Productivity 104: How To Be Organized

Back To Main
Productivity 103: Maximum Efficiency

Have the right mindset before you start

  • We all have Zones where we live out our lives
    • For example, we have a Work Zone, a Daily Zone, an Important Things Zone, a Storage/Later Zone, etc.
    • If we cannot keep track of things, the Zones become smaller and smaller
    • Eventually, if we do not combine our Zones physically together, the Zones will become really tiny
    • When the Zones are smaller than we are naturally comfortable with, that is the definition of disorganized
  • Disorganization causes even more disorganization
    • To be disorganized physically affects your mental state, and vice versa
  • Organization is not a one-time effort, it is a constant state of maintenance
    • However, if you are coming from a disorganized state, it will be a large effort to start!
  • Treat it as something that needs to be done, not just something you feel like doing
    • The peace of mind, comfort, ease of access and simplicity of lifestyle caused by organizing are always worth it
    • The worse it is, the more you need to do it
    • Learn to emotionally disconnect from your possessions as you work through them
      • You are holding onto every item you have right now because you believe it will attain some means of happiness, success or wellness for someone
      • Broken items are only good if they can be fixed, repurposed or thrown out
  • Moving things around will inspire or distract you, so keep a notepad for inspiration and thoughts to stay focused on the task at hand
  • When you are putting away items in different areas
    • Always keep similar items together, especially if you’ve resupplied when you didn’t need to
    • Have every item categorized as a separate unique category
    • Make sure it’s an easy and accessible system for you, since you will need to maintain the system by yourself later
  • When you want to get rid of things, make sure to ask if you would ever buy it again if you were at a store
    • If no, you can get rid of it without any problems
    • If yes, then keep it
    • If you’re unsure, then consider deeply whether it really matters to you

Look at what you’ll need to organize

  • Take the area you want to go after and have triple the surface area to allow yourself room to organize
  • Bring cleaning supplies with you as you go, since you’ll be finding filth
  • Start with something small, and then work up to bigger projects
  • As you clear out areas you will notice clutter coming back slowly
    • Pay close attention to what is causing the clutter and make proactive efforts to fight it
  • Eventually, you should want to have every part of your life organized

Focus on one area at a time

  • Don’t get overwhelmed or distracted by the size of the total project
  • Clear enough area to allow piles to be strewn around everywhere
  • Look at the area, and imagine where things should go
    • Get a “vision” in your mind about what it will look like
    • If you are inexperienced in this, it will not be an accurate vision, but do it anyway
  • Pull out one section entirely, then start into it
    • The reason you should pull out everything is because sometimes you may be inspired to use a section for a different use
  • While everything is out, think about ways to store items on the wall or ceilings to free up space

Foccus on only one item at a time

  • Don’t get overwhelmed or distracted by the size of the cluttered area
  • If the item is supposed to go back into the place you pulled it out from, put it back
    • When storing, use plastic bins for everything that stays and cardboard boxes for everything that goes
  • Use only two to four major groups to put each item into
    • To go back into the area that was just cleared
    • To go to somewhere else in this area that hasn’t been cleared
    • To go to somewhere else entirely
    • To be gotten rid of or sold
  • When labeling and putting back a finished group, sort the items by how they are used
    • Put the items that are most regularly accessed in the most convenient locations
    • Store seasonal or rarely used items in the top, back or bottom of storage areas
  • Work with one piece at a time, and learn how to become methodical and systematic in your process
  • Be ready to get rid of things, since you have more stuff than you thought you had
    • If you feel sentimentally attached to it, ask yourself why you feel strongly connected to it
    • Most things you’ve held onto has been based on the concept of how much it was worth
      • To part with it, look at its current worth and ask if it has really been adding value to your life of that amount
    • Giving things away will usually make you much happier than holding onto it for a nonexistent rainy day
    • Sometimes you see a possible future need, which needs to be measured against the cost to your energy and resources to store it
    • Unless an item is regularly consumed, like toothpaste or toilet paper, there is no need to have duplicates of it
  • Organizing when you haven’t been organized is a test of endurance, not skill or brain power, so plan accordingly
    • The entire organization process can take days or weeks, depending on how bad things have gotten

