Keeping your home organized and clutter-free is challenging enough, but the busy lives and obligations that most of us face make it especially tough to stay organized and motivated. Maintaining an organized home is demanding. We need to tackle countertop clutter, calendar clutter and digital clutter, but life and obligations seem to always get in the way of our good intentions. We’re constantly worried about staying on top of laundry, email, kids’ activities, aging parents, work, phone calls and meals — as Peter Walsh says, “It’s all too much!”. It’s as if we are all so busy that we can’t hop off the proverbial wheel long enough to take the time to take care of our homes. Creating a routine and seasonal system makes the task of tidying up, decluttering, and organizing our homes much less daunting and time-consuming. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
Reward yourself with something! You have to have something to look forward to after you’ve completed a task. For example, you might decide to treat yourself with an episode of a show you recorded after you finish washing, drying, folding and putting away all of the laundry.
Let friends and family members know your goals. Doing so holds you accountable to someone else and makes you less likely to abandon your goals. Accountability helps most of my clients stick to their goals and enables them to accomplish much more than they would otherwise.
Go For Good Enough
Some people become paralyzed by perfectionism; they’d rather not even attempt an organizing task unless they can do it perfectly. However, having a “good enough” mentality brings you closer to your goals more quickly. Sometimes starting is the hardest part.
Help a Friend
Helping a friend get their home organized is a great way to motivate you to get your own in order. Take turns helping each other and use the time to catch up and visit while you are working — you won’t even feel like you are cleaning, and the time will fly by.
Imagine what your home could look like. Visualize yourself walking in through the front door. What does the entryway look like? What does the house smell like? Look at your home through the eyes of a stranger.
Create an upbeat playlist that gets you moving and grooving since music can be very motivating. Some clients tell me that they are so “jazzed up” that they don’t want to stop organizing once they start. This trick doubles as a mild workout, so you’ll have something else to feel good about once you finish.
An Obvious Start
Begin in one of the most “public” rooms in your home: your kitchen, family room, or bathroom. Sometimes it helps to fake a guest drop-in situation; pretend your in-laws, employer, or favorite HGTV star is going to drop by. Pick a room or two that would “present well” for a quick, unexpected visit.
When you’re too discouraged to organize, let a nonjudgmental helper assist. The helper could be a college student you hire or a professional organizer. Let them know how you feel, and ask for encouragement and help.
Create New Habits
With each new good habit we adopt, we get one step closer to our goal. Break down big challenges into smaller, simpler, and more feasible tasks. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m going to declutter my house today,”, create a more specific goal. Maybe something like, “I’m going to start bringing reusable bags to the grocery store and stop hoarding all those flimsy, environmentally-unfriendly bags.”
The Habit of Lists
Checklists are one of my very favorite organizing habits because they remind us of important steps and items to remember. They help us accomplish goals by showing us the necessary steps to take to get there. Lists also reduce stress and anxiety by preparing us for what is to come — we are less prone to forget the things that really matter when we use lists.
Embrace Tiny Tasks
Little jobs done throughout the day really do simplify life. You don’t have to spend an hour a day or a whole day cleaning once a week to achieve order and cleanliness. By doing what I like to call “Tiny Tasks” little by little, day by day, you’ll save a lot of time and a lot of stress. Tiny tasks nip procrastination and excuses in the bud; they take so little time and effort you have no reason not to do them. Instead of saving your cleaning for the weekend and having a time-consuming list, you can knock out the daunting task of maintaining an organized home one small job at a time.
Set a Timer
On those days when organizing is absolutely the last thing you want to do, set a timer for a short amount of time and organize until the timer goes off. Small increments of time really add up in the long run. Use the coffee machine’s brewing cycle or commercial breaks during TV shows to do jobs like taking out the trash and recycling, putting away shoes and backpacks, or making lunches for the next day. Need a few more ideas? Try: decluttering one drawer in your office or disposing of expired produce and leftovers in the fridge.
Make It a Game
Use games to help motivate you to organize any area of your home or life. Take a deck of cards and pick a card — whatever number is on that card, that’s how many tiny tasks you should do in each room. More examples of tiny tasks:
- Pick up clothes off the floor
- Wipe down counters and surfaces
- Deadhead houseplants
- Sort through paper clutter
- Throw out junk mail
- Clear the dishes or run the dishwasher
- Make a grocery list
- Disinfect doorknobs and handles
More on maintaining an organized home can be found in my book, Decluttering Your Home: Tips, Techniques & Trade Secrets (available in 12 different languages).