With New Year’s Eve behind us, 2022 is officially in full swing. For many of us, getting (and staying) more organized is a primary goal for the year.
Many adults set intentions to de-clutter their lives in the hope of creating a more organized, harmonious, and stress-free routine. It is, indeed, a great place to start — because experts agree that disorganization and stress often go hand-in-hand. In fact, there’s scientific evidence to back up this idea.
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who self-described their homes as cluttered and who admitted to having many unfinished projects in their space were “more likely to be fatigued and depressed than women who described their homes as restful and restorative.”
Clutter is defined as an “overabundance of possessions that collectively create chaotic and disorderly living spaces,” explains Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago. He studies the causes of clutter and its impact on emotional well-being. Ferrari agrees that a cluttered home can often also be a stressful home.
A 2017 study that he co-authored, published in the journal Current Psychology, found that clutter problems were linked with life dissatisfaction across all age groups in their research.
Moreover, consider the other perks of being organized: You’ll waste less time looking for something you swore you left on your dresser, and you’ll have more time to actually enjoy your passions because you aren’t cleaning up or searching for your keys.
You’ll save money because you won’t buy duplicate items of what you already own (but can’t find). And above all, you’ll have a greater sense of calm when you can appreciate what you have, and you’re not surrounded by stuff you don’t need.
What does all this mean? It means that if you’re a neat-freak, type-A, clean obsessed person who is always tidying up and determined to keep things organized (guilty!), you’re on the road to a fulfilling year.
If, on the other hand, you’re not a fan of getting organized, or perhaps you’re just overwhelmed at where to begin, then there’s no time like now, and we’ve got you covered.
Declutter First, Then Get Organized
Getting organized is an excellent idea, but if you’re surrounded by unnecessary stuff, then you’ll never be able to organize your home or your life. According to Michele Vig, Marie Kondo-certified master organizer, founder of Neat Little Nest, and author of The Holistic Guide to Decluttering, “declutter first, organize second.” What does that exactly mean? “Decluttering being the act of picking what you like, picking out what you [don’t] like, [and] choosing what you wanna keep,” she told Woman’s Day.
Just think of it this way: the less stuff you have, the less you’ll have to organize, arrange, sort, store and keep track of. So, start by purging what you don’t use or need. A good rule of thumb is if it has no sentimental value and you haven’t used it, worn it, or looked at it in over a year. It’s time to say goodbye. And it’s also a great time of year to donate all of those unnecessary items; look into local charities, shelters, goodwill donation centers, or any local organizations who are in need.
Embrace Storage Bins
Piles of clothes and toys shoved haphazardly into a corner of a room do not lead to an organized existence. Embrace storage bins, baskets, and containers. They are your friend when you are getting organized.
Stephanie Jacobs, an Atlanta-based professional home stager, told Southern Living she loves bins, especially in closets and laundry rooms. It helps to keep similar items together to know exactly where to look for them and where things should go. How does she identify all of those bins? “I use post-it label tape or full stick notes. So, you just write it on the label tape, tear it off and stick it on,” she says. It works for clothing items and toys just as well as cleaning supplies and bathroom toiletries.
Make Your Bed Every Morning
Trust us. It’s not just an OCD habit (as my husband claims). Experts agree that this simple task creates a peaceful, organized home and headspace for the day.
According to Holly Blakey, founder, and owner of Breathing Room Organization in the San Francisco Bay area, making your bed daily can make a big difference from a mental perspective. “Mental is such a big part of organization. It’s the same concept as when you get up in the morning and, before you leave, you make the bed. The energy and mindfulness when you come home has so much more levity if your bed is made.”
Keep Lists, and Check Them Twice
There’s physically organization your space, and then there’s organizing your mind — an equally daunting task but a crucial part of living a fulfilling, healthy and happy life.
If you’re not great at remembering tasks or dates or responsibilities (or packing your kids’ lunch), then start keeping to-do lists. Write down all the things you need to get done, big and small tasks, and check them off as you go. Small items like taking out the trash and cleaning the coffee pot can go on one list. Big-picture things like paying bills, scheduling doctor’s appointments, and preparing for school projects can go on a separate list.
Every morning, check your list for the day and update as needed, and before bed, look over your list to see what you accomplished. It will help you get organized with your time and feel proud of what you can get done in a day.
Merge Your Calendars into Once Place
Many of us have a combination of hand-written lists, calendar reminders on our phones, paper calendars at home, and work calendars — all of which are great organizational tools, but none of which will help you if they’re scattered in different places.
Try merging your calendars and reminders all into one place that you can access on your phone, computer or that you can print and reference at home. Having a better, more cohesive way of managing your tasks and responsibilities will also help you better manage your time, so you feel more control over your day and have more energy to focus on what you really want to be doing.
Start Small, and Organize in Batches
In pretty much any daunting task, it’s not a good idea to try and do everything at once, tackling all the challenges in one swoop. It’s a sure way to set yourself up for failure, which will derail your organizational goals. Instead, start in small batches, choosing one room or one area of your life to organize at a time.
You could start with your pantry or your closet or your kids’ rooms or the refrigerator — it really doesn’t matter where you start; it only matters that you start small. Plus, by starting small and accomplishing those tasks one at a time, you’ll gain confidence to help you in future challenges.
Starting small also helps you gain confidence, which in turn strengthens your resolve, says Shira Gill, organizer and author of Minimalista. “It’s better to get a bunch of small wins under your belt than to bite off more than you can chew and do nothing… Do one 15-minute project a day for 30 days,” she recommends.
Organize Your Mind and Communicate Your Goals
When it comes to getting organized, decluttering your mind is just as important — if not more — as tidying up your living space. If your mind is a mess, how can you expect to feel in control and at peace in your home?
Focus on simple shifts that can help clear your mind in the new year: meditate, sleep, write down your thoughts and intentions, focus on one task at a time, express gratitude, confide in a loved one, breathe, journal… All of these actions can help clear your mind.
Similarly, be sure to communicate with your family what your goals are personally and for your home in terms of organization, scheduling, habits, and cleaning up. If you work your butt off to get everything in order, but no one else in your home knows the plan (and therefore derails all your work), it’s a recipe for disaster and stress. Make sure everyone is on the same page and get everyone involved in your steps towards a more organized year.