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How to Organize & Declutter Your Home (on a Budget)

From the popularity of the KonMari method to the Inbox Zero movement, Americans everywhere are catching organization fever. And it’s no wonder. The money-saving benefits of organizing your home include cutting down on waste, saving you time, increasing your sense of control, and even making you money on your excess stuff.

Unfortunately, a lot of people put off organizing their homes because they think it takes a big budget. Many of the home organizing shows on TV tell us we need to buy a bunch of fancy containers and label makers. Some even suggest we buy shelving, cabinetry, and other specialized furniture like garage cabinets, closet systems, coffee tables, storage ottomans, and bookcases.

Making such expensive purchases negates the financial benefits of getting organized. But the truth is you can organize your home no matter your budget — even if your budget is zero. Decluttering — an indispensable step to getting organized — is free. And don’t blow all your hard-earned cash shopping for fancy organizers at upscale shops like The Container Store. You can just as easily organize all your stuff with containers you buy from Amazon or the dollar store or repurposed containers and bins you already have.

Organizing your home doesn’t need to cost anything at all, nor does it need to be overly complicated. Just follow a few basic steps, and you can reap the financial benefits of a well-organized home.

1. Plan

Organizing Dresser Clothes Cotton Shirts Leggings Marie Kondo Style Folding

Once you dive into an organizing project, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed — which can lead you to quit altogether. But you can avoid feeling overwhelmed by breaking any large task into manageable chunks. There are several methods you can choose from, and none of them are wrong, so choose the one that works best for you.

  • Organize by Category. Marie Kondo — creator of the KonMari method for getting organized — recommends tackling one thing at a time. In her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” she lays out several categories to divide and conquer: clothes, books, papers, “komono” (miscellaneous items), and sentimental items. She also suggests decluttering the categories quickly to help overcome our emotional attachments to our things. The idea is to start with the easiest first, which for most people is clothes, and progress to the most challenging — sentimental items.
  • Organize by Room. Regina Leeds, author of “One Year to an Organized Life,” encourages organizing room by room. Leeds recommends focusing on one room for an entire month. Rather than rushing to get everything done at once, as we often attempt with spring-cleaning, her method gives you plenty of time to finish large tasks. Plus, this small-changes-over-time method also helps ensure your new habits stick.
  • Organize by Project. Becky Rapinchuk, author of “Simply Clean: The Proven Method for Keeping Your Home Organized, Clean, and Beautiful in Just 10 Minutes a Day,” recommends tackling only one very small project at a time, like organizing a junk drawer, and working in 10-minute sessions. Tackling organizing projects in this way helps ensure you can fit organizing into an already busy life.

Whichever method you choose, the essential thing is to commit to getting organized. So pick a date or series of dates, mark them on your calendar, and set aside some time for your organization project. If you make a specific goal and write it down, you’re far more likely to stick to it.

2. Purge

Decluttering Pile To Keep Or Discard

Once you’ve laid out your plan, start with the first line item. Set up bins or stations where you can presort your stuff into four broad categories: sell, donate, toss, and keep.

Then take everything out of that space so you can see what you have. Go through everything and decide what to get rid of and what to keep. Some guidelines for what should go in each pile include:

  • Sell. If you come across items that are collectible or in top condition, it’s possible to make some money from your organizing efforts. You can resell like-new clothes, especially if they’re from a boutique or designer brand, through a consignment shop or a sharing economy app like ThreadUp or Poshmark. Collectibles do well on eBay, as do games and electronics. For books in good condition, try Amazon or a local reseller like Half Price Books. Larger items like furniture do well on resale sites like Letgo or posted in local resale Facebook groups. To find one for your area, search on Facebook using your city’s name and the words “buy, sell, trade.” You can also try using a website like Decluttr.
  • Donate. Another option is to donate your stuff so others can put it to good use. Donate gently used women’s work clothing to Dress for Success, which helps match low-income women with clothes they can wear to job interviews. If you have other clothes that are in good condition but won’t earn you much in resale, donate them to your local Goodwill. Goodwill also accepts gently used furniture and household items, as does Habitat For Humanity’s Restore. You can donate books, DVDs, and CDs to your local library. And Baby2Baby is an option for used baby gear. They distribute it to shelters and children’s hospitals. If you end up donating a considerable amount, don’t forget to add up the value and deduct it from your taxes if you itemize.
  • Toss. Dispose of anything broken, stained, overly worn, or that someone outside your household can’t or won’t reuse, like mattresses, pillows, outdated baby and children’s car seats, and most medical equipment.
  • Keep. Only put things in this pile if you actually use, love, or can’t imagine parting with them — because everything in your keep pile is just another thing going back into your space.

