For as long as I can remember, I’ve been into organizing stuff. As a college student, I loved hoarding color-coded notebook tabs or paper clips.
Then, as I grew older and got into the whole adulting thing, I’d get all kinds of racks and baskets and bins.
I suppose it was because early on, I recognized just how powerful staying organized can be for improving mental health.
Life itself is chaotic, but if I can at least keep my home and my work decently organized, I can hold onto some sense of control. I can get more done minus the stress.
Are you looking for ways to be more organized? Here are 10 new habits that can help you get there. They’re really quite simple – you just need to stick with the program!
1) Follow the one in, one out rule
First, I’d like to say that I’m currently in the process of transitioning to a minimalist lifestyle. Why?
Because we’ve moved homes yet again, and I’m just tired of having to sort through so much stuff and pack the same old sh*t plus more new ones. I’m so over it.
Which is why I’ve passed down a decree to the rest of the family – Follow the one in, one out rule.
It’s pretty simple. You bought a new pair of shoes? Get rid of one old pair.
A new dress? Get rid of one old dress.
That way, you’re decluttering in real time and you won’t have a huge headache waiting for you during spring cleaning or moving to a new home.
2) Have a place for everything…
…and put everything back where they belong. You’d think this is common sense, but you’d be surprised.
For instance, when I walk through our house at the end of the day, I often find a mug sitting innocently in almost every room.
The culprit? My husband. Whom I love dearly, but who also frustrates me to no end when it comes to this matter.
He’d bring some coffee to the study, drink it, and forget to take it back. The next time he’s in the kitchen, he’ll get another mug, take it to the bedroom, leave it there. And so on.
Or take keys for example, perhaps the most easily misplaced item in many households. Because people aren’t mindful of where they place them.
But when you have a designated place for everything and you remember to put things back where they belong after you use them, you save yourself so much time and energy.
No more scrounging around in drawers, wasting precious minutes looking for something you need.
3) Make lists
As a writer, I’m a little biased towards lists. I love making them!
Other than the fact that I enjoy the physical act of writing things down, I’m also forgetful (all the more reason why I need to be organized). Which means, if I don’t list down what I mean to do for the day, I’m bound to miss a few things.
Which then leads to chaos.
In an interview with Harvard Business Review, researcher EJ Masicampo talks about how to-do lists can help us:
“First, we ease the stress we may feel in having to constantly remind ourselves that there is an important thing we still need to do. Externalizing the task in some way helps reduce that work. We no longer have to remember it.”
And second, “Making a plan forces us to solve the problem — we have to figure out what actions we need to take to complete the task and how and when to enact them. Clearly and vividly imagine the plan also makes it seem easier and likelier to happen.”
In other words, a list can be a visualization technique.
That said, make sure you act on those items, though. The most elaborate list won’t do you any good if that’s all it ever is.
4) Sync calendars
Speaking of visualization, another useful visual aid is a coordinated calendar.
Have you ever scheduled a dental appointment for the whole family only to find out that your partner has a meeting on that day?
I have, but only because I used to put everything down in a physical planner. Thankfully, we now have online calendars that can be shared with other family members or important people.
That way, we spare ourselves the confusion of conflicting schedules.
5) Use time management methods
I like to think of myself as fairly organized, but I have to admit, I do still let time get away from me sometimes.
I’d sit at my desk, determined to write an article in 2 to 3 hours, but then my phone pings and suddenly I’m mindlessly scrolling through social media.
That’s why I started exploring time management methods to help me stay on track. Here are some examples:
- Pomodoro Technique: Break work into short intervals, typically 25 minutes long, separated by short breaks.
- Eisenhower Matrix: Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance.
- The 2-Minute Rule: If a task can be done in less than two minutes, do it right away.
6) Learn to be more decisive
Speaking of time brings me to my next point – decisiveness.
This is an area where I really used to struggle. Not only am I the type of person that gets overwhelmed when there are too many choices before me, but I also had a fear of failure.
The thing is, hemming and hawing created so much inner turmoil in me and ate away energy that I could’ve used in more productive pursuits. Plus, it’s a time-waster.
I guess the only starting point here is to learn how to believe in yourself and accept uncertainty. Give yourself a time frame for coming to a decision, then trust that whatever the outcome is, you’ll be able to handle it.
Because, really, you can.
7) Get comfortable with saying “no”
Just like learning to accept uncertainty, being okay with saying “no” can help you be more organized.
Well, it’s a way of decluttering both your calendar and your mind.
Think about the times you’ve said “yes” to something you didn’t really want to do. Didn’t you feel like it was such an imposition on your time? Didn’t you feel burdened deep inside?
A well-organized life is a life that works for you and keeps stress to a minimum. To achieve that, you’d have to curate what you spend your time on.
Which means, at some point, you’re gonna have to say “no” to some things.
8) Embrace the power of routine
When I think of organization, I think of structure. I think of order and a sensible sequence of events.
That’s where routines come in. Having a routine might sound boring to those who prefer a spontaneous life, but if you’re after a semblance of organization, it’s powerful.
You see, routines help establish good habits. And according to VeryWellMind, they are especially helpful during trying times.
A routine grounds you and makes you more focused. You end up with less stress and more productivity.
However, don’t go crazy with keeping to your routine. A well-organized life also means a balanced life.
We just want to be able to manage things better, not be rigid creatures who can’t handle a slight hiccup in their schedule.
9) Have a simple system that works for you
When I first started working remotely, I had to deal with different software programs, online tools, and such.
I made the mistake of thinking that all of those sophisticated tools and functionalities would make me more focused and productive.
They didn’t. On the contrary, it just made for a cluttered and complicated system.
In the end, I went back to what has always worked for me – pen and paper for listing my tasks and taking down notes.
My point is, you may have a lot of organizational options, but always choose the one that works best for your purposes. That way, it’s more intuitive and effortless, which ensures you can sustain it.
10) Delegate what you can
Lastly, consider if you really need to be the one doing every single task on your plate.
Are you really the only person who can wash the dishes? Do the laundry?
At work, do you really need to be involved in every single project or decision?
This is where the art of delegation can give you a little breathing room. But it does involve trusting other people.
And I know how hard that can be. I used to subscribe to this school of thought: If you want something done right, do it yourself.
To some extent, that’s true. But for me, trying to do everything myself led to exhaustion.
So now I’m more discerning. I look at a task, figure out if someone else can do it and leave it to them. It frees me up to focus on the things I do best, on the things I think truly need my skills or presence.
The bottom line
Becoming more organized isn’t just a matter of keeping a clean and orderly home. It’s an entire mindset dedicated to the pursuit of efficiency and clarity.
All for the ultimate aim of living a calmer and more balanced life.
So yes, getting into these habits might require a lot of mindfulness and self-discipline, but it’s absolutely worth it!
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.
With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.