Organization Photo 1

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Get ready. It's another long one.

If you've read 4 Ways Organization Makes You a Better Person, then you know that getting organized is key to a successful and productive life (not to mention lower stress). We're going to dive right in.

Let's get started!


1. Have the Right Tools

If you're truly green to the whole organization thing, you might want to get your hands on some in-depth resources on living a simpler and organized life (besides me, ha).

After all - true organization is not a one-time overhaul: it's a lifestyle. Here's two resources I really like: The Life Saving Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and the blog the Minimalists.

2. Quality Over Quantity

A quick decluttering reminder: it's about the items that bring a positive difference to your life. If you're looking at duplicates, get rid of them. If you're looking at items that you're ambivalent about, get rid of them.

Take stock of what you have in each area of your home. What do you use the most? What do you find to be most productive? Those are the items you'll want to have front and center, the pieces you'll want in your field of vision.

A good test is to hide objects that you think you won't use. Put them in a closet or a drawer you don't often check. If you've forgotten about them within a week, then they aren't as important to your productivity and peace of mind as you thought.

3. Know Your Habits

If you find you need to get certain supplies to help with your organizing process, such as storage bins and filing systems, remember to know your habits. If you've never used a filing cabinet in your life, will you really use it now?

My advice: make a list of all the ways you could organize a certain space. What's the option you find to be the easiest to use? Is it leaving papers stacked on your desk instead of in a filing cabinet? Plan to leave them on the desk then. There's a compromise between making organization pretty, and making it functional.

4. Get Creative

When you're ready to start putting everything in its place, don't rush out and buy a dozen products. Take stock of what you have. Can you repurpose anything? Can you use odd things as storage, such as cute coffee cups to hold erasers (true story)?

If you've made a grand list of all the products you absolutely need for your space, wait a week. See if inspiration strikes with what you have. I guarantee you'll knock at least a few items off your list. Even more of a challenge: if you do have to buy, try to keep your list five items or less to start.


All right: let's get organizing

You've done the decluttering. You've made your cuts. Now you're ready to work with what you've got.

The following tips aren't space specific: they're general guidelines that could be adapted to any space and area of your life.


1. Backups Are Key

Backups, backups, backups. Let me repeat: backups. I say this because I've been the victim of the foolish thought that I'll never lose or misplace anything. Obviously that wasn't the case: once I misplaced my birth certificate. It took me over the month to find it again, and it was by accident!

When I say backups, I mean both physical and digital materials. For physical, these include any documents, photos, and other data that's important to your life.

You're going to want to scan them and save them on your desktop. If you've got a printer that can scan by feed, perfect: you can scan multi-paged documents with ease.

Once digital, the next step is to save all important files on your computer to several areas: the Cloud or another service such as Dropbox, and one or two external hard drives.

Why, you might ask? Have you ever accidentally dropped your computer? I have. It slid right off the table I was working on, and it was kaput. There were many a file that I could never get back (including some terrible writing authored by myself I'd use when I wanted to laugh at something).

Even if you're not prone to tech-dropping, your computer, to put it delicately, can die at any moment. It's unlikely, but it happens, and you don't know that it won't happen to you. Be safe. Back it up.


2. Create a filing system that works

Filing, again, is both physical and digital. Like I mentioned earlier, create one that's in-line with your work habits. If you find it a pain to use a filing cabinet, then you won't use it, even if it looks all shiny and pretty next to your desk. 

I have to have everything in reach when working, so I use organizers I can put right on my desk that don't require me to open them to get to my documents/photos/whatever. I've used everything from letter holders to organizers that hang on the wall.

In regards to digital, a filing system are those folders and subfolders on your desktop. It works just like a physical system: separate all your content under however main categories, then divide those subcategories as needed, and store content in their appropriate places.

For example, one of my folders looks like this:




You get the idea. This could increase your productivity and the speed of your work life, which can boost a happy, happy inner life as you knock your projects out of the park.

Lastly: labels are nice. If you're going through the trouble of creating a filing system, then you need to know what file holds what content, right? Get yourself a dollar or two pack of labels and go to town.

This is great for just about anything: kitchen supplies, bathroom containers, office necessities, you name it.


3. centralized work spaces

In addition to backing up and filing correctly, you'll want to create centralized work spaces. This just means that if you're into, say, scrapbooking, then build a space designated for scrapbooking. Don't scatter your supplies all over your living room.