How to Decide What to Keep

As you consider each belonging, there are three questions to ask yourself.

1. Do You Enjoy It?

Kondo recommends asking yourself if each belonging “sparks joy.” In other words, if it doesn’t make you happy, toss it. The idea is to only surround yourself with objects that enhance and enrich your life, thereby ending up with a clutter-free home more able to bring you joy and prosperity.

Kondo encourages visualizing the life you want to live and getting rid of anything that won’t help you achieve your desired lifestyle. She believes that by doing so, you can experience a dramatic and positive shift in your life.

But there are several common criticisms of her method. First, there are a lot of things we keep in our homes for practical reasons — like brooms, vacuums, and toilet brushes. Most of us get zero joy from a toilet brush, but they’re still necessary to have around.

Second, the method doesn’t work well for families, especially those with small children — or really any situation involving living with another person. What sparks joy for one person might not for another.

And while it’s true that kids can learn multiple money lessons from organizing, asking a child if something they own sparks joy is a recipe for disaster. For any child under 7, everything — even a broken toy they haven’t played with for years — sparks joy. Kids have very different relationships to their things than adults.

So rather than asking kids if their things make them happy, try simply boxing away the toys they no longer play with. Then, if they don’t ask for them for a while (a year or more), reevaluate their stash for donation or resale.

Whatever you do, don’t toss out kids’ things behind their backs. While it’s much easier to purge without their input, it quickly undermines trust, which is essential to parenting.

2. Is It Useful?

If it doesn’t make you happy, ask yourself if it’s useful. A vacuum probably doesn’t make you happy directly, but using it to create a clean house probably does.

Additionally, consider whether it could be useful someday. While die-hard declutterers like Kondo advocate avoiding the “someday trap,” there are things that make sense to hang onto for the future. For example, if you’re a parent planning to have more children, it makes more financial sense to hang onto essential baby gear like clothing, high chairs, cribs, and strollers than to buy them new when the second child comes.

On the other hand, hanging onto adult clothes that are too small hoping you can eventually wear them again is the epitome of the someday trap Kondo warns against. So be very discerning when asking yourself if you may really need it in the future. If you’re only hanging onto hope, it’s probably just clutter.

And, of course, be sure to toss anything that’s broken or missing parts. And check in with every family member before throwing out things that don’t belong to you or that the whole family uses. Purging should always be a family affair to avoid any hurt feelings or impaired trust.

3. Can You Live Without It?

Some things we own are potentially useful, but we don’t actually use them often. For example, I have an electric roaster I use exactly once per year to roast our Thanksgiving turkey. So instead of getting coveted kitchen space, we store it in our garage. But if your space is at a premium, ask yourself if you actually need this thing. Do you really need a special gadget, or can you just roast your turkey in the oven?

And when it comes to stuff that makes us happy — like books, video games, or decorative pillows — we often hang onto them for complicated sentimental reasons. They can be the most challenging belongings to purge.

How to Purge When It’s Emotionally Difficult

After my mother died, I had a difficult time going through her things. Although much of it wasn’t anything I’d ever have wanted or picked out for myself, her things became so intimately tied to my memories of her that purging them felt too painful. And I’m not alone.

According to the 2017 Ikea Life at Home survey, purging can be the most difficult step for people because we have so many complex emotional attachments to our things. And those meanings can be even more important than the things themselves.

In fact, according to the survey, the meanings we attach to our things trigger memories, hopes, and dreams that go far deeper than a belonging’s function. For example, we may hang onto a guitar we never learned to play because getting rid of it feels too much like giving up on a dream.

Yet keeping objects around that are neither useful nor life-enhancing isn’t helpful. Research shows that too much clutter is ultimately detrimental. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that clutter impairs our ability to focus, thereby negatively affecting productivity. And a 2017 joint study from Syracuse and Cornell Universities found clutter contributes to poor food choices. Additionally, a 2009 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin even found that clutter leads to increased stress and depression.

