It's true, there are a lot of great articles out there that encourage people to feel proud about the clutter they've accumulated. It is also true that there is nothing wrong with a little bit of mess here and there, now and again. We're confident, though, that even the people who are proudest of their clutter wish that they could find some methods of organization that would stick.
What do we mean by "stick?" We mean methods that will still be simple many months from now and will encourage you to keep up with your organizational habits. Too often, when people decide that they are going to get organized, they make huge overhauls to their existing systems. This is often shocking and, more often than not and like most New Year's Resolutions, the new systems fall apart within a week or two. We want to keep this from happening to you. Here are some tips to help with that.
Embrace Your Personal Priorities
Stop trying to organize your home and office according to what other people think you should prioritize. Instead, figure out what things matter most to you and then find ways to organize your clutter and mess that will accommodate those priorities.
A good example of this is in your kitchen. Space saving gurus will teach you all sorts of awesome and fancy ways to stack your kitchenware so that it all fits together and makes you cabinets look like something out of a catalogue. This might work well if you use all of your kitchenware all of the time. Most of us, though, have a favorite pot, pan, baking dish, etc. that we gravitate toward more than the others. Make sure that these priority pieces are easy to get to and easy to put back without having to rearrange everything else in the cabinet. Then arrange your less used items around them.
You can use this method with your books, movies, even your clothes. Group the vast majority of your clothing by item type and color but keep the pieces you reach for the most–that sweater you love, the dress you know looks great, etc–right where you can find them. This works in your office, too: organize your desk or cube so that the files or tools you use the most permanently live within arm's reach and then alphabetize and "make pretty" the rest.
PRO HINT: This also helps you declutter. If, after a year of your new system, you find that there are items that haven't moved since you got organized, you can probably get rid of them without much fuss.
Part of what makes keeping a house or an office clean and organized a challenge is that everybody has different levels of comfort with messiness. Some people have to have everything just so. Others can let things pile up without worrying about it. When these different personality types live together and work together, it can create some serious conflict.
A good way to get around this conflict is to find ways to give everybody a space that is just theirs in which to keep things exactly how they like them–but that is closed off from the public eye so that someone's huge mess doesn't offend the uber-neatniks. A lot of this can be accomplished with separate bedrooms and offices with doors that close. But what about shared spaces? How do you keep everybody happy?
Instituting a series of storage containers (preferably with doors and/or lids) wherein each person gets a container to her or himself is a great way to keep the shared space looking great but allow each person to be as messy or as organized as they want. In many offices and in shared living spaces (houses with lots of roommates, for example), a row of lockers accomplishes this goal. In a family home, perhaps a set of cubbies with fabric drawers would also do the trick.
Small Habits Add Up
Typically what being and staying organized boils down to is getting into the habit of actually putting items away when you aren't using them (as opposed to leaving them out in case you need them later). Schedule in fifteen minutes before lunch and at the end of every work day and twenty minutes each night at home before you start to get ready for bed to put everything back in its proper place. This little habit will save you hours of time later in organizing, re-organizing, finding what you need, etc.
Anybody can get organized. What helps you stay organized is working with your personality and making time to keep up the habit. Use these hints to help you start doing that.