“Where do I start?” That’s the question you typically ask yourself when you realize you have to tackle your cluttered spaces. This question is soon followed by, “How did it get this way?” To put it bluntly, you let it happen. Clutter stems from a series of avoided choices. As you allowed mail to pile up, toys to be strewn about, and old clothes to cause your closet to burst at its seams, you periodically avoided making organizing decisions. In order to nip clutter in the bud, Color-Coded created The Ten Commandments of Organizing which provide a simple framework that, if followed, will put you on a proactive path toward continuous organization.
1. Thou Shall Recycle or Re-Purpose
Sorting through clutter typically results in piles of items that are no longer wanted. Instead of throwing these items away, consider recycling or re-purposing them. Once you sort, purge, and organize your basement storage room, make sure to recycle all the cardboard boxes instead of sending them to the landfill. For eco-friendly organizing, re-purpose objects that are no longer needed but could be useful in a new way. Turn old wine bottles into beautiful flower vases. (Check out our Green Organizing pages for many more ideas on how to re-purpose items you no longer use.)
2. Thou Shall Donate or Toss
Simply let go! After you sort your items, reduce the number of belongings you have to organize by purging the items you no longer use. If you are organizing your master closet, sort the clothes and accessories that you have not worn within the last six months into piles such as, “donate,” “sell,” and “trash.” Clearing up space for the items you actually use prevents them from becoming lost and unused.
When was the last time you used all those excess clips, or plastic bags, or folders…or whatever it is for which you have multiples? Many people end up re-purchasing the same items because they do not know what they already have due to the fact that they can’t find what they need through all the clutter. If you have more than a few backups, it’s time to purge.
3. Thou Shall Organize by Category
Organizing by category makes finding items a breeze.
Closet: Organize shirts in the closet by sleeve-length. Shoes can be organized by style or season. Put those winter boots away for the summer weather, and keep the sandals handy for spontaneous trips to the pool.
Office: Categorize books by size, authors, or genre. Make sure your system works for you.
Kitchen: Organize kitchenware by type such as dinnerware, flatware, stemware, utensils, etc.
4. Thou Shall Containerize
The “Holy Grail” of organization is the container. These precious tools establish order in a sea of clutter. Store your linens in containers such as these clear storage boxes. Storing items that do not stack or fold well in containers allows you to keep them from falling over. Instead of keeping dry foods in their oddly shaped bags from the grocery store, store them in air-tight containers. These seal-able storage solutions keep food fresh longer which avoids waste and saves you money.
5. Thou Shall Stack
Make best use of your storage spaces by turning unorganized piles into neat and orderly stacks. Stack your clothes vertically using Add-On hangers which free up countless inches of precious closet space.
Create floating shelves in your closet with these hanging compartments. Stack your plastic-ware like Russian nesting dolls by descending size so that all the lids and containers are stored together.
6. Thou Shall Label and Color-Code
When items are labeled and color-coded, they have a designated place where you know they belong.
When putting snacks in containers or air-tight jars, make sure to label them for easy accessibility. Try color-coding the folders in your filing system to easily organize important papers. For example, use red folders for vital records and blue folders for tax related documents.
7. Thou Shall Use Vertical Space
Many people forget that the walls in their homes and offices are prime organizing real estate. Install shelving and ceiling hooks to take advantage of available vertical space. This frees up space from existing storage areas. Try increasing space inside your cabinet shelves using these double-stacking corner shelves from the Container Store.
8. Thou Shall Keep Frequently Used Items Accessible
Keep frequently used items in the most accessible locations, such as shelves and drawers within reach. The easier it is to replace an item where it belongs, the more likely you are to keep your space organized. Place less frequently used items toward the back of cabinets and on the highest shelves. Store more frequently used items at eye level in closets and shelves, and in the front of cabinets.
9. Thou Shall Not Procrastinate
Fight clutter before it starts to build up. As clutter proliferates you will have less motivation to organize as the scope of the task increases. Address clutter issues as they present themselves. Try keeping flat surfaces empty. Open mail over a recycling bin, a trash can, and your filing system or mail center. This will prevent mail from piling up. Create a healthy habit of organizing as you go through your day.
10. Thou Shall Abide by the “One-In-One-Out” Rule
Following the rules is easier said than done, but the only way to reduce your clutter is to ensure you are not adding more items to your limited space. For every new product you buy, choose something you already own to donate, recycle, sell, or throw away.
Now that you have the foundation of organization, try implementing these easy rules in your daily life. As daunting as some of these “commandments” may seem, following their guidelines will keep you on the path to organizational nirvana. Don’t procrastinate anymore — go on…Get Organized!
Did we miss anything? Are there any organizational “commandments” that you follow? If so, let us know in the comments.