So how do we decide what we really can’t live without and what we can let go?

We have so many complex emotional ties to our things. So if you’re finding it difficult to get rid of something, some experts say it’s OK to hang onto it for a little while. Contrary to the advice of other decluttering experts, professor Richard Belk — an interviewee for the Ikea survey and a leading expert on the meaning of possession and collecting — says allowing yourself some time is healthier than immediately tossing your stuff. Because of our strong emotional ties to our things, sometimes we need to grieve their loss.

So designate a “holding area” for everything you’re unsure about. It can be a particular storage area in your home, like the garage, basement, or a cardboard box in the back of your closet. Or you can establish a system that shows you what you don’t use or need.

For example, many organizing experts recommend taking six months to a year to purge clothes instead of tossing them immediately. Organizational expert Peter Walsh tells Oprah.com readers to turn around all the hangers in their closet so the hooks are facing forward. If at the end of a year, you haven’t worn something — which you’ll know by the direction of the hanger — it’s probably something you can get rid of.

And you can use a similar method for nearly anything. For example, Walsh also recommends decluttering your kitchen by throwing every kitchen utensil into a box. If at the end of a month, it’s still in the box, get rid of it. Sometimes, it just takes a period of not using things to realize how little space or meaning they hold in our lives.

Of course, some belongings do have deep sentimental value — things you can’t imagine parting with. Even Kondo tells The Guardian it’s OK to hang onto these things permanently. The trick is to find just those few things you really can’t live without and to think creatively about ways to display or use them that will bring you continual joy, such as framing children’s artwork or making a quilt out of baby onesies.

Why Declutter at All?

Despite how stressful purging can be, it’s not enough to simply sort your things and call it “organized.” Decluttering is the essential first step for a reason. Research has consistently shown clutter is a significant source of stress. The 2017 Ikea survey found that “too much stuff” was the single biggest cause of stress in the home.

And this is not the only such study to find a correlation between clutter and emotional well-being. A 2017 study published in Current Psychology found that clutter can induce various physiological responses, including an increase in cortisol — a stress hormone.

In an interview with The New York Times, Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, says that’s likely because too much stuff makes our homes feel chaotic and disorderly. It can also impede our ability to organize what we have by contributing to procrastination. And as much as we believe that having more gives us more options, it actually leads to decision fatigue. It halts rather than encourages our ability to make decisions about what to use and enjoy, such as picking out an outfit for the day, as explained by decluttering expert Mia Danielle.

And a 2016 study in Trends in Cognitive Science found that too much clutter decreases life satisfaction. According to the study, when clutter becomes excessive, it can trap a person — physically and psychologically — in a dysfunctional home environment. That contributes to feelings of personal distress and even alienation.

Clutter makes it difficult to navigate your home and life experiences. For example, if your dining room table is piled high with papers, it’s impossible to sit down and have a family meal. That contributes to less social connection. So as difficult as it can be, getting rid of the clutter in your home is vital to your overall happiness.

3. Sort

Organized Bathroom Shampoo Soap Lotion Handwash Towels

Before you decide where things should go, first group things by category. If you’re working on a bathroom, for example, sort your stuff into piles, like makeup, soap, body lotions, face creams, and medications. Likewise, if you’re organizing a closet, think pants, skirts, dresses, shirts, sweaters, jackets, and accessories — whatever makes the most sense for you and your stuff.

Once you’ve decided on your categories, pile like items with like. It’s crucial to have everything out where you can see it and have your things grouped before moving onto the next step — deciding where and how it’s best to store your stuff.

Tip: Some organizing experts, like Tracy Hoth of Simply Squared Away, recommend sorting as you purge because it can make things simpler. For example, you can decide on categories ahead of time and then toss all pants into the “keep” pile for pants after purging out the ones you want to toss, donate, or sell.

4. Assign

Organized Kitchen Beige Grey Concept Interior Design Utensils Plates Home

The No. 1 rule of getting organized is to make sure every single thing has a home.

According to Steve McClatchy, productivity consultant and author of “Decide: Work Smarter, Reduce Your Stress, and Lead by Example,” putting away everything in your home should be as easy as putting away the silverware. He explains that everyone has a place for their forks. If you found a fork in your sofa cushions or the back of your closet, you’d know that’s not where it goes and immediately return it to where it belongs. Everything should be like this.

