December 29,2015 | By Greg Healy |

Did you just make a resolution that from now on you will be more organized at home? All too often, we set out with a firm intention and we are positive we will carry it out.

However, without action steps to follow through on the resolution, it is far too easy to fall back into old familiar habits.  And that means the clutter problem goes on and on, and dust bunnies flourish.

If you’re ready to make a change that lasts longer than one weekend of frantic cleaning because guests or in-laws are dropping in, then check out these fast and easy tips for getting organized, and put them into action.  Does this photo below of a messy living space look all-too-familiar? If so, take heart, because the solution is below in 12 easy techniques for creating order out of chaos.

Messy apartment


  1. Imagine how your room(s) will look when you finish decluttering. Work in an orderly progression, such as clockwise around the room, instead of dashing here and there and ending up feeling totally overwhelmed because the mess seems to be getting worse instead of better. While you sort, hold an image in your mind of how it will look when the declutter process is finished. As the late Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve regardless of how many times you may have failed in the past.”
  2. Get ready with trash bags and empty cartons. Start with at least three big trash bags or cartons and mark them: “Give away,” “Trash,” “Keep.”  Then begin in one corner of the apartment and start sorting everything into the piles.  Obviously, if you want the throw pillows on the couch, leave them on the couch! Don’t empty out drawers or closets at this stage—you’ll just add to the frustration. Save the fine-tuning of drawer- and closet-cleaning for another time.  
  3. Work in chunks. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Put on lively music and do as much as you can, as fast as you can.  Take a break, look around and see how much you’ve accomplished. Smile! Set the timer again. Do this over the course of an evening or weekend and you’ll be amazed how much that focused sorting can do to create order. Then, be sure to take out the trash, drop off the charity donations, and put away the things you decided to keep.
  4. Be ruthless with yourself. If you haven’t used something and know that you never will, why keep it? You may be surprised to discover just how much stuff you’ve got that doesn’t even belong in your space—it’s ready to go to a charity donation or straight to the garbage or recycle bin.
  5. Rearrange the furniture. Now that you’ve cleared up the worst of the mess, see if reorganizing your furniture will create a more open flow that will feel fresh and new to you when you walk in your apartment. It’s easy to get complacent about our environment, and think that more money would be the key, but taking time to rearrange the things you already have can give you a warmer sense of hearth and home.
  6. Use the “7-Second Rule” (When you take it out, put it back.) When you take something out of a cupboard, closet, or drawer, put it back when you are finished with it, even if a little voice in your head protests and says, “Yeah, but I’ll probably need it tomorrow.” Take “7 Seconds” to put it away and you’ll easily find it tomorrow. Leave it out and it adds to the clutter, and could get buried under a layer of other stuff you didn’t put away.
  7. Identify storage spaces with labels and stickers. This simple tip can make your life easier, especially if you have a spouse, roommate, and/or children living with you. Use colorful stickers with images, or grab a roll of clear tape and white paper cut to the size you want. Make the labels short and sweet to identify what goes in that bin or on that shelf. Your shelved closet might have labels like this: “Sheets/towels,” “Paper towels/toilet paper,” “Cleaning supplies,” and so on.  Kitchen cupboards can be labeled for the type of dry food, spices, vinegar/oil, etc. Divide up the shelf space by using two or more labels on the front of the shelf describing what goes on the shelf space just above the label. This tip works great in the fridge, too! Do NOT take everything out with the intention of labeling shelves and putting things back. A faster method is to re-organize your food the way that makes the most sense to you, and then put labels on those shelves such as “Cheese,” “Leftovers,” “Fruit,” “Juice,” “Lunch packs,” etc.
  8. Hang up your clothes. When you get undressed at night or change clothes to go out, don’t drop your clothes on the floor or toss them over the handiest item of furniture. Hang them up in the closet, fold them away in drawers or bins, or put them in the laundry basket. Invest in some hooks if that makes this process easier for you. If you’ve been sloppy because the closet was too crowded, back up to the first tip above, and clear out the clothes that no longer fit or that you don’t like. Just because you already paid for it is no reason to keep something you won’t wear. Give it a quick blessing and pass it on to someone who will be thrilled to have a new sweater, dress or shirt.
  9. Store out-of-season clothing and décor. Buy 2-gallon zip bags at the grocery store and pack away out-of-season clothing and household decorations to store in a carton under the bed or in the back of a closet. Squeeze as much air as you can out of the bag as you zip it, and it’ll take less space.
  10. Call a halt to impulse shopping. When you are shopping in stores or online, and an impulse item calls to you, “Buy me! Take me home!”—pause and ask yourself “Where will I put this? Do I really need it, or do I already have something that serves the same purpose?” Fewer items going in your front door means fewer items to put away.
  11. Neaten as you go. While cooking, clean up as you work: don’t let the piles of pans and mixing bowls fill the sink to overflowing. If you take a moment to wash a bowl you’ve finished with and at least put it on the drainboard or a clean towel to air-dry, the cleanup process will be much easier at the end of the meal. Every morning when you get up, immediately make the bed. Seriously, pull the sheets and covers up, neaten the pillows, put any throw pillows back on it that you tossed on the floor.  Straighten piles of papers, books and magazines.
  12. Maintain your new habits.  Look around and do a quick neatening up each day, and the mess won’t have a chance to build up. Release any inner judgments that you must wait to clean up until you have time to do a perfect job. That procrastination got you into a mess in the first place, didn’t it? Remind yourself that you’re not clearing clutter and making beds to the degree of precision required for a military inspection or a visit from royalty. You’re doing it for yourself and your family.  And for that smile of satisfaction as you look around the room and feel that it is “home.” 

Labeled baskets on shelves

A de-cluttered home doesn’t mean you are creating a space that is barren and cold. You don't have to turn into a neat-freak, either. Being organized means you can find things when you want to, and you can enjoy your living space without tripping over things and feeling guilty that you’re living like a slob.

Order is heaven’s first law, and when we create order in our lives, we not only reduce the stress caused by living in chaos, we open up our homes to be filled with joy, harmony, and peace.



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