As with so many things in life, organization is easier said than done. Despite the best of intentions, it's a lot easier to fall into old habits than to create new ones. I've found there are a few simple steps which go a long way to making me feel organized; I've listed them below, along with some top-notch tips from the Apartment Therapy archives.
1. Develop Good Habits
Sometimes, being organized is as simple as developing a few good habits. When I was growing up, my parents used to put misplaced personal items on the stairs in our front hall. Every family member had their own step, and woe betide anyone who went upstairs without taking their items back up to their room.
These days, that's morphed into a "Don't leave a room without bringing something with you that belongs elsewhere" habit, and I've picked up a few others, too. "Don't go to sleep without doing the dinner dishes" and "Always make the bed in the morning" are popular. Don't try ten new habits at once, but identify a few that would make a difference in your life, and stick at it until they become, well, habit.
MORE GOOD HABITS ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
• How To: Build a Habit
• 5 Things To Do 10 Minutes Before You Go To Bed
• Create a Personal Goal Password to Enforce Good Habits
2. Conquer the To Do List
Ahh, the To Do list. Sometimes these things cause more problems than they solve. We make endlessly long ones, with the misplaced belief that putting something down in paper means it's halfway done. Or worse, the "faux list", when we find ourselves adding previously-completed tasks to our list, for the sole purpose of checking them off!
For a couple years now, I've been keeping my To Do lists to just five items, a concept I picked up from Holly Becker of Decor8. If you think about it, five is the perfect number of important tasks to complete in almost any given stretch of time; enough to feel productive when you've checked them off, but not so many that you're overwhelmed. I'll often make a Top Five list for my week, and then another at the start of each day. I even apply the strategy to wishlists, as in "Top Five Things I Want in a New Job" or "Top Five Places I Want to Visit This Year".
MORE LIST-MAKING ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
• A List of Lists for Getting Organized in the New Year
• Tips to Make To-Do Lists Actually Work
• Take Charge of Your To-Do List
3. Tidy Your Space(s)
You know the phrase "Tidy house, tidy mind"? It definitely rings true for me; I'm much more likely to concentrate on the task at hand if everything in the vicinity is neat and organized. So take the time to tackle a few big projects around the house, either the places where you spend the most time, like the living room or kitchen, or those that have been in the back of your mind, nagging you to clear them out (bedroom closets come to mind).
Don't neglect your workspace, either. Having a good tidy at the office can do wonders for the way you approach work each day.
MORE ORGANIZED SPACES ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
• Ultra Organized Living Rooms from our House Tours
• Tips to Efficiently Organize Your Desk Drawers
• Before & After: Danny Seo Gets Organized
4. Use Appropriate Tools
Whether you're hi-tech or old-school, there are an abundance of tools out there to help you stay organized. Day planners, diaries, digital personal assistants, calendars- the choice can be overwhelming. I like to keep it relatively simple, sticking to iCal for appointments and deadlines, the ever-popular Evernote for all manner of lists and note-taking, and a mini Moleskine diary for on-the-go jotting. Any more than that and my tools start to manage me, instead of the other way around. The trick is, find the tools that work for you, and leave the rest.
MORE PRODUCTIVITY ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
• 10 Things to Do Right Now to Simplify Your Digital Life
• iPad Apps You Recommend for Work Productivity
• Our Favorite Unique Notebooks for the Office
(Images: 1. Ligne Roset Desk via Apartment Therapy 2. Cleverhands on Etsy 3. A Pair of Pears)
Re-edited from a post originally published 1.26.12 - JL