When you get organized, many aspects of your life will improve. You’ll be more relaxed, you’ll be more successful in your work and relationships, and you’ll have more time and energy to do things you enjoy. I know that’s a lot of return for just getting organized. But if you think about the pivotal role that organization plays in many of your activities, you’ll see its value.
The title of this article says “simple” ways to get organized. The 10 ways that I present are generally simple. However, “simple” doesn’t always mean “easy” when it comes to getting organized. Some of them require some work. A couple of them require some hard work. But all of them offer some type of advantage or benefit.
Let’s get started!
1. Get the right mindset
The key to getting and staying organized is appreciating the benefits of being organized. Once you see the value of this discipline, then you can establish a mindset that will get you there and keep you on track.
I wrote an article about this aspect of getting organized entitled, “25 Reasons for Being Organized.” If you haven’t read it yet, it might help you find the motivation to complete this project and make this discipline a part of your lifestyle.
2. Use lists to your advantage
I wouldn’t be nearly as organized if I didn’t make lists. I use 3×5” top bound spiral notepads with college rule paper inside for my lists. The metal spiral on the top allows me to have several lists working simultaneously while keeping each of them attached. I buy them in a package of 4 or 5 pads at Walmart.
I use them to make to-do lists, shopping lists, project lists, talking point lists, and to make notes for a variety of purposes. I have a pad on my desk, on the table next to my bed, in my car, in my travel bag, and I often carry one in my pocket when I go out. The one next my bed has been invaluable for recording ideas and solutions that came to me during the night.
I created a simple shopping list that has the items I usually buy already printed on it. I put the items together in categories that match the layout of the store. I’ve been using it for over a year now. Although this list is ridiculously simple, it has made my shopping activities a lot easier and less time-consuming. You can get more information and download a copy here.
3. Get a day planner organizer
Having a day planner organizer is essential if you want to get organized like a pro. I used the paper version of the Franklin-Covey day planner for years. The Franklin-Covey product is outstanding for a number of reasons. Read my review here.
In January of 2010, I began using a software day planner organizer on my computer. I was amazed at how this software made the task of organizing and planning so much easier and more efficient. Had I known what I came to discover about this software I would have switched years ago. Get more information about this organizer software here.
4. Create an annual calendar
Enter all business and personal information including deadlines, payment due dates, expiration dates, vacations, and birthdays. If you complete this task thoroughly and carefully, you’ll be able to relax knowing that your calendar will remind you when things need to be done.
One of the great things about organizer software is that you can schedule items that repeat every year decades into the future with a single entry. You can also setup reminder alarms, emails, and text messages for each item.
5. Create to-do lists
Having a to-do list is one of the basics to getting organized. Creating to-do lists helps you to organize needed items, tasks, and steps.
Although I still use my 3×5” notepad to make a to-do list for things that I’ll be completing right away or for a simple project, I usually just enter them into my organizer to-do list. What’s great about this software is that any unfinished to-do items are automatically transferred to the next day. You can also easily reschedule them to a future date.
One of the things I didn’t like about the paper version of the Franklin-Covey day planner was that you had to manually transfer unfinished to-do items to the next day. It’s a time-consuming task that I thought was a little absurd.
I encourage you to choose a software day planner organizer over a paper version because it is such an easier and more efficient way to get organized.
6. Get rid of your junk
The first step in getting your home or business physically organized is to get rid of ALL your junk. Junk is stuff that is unused, overstocked, worthless, obsolete, and broken.
I recommend that you approach this project like this. Go through every room, storage area, closet, cabinet, shelf, and drawer in your home or business and quickly decide whether an item goes or stays. You need to have your frame of mind leaning toward getting rid of stuff over keeping it. Once you’ve moved out the junk, you’ll be ready to clean and organize each space.
Start by getting the space really clean. This means wiping, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, polishing, and mopping. Be sure to use an antibacterial disinfectant. Then organize the stuff by putting things together in logical categories. I’ll give you more tips on organizing your things in a later section.
At the end of this process, you should have a HUGE amount of junk! So how do you go about getting rid of it? Getting rid of your newly designated junk is easy and it can be profitable. “Profitable!” you say. Yes! One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. Here are three possibilities.
