eliminate folding altogether (or at least as much as possible).   

These days, I pretty much hang everything, even though I have one of the world's tiniest closets. I hang my t-shirts, my jeans, my sweaters (I double up on my hangers so the sweaters don't stretch out -- I can already hear you fashionistas screaming), my yoga pants, my pajamas, everything.  

I don't spend any time folding (and refolding and refolding and restacking and reorganizing), and my closet stays neat and organized without any extra effort on my part.     

2.  Eliminate (or reduce) the need to dismantle your stacks  

Any time you need to dismantle a stack to either get something out or put it away, you are setting yourself up for extra time, extra hassle, and the likelihood that you will put off doing it.

We already talked about dismantling a stack of beautifully folded sweaters to get the one you want to wear -- the one in the middle.  

How about in another room like the kitchen? Many kitchen cupboards have lots of stacked items: small plates stacked on top of large plates, small bowls nestled inside of big bowls, and so on. My kitchen was the same way for years. 

And then I noticed that restaurants don't do it that way; they don't have the time to be stacking and unstacking, so they set up their items for ease. So I started setting up my kitchen the same way. 

Here's how I now approach stacking: I try to rarely or never stack things in a way that I need to unstack something to get at something else (or to put something else away). 

In other words, I try to set up my stacks so the item I need is always at the top of the stack (at least for the most common items).   

For example, instead of stacking small plates on top of large plates (which means that every time you need to put away a large plate you need to move the small plates), separate them into one stack of small plates and one stack of large plates. If you don't have enough room in the cupboard to stack them side by side, get one of those add-a-shelf's so you can put the large plates under the add-a-shelf and the small plates on top of it. 

For example, I recently noticed that I had stacked four fairly heavy glass baking dishes, and they were on a higher shelf. Whenever I needed to put one of them away, I had to take all of them down and set them on the counter, restack the pile, and then put them all back again. Not a huge deal, except that I noticed on several occasions that I had just set the baking dish on the counter to put away later, because I didn't feel like taking the extra second or two to take apart the stack.   

Rather than call myself lazy for not feeling like taking that extra smidgen of time, I just rearranged the cabinet so now I don't have to dismantle the stack every time I need to put one of them away.  


3. Have a place for everything  

You've heard that little ditty "a place for everything and everything in its place", right?

Well, it's still one of the best pieces of organizing advice you will ever use.

However, "a place for everything" needs to be more clearly defined than "the garage"!   

My favorite example of "a place for everything" is your silverware drawer. My guess is that you have one of those little trays with slots for spoons, forks, and knives, don't you? So when you put away your silverware, you don't have to spend even a second wondering where to put the forks...they just go in the fork slot. Easy. 

I set up the rest of my house to be just like my silverware drawer. I have a designated place for library books. I put my purse in the same spot every time. I hang up my dog leashes on their same hooks after a walk.  

It takes a little up-front thought and effort, but once you're done, it's much easier to stay organized because you don't have to make decisions and hunt for things all day long.  

If your home could use some tweaking to make it easy-peasy to stay organized, start small. Start with the items you use every day. Look at how effortless (or not) it is to get them out and put them away. If you notice it takes extra time than you'd like, what would make it easier?   

Would it make your life more simple if you got rid of some of the extras? If you stacked things differently? Or hung things instead of folding them? Or if you added some hooks instead of using hangers for everything? 

Organizing is all about making your life easier (and nicer and more beautiful). And one little tweak at a time, you can have a home that almost stays organized itself.