How to Organize Anything in 5 Steps

There are five steps you can apply to organize anything. Before you tackle your next home or office organization project, strategize with the help of professional organizer Lisa Zaslow, founder, and CEO of Gotham Organizers, a New York City-based professional organizing firm.

Once you learn these basics, you can apply them to organize anything in your home or office, from closets to linens, handbags, junk drawers, kitchens, and more.

  • 01 of 05

    Motivate and Commit to Organization

    Woman organizing a closet

    Daniel Allan/Getty Images

    Start by developing and maintaining motivation. Focus on the benefits of getting organized. Think about how much time and money you will save once you get organized. Have you ever gone out for emergency batteries or light bulbs because you misplaced the ones you already had? You can stop buying duplicates because you can't find an item you need, which means keeping more money in your pocket.

    Lisa's Pro Tips

    1. Start with an area in your home or office where you will see results quickly. I like to direct people to their kitchen junk drawers.
    2. Your home's paper clutter is the hardest thing to organize and can take a long time. Pace yourself and don't get discouraged.
  • 02 of 05

    Declutter the Space

    Assorted clothes hanging in a closet

    DLMcK/Getty Images

    Before you can dive into an organization project, you need to clear out the clutter. Lisa recommends you work on one area at a time and make it as fun as possible. Play music, invite a friend to help, and, most importantly, pace yourself so you don't burn out.

    Lisa's Pro Tips

    1. Establish criteria for what you're going to keep and toss before you begin so you don't waste time and energy on items you are just going to throw out.
    2. Don't keep multiples of items such as soy sauce packets or plastic utensils.
    3. Don't fall victim to the "I may need this someday" line of thinking. "Someday will never come," Lisa says.
  • 03 of 05

    Sort and Group Similar Items Together

    Books displayed on a shelf in the living room above a fireplace with two chairs and stools nearby.

    Vostok/Getty Images

    "This is where you begin to create order from chaos," Lisa says, describing this as the most important step. First, begin with large categories and then break down those categories. For example, books get subcategorized into cookbooks, novels, and textbooks. Always sort and group like items together when you're organizing your home.

    Lisa's Pro Tips

    1. Group by type of item (i.e. all extra tubes of toothpaste in a storage basket in the linen closet).
    2. Group by the frequency of use (i.e. all daily work clothes hang together in the closet).
    3. Group by the project (i.e. everything you use to brew coffee in the same spot in your kitchen).
    4. Group by the person (i.e. everyone's winter hats and gloves in individual cubbies).
  • 04 of 05

    Create a Place for Everything Through Storage

    Slats hanging on the wall with items attached, including shoes, purses, watch, pens, and magazines.

    Ich Designer

    "This is where you make everything easy to put away," Lisa instructs. First, keep in mind your prime real estate, or the spaces where items are most accessible to you. Improve flow by storing things where they are used.

    Lisa's Pro Tips

    1. Make sure what's important to you is visible. 
    2. Identify and use the appropriate containers for items. If they don't fit, you probably won't use them for too long.
    3. Avoid mystery boxes by using clear containers and labeling them as soon as you fill them up.
    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Use Routines to Maintain Your Organization

    Man in kitchen doing laundry

    antonio arcos aka fotonstudio photography/Moment/Getty Images

    The more frequently you maintain order, the fewer time tasks will take, so keep it up. For example, if you open your mail, pay your bills, and file your receipts weekly, that will take less time than if you do so on a monthly basis. Schedule your maintenance to suit your style.

    Lisa's Pro Tips

    1. Schedule and prioritize maintenance daily, weekly, or monthly.
    2. Set deadlines for performing tasks when things become disorganized, your container for donations begins to fill up, or, my favorite when you have a guest coming.
    3. Use a timer to pace yourself.