Ways to be Organized and Less Scattered at Home, School and Work

  • 01 of 11

    Prioritize These Tasks So You Feel More Organized

    Ways to be organized
    Declutter Every Day. Pexels

    If you often feel organizationally challenged, you might be surprised to hear that organization isn’t an inborn talent, and it’s not even particularly difficult. It’s like making your bed every morning - a daily organizing habit almost anyone can practice until it becomes second nature. The good news, if you’re trying to be more organized overall, is that getting any one area under control will help you get on top everything else. Here are some guidelines on how to be organized. 

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  • 02 of 11

    Prioritize

    If you don’t see any value in being neat and efficient at work and at home, you’ll prioritize other things and let organization fall to the wayside. How to make organization a priority if it isn’t yet? Organize one thing (clean your desk, or cook and freeze a week’s worth of dinners on Sunday.) Then pay attention to whether the change makes you feel better, frees up any time, or motivates you to expand the progress into some other part of your life. If the change is a positive one, you’ll want...MORE to keep it up.

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  • 03 of 11

    Make Lists

    Daily checklist
    Photo / Getty

     Very few organized people rely on a perfect memory to get stuff done; instead, most keep lists in whatever format they prefer, from classic to-do lists on a legal pad to grocery lists on their phone.  Here are some apps for making lists:

    • Wunderlist
    • Any.do
    • Trello
    • Workflowy (my fave!)
    • Evernote

    Do you have a favorite? Join the discussion on Facebook.

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  • 04 of 11

    Have Meal Plan

    Fridge Bins and Organizer and Tray from Crate and Barrel
    Fridge Bins and Organizer and Tray from Crate and Barrel. Photo / Fridge Bins and Organizer and Tray from Crate and Barrel

    Get your meal planning and food shopping organized. Meal planning can be made much easier with these tips for eliminating meals first, and then working around fresh produce.

     I'm not suggesting you plan out every single meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and weekend brunches), but having some semblance of a plan is going to help you out a LOT with feeling more organized. here's how I do it:

    1. On Thursdays, I look at my calendar for the following week and figure out which meals I will be...MORE eating out. I typically eat out 2-3 dinners a week (this includes weekdays and weekends). I used to eat out way more often, but now I really commit to cooking at home.

    2. Then I figure out what meals I need to cook. I eat the same thing for breakfast every day so there's no decision there. For lunch, I rotate through a bunch of frozen meals that I cook in bulk on the weekends: chili over a cup of buckwheat or white rice with a side salad, 4 oz pot roast with some smashed potatoes and carrots, etc. So I make sure the freezer is stocked with this type of meal. I cook a bulk meal like this twice a month and then freeze them in individual portions int these Pyrex containers.

    3. Then I set out a meal plan for the 4 dinners that I will make. I keep it simple so a weekly meal plan will look like this:

    Sample Week 1:

    • Monday - meat sauce over zucchini noodles (zoodles!)
    • Tuesday - Stir fry
    • Wednesday - out
    • Thursday - cod with smashed potatoes and spinach
    • Friday - out
    • Saturday - Baked potato night
    • Sunday - out

    Sample Week 2:

    • Monday - Chicken Drumsticks over rice with spinach
    • Tuesday - out
    • Wednesday - Breakfast for dinner with sausage and plantain pancakes with squash
    • Thursday - out
    • Friday - Personal pizza with cornmeal pizza dough, brussels sprouts, and bacon
    • Saturday - out
    • Sunday - Roast chicken with rice and brussels sprouts

    4. Then I put together a grocery list and organize it by the aisles in the store: Produce, then dairy, then meat and seafood, then frozen (I buy frozen veggies and fruit), then packaged goods like baking soda and dark chocolate chips), then [repared foods. So if I've been traveling or just really busy, I may buy pre-made tuna salad or a pre-roasted chicken to get through the week.

    If you're not a great meal planner (I am not, and I often end up with extra food or not enough--I'm working on it!) then think about doing a Plated subscription, or subscribing to something like Prep Dish to take the hassle out of planning. 

    (See also: A Working Mom's Weekly Meal Plan)

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  • 05 of 11

    Have a Planner

    Passion Planner
    Passion Planner. Passion Planner

    It can be a paper planner, a blank notebook, a smartphone, a wall calendar, or any other method that you like. Your planner is the one place where you’ll make lists, keep your routines (more on that below), and schedule everything you need to do. Can you use a combination of methods, like Google Calendar for work and a notebook for your personal life? Yes, but that makes it easier for things to slip through the cracks. If you’re just starting out getting organized, play it safe and stick to one...MORE method at first.

