Organizing Your Stuff


The environment you live in makes a huge difference in how you feel.  If your space feels chaotic and dirty, you might not feel as comfortable or calm as you wish.  If you’re often frustrated because you can’t find something, that’s added stress in your life.  So, here are some tips for taking control of your stuff.

1. Start Big, and then get more detailed if necessary.

Begin by deciding what goes in which room.  Put kitchen stuff in the kitchen, bathroom stuff in the bathroom, kids’ stuff in their room, etc.  Then categorize the things in each room.  For example, separate food from dishes, clothes from toys, and papers from trinkets.  Think about whether you want to move any of the areas from one room to another (like when combining all the family’s coats and shoes in one place instead of having them be separate).  Then arrange each area so that things are compact, accessible, and pleasing to the eye.  Do these before getting sucked into the tiny details of a drawer, cabinet, or filing system.

2. Use closet, desk and drawer organizers, storage boxes, dressers, shelves, hooks, containers…

Use anything that helps you to keep personal belongings organized and compact.  Label things clearly and make it a daily or weekly habit to put things in their designated spot.  When necessary, adjust your organizational system to make it work more smoothly (for example, making things you use often more easily accessible, and putting things you rarely use towards the back).

3. Create a desk-work space.

Do you find yourself going to five different places in your house to get a pen, paper, stamps, bill, and checkbook?  It helps to have one place set up especially for paper-work.  Also, having your papers in one place, keeps them from cluttering up the rest of your house.  Make sure your paper-work space is well lit, has room for storage (shelves, trays, drawers, file cabinets), and has the tools you need (pens, stapler, paper, trash can, etc.).  Also, having a phone or computer right there may help.  You don’t need a whole room for this, just a corner will do.  Set up your space to minimize distractions.  Use headphones, soft music, or white noise (like a fan) to shield other noise.  However, if music is a distraction, then avoid it.  Also, angle your table or desk away from anything distracting (TV, busy doorways, windows, people).  This will help you stay focused on your desk-work until you’re done with what you needed to do.

4. Miscellaneous stuff can be a challenge to organize.

Here are some ideas.  Hang a key rack with labeled hooks right by the door.  Purses and fannie-packs can be hung on similar (if larger) hooks, next to your coats and umbrellas.  Place a shelf or table near your door for items like sunglasses or other items you want to remember to take with you when you leave the house.  As for small items like rubber bands, puzzle pieces, toy parts, batteries, etc… designate a drawer or a box to be your miscellaneous place.

5. Get rid of excess stuff.

Ask yourself: “Is it useful?”  This means that you use it regularly rather than “well, someday it might come in handy.”  Also ask yourself, “is it beautiful?” and, “do I love it?” If you said yes to any of these questions then keep it, but if not, then what is the purpose of keeping it? Sometimes, even if it is useful, you might have too many of the same item, in which case you could get rid of a few.

6. Take it one step at a time.

If getting organized is a big change for you, be patient with yourself and develop one habit at a time (or focus on one area of the house at a time).  For example, decide what would make the biggest difference to you.  Washing the dishes?  Hanging your keys by the door?  Keeping the table cleared off?  Pick one task and work on it for a month.  Hopefully, by the end of the month, you will have made this a habit.  If not, then you might have to problem-solve about what went wrong.  Each month add another task while continuing the previous ones.  You may want to start with common areas, like the kitchen or living room.

7. Use routines to help you stay organized.

Doing chores more regularly and frequently makes them more manageable.  Do the tasks that need continuous attention (cleaning, organizing mail, doing dishes, picking up, writing down expenses, paying bills) regularly and in small increments.  Schedule them into your daily or weekly routines, so that you can prevent overwhelming pile-ups.

8. Use reminders to get yourself to clean regularly.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about using reminders to help you get organized.

9. Stay motivated.

You can also use rewards to motivate yourself, but you just may find that having a clean, comfortable home, and less tension with your house-mates, is a reward in itself.  If you need motivation help, stay tuned for an upcoming post on motivating yourself to stay organized.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

Categories : Stress and Anxiety


  1. […] Here’s my third article in the series on getting organized.  The first was on organizing your stuff, and the second was on organizing your paperwork.  This article focuses on twelve ideas for […]

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