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50 Ways to Make Your Home More Organized, More Attractive, and More Efficient

50 Ways to Make Your Home More Organized, More Attractive, and More Efficient

The modern home is far bigger than the home of just 30 years ago – and far more cluttered! How can that happen? Basically, our demand for stuff is outstripping our ability to buy space – no wonder self-storage is one of the leading growth industries in the United States.

Questions about runaway consumerism aside, what all this excess stuff means for most of us is more time spent maintaining our living spaces to keep some semblance of order in our lives. Most of us don’t want to spend our evenings and weekends – and more for work-at-home types – knee-deep in clutter, never sure where anything is, and constantly stepping over all those things that, for one reason or another, we just had to have.

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We fight a constant battle against clutter around Chez Dustin. Besides my partner and I, there are her three children, all under 13. Plus, her brother and his two kids have been staying with us while he sorts out some family matters, forcing our usual border-skirmishes against clutter to escalate into an all-out war.

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That’s why I asked you, our readers, to share some of your tips in one of the contests in the Great Big Summer Giveaway. I had a blast going through your tips, tricks, and advice for keeping the home organized, and today, I’m going to present the cream of the crop.

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General Household Tips

  1. Hide a cluttered bookshelf with a spring-loaded curtain rod and a set of curtains. (Liz)
  2. Use filing cabinets for a TV stand. (Doug)
  3. Use clear plastic shoeboxes to store knick-knacks and other odds and ends. (jenny)
  4. Organize your house by task so that the things most relevant to each job are where you’re most likely to use them. This might be obvious for things like laundry and crafts, but what about a mail station, homework area, or just storing linens in the laundry room? (gs49, Lorie)
  5. Figure out where things normally get dropped and set up an appropriate place for them as close as possible to that point. This will improve the chance that they’ll end up where they belong, and decrease the distance the things that don’t make it home have to go to be put back. (Paula)
  6. Label it! Labeling is not just for file folders – get a label-maker (or several) and keep it handy all around the house. Kitchen shelves, storage containers, bookshelves, coat racks — there are millions of places where a smart label can forestall endless amounts of clutter. My variation of jenny’s clear shoebox idea above (#3) is to use plastic pencil boxes for all manner of tiny stuff; they lock slightly to make tidy stacks on my shelves, and a lovely label on the front keeps everything instantly accessible. (Tassia)
  7. Designate a “launchpad”. This is an area in your house, preferably near the door, where coats, jackets, shoes, backpacks, purses, keys, and everything else you need to find easily next time you leave the house stays. Think of it a transition-zone between outside and inside — almost like an airlock. (Kate, Christian247, jason, Luke L., Sandy)
  8. Set up a “bucket” at your “launchpad (a milk crate, basket, or an actual bucket) for each person “. (Laura Warner)
  9. Use a 4-tier “Stadium Rack” for spices, allowing you to always see everything easily without taking up much space. (Jeff)
  10. Set up “clutter bags” in every room. Keep a reusable shopping bag — there are plenty of attractive ones available for super-cheap these days — in every room; when stuff from elsewhere around the house starts building up, throw it into the clutter bag until you can sort it out. (Allan)
  11. Store trashbags inside the trash can, under the current liner. That way, you (or whoever takes the trash out) have a fresh bag handy every single time. (Robert)
  12. Set up a shared online calendar between you and your partner, and allow access to your close family, child-care providers, and anyone else who might need to know where you are at any given moment — or what events are coming up that they might need to plan for. (David)
  13. Use behind-the-door shoe holders for storage of tiny or awkward stuff. The cloth kind have 20 or so pockets that are ideal for craft supplies, cleaning products, tools, and office materials. (Aaron, Shari)
  14. Take care of dishes immediately after meals. (Brenden)
  15. Run the dishwasher frequently. Large households often never get to that mythical state where the clean dishes are put away, the dirty ones are in the dishwasher, and nothing is stacked up in the sink. Modern dishwashers are designed to detect the size of the load, so there’s no reason to wait until the washer is full to run your dishes. (michael kastler; Note from Dustin: I wonder about the electricity needs of this, though!)
  16. Take pictures of sentimental objects before giving them away or throwing them out. Like that T-shirt from that concert you want to when you were 20 years younger, 3 sizes smaller, and quite a bit more stoned. You know you won’t ever wear it again, but hold onto it because of the memories. (michael kastler)
  17. Set up a library/rental box. Store your library books and rented videos in a box in your living room or other place near where you’ll use them, and keep your library cards and video rental cards there as well. That way, you’ll always be reminded if anything’s due when you go to collect your rental cards. (Paul)
  18. Color-code your family. Assign a color to everyone in the house, and buy everything for them in that color: towels, toothbrushes, cups, water bottles, lunch boxes, slippers, whatever. (OngoingDebacle)
  19. Keep your “go bag” in the car. For example, all the stuff for family outings (aside from food) can be stored in the truck, freeing up space in the house and keeping it with you for spontaneous fun time. (Linda F.)
  20. Use an accordion organizer to sort kids’ project paper. Sort by color and/or type of paper. (Kam A.)
  21. Use bed risers to increase the space under your bed. (Carolyn)
  22. Use drawers, not counters, for storing bathroom stuff. (Luke) Or keep all your toiletries in one box or basket on the counter — easy to move for cleaning the counter. (spn)
  23. Use a corkboard and pushpins to hang jewelry. Keeps everything visible but out of the way. (Angelina)
  24. Use a travel jewelry organizer that goes over a hangar. Also keeps jewelry visible and out of the way — and thieves aren’t likely to look for your jewelry among your hung clothes. (Amy)
  25. Keep a basket by the stairs and add out-of-place items to it. When the basket’s full, take it upstairs and put everything away.(Elizabeth M.)
  26. Fill a box with stuff you’re unsure of and pack it for a year. Make sure you put the date on teh outside. If you don’t use anything in the box for an antire year, you don’t need it and can get rid of it. (April)
  27. Put a whiteboard in your garage where you’ll see it when you come home and when you get ready to leave. Put todo lists, reminders, and otehr important information on it. (Sam Klein)
  28. Find creative uses for containers. For example, ice cube trays are great for storing all sorts of tiny objects — any they stack easily. (Groovymarlin)
  29. Keep a rack by the door for keys. But make sure they’re not visible from the front door/window. (Shelle, TechieBird)
  30. Pull bookshelves out slightly to hide cords for gadgets in the back. (Layne)

