Productivity 104: How To Be Organized

Back To Main
Productivity 103: Maximum Efficiency

Being organized isn’t necessary for productivity, but it helps

Staying organized allows us to be knowledgeable

You know where things are that you might need

At a glance, you can tell how many of an item you have

Finding an item is a more natural experience, at least in knowing where to start looking

We all have Zones that our lives fit into

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 increasingly smaller and more numerous

If we don’t physically combine our Zones, they become so small that our minds blur them together

A mental state of disorganization occurs when the Zones are smaller than we are naturally comfortable with

Disorganization tends to spread

Physical disorganization inspires mental disorganization and vice versa

Organizing is necessary, not just a good idea

The peace of mind, comfort, ease of access and simplicity from a lifestyle of organization are always worth it

The more clutter you have, the more you need to do it

Look at what needs organizing

Organizing is a test of endurance, not skill or brain power, so plan accordingly

An organization project can take days, weeks, or even months depending on how bad things have gotten

Organizing should be a constant state of maintenance, not a one-time activity

It’s a massive project to start, especially if you have been disorganized

  • The worse it gets, the more it’s needed

After you’ve completed your organization project, it should be a weekly or monthly activity of “tidying up”

Moving things around will inspire or distract you

Keep a notepad for inspiration and thoughts to stay focused on the task at hand

Keep cleaning supplies with you

Lifting items, opening containers, and moving things around will uncover more dust and filth than it would seem

Get plenty of boxes

You will need cardboard boxes, plastic bins, and a variety of sizes of containers to most effectively organize

If it helps, there is no shame in buying more boxes or containers

Stage your workspace

Triple the surface area of the area you’re aiming to organize to give yourself plenty of room

Clear enough space to allow strewn-about piles

Visualize where everything should go

Get a “vision” in your mind about what it will look like

If you are inexperienced in this, it will be an inaccurate vision, but it’s more accurate with practice

Don’t get overwhelmed or distracted by the size of the total project

Focus on one area at a time

Start with a smaller space, and then work up to larger projects

  • Smaller areas are quicker to work through and build confidence for larger areas

Pull out one section entirely, then start into it

  • Sometimes you may be inspired to rearrange sections, and pulling items out allows you to do it more easily

While everything is out, think about ways to store things on the wall or ceiling to free up space

Focus on only one item at a time

Work with one piece at a time, and be methodical and systematic

Don’t get overwhelmed or distracted by the size of the clutter zone

If the item is supposed to go back to where you took it from, put it back right away

  • Store everything that stays in plastic bins and everything that goes in cardboard boxes

Put each item into 2-4 “piles”

  1. Goes back into a recently cleared area (or back where it’s supposed to go)
  2. Goes somewhere else in a nearby uncleared area
  3. Goes somewhere else entirely
  4. Goes to be sold or given away

When labeling and putting back a pile, sort the items by their use

Make an easy and accessible categorization system that can maintain later

Put the most regularly accessed items in the most convenient locations

Store seasonal or rarely used items in the top, back or bottom of storage areas

Don’t put away items in the same place you pulled them out

By putting things away in slightly different areas, it will remind you of the “change” that you’re going to be more organized

Always keep similar items together, especially if you’ve resupplied before needing to

Clutter will slowly come back as you clear out areas

Pay close attention to the cause of the clutter and make proactive efforts to fight it

As you work through your items, emotionally disconnect from them

You’ve held onto everything for a reason

You believe or have believed it will attain some means of happiness, success or wellness for someone

Ask yourself why you feel a strong sentimental attachment to your items

Just because you have an item and it has monetary value doesn’t mean that it’s adding value to your life

Unless you regularly consume something, like toothpaste or toilet paper, duplicates of it are a waste of space

Broken items are only worth keeping for fixing or repurposing

Giving things away will usually make you much happier than holding onto it for a rainy day that hasn’t come in years

Most people look at the value their item once was

Look at its current worth and ask if it has been adding value to your life by at least that amount

Measure any possible future need against the cost of energy and resources to store it

When you want to get rid of things, ask if you would ever repurchase it from 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 or why it matters to you

Specific spots need specific attention

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 has practical items continually thrown on it, get rid of decorations for it

Drawers

Consider installing contact paper, depending on what is in the drawer

Use small baskets or dividers to make the most of available space

  • Improvise by cutting open a cereal box and taping 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

Cover everything in the attic with plastic sheets to prevent excessive dust building up

Avoid storing anything that could be damaged by water on the basement floor

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

  • Most people have far more clothing than they need
    • A lovely dress (for women)
    • Two jackets
    • Three skirts (for women)
    • Three sweaters
    • Two dark pants & two jeans
    • Three coats
    • One white button-down shirt
    • 2-5 T-shirts
    • Five pairs of shoes
    • Seven sets of socks and undergarments
    • Work-only clothes
  • If you don’t wear it, you don’t need it
    • To find out what you wear, hang all of the clothes with the hangers facing to the back, then invert them as you wear them

