If your home is cluttered and chaotic, it can be hard to relax and spend time with your family and friends. However, by taking a few simple steps to organize your home, you can turn it into a peaceful oasis.
While getting started is often one of the hardest parts, maintaining your tidy home can be just as tricky. That’s why we’ve reached out to the top organizers from across the country for their best advice. Whether you live in an apartment in Boston, MA, or a house in New Haven, CT, use these tips to create a peaceful home.
1. Incorporate organization into your resolutions
To truly organize your home, it’s important to commit and set achievable goals. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to do this. However, your goals must be small and achievable; many goals and resolutions are large and unreachable.
“An easy way to set yourself up for success is to set goals that fit into your routine,” says Sarah Parisi, owner and founder of The Clutter Curator. “For example, schedule one cleaning session or donate five items every month.”
2. Ask yourself why you’re holding on to so many items
Before organizing any one room, dig into your attachment to your belongings. Many people tend to hold on to items out of fear or resistance, creating a feeling of being stuck and held back. To help resolve this, the team at Prune & Bloom suggests grabbing a pen and journal and asking yourself these questions:
- What do I want?
- What’s one thing that’s standing in the way?
Next, identify a local charity that accepts your items. Then, when you feel attached to something you don’t need, you can remind yourself that someone else will benefit from it.
3. Remove everything before organizing
Instead of sifting through boxes, bins, and drawers looking for something to donate, remove everything and “place similar items together,” notes Stephanie King, owner of Status: Organized. “Then, clean and reorganize everything before moving on to the next spot.” This method applies to entire rooms as well. If you have a room full of large boxes, remove everything from every box before organizing.
While organizing small groups of items is helpful, focus on an entire room for optimal organizing. “Once you’ve organized the items, subcategorize them for easier access later on,” advises Brian Saeger from Be Free Organizing. “This helps make both long-term and short-term storage simple and efficient.”
4. Use the “Target Principal”
In general, when organizing your belongings, “try your best to store your commonly-used items as close together as possible, and your least-commonly-used items farther away,” advises Janet from Basic Organization. “This is called the Target Principal, and it works for any space in your home.”
5. Make use of the SMART system
As you begin decluttering, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. To simplify the process, David Hall, Chief Clutter Clearing Officer of A+ Clutter Clearing, suggests following the SMART system:
- Simplify: Start with a simple space to find early success in the process.
- Mindset: Get in the right mood and attitude.
- Action: Start decluttering, working slowly and mindfully.
- Reuse, repurpose, recycle: When you no longer want or need an item, donate it, repurpose it, or recycle it.
- Transformation: Within moments of letting go of things that no longer serve you, you can regain a feeling of control.
Continue using this system as you work through your home for the best results.
6. Start small before tackling big projects
Starting is often the biggest hurdle in any organization project, even using methods like the SMART system. To make it easier, “start small by finding an area in your home that you don’t have as much of an attachment to,” says Kiera Malowitz, Declutter Coach, Professional Organizer, and owner of DFW Decluttered. “It’s always easier to build momentum with smaller things,” she says. “That way, you can check items off your list before moving on to long-term projects.”
7. Break down your decluttering project into manageable steps
Working methodically is often the best way to get your home from cluttered to comfortable. “Start at the entrance of the space and work your way along the walls, throwing away or donating anything that isn’t joyful or functional,” advises Jinnette Jackson, owner of Organized Refined. “Categorize the items you’re keeping based on their function to determine where you can store them.”
Remember, your ultimate goal isn’t perfection. It’s primarily to relieve stress, save time and money, and to enjoy your space without feeling overwhelmed.
8. Develop a storage system for holiday decorations
Janine Morales, owner of Tidy Closet, suggests storing holiday decorations in labeled, see-through bins. “The best place for these items is near the entrance of a garage or in a tall closet,” she says. “This way, they’re handy when you need them during the holidays, without taking up too much space throughout the rest of the year.”
This applies to other seasonal decorations as well. Do the work to stay organized to make your life easier in the long run.
9. Only buy necessary organizing products
Organizing products can look appealing, but they become cluttered if you buy too many. “Resist the urge to buy one-off organizing products, such as a single basket or a random bin,” says Breanne Hawes from EQ Design, “Instead, analyze and organize a whole space at once, so you can buy matching products that comfortably fit your space and items.”
In general, avoid overbuying any product, especially small items. “If you shop online, leave your item in the shopping cart for 24 hours before purchasing,” suggests Jill Katz, Professional Organizer & owner of One to Zen Organizing. The next day, ask yourself if you need it and have room to store it.”