Knowing where everything goes means less stress — the whole purpose of getting organized. Having a home for all your things means no more wasted time looking for them when you need them. And it means always being able to see what you have.

Finding the right place for everything requires some thought about how you actually use them. For example, perhaps you’ve always stored your towels in a linen closet in your upstairs hallway. But if you’ve ever emerged from the bathtub dripping wet with no towel in sight, it probably makes more sense to keep them in the bathroom if there’s room.

Next, consider how often you use things. Put stuff you frequently use in an easy-to-reach place and stuff you only use occasionally in a less convenient location. For example, it makes sense to store a slow cooker on your counter if you use it nearly every day. But if you only use it once in a while, tuck it away in a cabinet and conserve coveted counter space for the appliances you do use frequently. Likewise, store your spices in a cabinet near your workspace, like in a drawer below your kitchen counter instead of across the kitchen.

Also, as best you can with the storage space you have available, create zones where you group similar things. For example, store all sporting equipment in the garage, all craft supplies in the room you do crafts in or nearby, and all your kid’s Legos in the playroom. If some Legos are in the living room and others in the playroom, your kid will have trouble when they search for that one right piece.

5. Contain

Playroom With Toys In Containers Organized Clean

The last step involves finding ways to contain our things, which sometimes means thinking outside the box. And there are many creative storage ideas. According to Search Engine Journal, clever ways to sort our drawers, arrange our refrigerators, or hide kids toys were some of the most-searched-for things on Pinterest in 2019.

But this is also the step that can get us in the most trouble with our budgets.

Anyone who’s ever walked into The Container Store or strolled the home organization aisles at Target knows you could quickly empty your wallet on any number of bins, wraps, and labeling doodads. Yes, your home would look nice with metal chalkboard labels slid over a row of water hyacinth baskets, but spending too much on containing all your stuff defeats the purpose of saving money by organizing it.

Plus, many of those clever doodads don’t really set you up for long-term organizing success. Kondo, for example, is against most storage products. She believes they only give the illusion of solving your organization dilemmas. Instead, she encourages the use of simple storage solutions that let you see at a glance what you have — like clear bins and drawer dividers. And you can purchase these inexpensively or make them at home.

Budget Container & Storage Ideas

Before blowing your budget on a $50 basket or $5,000 worth of custom closet cabinets, first focus on getting creative with inexpensive finds from the dollar store or do-it-yourself containers or repurposing items you already have. And that doesn’t mean forgoing a sense of style. Especially if you opt to make something yourself, DIY projects can result in both savings and stylish solutions.

A few ideas for every room, include:

Bedroom

  • Use Shoeboxes in the Dresser to Divide Clothing Into Sections and Rows. If you’d prefer something prettier than a plain box, take a cue from Kondo’s Hikidashi storage boxes and cover them in patterned paper. Find the full instructions on Hunker.
  • Arrange Your Clothes Vertically. This method of organizing your dresser is revolutionary. Rather than horizontally stacking clothes on top of each other, fold and arrange them vertically in your dresser like you’re filing papers, as shown on Woman’s Day. That way, you can see every piece in your wardrobe at once, making the process of choosing an outfit quicker and simpler. Be sure to try this in kids’ drawers too. I do this for my 4-year-old son, and it makes getting ready for school in the morning that much easier.
  • Use an Egg Carton to Organize Jewelry in a Dresser Drawer. Putting one set of earrings or one necklace in each egg cup helps keep your jewelry from amassing into one tangled jumble. Plus, it allows you to clearly see what you have and quickly choose the right accessory for your outfit. To fancy up your egg carton organizer, apply a coat of spray paint in a color that complements your decor.
  • Repurpose a Bowl as a Catch-All. Find a pretty glass or ceramic bowl you’re not using to corral stray items like rings and watches on your nightstand. Likewise, use a decorative glass or ceramic cup to hold things you like to keep accessible — like pens, hand lotion, reading glasses, and even the TV remote.
  • Make Your Own Storage “Baskets” to Store Closet Miscellanea. Baskets make for classy storage, but they can also be prohibitively expensive. To keep things on budget and attractively contained, you can DIY a basket from a cardboard box. Invest in some inexpensive jute rope, and use a glue gun to hot-glue rows of rope around the box. The result looks just like a real high-end basket. Find the full instructions on BuzzFeed.