     

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  • 06 of 11

    Daily Routines

    Why decluttering is a waste of time
    Why decluttering is a waste of time. Death to the Stock Photo

    The more a task becomes routine, the less time you waste thinking about it and avoiding it. A daily routine helps you just do the task, establishing patterns that lead to a naturally organized life. Your schedule may not look like everyone else’s, and that’s fine - the important thing is to create a daily routine that works for you.  A routine shouldn’t feel punishing - remember that if yours isn’t working, you can always change it.

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  • 07 of 11

    Weekly Routines

    Desk with Books and Calendar
    Desk with Books and Calendar. Photo / Josh Beggs

     

     

    The Weekly Organizing Routine changed my life. No, really! Here's why: It reminds me to give a once-over to spaces I may not think about on a daily basis, but when the weekend comes around, I'm really glad I spent 15 minutes in them during the week. 

    Some areas don’t need daily attention, but neglecting them for a few weeks can lead you down the slippery slope of disorganization. Identify what these areas are for you - examples might be chores like cleaning out your handbag or vehicle or...MORE activities like socializing with friends - then schedule them. Eventually, you’ll probably start doing them without prompting.

    Use your weekly routine in conjunction with your daily routine. Every weekend, look over your plans for the upcoming week and note any changes in your usual schedule or events requiring extra attention.

     

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  • 08 of 11

    Launch Pad

    Photo © The Container Store

    If your launch pad is messy or nonexistent, you’re setting yourself up for disorganization every day. This spot - the area in your entryway where you keep items like keys, sunglasses, and letters to mail - doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be as simple as a small table or shelf. An organized launch pad will stop you from losing necessary items and help calm the chaos of a busy life.

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  • 09 of 11

    Organized At Home

    Organizing the bedroom
    Organizing the bedroom. Getty

    The simplest rule of home organization is to keep on top of it. Yes, you can declutter your whole house at once (Marie Kondo, anyone?), but you won’t have to if you consistently put in just a little time every day, week, and season. Organized people don’t necessarily love sorting through their files, but they love having done it, and they really love maintaining files that never get out of control in the first place. Remind yourself to straighten up and declutter at home by incorporating it into...MORE your daily and weekly routines.

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  • 10 of 11

    Organized at Work Organized At Work

    Home Office Organization Pictures Emily Schuman from Cupcakes and Cashmere
    Emily Schuman from fashion blog Cupcakes and Cashmere keeps her home office neat and tidy. Photo / Emily Schuman from Cupcakes and Cashmere

     

    To stay organized at work, you need a clutter-free space, whether that’s a home office, studio, or cubicle. A neat desk frees your mind from distractions and excuses; a messy desk lets you tell yourself you’ll look at that spreadsheet… right after you shuffle those stacks of papers around, rummage through the drawers searching for candy, and play with your Rubik’s Cube.

    You also need a well-planned schedule. Routines and lists will keep you on top of your everyday tasks, but at work you also...MORE need to ensure you’re never surprised by a planned event or deadline. Working backwards from the deadline or event, break down what you need to do into smaller steps and schedule each one on your calendar. If you frequently find yourself unable to get everything done in time, give yourself a deadline a few days or weeks earlier than the actual one.

     

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  • 11 of 11

    Organized At School

    Pale Blue Walls and White Desk
    Pale Blue Walls and White Desk. Photo / The CSI Project

    Being organized at school is a lot like being organized at work, with a few noteworthy differences. First, students have more leeway to work with their strengths. Do you study best in the evening or the morning? With others or alone? Do you love to stay up all night finishing a paper, or do you melt down under pressure? Having the freedom to choose how you work can demand greater self-discipline, but it’s also an opportunity to really do your best.

    Second, being in school usually involves...MORE transporting what you need for the day with you. This means keeping your bag organized, and preparing everything the night before so you’re never caught without the necessary tools and materials.  

    Third, school can feel all-encompassing in a way even the most stressful job rarely does. It’s crucial to build time for yourself into your schedule, because you won’t be able to function, let alone stay organized, if you let yourself burn out. And depending on the demands of your courses, you might have to schedule everything, even mundane activities like eating dinner.

    Finally, if you’re a parent who struggles with back-to-school organization for yourself and your kid(s), here are lots of great ideas for getting the whole family organized for school.