10. Remove items from shopping bags when you get home
A simple way to reduce clutter is to organize your recently purchased items as soon as you get home. “If you leave items in shopping bags, they become easy to forget about and hard to find,” adds Lori Reese, founder and CEO of Consider It Done. “By placing them with similar items in a visible, designated space, you’ll save time and avoid making duplicate purchases.”
If you think you bought too much, take note of what you have and put anything you don’t need in a designated basket. Do this daily, and you won’t accumulate nearly as many unnecessary items.
11. Cut down on junk mail
Junk mail and packaging materials can build up quickly without management. To help, “sort your mail into piles by category, like auto, bank, and more,” notes David Harris, owner of The Wiser Organizer. “Once you have general categories, you can sub-categorize,” he says, “While you’re organizing paper into categories, keep an eye out for anything you can shred or recycle.”
You can also sign up for free services that allow you to unsubscribe from the catalogs you no longer wish to receive.
12. Get a handle on delivery clutter
If you regularly receive packing materials, they can quickly build up. When you receive packages, “remove your items from bulky boxes and reorganize them in clear storage bins,” states Amanda Clark, owner of Ever So Organized, a full-service home organizing company based out of Orange County, California. “This method works great for food, toiletries, and surplus items.”
13. Utilize open-top boxes
Sorting items into bins is a helpful organizational method. Make your life easier by choosing open-top boxes over zipped or clipped storage options. “If you have many boxes with lids, simplify your process by removing the lids,” advises Decluttering Coach Suzy Kell. “That way, when you’re organizing, you can simply stop, dunk, and go.”
14. Label mindfully
In general, when you’re using bins for storage, label them for future reference. “Missing this one crucial step is often the difference between your family members knowing where to find and put things away and chaos,” admits Lauren Cunningham, owner of Everyday Organize.
However, there are some instances where keeping a bin available for flexible storage is the better option. “Labels can be limiting and hard to remove, so be sure to think about whether a bin needs a label or not,” says Caroline Roberts, professional organizer and KonMari Certified Consultant for The Simplified Island. “Is the bin holding a project or something that may be temporary? Is the bin clear, so you can easily see what’s in it? Is the bin in a space where only one or two people need to know what is inside? These are all great reasons to skip the label and keep the storage flexible for future needs.”
15. Teach kids the importance of organizing
Maintaining an organized home with children is often difficult, especially if they don’t know how to clean up after themselves. “Teach children about the work it takes to organize the things they use,” suggests Kim Corey from Finely Sorted Organizing. “Help them divide items according to whether they are ‘friends,’ ‘acquaintances,’ or ‘strangers,’” she says. “Donate anything left in the ‘strangers’ pile.”
16. Utilize simple storage solutions for your kids
A simple way to help children clean up after themselves is by using simple storage solutions. “These should ideally be ones that your children can use independently,” says Andrea Brame, owner of This Modern Mess. “Make sure the options aren’t too finicky for them to put things away easily,” she says. “Simple open bins and trays with broad categories are perfect for younger kids, while older kids can handle more specific categories.”
17. Make the most out of your floor space
When all else fails, work with what your kids already do – throw their belongings around. Take advantage of this by making the floor an organized space for their items.
“You can buy pretty baskets that match your decor or reuse laundry baskets to save money,” notes Cheri Augustine Flake, LCSW, founder of The Stress Therapist. “Just be sure to put them where your children would otherwise dump their stuff on the floor.”
18. Get your family involved in the process
If you have a larger family, it’s essential to involve every member of your home in the decluttering process. “Start by having everyone sort through their belongings and get rid of anything they don’t need,” says Danna Brim, owner of Resourceful Organization (contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org). “Then, evaluate why everyone is holding on to their remaining items,” she says. “Tell your family only to keep items because they serve a purpose, not just because they’re sentimental.”
If members of your family are hesitant, make organization a fun game everyone plays once every few months. Offer a reward, like a special dinner or sweet treat, for the person who finishes first.
19. Be gentle with family members
Even with incentives, many families have members who hold on to too many items. “If this person believes everything is valuable or sentimental, be gentle with them,” suggests Sharon McRill, owner of The Betty Brigade. “Let them do all the research to sell their items, and don’t force them to get rid of anything,” she says. “Most often, they’ll give up and realize they were holding on to too much.”
20. Use multifunctional furniture
As you work through your home, notice areas where you can incorporate multifunctional furniture. “One piece of furniture can serve numerous uses, saving you time and space,” says Maria Best, Certified Professional Organizer with Looking For Space Solutions. “For example, an ottoman can act as a coffee table, chair, footrest, and storage solution for blankets and games.”
