Small Steps to Take Today to Get Organized for Good

BY Christie Galeano-DeMott TIMEFebruary 20, 2022 PRINT

The thought of getting (and staying) organized spurs a variety of reactions in different people. Some consider it a quick but necessary chore, while others see it as an insurmountable obstacle. However, organization isn’t just a way to get your physical belongings in order. It can also help build confidence, add fulfillment to your life, and foster a positive mindset.

When everything in your home has a place, it’s easier to solve everyday problems, even if it’s as simple as knowing where to find new batteries for the remote control. Being capable of fixing these small inconveniences also enhances your sense of control and fulfillment because you know exactly where to look.

To help you achieve the mental health boost that comes with an organized home, Carrie Peeples, owner of the Atlanta-based home organization company Neatsmart, shares some of her best-kept secrets for staying organized that you can use each day to take back control of your space.

Toss Out Fear and Guilt

“It’s OK not to be organized. It’s a skill that not everyone is born with, but it’s a skill you can learn,” Peeples said. Seeing clutter causes some people to feel overwhelmed and paralyzed with the fear of not knowing where to start, she said. Sometimes it’s easier to choose a path of inaction because you don’t know the next step. Taking things slow and being kind to yourself during the process can take some of the fear out of getting organized.

“Don’t feel anxious about it,” she said. “Give yourself some grace.”

Decluttering can also bring about feelings of shame and guilt, which are usually manifested because we assign emotional attachments to our possessions. As you consider getting rid of something, your thoughts might turn to the family member or friend who gave it to you, which can make you feel guilty even if the object is outdated or broken. Peeples’s advice? “Toss items that no longer suit you.” Or, if you feel like the item could have a potential life with someone else, consider donating or consigning it.

Break up large projects—such as organizing your kitchen—into smaller tasks—such as starting by cleaning out your pantry. (RODNAE Productions/Pexels)

Set a Schedule

Humans naturally crave a sense of accomplishment, whether that’s achieved through completing a crossword puzzle, learning a new skill, or tidying up around the house. Sticking to an organizing schedule can boost feelings of productivity as you check items off your to-do list. Remember that your plan doesn’t have to be strict or detailed to be effective; it can simply be used to create a better sense of control over your day.

Do 15-Minute Projects Daily

To conquer a disorganized home in quick daily bursts, pick a short task to do each day. Finishing one to-do will give you a sense of accomplishment that can help motivate you to take on another small project tomorrow. These small tasks can be as simple as sorting mail, organizing your sock drawer, cleaning out your medicine cabinet, or conquering that dirty sink.

Break Larger Projects Into Sections

Start small to avoid getting overwhelmed by sizable tasks. For example, if you want to organize your kitchen, start by cleaning out your pantry. Focus first on throwing away expired items or donating shelf-stable items you won’t use, then work on arranging like items together the following day (store breakfast foods, condiments, and grains on separate shelves, for example).

If you want to tackle your closet, Peeples recommends you start by evaluating what your lifestyle is like today and if your wardrobe reflects it. Acknowledge that styles, our bodies, and even our work environments can change over time. Only hang on to things you love and those that are meaningful to you. Try not to get stuck on aspirational thoughts about the clothing you’re going to wear someday.

“Instead, celebrate who you are today by letting go of judgments,” she said. Remember that it’s OK to let those pieces go so that someone else can enjoy them.

Whether you have kids, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews around the house, it’s never too early to teach children how to organize. (Maria Evseyeva/Shutterstock)

Get the Kids Involved

Whether you have kids, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews around the house, it’s never too early to teach children how to organize.

“Putting away should be part of the play,” Peeples said.

Encouraging kids to get involved can help you let go of perfectionism, appreciate their efforts, and value the input of young ones. The more you can involve kids and get them to think creatively, the more they will be willing to participate.

Ask your inner circle if they would like any of your unwanted possessions, especially family heirlooms. (frantic00/Shutterstock)

Donate or Sell Unwanted Items

To get rid of unwanted items, start with your inner circle. Ask friends or family if they want anything, paying extra attention to family heirlooms.

Another option is to find a charity you want to support. Donating to a cause that is meaningful to you will make it easier to part with something since you know you’re helping someone in need.

If you want to sell it, try Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, or consider online consignment shops like Poshmark and ThredUp, or The RealReal for luxury items.

As you start organizing, remember that creating a functional home that works with your lifestyle is key. It should be a reflection of who you are and what you love. A good way to keep that up is by organizing seasonally so you can evaluate what you typically wear and what is or isn’t working in your home. Just remember to start small, Peeples said. “No one runs a marathon on the first day of training.”

Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at BHG.com. Copyright 2022 Meredith Corporation. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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