- Have a garage sale. If you do it right, you can make some serious money with a garage sale. I’ve got pretty good at so I wrote an article that tells you everything you need to know to succeed. It’s entitled, “Garage Sale Tips for Making Serious Money.”
- Donate it to a non-profit charitable organization. This is an excellent choice since you could help people and get a tax right off. I’ve done this with items that I had leftover from garage sales.
- Contact a junk removal service. I have no experience with these services. So I don’t know how much they charge or if they’ll give you money for some of the more valuable items.
7. Reduce and reorganize whenever you move
A perfect time to get rid of your junk and get organized is when you are moving your home or business to a new location. If you take full advantage of this opportunity, you can literally transform the organization of your home or business.
You do it in two stages. When you’re packing and when you’re unpacking. Here’s how you do it.
- As you pack, quickly consider whether you should get rid of each item or group of items.
- Organize and categorize as you pack. Designate a box or a group of boxes for each category.
- Pack high use and low use items separately. You might consider leaving the low use items in their sealed boxes and put them in a storage area at your new location. For example, if you’ve got three (3) sets of dishes and glasses and you’ve only used one (1) of them in the last five years, then maybe you should keep two of them boxed or get rid of them.
- Unpack only what you need for one year and keep the rest in boxes. Keep the boxes sealed on items that you know you won’t need. Keep boxes unsealed and in a handy location on items that you’ll likely need in the short-term.
- Clean all storage areas in the new location as described in the previous section.
- Determine the best locations for your stuff before you start unpacking.
- As you unpack, carefully organize the items in their new locations.
I know how much work and stress is involved in moving. I’ve done it quite a few times. But if you can generate some extra energy by getting excited about your move and applying it to this project, you can make the most of this ideal opportunity to get organized.
8. Keep the boxes from expensive purchases
You will not find a more secure box for your television, computer, printer, and kitchen appliances than the one it came in. Packing engineers designed these boxes.
These boxes are perfect for those situations when you want to put an item into storage (got a smaller home and too many TV’s), return/exchange an item where you bought it, ship an item for warranty repairs or to a friend, safely pack an item when you’re moving.
When these boxes are empty, you can organize them by putting them inside of one another and by storing other items in them.
I think you’ll be very happy that you kept these boxes if any of the situations that I mentioned arises.
9. Organize using boxes, bands, and bags
I mean shoe boxes, rubber bands, and food storage bags that is. You can use these common things to organize and categorize identical and similar items.
Shoe boxes work well for organizing similar items like health supplies, sewing materials, and household repair tools. Rubber bands can be used for a lot of purposes including organizing pens and pencils, binding CD’s, and arranging electronic and appliance cords and wires. Food storage bags are useful for keeping valuable items clean and protected from dust and moisture.
Boxes of various sizes are very useful for organizing items into categories. Some categories have large items or high quantities. Others have small items or low quantities. So be sure to get as many boxes as you can from local businesses before you start organizing your stuff. I have found that most businesses put them outside where their trash container is located. Be sure to check a variety of businesses as each may use different types of boxes. Don’t bother with grocery stores as their boxes are generally wet from the food and refrigeration or they’re flimsy since they usually don’t hold valuable merchandise.
10. Organize and secure your important papers
The only way to do this properly is to get some hanging folders, folder tabs, tab inserts, and some sort of file container or cabinet. By using this proven system, you’ll be able to quickly and easily file and retrieve these materials.
The first step is to create a list of all the names for the files you’ll need. Some examples of these names would be taxes, mortgage, rent, utilities, receipts, warranties, computer, vehicle, banks, credit cards, medical-dental, vacation, and so on. When you’re done making your list, write the names on the tab inserts, put them in the tabs, and then attach the tabs to the hanging folders. Then put the hanging folders into your file container in a logical order.
Before you insert your papers, go through each item and decide whether it should go into the file or be shredded. Then as add your papers to each file, arrange them in a logical or chronological sequence. If you already have a set of files in your home or business, you should do the same to them as I just advised.
For irreplaceable, valuable, and important papers and other materials, you need to get a fireproof safe or strongbox. Another option is to get a safe deposit box at your bank. Some banks offer these free if you meet certain criteria.
When you fully appreciate the benefits of this discipline, getting organized can actually be enjoyable. And once the work is done and you’re reaping the rewards you’ll be inspired to maintain it.