The 12 Dos and Don’ts for Organizing Success

Getting organized at home is a goal we’ve all made at some point in our adult lives. Maybe you’ve followed through and experienced success. Maybe you’ve made attempts but felt like a failure. Wherever you’re at on your home organizing journey, knowing the dos and don’ts from an organizing expert will help you experience more success, more confidence, and more calm.

Bookmark this post, talk about it with your partner, and share it with a friend. We all could use a little more home organizing encouragement in our day. 

  1. DO set a specific goal and make a plan before you start any organizing project Before starting an organizing project, set goals and create a plan. Most people’s plans are too broad. For example, “I am going to purge the closet” and the plan stops there. The result ends up not meeting expectations, and you feel like a failure. You may use this example as confirmation bias––to prove that you’re just not organized, which is far from the truth! The key to successfully completing any home organizing project is to set a specific goal. What are you wanting to achieve? Fill in this sentence. By _________ date, I will _________, so that I can _________. Example: By Thursday, October 28, I will comb through the entire toy room, deciding what stays and goes, so that I can decide what organizing bins I need to buy.  Then make a plan. How are you going to achieve your goal? What time will you start? How will you handle donation items? Will your kids be home? If so, is it realistic that you’ll be able to get this task handled? Set yourself up for success by having a specific plan, and then execute. Repeat the goal setting and planning process until your project is complete. Be sure to celebrate your success! So often, we rush onto the next thing and don’t take a moment to pat ourselves on the back.
  2. DO pay attention to your buying habits When we want to get intentional about home organization, we have to analyze and rethink our purchasing habits. We control what comes into our home, and if we feel like our space is filled to the brim, then we have too much stuff. Consider the following questions:
    • How frequently do you grocery shop? Do you buy in bulk? Do you feel like you get home and find duplicates of the same item? 
    • Do you find yourself making impulsive purchases? For example, do you get sucked in by Target’s dollar section?
    • How do you make decisions about what clothing to buy? Do you get sick of your clothing after a few weeks or months?
    • How do you approach buying toys for your kids? 
    • Do you take free things? For example, the free tote or gift bag that comes with a purchase?
    As you think about your answers, you may start to realize you buy more than you need. Or you may realize that you’d like to be more intentional about what you buy. Talk through your answers with your partner and see what purchasing areas you can start to be more intentional about.
  3. DO invest in organizing materials Organizing materials like storage bins and containers don’t have to break the bank. There is a wide variety of options at different price points. Containers serve two purposes. First and most important is they help with functionality. They keep your items contained and grouped together instead of strewn about in a drawer or on a shelf. Secondly, they help reduce the visual chaos that loud packaging can cause. 
  4. DO get serious about purging Purging is part of the organizing process. We know that it feels SO good to get rid of junk and clutter we don’t need. So why is it so dang hard to make decisions about what to part with? Decision paralysis can cause us to abandon ship and put everything back. You should be able to make a decision about what to keep within a couple of seconds, and the more you flex the purging muscle, the faster you’ll get at it.  Consider how long you’ve had the item. Are you keeping it because you may use it someday? If the answer is yes, and you’ve had it for more than a year, it’s time to part with the item. Are you keeping something because you feel guilty about letting it go? Although it can be hard to part with a gift from a loved one, holding on to something because of guilt isn’t the right reason to keep it. The gift giver doesn’t want you to feel guilty every time you look at the item––part with it.  When I coach clients through the purging process, I remind them that they are making dozens, sometimes hundreds of decisions about what to keep and what to part with. It’s tiring work! Focus on the task at hand and know that you’ll have to make some difficult decisions. Out of the hundreds of decisions you make, you may get one or two wrong but making a mistake on 1-2% shouldn’t stop you from purging to achieve the goal of less clutter.
  5. DO set boundaries with gifts Birthdays and holidays can be a stressful time as a parent. On top of all of the preparation, planning, and hosting that happens, you have to prepare yourself for the onslaught of toys that will soon be entering your home. Having conversations with loved ones months ahead of a birthday or holiday can help set expectations. Share a list of gifts that you’ve approved. Encourage experience gifts and contributions to activities like art classes or sports teams. These are great ways for your loved ones to give something meaningful without it overwhelming you and your home. 
  6. DO implement daily organizational habits to stay on top of clutter Take care of the work items 
    • Work bags, purses, and keys often get tossed on chairs, counters, or left near an entrance door. If you don’t have a designated home for these items, create one. Not only will your space look tidier, your mornings will be less stressful because you won’t be running around to find your items.
    Keep the countertops clear 
