There is plenty of organizing advice out there advocating one technique or another for de-cluttering your home and simplifying your life. Bits and pieces of that advice work for some people but not for others, often because they require a complete change or reversal in thinking. Here are three basic ideas that are easy to implement and can not only improve organization in your home but also motivate you to do more.
Having things neatly arranged on shelves or tucked beneath a piece of furniture goes a long way toward giving a room a tidy appearance. But putting things “away” without ever removing them or cleaning underneath them probably means that you don’t need the items, you’re not enjoying them and you’re avoiding the tough decision of whether to part with them.
A couple of times a year, take a look around your house and pick a couple of areas that have sat undisturbed for a while, just gathering dust — bookshelves, under beds, inside cabinets and drawers, on your closet floors. Move everything from the space and clean; then force yourself to make the decision about whether it’s worth putting the items back. This will not only pay dividends in terms of organization, it will also remove unhealthful dust and dust mites from your living space.
Bags are for getting things from one place to another. They are not storage bins.
Don’t toss things into bags when you’re tidying up and then never go back and empty them. Among the many problems with using bags to corral things you don’t know what to do with or are too lazy to put away is that you simply forget that you have the stuff and then go out and buy more. It’s easy to see how this can become problematic.
When you get home from shopping, unpack your bags. Likewise, luggage should be emptied within 24 hours of returning home. Purses and work totes that are used daily should be cleaned out and organized at least once a week. If you change purses or work bags frequently, it’s best to clean out your previous bag completely, instead of just dumping the contents from one bag to the next without sorting through them. Yes, this will take an extra few minutes, but it will also save you time later. And you may even find money you didn’t know you had or a pair of sunglasses you had forgotten about!
And if that isn’t motivation enough, consider this: A 2013 British study found women’s handbags carry more germs than a toilet seat.
People get caught up in the notion that certain things belong in certain places in a house — tools should be kept in the garage; brushes, combs and headbands belong in a bathroom; and suitcases should be stored in the attic. But if you’re putting things in places that don’t actually work for the way you live, it’s going to be a struggle to stay organized.
It’s okay to keep a hammer, screwdriver, tape measure and pliers in a kitchen drawer or in a hall console table. It’s totally fine to have a basket of hair accessories near the front door, if that’s where your kids comb their hair before heading off to school. And if you travel frequently, leave your suitcase in your closet — or a guest closet — so it’s easy to grab when you need it.
Although it seems as though there are rigid rules everyone must follow to become and stay organized, there really aren’t. The key is to find the best and most efficient solution for you and your family and go with it. It’s when you are crippled by indecision and the need for perfection and therefore don’t do anything consistently that things can become a disorganized mess.
Thinking less about following a particular philosophy and more about how you use things in your daily life will make organizing more effective and effortless.
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No Home Front chat It returns Aug. 27, when designer Kim Lewis of “Tiny House Nation” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” joins staff writer Jura Koncius for our weekly online Q&A on decorating and household advice. Submit questions at live.washingtonpost.com .