We’d all love to get organized. But where to begin? These easy organizing tips will help you spend less time re-sorting — and re-storing — things later.

1. Binder clips are your friends

Matthew Petty/Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

There’s not much you can’t do with these inexpensive office-supply wonders. Besides clipping like items together, you use them for almost anything, including:

  • sealing bags of chips and other packaged foods
  • clasping together paperwork you need to deal with later
  • holding larger items, like unit shelves, temporarily in place
  • standing a sponge up to let it drain
  • minding cords on your desk
  • preventing things from rolling around in your fridge

These handy clamps are an organizer’s favorite friend, so stock up.

2. Use kitchen storage tools outside the kitchen

The trick to organizing is finding tools that help do the work for you, and kitchen contraptions can provide structure to some of your most troubling spots around the house.

  • That Lazy Susan you’re barely using on the dinner table – pop it under the bathroom sink to corral products and make them easier to find
  • Add a silverware holder to your desk drawer to organize your odds and ends.
  • Install a hanging fruit basket in your shower to hold bath products (or even kids toys).

3. Small clean-ups make light work

Look around the room — is there anything there that should be elsewhere, perhaps? We thought so. Instead of letting magazines, leftover glasses, shoes, and more pile up, integrate small clean-ups into your usual routine.

By taking one thing to its proper place while you go about your day, you’ll prevent the clutter pile-ups that can make organizing such a chore.

4. Stop trash at the door

Put junk mail in its place. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), the average American receives 49,060 pieces of mail in her lifetime — and 1/3 of it is junk mail.

Save yourself from stacks of coupons, circulars, and the like by placing a recycling bin near where you open mail. Then go the extra mile by setting up a small filing system for mail, such as a simple in-and-out tray or a more sophisticated desktop file with designated slots for mail that needs action versus things you just want to keep.

Want to go even further? Sign up for paperless billing when possible.

5. Organize your time with a calendar

Whether you prefer the classic hang-it-where-you’ll-see-it calendar method or a shared calendar on your phone that lets you and your family update one agenda, your life will feel more organized if you make plans and maintain a schedule. 

6. Set a date

Toss products that are past their prime. That layer of dust slowly settling on your spices and bath products — that’s not a good thing. Pantry items like herbs and extracts have shelf lives of roughly one to four years, while makeup only lasts a year.

Prevent build-up of ineffective products by labeling items as you buy them. (Hint: Garage sale-style dot stickers are durable and cheap). By simply writing the purchase date on items, you’ll never hesitate to toss something because you’re wondering if it’s past its prime.

7. Keep surfaces clear

Start an organization system that ensures you have the workspace (and tidy appearance) you desire. Choose tools and systems that hang items, giving you additional surface storage and usable countertops and desk surfaces. Hooks inside of your cabinet doors, a wall-mounted inbox system, or even a pegboard system in your basement or garage creates additional storage without eating up too much of your space.

But use caution when hanging items — if a storage system is too high for you to reach easily, you won’t use it, leaving items to end up wherever you can conveniently toss them.

8. Store items by category

It might sound like common sense, but NAPO’s tenet, “things that work together should be stored together,” is the basis of great organization. As you’re finding places to stash items, be sure you group them accordingly.

Junk drawers and miscellaneous closets become nightmares when they are filled with items of mixed use. Corral items by purpose and store them where you’ll need them — such as putting bathroom cleaning supplies in the bathroom instead of in the hall closet, for example — to simplify your life.

9. Minimize what you store

Ask yourself, “How can I make it smaller?” The Clutter Diet author Lorie Morero suggests asking yourself this question before deciding to purge keepsakes, but the axiom works for any situation.

Instead of only asking yourself if you can keep or toss something, ask yourself if you can minimize it — so keeping it won’t be such a hassle.

10. Employ the one-in, one-out system

Purge often. According to NAPO, we use only 20% of the things we keep. Instead of conserving your energy for a big, whole-household purge, shed items from your closets and cabinets as you’re getting dressed each day.

Apply a one-in, one-out system to your home, by donating or handing down one item of clothing for every new one you receive. The key to organizing is often having fewer items to organize.

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