    • Reduce the visual overwhelm by keeping your countertops clear of clutter. Put away skincare products, hair tools, and accessories in your master bathroom. Load dishes in the dishwasher and give the kitchen countertops a good wipe down at the end of each day. Rehome any items that have found their way onto the kitchen counter. 
    Reset your living spaces
    • The bedroom is a sacred space and should provide a calming energy. The quickest way to create this vibe is to make your bed daily. This is a daily habit I’ve sworn by for years.
    • Shared living spaces like the living room or family room can quickly become a disaster zone. Take 5 minutes before you go to bed to fluff pillows and fold blankets. Kids should be responsible for putting away their own toys before bed, but pick up anything that accidentally got left behind. 
    Clean up the clothes
    • A few articles of clothing on the floor can immediately make a space feel disorganized. Make sure dirty clothes are in the hamper. Rehang and refold anything that doesn’t need to be laundered.
    Straighten and rehome shoes
    • Even if you have designated drop zones for shoes, they can quickly pile up all over the home. Recruit members of the family to take care of their extra shoes, and straighten (may seem silly but it makes a difference visually) pairs that are left out in a mudroom or drop zone. I recommend that each family member has only 1-2 pairs of shoes out in a shared space.
  7. DON’T compare yourself to others It can be easy to slip into the comparison game. You see a Pinterest pin of a beautiful, modern, minimalist home and think if only I had a house like that, I could actually be organized. Or we look at our friend who just seems to have it all together without even trying. Focus on what a win looks like for you and you alone.
  8. DON’T use the excuse that because you can’t spend thousands of dollars at The Container Store, you can’t get organized Yes, I encouraged you to invest in organizing materials, but you certainly do not need to spend your entire paycheck to get organized. Getting organized starts with the right mindset. Once you have that clear foundation, you can set an organizing goal and create a plan. If it’s not within your budget to invest in several containers, be selective and intentional. Invest in the containers over time. Even spending $20-$30 at Target or Walmart can go a long way! You can also repurpose containers from around your home 
  9. DON’T give up hope if and when you regress When you’re making any type of change, whether it be incremental or monumental, slipping back into old habits is going to happen. It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. It means that you’re human.  When you notice regression, do what you can to right the ship immediately. Usually, this means that you only have to make small adjustments rather than start back at zero. You’ve invested all of the hard work so far, don’t lose momentum now!
  10. DON’T pass along purged items to friends or family without asking We think we’re being kind and thoughtful when we pass along items we no longer want to our loved ones. We do this for two reasons. One, we are genuinely being thoughtful. Two, we do this because it helps us feel better about getting rid of something we feel guilty about buying or parting with. We tell ourselves, “at least it’s going to someone who will love it.” Although this may be the case, always ask the person first. Check with them to see if they want the items and give them permission to donate the items if they’re not interested. Here’s an example script: Hi Sarah! I’m going through my closet and have a few shirts and dresses that I thought may interest you. Would you like me to drop them by your place? No pressure at all, so feel free to say no. If you do want to take a look and they don’t work out, feel free to drop them off at a donation center. 
  11. DON’T blame others in your household for the disorganization It can certainly be harder to keep things organized when you have a partner and littles than if you are living solo. However, if you feel like your entire home is cluttered and disorganized, it’s not 100% because of others in the household. Focus on what you can control and consider how you contribute to the clutter. Do you model the organized behavior you hope and expect to see from your partner and kids? If you’ve organized a space, have you explained what’s new and where everyone can find things? Do you praise and focus others when they keep a space organized? Setting family goals and rewards for keeping a space tidy is a great way to get everyone on board. Remember, you can’t control the actions of others but you can control the behavior you model and the praise you give. 
  12. DON’T let items you want to donate sit in your car or your home for days on endAfter you’ve done all of the hard work and invested the time to purge and organize your space, it can be easy to let the last 10% of the job linger. The donation bags may even make it to your car, but then somehow end up living there for weeks or worse, months. Part of the organizing process is the actual act of donating items. Before you begin your organizing project, make sure you’ve selected a donation center and planned a date and time that you’re going to take items there. Add it as an event on your calendar, and treat it like an appointment that you can’t miss. If you have littles, bring them along and have a conversation about purging, donating, and the importance of both. Believe me, once you’ve dropped off your donation items you’ll feel pounds lighter––literally and figuratively.

Making the commitment to adopt a more organized lifestyle can be a major shift. If you feel stuck or like you’re slipping back into old habits, revisit the Dos and Don’ts for an organized home. They’re timeless and helpful to revisit every few months or so. Remember, share with a friend and discuss some of these with your partner––it’ll make for some interesting conversations! 

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