Other options include:
- Bookcases with fold-out desks.
- Step stools with storage underneath the steps.
- Dual-purpose coffee tables with storage inside the table.
21. Utilize unique storage solutions
Instead of investing in expensive furniture, consider using unconventional items. “For example, you can put a kitchen rack in your bedroom to store books, electronics, clothing, and more,” notes Sandy Park, owner of Tidy with SPARK. “There are so many ways to organize using just one item.”
22. Declutter your closet
Closets are a common clutter catch-all, so leave plenty of time to organize them. To start, “gather everything and dump it onto your bed or another large surface,” suggests Susan Evans, owner of Hands-on Learning. “Next, sort items into categories,” she says. “Only keep items you love, use, and wear all the time, and donate everything else.”
Work through your closet and wardrobe using this method until you’re left with only the most essential items. Lastly, swap out all your mismatched hangers for matching hangers,” advises Kenika Williams, owner of Tidied By K. “Matching hangers create space, establish a uniform look, maximize your function, and allow your closet to remain clean and tidy.”
23. Organize your dressers and armoires
Aside from your closets, dressers, and armoires frequently build up clutter. Remedy this using similar methods you used for your closet. “Start by completely emptying your dressers and armoires,” says Harish Kumawat from Sierra Living Concepts. “Keep the items you actually use, not the wants, and get rid of anything old and unused,” she says. “Sort your belongings by category and allocate each dresser drawer and armoire compartment to a particular category for easy management.
24. Keep your desk organized
With the rise in remote work, more people have been working from home. If this is the case for you, make sure to keep your desk clear and free of disorder.
“Assign zones to your desk that you can easily refer to when looking for certain items, like office supplies or paperwork,” says Jessica Decker, owner of Become Organized. “If your desk has drawers, label them for easy access later.” Also, for bonus points, consider drawer organization methods.
25. Use drawer inserts to keep your small items in place
If you have a cluttered drawer in your closet or elsewhere, consider using drawer inserts to keep things in their place. “Just make sure you measure your drawer before buying anything,” advises Amélie Saint-Jacques, Professional Organizer and Certified KonMari Consultant. “You can also cut out a piece of paper with the same dimension as your drawer and take it to the store to try different layouts.”
When installing drawer inserts, Leslie Marshall, owner of The Marshall Concept, suggests always using museum gel. “Museum gel helps prevent dividers from sliding all over the place,” she says.
26. Use turntables to your advantage
Turntables, or Lazy Susans, are a helpful tool for hard-to-reach locations. “They allow you to easily access items on a high shelf, take advantage of a corner that would otherwise be dead space, or increase storage in a tight spot,” states Rachel Rosenthal, owner of Rachel and Company. Additionally, make sure the turntable’s design matches the style of the room, and only purchase one if it will truly be beneficial.
27. Take photos to document your progress
If you’re having trouble with the last few rooms in your home, consider using photographs to motivate yourself. “Take a photo before organizing the space,” suggests Carrie Kauffman, owner of Carrie’s Essential Services. “Then, set a timer for ten minutes, decluttering as much as possible in that time,” she says. “After ten minutes, take another photo. Seeing progress after just ten minutes can motivate you to continue the habit every day.
Additionally, you can use photos to document your progress over a longer period. As your project comes to a close, take a moment to remember the progress you’ve made. Take a photo before and after organizing a room to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
28. Declutter your space to declutter your mind
People may not be aware that clutter can have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing, in addition to the obvious effects it has on physical space. When our environment becomes overwhelmed with items, it can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. “If you truly want to conquer clutter, it’s important to declutter both your mind and space,” says Tonia Cordi from Time + Space Solutions.
By eliminating the excess clutter from your life, you can experience the positive impact it has on your mental health and general wellbeing.
29. Develop simple organization routines
Create lasting routines that work for you, and celebrate completion over perfection. “For example, give yourself credit for picking something up and putting it back where it belongs every day,” notes Andrea Krohn from LA Move Consultants. “This is a small but impactful step toward maintaining an organized space.”
30. Organize consistently to maintain a clean home
The last and most challenging step of any decluttering project is maintenance. “Organizing your home is the first step, but staying organized is the goal,” says Caroline Bujold, owner of Mostly Organized. “An effective tool to keep your home from becoming a mess is doing a 5-10 minute clean up before going to bed,” she says. “This can involve anything from folding blankets to starting dishes. Keep it simple and sustainable, and it will be effective.”