One of the biggest reasons for the pervasive clutter in my apartment is a lack of time to deal with it. It takes longer to put a shirt away than it does to just throw it on the floor, so onto the floor it goes. As long as there’s a path from the door to my bed, I tend not to ignore and perpetuate the clutter. I’m increasingly realizing, though, that all the out-of-place stuff in my life can become a huge time drain. I spend precious minutes and hours looking for things that could be easily avoided by a better system, and a few minutes devoted to staying organized.
In an effort to become more organized, especially in my personal space, I’ve found a few methods that can help even the busiest of us to get organized, or at least get the organization ball rolling, in only a few minutes. In the time it takes to brush my teeth or check my voicemail, I’m able to get some of the junk in my life a little more in order.
Here are eight ways to get in, get organized, and get out:
One Box To Rule Them All
Between the shelves, the desks, the drawers, the nooks and the crannies, the things I need to deal with get pretty spread out. To tackle them, try the “One Box” method: take out a box, as large as possible, and put everything you need to deal with into it. Clear the junk off of every surface, and if you need to do something with it, don’t- just put it in the box. It’s much easier to sit down later with a box and delve into processing it, than it is to try to clean and organize all at once. I call mine the “Box of Everything,” and it will make your space cleaner and give you an easier time of processing the relevant stuff. When in doubt, put it in the box.
Pick a single space in your room or office- a desk, a bookshelf, a chair piled with laundry- and clean it until it’s spic-and-span. Make sure it’s a small space, as you’re trying to get this done in five minutes, but pick a spot and have a mini-cleaning bonanza. Most small spaces will only have a few items to deal with, which will make the process both easy and rewarding, as at least one small part of your mess looks immaculate.
Do a sweep of your whole space- office, bedroom, wherever you’re looking to get organized. Anything that needs to be processed or dealt with separately, leave where it is. For these five minutes, all you’re dealing with is trash-able items. Walk around with a big trash bag, and liberally dump stuff into it. I find that a huge portion of the clutter in my own room is due to things I meant to throw away, but for whatever reason didn’t before now. In five minutes, you’ll fill a trash bag and make your space look that much nicer.
Clean from the Ground Up
In most rooms, a dirty or cluttered floor is the most obvious sign of disorganization. There’s significant psychological benefit in a clean floor, and it’s much easier to keep the floor clean if it’s clean to begin with. Try cleaning just the floor- if something’s not touching the floor, leave it alone. Most of what’s on my floor are clothes, shoes, and other things that I have the terrible tendency to walk into my room, drop, and walk back out. With a clean floor, your space will look better and feel better to you, and likely make the task of organizing much less daunting.
Pick It and Fill It
Another thing prone to messing up your space is things without a home. The easiest way to fix this? Give them a home. Start by picking a place for all of a certain thing to go- let’s say DVDs. Once you’ve created a home for your DVDs, go around collecting them and putting them in their rightful place. Don’t deal with anything else except your DVDs. In just a few minutes, you can collect all your DVDs, put them where they’re supposed to be, and be done with it. Organizing your DVDs, or whatever it may be, gets a whole lot easier when they have a set home, and a home only for them.
Piles, Piles, Piles
This one’s somewhat the opposite of a lot of what I’ve mentioned, but can work for me depending on my mood. Sometimes, all I want to do is make a mess so large I don’t have a choice but to clean it up. When I’m feeling this way, I dig everything out of the clever places I tend to hide things – drawers, behind and on top of other things, under my bed, and what have you. Once everything’s out, on the floor, and in front of me, I’m able to gauge what it is that I’m dealing with, and get to work. If you’re not in the mood to clean, but know you should, try this one – make the mess messier, but in a useful way.
Organizing is simply more fun when there’s a flashy, cool system to it. That’s why David Allen always suggested the use of a labeler for your filing system – it’s no more useful than a pen, and probably takes longer, but it’s prettier and more serious-looking. This is a great tip for when you don’t want to clean up at all: make some files. Figure out what you’ve got a lot of, and create a file for it. Make it pretty, easy to get to, and I’ve found they tend to fill themselves up somehow.
This is a new habit, and it’s worked wonders for me: When I’m organizing, I put duct tape over certain places: my bookshelf and my cupboard, for instance. They are off-limits, and I’m not allowed to put things in them. Now, instead of being able to just shove things in drawers and hope for an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, I have to find a useful place for them- or just get rid of them. Mostly, it’s just get rid of them. I leave myself a finite amount of space for my things, and it’s typically easy to shrink my stuff to fill the space.
Organizing works best in baby steps- trying to do it all at once can be overwhelming. Instead, take five minutes, and tackle one of these eight tasks- you’ll feel better, your space will look better, and organization will somehow begin to look a little bit easier.
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