February is National Time Management Month and on the tail end of this month, we have been graced with one extra day – Leap Day (Feb 29). So what will you do tomorrow to make the most of your extra time? One way to manage your time is through organization.
There’s lots to be said for getting organized – you can buy containers and bins, clean out your closets, sell or donate a pile of used stuff, and read advice-filled books on the subject – but where the real battle begins is in maintaining that level of organization in your day-to-day existence. Once you’ve found a home for everything, and have everything in its place, then what? One week’s worth of mail, one pile of laundry, a scrapbook project, a few dinners and sippie cups later, and you’ve lost your mojo.
So here are my Top 10 Tips for Maintaining an Organized Life…
1. Take 15. Whether it’s right when you get home from work, or after the kids have gone down for bed, find the time that works for you to reclaim order in your home. Take exactly 15 minutes (use an egg timer if it helps) to do a sweep of each room checking for problems. Pick up all the clutter, straighten pillows, put the magazines on your coffee table in a neat stack, return rogue cups and such to the kitchen, take out the trash, toss dirty clothes in the hamper, and deal with any noticeable sources of mess. If you get lost and find yourself polishing your silverware, you’ve strayed from your mission. Don’t focus on one spot for long. Move through each room, giving attention to areas that need it while doing broad strokes of housekeeping elsewhere. With time, you’ll get a rhythm for it, and enjoy the refreshed appearance after a 15 minute sweep.
2. Don’t buy it. There’s a host of organizational do-dads and thing-a-ma-bobs out there, most of which can be useful in the right situation to help organize your stuff. But put on the breaks when it comes to bringing home another gadget. It’s tempting, but see if the organizational slip ups you’re experiencing can be resolved with a change in behavior first. All the organizational gear in the world won’t organize itself. It’s up to you. First, think. Evaluate the trouble spot. What’s causing the clutter and chaos? Second, act. Without adding anything else to the equation, what can you do to resolve it? What can you take away? Third, shop. Once it’s under control, then buy that whatchamacallit to keep your stuff in order (if indeed you still need it).
3. Schedule a purge. Have a plan of action to clean your filing cabinet. Go through your nicely filed papers & file folders. Schedule a time to purge your documents as needed – monthly, quarterly, annually, etc. Mark your calendar to remind you. For instance, it’s recommended that you keep your records from your tax returns for seven years. Each year, remove the file that is more than seven years old. While you’re at it, discard receipts, bills and pay stubs that you no longer need on file. Find more guides on how long to keep financial documents at Bankrate.
4. Pick a day. Designate one day out of the week to clean up your home and office. Stick to it as best as life’s rollercoaster will allow. And like they say, “What you have to do expands to fill the time you have to do it in,” so limit yourself on time, and get as much completed as you can. You’d be surprised how much you can do when you power through it in one event. However, if one day is too much for you, develop a routine that breaks it up.
5. Share your methods. It’s important for all members of the household participate in the organization and housekeeping. Not only should you not try to bear the burden alone, you should aim to include others so that everyone can contribute and benefit. Whether it’s with your spouse, kids, roommate, or office mate, share your methods of keeping order to your shared space. Find ways that each person can chip in. Teach your kids to put their toys away when they’re finished playing. Teach your husband to do the same. Communicate. Speak aloud and write down your guidelines for keeping peace and order, or let others know what you’re doing. Collaborate and utilize everyone’s unique set of personal strengths to benefit the entire household.
6. Out with it! What goes in, must come out. Some people forget this and only realize how much stuff they’ve accumulated when they box it up to move. Take a lesson from people who live in small spaces and appreciate each inch. For each new thing you bring into your space, take something out. Erika Lenkert suggests telling your kids “it’s time to make room for the new toys that will be coming in” before Christmas. Whether it’s new clothes, a new coffee mug, new books, or a new handbag… Select a similar item to pass along to a friend, sell it secondhand, or donate it to a shelter or other worthy cause. Granted, there’s no harm in collecting things you cherish, but create boundaries for your collection. After 500 bobbleheads, draw the line.
7. Like goes with like. As a rule, remember to keep like items together. When you have a dozen magazines, filing them in a magazine rack or placing them neatly in a stack together minimizes the clutter to your space – both physically and visually. In addition to objects, take your chores and tasks in the same dose. Avoid piecing up your projects too much. Doing so will only make you feel busier, less productive and less organized. Pay your bills or make phone calls all in one sitting, file things away, and be done with it. Grouping similar tasks together in one block of time brings order to your to-do list, not to mention the chunk-method helps you feel mondo-productive.
8. Write it down. Jotting things down will save time and frustration later. Various factors like stress, age, and lack of sleep effect your brain’s ability to file, store and access short-term memory information. Write down important notes, phone numbers, and appointments in one central location – a date book, journal, calendar, planner or a digital version of these. Making notes on scraps of paper, mail, post-it notes, or your hand is less than efficient.
9. Hide! Keeping things put away and out of sight is the best way to feel organized, especially for those who are visually-focused, right-brained personalities. Doors, drawers, cubbies, baskets, cabinets, and bins are your friends – use them to keep things hidden from view and put away. Sometimes, just by having your desk free of clutter and your work stashed away in a drawer, you’ll feel more organized than you really are. Feeling that way sure helps because when in a healthier state of mind, you’ll be able to work more productively.
10. Re-evaluate. You can be certain that life will change. And with it, your tools for organizing might need some adjustments along the way. When you realize you’re heading into new territory, re-evaluate your home and work. Find what works at keeping order to the chaos, and what’s not. Make room for new additions, and plan on your routine changing. Like Brandie Kajino said, “Lean into the turn” when life throws you a curve. “Babies are born, people get married, kids go off to school, people pass on and leave their stuff and grief for those that loved them, new jobs… and the list goes on.”
So, are you inspired to start some early Spring cleaning? Remember, if you've got a pile of stuff you want to clear out, bring it to your local Half Price Books. You can sell your used books, CDs, LPs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, video games, gaming consoles and more. Check out this video and read more about selling to HPB.
If you've got a time management or organizational tip, share it in the comments below. When you do, you'll be entered to win an HPB Gift Card. Winner will be randomly selected at 4pm CST on Leap Day – tomorrow, Wednesday, February 29.
UPDATE: Congratulations to our Leap Day giveaway winner, Candice, who said: "I think it's really important when going through your things to ask yourself, 'When was the last time I used this? Do I really need it? Could someone else enjoy/use it more?' If I determine that I don't need something, I ask myself, 'Can I sell it, or should I donate it?' By taking a box of books and movies to HPB or a bag of clothes to a local donation center, I am decluttering my life, preventing waste, and giving others the opportunity to have new things at a reduced cost. It's a win-win for everybody." Congratulations, Candice! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information so we can send you your HPB gift card.
Happy organizing – Meredith