Bills and Business

  1. Set up a scanner and a shredder next to each other. Incoming mail goes into the scanner and then –unless you need it for your records — straight into the shredder. (Kenneth)
  2. Sort mail as it comes in. Trash it, file it, respond to it, or take action on it — don’t let it build up. (David Wright, KathyHowe)
  3. Go paperless. Scan all your important paperwork and store it on your computer. File only the papers you absolutely need hard copies of. (James, Luke L., Angela M.)
  4. Set up your bills to be due all on the same day. Most utilities will let you shift your payment date, though you will usually have to make up a month-plus the first time after the change. (Bashar)
  5. Use chip clips to hold related papers together. (steve flattem)
  6. Put all your work work on your desk and “do as you clean”. When you’re done, the desk is clean — a great motivator for people who like a clean desk. (Meryl K. Evans)
  7. Auto-pay everything. (Luke L.)
  8. Scan business cards as you get them. (Luciano)
  9. Make a nice box for receipts and put new receipts in it every night when you get home. Sort your receipts on a regular basis, or this will overflow and become yet another source of clutter. (Jason)
  10. Convert a closet into an office. With a little creativity, even a tiny closet can be transformed into a functional space — and when you’re done, close the door to hide the mess. (Jeremy)

Habits and Attitudes

  1. Learn to travel light. That way, a) you don’t have as much to carry, and b) you don’t have as big a bag to store in your house when you’re not traveling. (Steve Moyer)
  2. Close the circle. This takes a little discipline — ok, a lot of discipline — but if you can build the habit of always seeing every act through to its logical end every time, it will prevent a lot of clutter. In practical terms, this means that every time you use something, you follow through until that thing is back where it started from: eat a bowl of cereal, wash the bowl, dry it, and put it back on the shelf. Our lives tend to be built up out of a lot of little “incompletions” that lead to clutter; if you can break that habit and see see things all the way through, you’ll find a lot more improves than just your clutter situation. (Nuruddeen Lewis)
  3. Clean one room or area a day. This is less daunting than cleaning the whole house, and gives you a clear goal, instead of the “one-more-thing” syndrome that strikes when you get a mind to “do some cleaning”. (Katherine, Carolyn Wilman)
  4. Find the clutter “focal point” of each room and keep it clean. In the bedroom, make the bed and keep it clear; in the kitchen, don’t store anything in the sink. If these focal points are clean, the room will seem less cluttered. (Chris)
  5. Give it away. Make a habit of taking regular trips to the Goodwill or other donation center to give away excess stuff, and make sure that when that day comes, you’ve got a full load of stuff to get rid of. (mel)
  6. One in, one out. Make a habit of throwing out, selling, or giving away something for every new thing you bring into the house. For example, when you buy a new pair of shoes, get rid of your least favorite.  Variation: One in, TWO Out! (Bon Temps, Charlie)
  7. Use “deep storage” wisely. Pack up things that you’re not going to use and store them — don’t keep stuff out when you are unlikely to ever need it. (ProductivityScience)
  8. Don’t shop “recreationally”. Go shopping for the things you need, not to kill time or “just to look”. Avoid succumbing to temptation by avoiding temptation itself! (Tracy)
  9. Never put anything on top of anything smaller than it is. For example, never put a newspaper on top of a small book or your keys. You’ll lose less stuff that way. (Cindy)
  10. Don’t make piles. Ever. (Sue)
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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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