I find this helps productivity tremendously: it helps your mind latch on and focus on one task at a time. When you associate certain spaces with specific activities, you'll teach yourself triggers for tapping into brain activity for that particular workload.

On the other hand, if you have different interests tossed all over the place, it becomes difficult to think on one project while another one is looming in the corner of your eye.

Multitasking is not a thing. Be kind to your mind (and your stress levels) and allow it to focus on one thing at a time.


4. Everything Has a Place

I think there's a fancy term for this, and I don't know it (sorry, not fancy). Creating a designated space for everything has two functions: 1. it makes it easier for you to find objects within your home and creates a sense of coherence, 2. you'll be less stressed because you now where to find stuff in your home.

This goes hand in hand with creating a filing system. Again, you want to know thyself. Everything has a place because it's convenient and functional to you. Not to say throw it on the floor: the point is to clean up, but don't be so rigid that it's now a hassle to get what you need in your own home. We're going for comfortable, not frustrated.

How do you practice this step? It's easy - create a spot for a particular belonging, and then, when you've finished using it, put it back exactly where you placed it before. Ta-da.


5. Learn to Tidy Up

Some studies have shown that returning to a neat or put together home relieves stress. Tidiness is a key element of creating that atmosphere.

Just like #4, learning to tidy up as you go along is the way to keep your organization goals up and running. It doesn't mean a deep cleaning or an overhaul everyday. You can even leave things a semi-mess if needed, especially if you're mid-project and have to take a break.

Some areas I find are common for a lack of tidiness are cleaning the dishes immediately after you've used them, or hanging your clothes instead of throwing it on your couch or bed. And for projects that you don't need to return to, or documents that you're finished using: go ahead and put them back now.

Why? It builds habit either way. If you're used to tossing things around your home, you'll eventually recreate the mess you worked so hard to control. On the other hand, if you teach yourself to put things back when you're finished, you'll eventually build the reflex to do so. You won't have to worry about a weekend spent re-cleaning your space.

If you're still not into immediate tidiness, then I'd suggest delegating or planning out certain times during the day or week where you reset your home. Trust me, I've been there: some weeks are just too busy. I'll plan out twenty minutes or so during the week and make sure to bring my space back to normal.


6. Plan, Plan, Plan

The number one reason I stay on top of my life? Planning. Some people are completely opposed to this: why spend time thinking about something when you can just do it?

Well, two reasons: I have too many tasks I have to complete during the week, and I'd rather save that brain power for my actual work than in trying to keep track of it all, and writing it down brings on a sense of responsibility and commitment. 

Funny enough, when I plan, I actually tend to naturally remember most of my work. I believe when you take action and write a task down, you're creating a fancy pathway in your brain that's stronger than something you think you'll magically remember during the week.

Taking that stress off my mind is a magical thing. It helps me sleep at night, and I bet it will help you, too.

Not to mention planning helps keep track of your goals, not just immediate, but long-term as well. It helps you plot out ongoing projects and assess the progress of your desires.

So. Planning. You can get as detailed or as loose as you want with it. I break mine down into daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Here's examples of how I trick out my planner:

DAILY/WEEKLY: everyday tasks, including work schedule, lunch times (yes, sometimes I have to remember to eat), meetings, homework or other projects, and any questions unresolved for the day.

Weekly planning is just the compilation of these individual days on a single page of a planner. Sometimes I'll draw lines between days if I'm unsure when something will get done.

MONTHLY: some planners, like mine, come with a calendar for that month at the beginning of that month's section. Here I'll record dates subscription renewals, any major events for the month, appointments (like hair), the due dates of major projects, etc. 

Keep in mind I also include this information in my daily/weekly sections, but if I need a glance at what's coming up during the month, this is a great way to do that without sifting through your mountain of notes for each day.

YEARLY: This is a very loose planning. My planner comes with a goals chart. I list my goals for the year for reference and inspiration, and then I detail how to accomplish it through the tasks I record in my monthly and daily/weekly planning.

I find the yearly planning especially helpful when you're frustrated by a project or stuck in a rut. It reminds me of the bigger picture.

If you can't tell, I'm obsessed with planners. Looking for a recommendation? I like Anthropologie's selection of planners. Target and Paper Source are also great stores.


How do you get organized? Did I leave anything out? Let me know in the comments!





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