Make more room in your closet

  • Offset hangers with soda can tabs to make more room
  • Link shower rings onto a hanger to hang scarves and belts
  • Install a shelf instead of putting things on the floor

Hang sensitive garments

  • Tape a pool noodle over a hanger
  • Keep collars stiff by lining them with a belt
  • To keep silks and dresses from slipping, secure rubber bands or pipe cleaners near the ends of a coat hanger
  • Keep garments on hangers with clothespins

Store less frequently accessed clothing in drawers

  • Fold the clothes neatly, and group clothes together by type
  • Roll shirts instead of folding them to keep them from wrinkling
  • Fold clothes into squares to maximize the space
  • Stack clothes vertically to easily see them all without having to pull clothes out

Store out-of-season garments and extra linens in less accessible locations

  • Store in suitcases, storage bins or vacuum-seal bags
  • Roll bedding or rugs around a pool noodle to prevent creases

Make a convenient system for shoes

  • 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 collapsing

Keep your jewelry in one place

  • Get a larger jewelry box or consider downsizing your jewelry
  • Store earrings by stabbing through a piece of paper

Only keep out the things  you use daily on the nightstand

Living room/dining room

Take any items off of flat spaces

Clear off the dining table

Hold pool cues with pool noodles

Label wires behind the television with bread clips

Make a coat hanger by hammering nails or spikes through a board, then hanging the board

Under sinks & bathroom cabinets

Keep cleaning supplies arranged conveniently in every bathroom

Double-bag toiletries to prevent spills

Keep razors clean by putting binder clips over them

Hold hairpins on a magnetic strip

Kitchen shelves

If the kitchen has too many cooking utensils, look at the last time you used each of them

Get rid of duplicate or extra flatware and dishes unless you have a purpose for keeping them

Throw out unmatched plastic containers

Make a garden rake into a wine glass holder

Store saucepans inside a cupboard with a shower tension rod and shower hooks

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, stackable plastic containers

Recipes

Throw out bad or mediocre recipes

If you’re never going to get to a recipe, ask whether it’s worth keeping as a type of action item

Filing cabinets

Keep all necessary papers, records, identification, and passwords in one place

Keep separate categories for files proportionally to the number of files you have

Get a scanner and external hard drive to cut down on how much paper you need to hold on to

Shred obsolete documents

  • Financial data is usually shreddable after seven to ten years
  • If you’re afraid of losing the information on it, scan the document before shredding

Make a filing system to streamline management of essential papers

  1. Action files with tasks connected to it
  2. Necessary files that are routinely accessed (credit card statements, insurance records, etc.)
  3. Archival files that are only necessary for particular instances (income tax returns, automobile documents, etc.)

Categorize essential papers where the documents where there is only one obvious place for them to be

Cords behind wall units and computers

Hold the wires parallel to each other, connect a zip tie over all of them, and then zip tie the gaps in between to make a fixed cable holder

Computer file systems

Keep all your private documents in one easily accessible place

Make as many folders as you need to sub-categorize what you have

Remove any computer programs that take up too much space

Online archives

Clear out your email inbox regularly and unsubscribe from weekly newsletters

Remove social media connections and phone contacts you no longer connect with

Automotive

Keep some emergency supplies in the back after clearing your vehicle out (more on this later)

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

Sort through each letter individually

Take photographs of ideas, then throw out the papers

Desks

Keep all your papers near your desk

Hold paper clips with a magnetic strip

Label wires behind the desk with bread clips

Electronics drawers

Store CDs by folding paper into a CD case

Tie up wires with hair clips

Store wires in toilet paper rolls

Store power cords more easily

  • Cut off the hanger of a pants hanger
  • Wrap the cord around the hanger
  • Clipping both sides with the clips

Sentimental items

  • If it’s a sizeable sentimental item, consider taking a piece off of it as a memento

Holiday storage

Have separate boxes labeled for each holiday

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 it from tangling

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 convert 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 safely near the wall

Turn a small area into a productivity/storage desk with plastic drawers and hole board

Portable storage containers & personal items

Label keys with different colors of 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 an entirely different skill than staying organized

Spend five minutes each day maintaining one room

  • If it helps, tape a picture of each perfectly cleaned room 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

Build necessary things 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

Never get more than you can use

A hoarding problem comes from your happiness, not your possessions or organizational skills

Systematically go back through everything you own at least once a year

Organizing your home and workspace allows you to focus more on what you want to work on

Next: Productivity 105: How Creativity Works