Bathroom

  • Create a Makeup Caddy From Paper Towel Tubes. First, decide what to store in each tube — like makeup brushes, lipsticks, mascara, and eyeliner. Then cut paper towel tubes to a variety of different heights depending on what you plan to group in each tube. Next, use Mod Podge to cover each tube in coordinating decorative paper and finish the top of each tube with a strip of coordinating ribbon. From a piece of cardboard, cut a circle slightly larger than the grouped-together tubes — that becomes the caddy’s base. Cover it in decorative paper, then glue all the tubes onto the base. Get the full instructions from Cathie Filian and Steve Piacenza.
  • Use Plastic Storage Drawers for Small Items. If you have bathroom cabinets rather than drawers under your sinks, grouping small items is troublesome. They’re unlikely to remain easily findable, and you waste a lot of vertical space when you run out of stacking options. While large plastic drawers can run you into the double digits, you can pick up small ones for collecting things like hair bands and makeup from the dollar store.
  • Upcycle Glass Jars for Counter Storage. Make your own apothecary-style jars to store things like cotton balls and cotton swabs right on your bathroom counter. That positions them for easy grabbing and makes a stylish decorative touch. Remove the labels from glass pasta, salsa, pickle, or jelly jars, then wash and dry them. You can leave them clear or use Mod Podge to decorate them with pretty scrapbook or tissue paper. Next, spray-paint the lids with a metallic paint, such as oil-rubbed bronze, and glue on some attractive antique-style drawer knobs. Find the full instructions on Little House of Four.
  • Use Command Hooks and Inexpensive Dollar Store Bins Inside Cabinets. Attach Command hooks to the insides of your bathroom cabinets and hang small, narrow plastic baskets, which you can buy from the dollar store or on Amazon, to organize small, loose items. Or use Command picture-hanging strips to hang an inexpensive metal or plastic magazine holder to collect hair dryers and curling irons.
  • Use a Mesh Bag to Contain Bath Toys. Keep kids bath toys from taking over the bathroom with an inexpensive mesh bag you can buy from the dollar store. Use suction cup wall hooks to hang it over the bathtub so the toys are always within easy reach and can air-dry after use.

Kids Rooms

  • Corral Stuffed Animals in a “Bean Bag” Chair. Sew a sack from your chosen fabric, stuff it with your child’s stuffed animals, and you have a cute storage solution that’s also functional. Find the full instructions on HGTV.
  • Use Fabric-Covered Bins to Store Clothes, Toys, or Books. Repurpose cardboard boxes into stylish storage by covering them with decorative fabric. Then use them in your child’s closet to organize off-season clothes. You can also use fabric-covered boxes to collect your child’s toys. Be sure to group like items together. For example, put all the Legos together in one bin and all the dolls together in another. Find the full instructions for making fabric-covered bins on IHeart Organizing. You can even use these bins to organize your child’s books. Place the bins on top of a dresser, and stack the books vertically, like a file, so your child can easily flip through them, as shown at the Center for the Collaborative Classroom.
  • Use Plastic Bins to Organize Toys. If you’d rather not DIY, you can find plenty of inexpensive and colorful bins from the dollar store to organize kids toys. For a cohesive look, buy them all in one uniform shape and color, as shown on Clutterbug.
  • Create Vertical Storage With Crates. If you’ve run out of floor space, think vertically. Purchase inexpensive plastic or wooden crates and attach them to walls to imitate shelving. Find the full instructions on Hometalk.
  • Make Labels With Pictures. When it comes to organizing kids’ things, it’s crucial to make it easy for them to maintain. If you have small children who aren’t yet readers, forgo labeling with words and label with pictures instead. If you’re using fabric bins, make your own labels by printing clip art onto cardstock and using self-laminating sheets to make them durable. Then fasten them permanently to your bins with some hot glue or opt for removable labels by punching holes and using some rope or ribbon to tie them onto your bins’ handles like tags. If your bins are plastic, print your homemade labels onto sticker paper.