Specific spots need specific solutions

  • Immediately visible areas
    • Don’t let entryways, bedside tables, counter-tops and other surfaces become storage areas
    • Remove everything that isn’t ready to leave the house
    • If a spot constantly has practical items thrown on it, don’t put decorations on it as well
  • Drawers
    • Consider installing contact paper, depending on what is in the drawer
    • Use small baskets or dividers to make the most of available space
      • Cut open a cereal box and tape it
    • If anything needs to stay dry, put silica bags that come with electronics inside the drawer
      • If the silica bag gets too wet, bake it in the oven to reuse it
  • Basements/attics
    • Avoid storing anything on the floor of the basement that can sustain water damage
  • Bedrooms
    • Don’t permit any clothing to sit on the bed or be draped over other furniture
    • Put any dirty laundry into a hamper or basket
    • Avoid shoving items under the bed where dust can build up, unless you put them in shallow plastic tubs
    • Downsize your clothes
      • In reality, all you need as far as clothing is concerned is
        • A nice dress (for women)
        • 2 jackets
        • 3 skirts (for women)
        • 3 sweaters
        • 2 dark pants & 2 jeans
        • 3 coats
        • 1 white button-down shirt
        • 2-5 t-shirts
        • 5 pairs of shoes
        • 7 sets of socks and undergarments
        • Work-only clothes
      • If you don’t wear it, you don’t need it
        • To find out what you really wear, hang all of the clothes with the hangers facing to the back, then invert the hangers as you wear them
    • Make more room in your closet
      • Use soda can tabs to offset hangers to use more hangers
      • Hang scarves and belts with shower rings linked onto a hanger
      • Instead of putting things on the floor install a shelf
    • Hang sensitive garments
      • Line collars with a belt to keep them stiff
      • Tape a pool noodle over a hanger
      • To keep silks and dresses from slipping, secure rubber bands or pipe cleaners near the ends of a coat hanger
      • Secure garments on hangers using clothespins
    • Store clothing in drawers that don’t need to be constantly accessed
      • Roll shirts instead of folding them to keep them from wrinkling
      • Fold into squares to maximize the space
      • Stack clothes vertically to easily see them all and avoid unfolding neighboring clothes
    • Store out-of-season garments and extra linens
      • Store in suitcases, storage bins or vacuum-seal bags
      • Roll bedding or rugs around a pool noodle to prevent creases
    • Store shoes in a convenient system
      • Install a low-hanging coat rack to put shoes in
      • Keep tall boots upright with pool noodles
      • Hang shoes by bending a wire hanger upwards, then securing the center to prevent it from bending
    • Store earrings by stabbing through a piece of paper
  • Living room/dining room
    • Take off any items from flat spaces
    • Clear off the dining table
    • Use pool noodles to hold pool cues
    • Use bread clips to label wires behind the television
    • Make a coat hanger by hammering nails or spikes through a board, then hanging the board
  • Under sinks & bathroom cabinets
    • Keep the supplies arranged where it is convenient from every bathroom
    • Double-bag toiletries to prevent spills
    • Put binder clips on the razors to keep them clean
    • Attach a magnetic strip to hold hair pins
  • Kitchen shelves
    • If the kitchen is packed with too many cooking utensils, look at the last time you used any particular one
    • Consider getting rid of duplicate or extra flatware and dishes
    • Throw out unmatched plastic containers
    • Use a garden rake as a wine glass holder
    • Use a shower tension rod and shower hooks to store saucepans inside a cupboard
    • Store paper towels in the cupboard by breaking a plastic hanger at the bottom and then sliding the paper towel through it
  • Pantry
    • Get rid of old food and put the oldest food in front
    • Convert bulky boxes of cereal and pasta to airtight plastic containers that can be stacked
  • Recipes
    • Don’t be afraid to throw out bad or mediocre recipes, especially now that the internet is around
  • Filing cabinets
    • Keep all important papers, records, identification and passwords in one place
    • Keep separate categories for the files that are proportional to the number of files being stored
    • Shred important documents that are obsolete
      • Financial data can be shredded after seven to ten years, depending on the context
    • Get a scanner and external hard drive to minimize the amount of paper you need to keep
    • Make a filing system to streamline managing important papers
