Organizing Tips

Organizing Tips

Here are some general tips that can be used to improve the efficiency and functioning of  most people and spaces:

  • Store items as close as possible to where they are used. This saves time retrieving the item and makes it more likely that the item will be put away after use.
  • Whenever possible, use adjustable shelving, especially in closets. This gives you flexibility when the contents of the shelves change.
  • To maximize storage in a small space, choose furniture that serves more than one purpose such as an ottoman that has storage space inside and a soft top that provides additional seating.
  • Make it easy for everyone to participate in clean-up tasks by labeling storage containers.  If you live with toddlers,  use photos of the contents in addition to words.
  • If you are procrastinating a big project, break it down into manageable tasks or blocks of time. Picking up or cleaning for ten minutes is a lot more palatable than tackling it for 2 hours. Once you get started, you will feel less overwhelmed and motivated by your progress.
corner office

corner office

A corner office.  Everyone wants one; it just means different things to different people.  It might mean a big office with a nice view for a corporate executive. Or maybe it is the much smaller branch of a bank where there is (a) still a teller and (b) that person knows your name! In my line of work, it often refers to the part of the living space that busy moms or dads claim in their home to carry out the management tasks of family life.  In addition, many people work from home now, so the space has to serve (at least) dual functions.

The good news is that defining this workspace doesn’t have to require a ton of your prime real estate.  This photo from a client shows an armoire that was re-purposed to become Mission Control for tasks related to her family and home-based business.  When not in use, it can sit unobtrusively in the corner with the doors closed, and it is a very attractive addition to the living room decor. When the doors are open, she has full access to everything that is needed to take care of family business (like tracking appointments and paying bills) and run a small business from home.

Here are some things to consider when defining your own corner office:

  • functions- what tasks need to be carried out in the space?
  • equipment- what items or supplies are needed to carry out those same tasks?
  • size- how much space do you need to do the work and store the related goods?
  • comfort- what ergonomic and lighting issues must be addressed for the space to work?
  • privacy- do you need/want it, or do you prefer to be physically accessible to the household members?
  • mobility- how easily can you move components or the entire set-up to other areas of your home?
use what you have

use what you have

When trying to get organized, many people make the mistake of buying a lot of things…books, containers, shelving units and the like to “create organization.” It seems like a good plan when you see all of the neatly arranged items in the stores and on-line. In reality, you might be adding to your clutter issue.  Ironic…and totally avoidable.

After gathering the items that you want to store, you will want to discard the items that are broken, unnecessary duplicates, or generally unwanted.  Only when it’s clear how much you are trying to store can you pick an appropriate storage solution.

Using items you already own to create storage solutions saves time and money, reduces both your clutter and your carbon footprint, and gives your home character.

I recommend creating storage solutions by re-purposing things you already own.  Use jars or glasses to hold items such as pens, scissors, and a letter opener that need to be easily reached.  The zippered bags that often serve as packaging for new sheets and curtains can be used to store puzzles or other projects with many small pieces.  Take a look around the space you are in right now and see what storage options are waiting to be discovered.

paper management

paper management

You may have heard experts in time and paper management say that the key to success is to handle a piece of paper only once. While this is certainly a worthy goal, our fast-paced daily lives full of work and family don’t always allow for it.

In a spirit of realism, I recommend a slightly different approach: handle incoming paperwork as few times as possible.

A  good system for managing incoming paperwork is the  key to staying ahead of the piles. These steps will get you started:

  • Designate a space (like a basket or tray) for incoming paperwork to keep it from migrating around your office or home, creating piles of clutter. If you don’t have time to sort the mail when you first retrieve it, at least you know where to look for it when you do have time to process it.
  • Have a recycling bin and shredder conveniently located in the space where you most frequently open mail and process other incoming paperwork. Get rid of the things that you know you have no use for-like solicitations & other junk mail- right away.  (It’s totally realistic to handle these things only once!)
  • The remaining items can most likely be categorized one of 3 ways: needs action, to be filed, or to read. By having easily accessible file folders, trays, or other containers of your choosing labeled with these categories, you are able to quickly pre-sort and prioritize tasks so that you are ready to get down to business when those sacred minutes of focused time happen.

As with all organizing strategies, this basic system may need some tweaking to better fit your personal needs. For instance, having a separate category for bills to pay or a current major project could be beneficial. The most important factors are to (1)  have a system that makes sense to you and is easy to use (2) make time to consistently work the system.