Kitchen

  • Use Dollar Store Bins to Organize Your Fridge and Freezer. Keep all like items together and categorized in bins — like snacks, veggies, meat, fruit, and condiments — so you’ll always be able to see what you have and waste less food due to spoilage. Find inspiration on Kimspired DIY.
  • Make Over Your Pantry With Stackable Bins. As with your fridge and freezer, you can use dollar store bins to group like items together in your pantry. Stackable bins are especially useful in the pantry. They work well for storing produce like potatoes, onions, apples, or avocados. Find inspiration on IHeart Organizing.
  • Repurpose Coffee Creamer Canisters to Store Dry Goods. Remove the labels from used coffee creamer canisters — the kind that come with flip-top lids and are clear plastic underneath the label. Wash and dry them and use them to store bulk dry goods like popcorn, chocolate chips, and nuts. You can see what’s in each canister, and the flip-top lid makes pouring easy. Find the full instructions on FrugElegance.
  • Use a Cereal Box to Store Wraps and Baggies. Cover a cereal box with contact paper and hang it inside a kitchen cabinet using Command strips. Get the full instructions from Samantha Kamilos.
  • Use a Dish Rack to Store Pot or Storage Container Lids. Pick up an inexpensive dish rack from the dollar store and “file” pot lids to keep them organized, as shown on Good Housekeeping.

Living Room

  • Make Your Own Stylish Rope Bins to Store Blankets. Using some thick rope and a makeshift mold, such as a metal trash can, “weave” your own rope basket by hot-gluing the rope, layer by layer, as you work your way around the mold. Be sure to glue the rope to itself and not the mold. Once you’ve reached the top, you can remove the mold, and you have an attractive and expensive-looking basket for storing blankets within plain view. Get the full instructions from Nadine Stay.
  • Use a Hanging Clothes Organizer to Keep Board Games Accessible. An inexpensive hanging clothes organizer hung in the coat closet can keep board games easily accessible and prevent the dreaded avalanche when kids haphazardly pull one from the bottom of the stack.
  • Use Bins on Bookcases to Keep Toys Organized. Keep kids’ toys together and attractively disguised with bins set on the lower shelves of bookcases or other furniture you already use in your shared family space — like an entertainment center. For the bins, turn cardboard boxes into baskets or cover them with fabric. Get full instructions on Living Well Mom or HGTV. And be sure to use picture labels for younger children.
  • Turn an Old Picture Frame Into a Tray to Organize a Coffee Table. Remove the glass from an old picture frame and spray-paint the frame in your chosen color. Then use Mod Podge to glue some decorative paper or fabric onto the glass and let it dry. Attach some drawer pulls to either side of the frame, put the glass back in, and use your new tray to corral your remotes or other small items. Get the full instructions on My Sweet Things.
  • Get Some Multifunctional Furniture From the Thrift Store. Instead of a TV stand in our living room, we repurposed an old dresser. It doubles as a storage powerhouse in our tiny space, holding everything in its drawers, from cords and remotes to candlesticks and tablecloths. A coffee table with multiple drawers can also serve the same purpose — giving you a way to hide knickknacks while keeping them organized. To keep this tip budget-friendly, repurpose your structurally sound old furniture or flip a thrift store or flea market find. Even if you’re intimidated by do-it-yourself projects, this is a relatively beginner-friendly DIY. A good sanding, some spray paint, and new hardware can turn even the ugliest furniture into something that looks stylish and high-end. Find full instructions on The Spruce.

Office

  • Upcycle Glass Jars or Soup Cans to Hold Pens and Markers. Remove the labels, then wash and dry glass jars like those used for pasta sauce, jams and jellies, or pickles. Then cover them with decorative washi tape, as seen on Little Helsinki. You can do the same thing with recycled soup cans. Just be sure to smooth any sharp or rough edges. Alternatively, you can cover cans in decorative paper using Mod Podge. Get the full instructions from Erin Spain.
  • Make Your Own Desk Caddy Out of Toilet Paper Tubes and Cereal Boxes. Use some Mod Podge to cover toilet paper tubes and the bottoms of cereal boxes in decorative paper. Then paint a circular wooden plaque in a similar or complementary color and glue all your boxes together onto the plaque to make one cohesive organizer. Find the full instructions on Mod Podge Rocks.
  • Organize Your Spare Cords with Toilet Paper Tubes. To easily keep track of which cords go with which devices when not in use, bundle each inside a toilet paper tube. Then label each tube using a Sharpie. Make them more attractive with some decorative washi tape. Get the full instructions on One Good Thing.
  • Create a Charging Station From a Shoebox. Spray-paint a shoebox — bottom and lid. Then cut small rectangular holes across the long side of the box — as many holes as devices you want to charge. Cover each slot with a metal bookplate to give it a finished look. Get the full instructions from Tasha Chawner.
  • Use Cereal Boxes to Organize Office Supplies. Cut off the bottoms of cereal boxes to make drawer organizers for storing pens, pencils, paper clips, staples, and rubber bands. Cover them in decorative paper so they look attractive when your drawer is open. Get the full instructions on IHeart organizing.

