The 5 Golden Rules for Organizing Your Stuff

An organized office

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Here's a secret: Staying organized doesn't have to be complicated. There are several simple things you can do to keep everything in your life in order. These guidelines can apply to almost every organizing situation, large or small. Remember them when you're cleaning your entire home or just straightening a small area within a room, and you'll have a more streamlined approach to your project.

Here are five golden rules to help you stay organized.

  • 01 of 05

    Keep Less Stuff

    Organized desk

    Have you ever noticed that minimalist homes always look organized? It's much easier to stay organized if you have less stuff. However, you don’t need to pare down your wardrobe to a handful of items (unless you want to), strip your home office of everything but the essentials, or get rid of your children’s toys. You just need to bring home new items less frequently, as well as get rid of unused items. You won't miss them—and you won't miss trying to cram items into already full storage spaces. 

  • 02 of 05

    Group Similar Items

    Organized toys

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    An organizational system is easiest to maintain when it's logical. Many people prefer to group like items. That means you keep the same type of item in one place, so you know where to find it. This rule works well with everyday items, including kitchenware, tools, and toys. For example, put drinking glasses in one cupboard and bowls in another. Or gather up books from around your house, and keep them on one shelving unit. When everything has a place, you'll be more likely to put things away promptly after you're done using them. 

  • 03 of 05

    Keep a Junk Drawer

    Junk drawer

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    Having a junk drawer can free you from the pressure of organizing small miscellaneous items. However, you should limit the size of such an area to one or two drawers or small storage boxes. Too many junk spaces can derail your organizing efforts because they'll end up becoming a place for clutter. Group like items within the space, so you know what's in there. Drawer dividers can help to keep rubber bands, batteries, twist ties, and other small items organized.

  • 04 of 05

    Have a Staging Area

    Stack of sweaters
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    Having a pile of temporary items you don't know where to store can add stressful clutter to your home and ruin your organizing efforts. Such items can include a clothing donation bag, library books that need returning, items to be recycled, or purchases that need to be returned at a store. To avoid allowing these items to take over your home, set up a small staging area for them. A mudroom can work well for this to keep the items out of the main part of your home. If you don't have a mudroom, consider creating a temporary storage station with a row of hooks or shelving.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Don't Try to Be Perfect

    colorful shirts in a white drawer
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    It's very difficult to stay completely organized at all times. But don't give up if you're not perfect in your organization efforts. Being semi-organized is better than being completely disorganized. For instance, if you don't have time to file a pile of papers, simply straighten it into a neat stack and put it near your file folders, so you'll be one step closer to properly filing them when you have time. Little steps like this can make an organized life feel much less daunting.