Think you need a professional organizer to get your space and life in order? Think again. Read the top 20 tips every organizers knows will eliminate chaos.
1. STORE IT, IN ITS HOME
Everything in your home or office should have a home -- a consistent and appropriate place where that object is normally kept. Some items that you use every day, maybe on display and/or readily available for frequent use. Other items, like holiday decorations or out of season clothing, can be stored in an out-of-the-way area until needed. When an object strays from its 'home,' it can easily be misplaced, thus causing stress and frustration. Clutter build-up naturally occurs when items are not kept and/or returned to their homes.
2. SAY NO
You don't have to say yes to every single request for your help. Schedule a set amount of time each week for random requests. Once that time slot is filled, don't take any more requests for your time that week.
3. OPEN MAIL OVER THE RECYCLING BIN
Don't carry your mail over to your desk or table where it's bound to pile up and take hours to go through later. Open it right over the recycling bin, and get rid of all unnecessary mail and inserts immediately.
4. GET READY THE NIGHT BEFORE
Stop wasting morning time frantically running around like a mad person trying to get done to get to work on time. Do whatever you can to prepare yourself the night before. Set the breakfast table. Lay out your clothes, and your kids' clothes. Have the coffeepot start automatically by using the timer.
5. DUMP IT
Items that are outdated, faded, broken or otherwise unusable can often be dumped. If you don't want it, and you don't know anyone else who wants it, dump it today. You'll be freeing your space--and your mind!
6. KEEP A MEMORY BOX
The longer you live, the more memories you're going to have. If you're not careful, you can fill your home to the brim with your memories, and you won't have space for anything else. Have one or two plastic containers to store your memorabilia. It's then time to determine what you truly wish to keep, and what you can do without. When these containers are full, the rule is to remove and get rid of, or give away, one item before you put another item inside. This will ensure only the most precious memories are stored in your Memory Box(es).
7. APPLY THE 50% RULE
When packing clothing for a trip, lay out everything you need you'll need on your bed -- then, put 50% of it back in your closet. Most people take way more than is necessary and end up carrying unnecessary weight along the way. Chances are, you'll be able to wear each outfit at least twice, especially if you mix and match different tops with different bottoms.
8. EARLY BIRD OR NIGHT OWL
There's no doubt about it. Organizing your home or office does take some energy. That's why knowing your peak energy level is so important. If you're an early bird and your energy level is very high in the morning, that's the best time for you to de-clutter. If you have more energy at night, organize during that time instead.
9. WRITE IT DOWN
With the amount of things you have to remember in any given day, why should you try to stuff it all into your memory bank? When you want to remember something, the very best thing to do is write it down. Then, when you need to recall it, it will be there for you in an instant.
10. CALL YOURSELF
If you're at the office, and you want to do something when you arrive home, call your answering machine and leave yourself a message. When you get home, you'll listen to your message and remember exactly what you wanted to do.
11. FOCUS ON A LITTLE BIT AT A TIME
Rather than thinking about the huge project ahead, break that project up into manageable tasks. For instance, if you want to organize the boxes in your attic, you might consider going through one box per day, until it's all complete.
12. ASK SOMEONE TO BUG YOU
Tell a close friend, relative or co-worker, what you plan to organize, and by what date. Then, simply ask that person to bug you a few days before to see if you've done it yet. A little outside motivation is often an enormous help.
13. BRIBE YOURSELF
Make something you love to do, dependant on the completion of today's task. If you promise yourself that you will not watch your favorite television program tonight, unless you work for 15 minutes on organizing your paper piles, you're sure to get that small task finished. No cheating allowed.
14. DO NOT SEPARATE EACH PENDING BILL
Whatever you do, don't put your utility bill in one folder, your car insurance bill in another folder and your membership dues bill in another. All pending bills should be together in an envelope, pocket folder or basket so they can be paid without having to search 10 different places to find them.
15. FIT IN EXERCISE BY MULTI-TASKING
Do some calisthenics or ride a stationary bike while watching your favorite television program. Do some simple stretches, while you're on the telephone and you're on hold. Waiting for the washing machine or dryer to finish, or waiting for a computer file to download? Now is a great time for some sit ups or leg lifts!
16. PLAY THE DISAPPEARING ACT
This game is perfect for families with young kids. If the parents always pick up the toys, dirty laundry, etc. the kids will never learn how to do these tasks on their own. Instead, set a timer for 10 minutes. Have the kids run around picking up their things and putting them away. If they get everything done by the time the timer sounds, they win small prizes, such as being able to choose that afternoon's video to watch, or baking cookies with mom, or something else fun and enticing.
17. DON'T FORGET TO SET GOALS
Perhaps you've always wanted to take a cruise, or learn a new language, or plant a garden. Goal setting will help you get there. Grab a bunch of index cards and write a specific goal on each--anything you could think of that you really want to do. Then, arrange the cards so that the goals you MOST want to achieve are on top, and the less important goals follow. Then, write deadlines on each of your top three cards, break each goal down into mini-goals, and schedule time to achieve each of them.
18. DO JUST A LITTLE EACH DAY
Instead of cleaning your home or office all at once, clean a little bit each day. Get some index cards and write a cleaning task down on each. For example: Card 1: Clean the Bathroom, Card 2: Wash Clothes, etc. Then, place all of your cards in a box, and draw one each day--that's your cleaning task for the day. Be sure to include some FREE DAY cards in your box. If you draw one of them, you don't have to do any cleaning for the day. Hooray! Be sure to keep the cards that were already drawn in a holding box, until all the cards you inserted have been drawn. Then, simply start over again. This system works great for kids' chores too!
19. PLAN AN ALTERNATE ROUTE
Your original planned route may not turn out to be the quickest route. Traffic delays happen for all sorts of reasons: construction, accidents, weather, and so on. If you discover you can't take your original route, you'll have to go another way. Know your alternate routes, before you leave your home or office. This way, you'll be able to allow for extra time. Listen to the local traffic report on your radio while you're dressing or when you get in your car, and use the best route for that day.
20. IF YOU THINK IT WILL TAKE 5 MINUTES, COUNT ON 10-15
There are very few things you can do that will only take 5 minutes or less to complete. For example, you may think it takes 5 minutes to check your e-mail, but very often, it takes 15 minutes or more. Once you get into your e-mail program, dial up, read a few letters, perhaps respond to a few, and then close your program, that original 5 minutes often is long gone. 3 words: Pad your time.