6. Maintain

Labelled Jar Organizing White Marker

Although Kondo claims that once you organize and declutter your house once, you never have to do it again, for most people, keeping your home well-organized requires frequent maintenance. That includes everything from decluttering a few times a year to remembering to return everything to its place daily.

The No. 1 requirement of maintenance is developing new habits to replace the old ones. For example, if you used to bring in the mail and dump it all on the kitchen counter, you need to create a new routine of dealing with it immediately instead — even if that means stowing it in a to-do bin for later.

Some tips for establishing new habits and routines to help keep you and your family organized include:

  • Tie Decluttering to Something You Already Do. For example, at tax time, spring-clean your finances so you can declutter and organize your paperwork. When the seasons change, go through your clothes. And when you shop for groceries, toss any spoiled or expired food from your fridge and pantry.
  • Follow the “One In, One Out” Rule. If you buy something new, toss something old.
  • Set Space Limits. Let your space tell you if it’s time to declutter. For example, if your dresser or closet is so overflowing there’s no room for more, purge clothes you no longer wear.
  • Know Where You Plan to Put Something Before You Buy It. Don’t buy anything unless you know exactly where it can go.
  • Make Decluttering a Constant Rather Than an Annual Event. Instead of waiting for spring-cleaning, keep a donation box in the closet of every bedroom for clothes you no longer want or that your kids have outgrown.
  • Create Daily Routines for Curbing To-Do Piles. Keep tabs on growing piles of laundry by putting a load in the washing machine before every workday. Empty the dishwasher every morning and load it every night. If you leave a room, take something with you to put away. Spend 10 to 20 minutes a day doing a nightly tidy-up and spot-cleaning. These small tasks can keep chores from growing into huge and time-consuming events.
  • Follow the One-Minute Rule. If it takes less than a minute to do — like tossing junk mail — do it immediately. That also keeps small tasks from snowballing into big ones.
  • Create Logical and Natural Systems for Drop Spots. For example, if your family is always dropping their things on the kitchen counter when they come in the door, set up an entryway system with baskets and coat hooks for every family member. That way, when people come home, they drop their stuff into an automatically organized space. “Logical and natural” means understanding how you use your spaces and finding solutions you can naturally stick to.
  • Designate Homes for Your Most Frequently Misplaced Items. According to a 2017 survey by Pixie, makers of tracking devices for your stuff,  the most misplaced thing in most homes is the TV remote – which 71% of us lose at least once a month — followed by phones, car keys, glasses, and shoes. So find designated spots where all these necessities go. For example, you might place a basket or hook for keys near your door. Or work on establishing a new habit, like always setting the remote next to the TV after you turn it off.
  • Label Everything. If you label everything, it helps everyone remember where things go so you can all stick to the plan.
  • Seek Progress Over Perfection. Remember, perfection is the enemy of finishing anything. But if you do just one thing that somehow makes your life a little easier or helps you save money, that’s progress.

Final Word

Although organizing your home can be an exhausting process, its life-enhancing benefits are well worth it in the end. And remember, you don’t have to do everything at once — most organizational experts caution against even trying to. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, spend just 10 minutes a day sorting your stuff. Label laundry baskets or boxes with “keep,” “donate,” and “sell.” Then set a timer and toss a few things in every day.

Whatever you do, remember to keep everyone involved. Whether you’re a parent with kids or live with a roommate, it’s vital everyone who shares the home has input in the process. Throwing out people’s things behind their backs can impair trust. And if you want any hope of maintaining your systems, everyone needs to be involved in creating them.

Are you planning to tackle an organization project? What do you plan to start with?

Sarah Graves
Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She's also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

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