16 Organizing Rules to Live By

Organized desk

Organizing your home can seem daunting if you’re not the decluttering type by nature. However, even the most organized of people don’t possess magic powers—they just stick to proven habits and tricks that soon become second nature. You can, too, beginning with these 21 home organizing rules to live by.

  1. Designate a Place for Everything

    The practice of putting items in a particular spot every single time is the difference between people who always lose their keys, glasses, and wallets and those who rarely misplace anything. When everything you own has a “home,” there’s never a question about where you put it. If an item is forever “homeless,” consider if you need it in your life.

  2. You Can Be Organized and Messy at the Same Time

    Even if you’re naturally messy, you can portray yourself as organized by grouping your possessions by category in receptacles that make the messiness look intentional. For example, throw all your shoes in a large woven basket, stash winter gloves and hats in a cute bin by the door, or put all your remote controls out on the coffee table in an attractive tray.

  3. Follow the Shopping Bag Rule

    Always keep one shopping bag in your house for items you realize you no longer want or need. After the bag has filled up, donate everything in it. If you really miss something, you’ll go to the bag to retrieve it soon after you place it there—if you don't reach for it, you'll know that it wasn't a useful item for you.

  4. You Can Never Have Too Many Hooks

    Install hooks on the backs of doors, on walls, or anywhere you need a little extra storage space. Instead of throwing your jacket over the stairway banister or dropping your bathrobe on the floor, make it a habit to neatly hang it on a hook.

  5. One In, One Out

    When you bring a new item into your home, whether it's new clothes, new toys, or new books, take a hard look at the items you already own. Is there a shirt in your closet you haven't worn in over a year that your new shirt could replace? If so, donate it.

  6. Get Creative With Your Storage Containers 

    Just because something wasn’t intended for storage doesn’t mean it can't make a great storage solution for the right items. For example, to avoid an unsightly pile of umbrellas by the front door, store them upright in a large vase or champagne bucket.

  7. Become a Minimalist

    While definitions of minimalism vary, the basic premise is that you only live with items that you absolutely need. The fewer things you own, the easier it is to keep them organized. Minimalism also calls for buying fewer items, so take stock of your shopping habits.

  8. Limit Your Home to One Junk Drawer

    Keep a junk drawer, but limit its size and restrict it to necessary yet difficult to categorize objects. If your junk drawer is stretching its limits, that's a sign that it's time to sort and toss nonessential items.

  9. Store Smaller Items Inside Larger Items

    Think about all those plastic bags you've shoved under your kitchen sink or the cardboard boxes you've carelessly tossed in your garage. Instead of piling up cardboard or bunching up the bags, stuff or stack everything together so it takes up less space and it's easy to access when you need it. You can also store smaller suitcases inside larger suitcases and small purses inside large handbags.

  10. Ignore Traditional Uses for Storage Products

    Tackle boxes may be meant for fishing equipment, but you can use any product anywhere if it works for you. Sort earrings in that tackle box or place handbags on a shelf meant to hold books.

  11. Use Over-the-Door Shoe Bags for Everything

    Over-the-door shoe bags can help you fit a lot of items into a shallow, shelf-deficient or oddly shaped closet. Use them for cleaning supplies, craft supplies, toys, hair tools and more.

  12. Cycle Kids' and Pets' Toys

    If you have kids or pets, cycle their toys so that they’re not all scattered around the house at once. Keep 50 percent to 75 percent of your toddler’s stuffed animals and your cat’s squeaky toys packed away, rotating them every so often so your little ones always have “new” playthings.

  13. Make the Most of Vertical Storage

    Short on storage? Don’t neglect the tops of high places such as your refrigerator or kitchen cabinets. You’ll have to stand on a step stool to reach the stored items, but stashing lesser-used items up high keeps them away from kitchen counters and other clutter-prone areas.

  14. ABD (Always Be Decluttering)

    Have a few spare minutes? Get rid of some items you don’t need. Organized people don’t wait until their life requires a massive organizing overhaul; they look for any opportunity to get a tiny bit more organized.

  15. Buy Built-In Storage

    When you're buying new furniture, look for ottomans, beds, and benches with extra built-in storage space.

  16. Don't Let Sentimental Clutter Hold You Back

    It's easy to fall into the trap of assigning a sentimental value to everything we own, making it impossible to get rid of unnecessary clutter. Learn to let go. After all, an object is just an object.