Purge, purge, purge
ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock"You do not want to waste time organizing items you don’t need to keep," says Eileen Roth, author of Organizing For Dummies and owner of Everything in its Place. So the very first thing you need to do is decide what you can get rid of. She suggests asking yourself: 1) Will I use it again? If you haven’t used (or worn) it in over a year, then let it go. 2) Is the sentiment worth it? Can you take a digital picture of the item and let it go or will you cry because the sentimental value is that high?
Do a sweep three times a day
"It’s essential to my sanity to do a stuff sweep every morning, afternoon, and evening," says Bailey Gaddis, a certified professional organizer and author of Feng Shui Mommy. This sweep consists of going through every room in the home and returning all objects to their designated homes. "I have a preschooler, so I usually carry a basket with me for easy collection and transport for smaller items. Each sweep takes about ten minutes (for my entire home) and I always feel lighter after it’s complete."
Avoid duplicates and get rid of broken items
"Avoid having two items that do the same thing," suggests Harriet Jones a cleaning and organizing expert for Go Cleaners London. Two blenders? Two kinds of coffee makers? It will take you twice as much time to clean. "Save your time and have only one item of a kind," she says. Also, ditch what’s broken. Do you really need an appliance that has been busted for over six months? If you do, fix it right away and use it. If not, ditch it, says Jones.
"Using the fold-and-roll method, you will be able to get more t-shirts inside the drawers," says Jones, who uses this method inside her own home. Not only is it more organized and appealing to the eye, but you can easily identify each shirt because logos and labels are visible.
Keep a dedicated donation bag
"Keep a hamper dedicated to donation and when it’s full, bag it up, pop it in your trunk and take it to the charity of your choice that day," say Kelly and Katie McMenamin, authors of the book Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality and co-founders of PixiesDidIt!, which helps people organize according to their personality type. "Having this hamper makes decluttering less of a chore because you can get rid of things the moment you first notice them, rather than in some massive day long decluttering project." This works for toys your kids have outgrown, clothes you don’t wear, and appliances you don’t use.
Keep errand items by the door
"I have a special bench by the front door, where I put things related to this week’s errands," says Mim King, a professional organizer. "Items go from the bench to the car or my backpack on the day I need them." Returnable items (with receipt) go there; coupons in an envelope for grocery shopping day; coat hangers in exchange for dry cleaning; and other errands that need to be run throughout the week. "I also clump errands geographically, so I’m not wasting time or gas running to different parts of town."
Use clear containers
For shoes, for example you can store your summer sandals bottom-to-bottom in the front of the bin, flip-flops in the middle and fancy shoes in the front, advises Paloma Baillie, an organizing expert. "You can save space and still see all the options." You can use plastic containers for all objects your family uses regularly, so you can see what’s inside without taking everything out.
Store toys on shelving units
Toys can create quite the mess—they are often used daily, but rarely get put away (by the kids using them, at least). "Use shelving units for storing toys," says Jones. "They can be placed literally everywhere." And it only takes a few minutes to stick things on the shelf, but it instantly looks tidy. "Alternatively, you can utilize the space beneath the bed—stash wooden drawers on rollers— and you have a place to store dolls and race cars."
Give each family member a bin
"Give each family member their own drop box, to drop off and collect the items they regularly need entering and leaving the house," says Nancy Haworth, owner and professional organizer at On Task Organizing. A home drop zone area, placed in a heavily trafficked area like the front door, will reduce the spread of clutter throughout the house. The bin can be used for anything: phones, keys, change, coupons, sunglasses, wallets, purses, and backpacks. It’s contained so you won’t waste time each morning looking for looking for MIA items, like your keys.
New one in, old one out
Minerva-Studio/Shutterstock"We get new mail daily, kids bring home things from school, we buy new items, people give us gifts—without effort things come in," says Debbie Rosemont, a certified professional organizer and owner of Simply Placed. "Unfortunately, the opposite is not true; things will not go out of our life without effort on our part." We need to actively and regularly let go of things, otherwise we will only accumulate and can become overrun by our possessions. "When I buy something new, I think about what it is replacing, and make sure that when I bring that new item into the home, I donate or get rid of at least one item." Practicing this strategy regularly helps keep up the organization and make sure we don’t accumulate more than we need or can use.