      1. Action files that have tasks connected to it
      2. Basic files that are accessed routinely (credit card statements, insurance records, etc)
      3. Archival files that are only necessary in special instances (income tax returns, automobile documents, etc)
  • Cords behind wall units and computers
    • Straighten out the cords to where they are parallel, connect a zip tie over all of them, then zip tie the gaps in between to make a fixed cable holder
  • Computer file systems
    • Keep all of your personal documents in one easily accessible place if possible
    • Make as many folders as you need to sub-categorize what you have
    • Remove any computer programs that are taking up too much space
  • Online archives
    • Clear out your email inbox regularly and unsubscribe from weekly newsletters
    • Remove social media connections you no longer connect with
  • Automotive
    • When you are finished emptying out everything that doesn’t need to be there, put some emergency supplies in the back
  • Clothing drawers
    • Fold the clothes neatly, and keep the types of clothes together
  • Nightstands
    • Only keep out the things  you use daily on the nightstand
  • Art & hobby supplies
    • Keep the hobbies separate, even when they overlap
    • Use Tic Tac containers to hold small rolls of tape or string
    • Cut milk cartons out to make pencil or marker cases
  • Accumulated mail
    • Work through each letter individually
    • Take photographs of ideas, then throw out the papers
  • Desks
    • Keep all of your papers near your desk
    • Attach a magnetic strip to hold paper clips
    • Use bread clips to label wires behind the television
  • Electronics drawers
    • Fold paper into a CD case to store CDs
    • Tie up wires with hair clips
    • Store wires in toilet paper rolls
    • Store power cords
      • Cut off the hanger of a pants hanger
      • Wrap the cord around the hanger
      • Clipping both sides with the clips
  • Important papers
    • Categorize it in a way where any of the papers can only be in one obvious place when you need to find it
  • Sentimental items
    • Keep things sorted in a way that lets the memory stay
    • If it’s a very large sentimental item, consider taking a piece off of it as a memento
  • Holiday storage
    • Separate and store decorations in egg cartons
    • Cut a toilet paper or paper towel roll lengthwise, then use it as a cuff for wrapping paper
    • Wrap decorative lights around a coat hanger to keep the from tangling
    • Have separate boxes for each holiday, labeled for easy access
  • Garage
    • The ultimate goal is to remove your low-value items to allow your expensive car to stay in the garage
      • Cover saw blades to safety-proof them and put items around them
      • Screw in lips to make plastic containers into sliding drawers under shelving
      • Attach a board to a wall and secure screw clamps, then tighten around mason jars
      • Hold fishing rods in pool noodles
      • Keep balls and other small items away from the parking area by putting them in a mesh sports hammock
    • Screw a pool noodle cut in half into the garage wall to allow the car to park near the wall
    • Use plastic drawers and hole board to turn a small area into a productivity/storage desk
  • Portable storage containers & personal items
    • Label keys by using differently colored nail polish or paint
    • Turn an old CD spindle into a bagel tote
    • To take bottles when you travel, unscrew the lids and put a piece of plastic wrap over the container, then screw on the lids
    • Hold spare change in a mini M&M’s container

Keep It Up

  • Organizing things is a completely different skill than staying organized!
    • Spend five minutes each day looking over a room to ensure it’s organized
      • If it helps, tape a picture of each room when it is cleaned to the wall
    • Make your bed every day
    • Wipe down the dining table after every meal
    • Don’t let clothes pile up where they shouldn’t go
    • Don’t let clutter stay out for long
    • Avoid using convenient flat spaces as permanent spots for items
    • When there are multiple people in the home, consider putting each person’s clutter in a specific sorting bin
  • Learn how to build things that are necessary to improve the flow of storing and retrieving
    • Install shelves into places like the garage
    • Put ceiling and wall hooks up to store some items off of the floor
  • Make sure that you never get more than you can really use
  • If you have a problem hoarding, then your problem is tied to your happiness, not your possessions or organizational skills
  • Systematically go back through everything you own at least once a year
Next: Productivity 105: How Creativity Works