How to Organise every Square Centimetre of Your Home
Those who lead busy lives (most of us, really) might notice, time and time again, a simple fact: stuff piles up. A gift here, an impulse buy there, and, before you know it, your home looks cluttered. By the time you realise it, you might feel that it’s already too late.
At the same time, trying to keep your spaces organised is as natural as stuff piling up. Shows like Tidying Up with Marie Kondo showcase this desire well, not to mention all the home organisation literature that’s out there. And, while watching Marie Kondo work her magic from home to home might make it seem like real organisation is unattainable, the principles of tidiness are actually very simple.
The key to organising is maintenance. In this article, we’ll share with you a nine-step process from going through the initial motions of decluttering to maintaining tidiness.
Step 1: Purge
We know. The first step is always the hardest, and there’s no exception here. It’s okay to be attached to Nanna’s old grandfather clock, but if it’s been sitting in the attic for longer than you know what to do with it, it’s time to give it a toss. Designate an open space at home and sort out items room by room to see what you have, and what you actually need. To make it easier for yourself designate your things to four piles:
Rehome within your house
If you have any doubles of items that you don’t need, toss them into the discard pile. Or, if you want to get creative with them, you can hop onto the DIY-trend and repurpose items too. These could be old clothes you want to modernise or objects like doorknobs. But remember, limit yourself to just one box, or your “one-day-I-will-use-this” pile becomes clutter waiting to happen. If it doesn’t fit in your box, and you don’t immediately have an idea for it, then out it goes!
What you can do with the discard pile is up to you. However, we recommend sorting out what can be donated, given away, or just tossed in the bin. Sometimes, there’s no salvaging certain things, so the best thing to do is to say goodbye. Gathering clutter has actually been shown to be bad for you. Studies show that higher levels of clutter coincide with both more frequent procrastination and more life dissatisfaction. It can also have a physiological effect by stimulating release of the stress hormone, cortisol. If you know the feeling of relief after having just cleared an area in your house, then that’s exactly what you’re feeling: pure, chemical relief.
Step 2: Shop for Storage
Time for the fun part! What’s a storage space without storage boxes to organise it? No deep drawer goes without one. They make life infinitely more simple, and are highly customisable.
You can choose from lots of different sizes and materials. Whether you prefer clear plastic boxes or mesh holders, choose what suits your needs and your storage space best.
Make sure these are easy to access. The benefit here is that you can also shop for storage boxes on wheels for heavier items or to use in the garage, for example. You can even invest in transparent boxes where you can see exactly what’s inside.
Step 3: Label, label, label…
Professional organisers seem to be obsessed with labels. They’ve definitely got the right idea. Labels keep your items organised, are visually pleasing to look at, and you’ll never lose anything ever again! Everything has a home where it belongs, and is super easy for the whole family to put back into place.
You have a lot of options with creating labels. A handwritten script is always a classic, but feel free to experiment with printing labels off your computer and laminating them. You can also invest in a label-maker to get that slick, modern, and minimalistic aesthetic.
Step 4: Sort Your Unused Items
Not all items were created equally. Some only get brought out when the seasons change, and others even less frequently. A good way to keep things organised is to stow away items that you might not currently need, and bring them out when necessary. Dedicate space to winter clothing when it’s summer, and vice versa – since you won’t need either during the opposite season.
On the flip-side, some items are for daily use. Keep these items the closest and the most easily accessible. This also ensures they’re equally easy to return to their rightful places when you have finished using them. This can include smaller kitchen appliances like the tea kettle, whereas if you’re an occasional baker, keeping the hand-mixer a little further out of reach won’t hurt you.
Step 5: Target Clutter Hotspots
Some spots in the home collect clutter better than others. This duty usually falls onto flat surfaces, like desks, kitchen cabinets, dressers, or the dining table. We call these clutter hotspots, and every house has them scattered about.
These spaces, when filled with clutter, can become eyesores. One way to eliminate clutter is to set out display items neatly on them, and leave room for nothing else. This could be in the way of a vase and placemats on the dining table, or candles and a centrepiece for your coffee table.
Step 6: Share the System
Your meticulously thought-out system won’t work if everyone isn’t on board. Keeping a home clean and organised is a team effort. Everyone needs to be on the same page, so don’t hesitate to call a family meeting and brief them.
Teach them what goes where (your labels help immensely here) and, simultaneously, make it more accessible for them. Drag laundry baskets out from dark corners, put them in sight, and lose the lids to make them more inviting. Put up hooks in places they are needed, so your family can hang up items instead of leaving them on the floor. Small changes like this help ease them into a new system that may seem daunting at first.
Step 7: The 5-Minute Rule
Five minutes of your time isn’t very much… in theory. But you would be surprised what can be done in that time. If you’ve ever stood in front of a microwave-oven counting down a minute, you probably know how long a minute actually is.
Dedicate five minutes every day to tidying up. This could be while your kettle is on, or while you’re running a bath. Point is, if you dedicate these five minutes every day to a light bit of tidying up, things don’t pile up and become as daunting over the course of a week.
Step 8: Impulse Control
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you “have to have” something? Psychology suggests that it might be the amygdala in the brain responsible for calming us down when we’re stressed out. Step back, in the moment, and ask yourself plainly “am I stressed out right now?” and you’ll be surprised at that one minute of clarity stopping any impulse shopping in its tracks.
But if you find you’re not stressed out, here are some other strategies to try. Set a certain amount of money you’re allowed to spend on yourself and stick to it. If you’re shopping online, disable one-click payments. The more accessible your credit or debit card is whilst online shopping, the more likely you are to press the “buy” button as an instant gratification tool.
Let things sit in your cart for at least six hours or overnight. When you come back with a fresh pair of eyes, you can determine what you actually want and need, and what isn’t necessary.
Following some of these steps will make sure you don’t add the clutter you tried so hard to keep out, back into your house.
Step 9: Reward Yourself
Every success, no matter how small, deserves to be rewarded. Keep up with tasks, and devise a reward or point system for yourself. This can be in the way of a weekly or monthly to-do list, and, once you’ve ticked off all the items, a small reward is in order. This could be taking yourself out for a nice meal or going to the salon for some pampering – when we are out of lockdown of course… Just make sure your reward doesn’t lead to buying more clutter for your home!
And you’re done! Take a deep breath. If you followed us through this nine-step process, you might be feeling physically (and emotionally!) drained. Starting an organisational project can be daunting. There’s always so much to do, and it can feel never-ending. Don’t be afraid to put aside a day, a weekend, or even spread work out over a few weekends, to finally plan out and implement a system that will pay off.
The effort you put in will give you peace of mind over years, because you’ll finally have created a system that you can maintain! It sounds like an exaggeration, but the benefits of being in a tidy space are innumerable. Imagine, being able to come home, walk through the door, and see your beloved home with everything spic and span and exactly where it’s meant to be. You can lay yourself down in a cosy chair, and just admire your space for a minute. No more clutter disrupting your workspace, no more mess piling up on the floors or your coffee table. No more nagging thoughts of “I’ll clean it up later” because, chances are, everything will already be in its rightful place.