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Once you’ve completed your decluttering and have your home, workspace, car and digital devices clean and tidy, you need to organize after you declutter to make it easy to maintain what you worked so hard to achieve. Creating organizational systems will make it a no-brainer to put things where they belong and keep everything the way you want it.
It’s easy for people to fall back into bad habits, walking into the house while sorting through the mail and drop it on the dining room table. Kids drop their athletic gear by the door and go off to do their homework or have dinner. Clothing and shoes get tossed into the corner because you’re tired and promise yourself you’ll do it later.
Enter organization, the logical next step after you declutter.
You may have already done some of this work as you put away the clothes, books, and other belongings that made the cut when you pared down your stuff. If you used some pretty boxes to separate things in your dresser and desk drawers, even your kitchen cabinets, you’re ahead of the game. It will feel natural to put items that belong in those boxes directly there rather than toss them willy-nilly into the drawer.
But there are a lot of other areas, and a fair amount of mental shifting, that you can do to ensure all your hard work is protected and reinforced.
How To Organize After You Declutter
1. Walk people through the changes.
If you’ve been implementing all the decluttering and organizational changes in your home, you’ll need to catch your family up so they can understand where things are and where they should go.
You can’t really blame people who don’t understand the logic behind your organization so help them by pointing out the benefits of an uncluttered house and how to find all the things they need. Getting them onboard is important because you want them committed to the changes.
2. Use labels.
When you use bins to store various groupings of things, labels can be a huge help in easily seeing where things should go, especially when you have more than one person putting things away.
You can get cute labels online for very little and attach them to bins and baskets. If you’re crafty, you can make your own.
3. Don’t overfill any containers.
Leave room for growth. Not to buy more things and have room to hide extra stuff. Give your belongings space because it will keep them undamaged when they’re not stuffed into a too-small container.
You also never know if your family might expand or if you may have needs for different things in a different phase of your life.
4. Don’t over-organize
It’s easy to see the appeal of perfectly lined up bins on shelves and nothing else showing. But by doing so, it will be more difficult to remember where everything is. And your home will look more like a storefront than a comfortable family space. Put the functional, but not pretty, (like medicines and extra toiletries) in containers and let more of your possessions (like nicely folder or rolled towels) be their own decoration.
5. Put things back where they belong.
It takes the exact same amount of time to put things away where they belong as it does to just put them down anywhere. It actually takes more time not putting things in their proper place in the first place because you’ll have to go back and move it eventually.
6. Make organization intuitive.
Think about where you actually use things when you design spaces.
If your kids come back from sports practice through the garage, it makes sense to create a storage area for their equipment there where they can put it away without thinking.
If you want the mail to go where it needs to, sort through it at a trashcan near your desk and files.
Pet food should be near where you feed them.
Organize your things the way you will use them. Having what you need at your fingertips will make everything easier.
7. Don’t buy anything until you take inventory of what you already have.
If you’ve decluttered, you shouldn’t have too much of a backlog of anything. If you do, it’s likely to be already in the right place, like toilet paper in the garage for example.
Before buying storage containers, consider what you already have at home. If you cleaned out bins when decluttering, maybe these could be repurposed?
What about some of the pretty baskets and decorative boxes that you decided to keep during your decluttering? Why not put them to actual use while on display?
Also, take measurements of every place you need to purchase containers. There’s nothing more irritating than buying cute bins and baskets and finding that they don’t fit under your bed, in the linen closet, under your kitchen sink, or wherever you bought them for.
8. Plan a daily 15 minute decluttering.
This will keep reinforcing where things should have gone in the first place and highlight any problems in your organizational system. Involve the other members of the family in this daily decluttering if you can. For example, if the kids want to watch TV, they first have to join you in putting their misplaced items where they need to go. Nothing will get them to get with the program faster. Don’t clutter = faster to the TV.
9. Do not allow “I’ll put it away later.” AT ALL.
Postponing putting things away is a dangerous mindset for organization and you will soon be having to dig out from under. Put things away the minute you touch them.
Mail goes from mailbox to trash or file; cooking implements go into a soapy water bowl while you cook and are washed and dried immediately after. Clothing goes straight into the laundry bin when undressing; Homework goes back into backpacks before bed, and your desk is cleared and neatened at the end of the workday.
10. If you buy one, lose one.
After all the work you did in decluttering your life, you don’t want to look up one day and wonder how all these new things are suddenly camped out all over your house.
Get used to keeping the equilibrium in your possessions. If you bring something new into the house, remove a similarly sized item. This will prevent clutter buildup.
11. Trust the system you’ve created.
After you’ve put everything away and they’re no longer cluttering every surface of your home, it will take you a while to learn where things are.
Don’t panic and go off plan while you’re still trying to understand it. You may have to open a few drawers until you remember where everything is, but you’ll get there quickly.
12. Be willing to adjust and change your system.
To make your organizational system work better for you, tweak it until it’s a custom fit for you.
If you keep a file folder on your desk for bills, but you actually like to handle your finances at the dining room table, maybe a drawer in your sideboard would be a better storage area for your checkbook and waiting bills.
Are you a crafter that likes to work while watching TV with your family in the evening? Then don’t isolate yourself in a designated craft room. Store your supplies in a dresser in the living room and put your projects there so you can work on them at your leisure and get them out of sight when you’re done.
13. Don’t let Social Media dictate how you should organize
Pinterest, Etsy, and Facebook are great places to get ideas on everything, including organization and decorating. But don’t get caught up in someone else’s vision of perfection.
Look for inspiration and choose and adapt the ideas that appeal to you. I’ve found many gorgeous nursery ideas that wouldn’t work in the small space we have for the baby, so I found ways to get the effect I wanted with what I had to work with. It turned out to be darling!
Don’t go for that perfect look. Believe me, there’ll be plenty of time for that once the kids grow up and move away (note my comment above – they sometimes come back). Aim for a level of neatness and organization that makes sense to you and that make you AND your family feel comfortable and at home in the space. Good enough is good enough.
14. Give yourself permission to replace things with better quality.
If you pared down your wardrobe a lot, buy fewer things but buy better quality.
You don’t have to buy big designer but a well-constructed article of clothing made out of good material will flatter you and last longer than cheaper things. It’s more cost-effective to care for quality goods in the long run than to keep buying things that fall apart quickly. Organize the same way you decluttered.
One small area at a time. You’ll get some quick wins and see immediate results that will inspire you to do more. Visualize how you want your dresser drawers or linen closet, take measurements and find the right storage solutions for that one area before moving on.
15. By the same token, complete whatever organizing task you start.
Move the items you want into the organized spaces you created before stopping. This is why it’s important to only work on a small area at a time. You want to be able to complete a space before you go to the next one.
Want to save some time? Take measurements of the space you have on shelves and in drawers and cabinets. Take them with you to work and stop to buy the containers you need on the way home or at lunch. That way, you’ll have everything you need to start and finish the job.
16. Factor in regular upkeep.
It would be wonderful to believe that, now that everything is decluttered and carefully organized, your home will stay that way from now on.
Unfortunately, no matter how much you wish everything would stay perfectly in its place, we’re only human. Things are bound to be mislaid and create mini hot zones that need to be cleared out regularly. The beauty of it is that you now have a decluttered house and a working organizational system. It should never take you more than a few minutes a day to keep your new system working smoothly.
Would you like some quick wins? Download my free 50 Quick Decluttering Projects You Can Do In A Half Hour Or Less and see results beginning today!
Check out all the posts in the Decluttering series: