The Power Plan to Get Organized

Learn how to de-clutter your life both physically and mentally with these easy steps you can try in your home today.

Posted on | By Peter Walsh
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How to Organize Your Kitchen (3:26)

The word clutter is generally associated with the physical stuff that fills our homes and our personal spaces – the toys we trip over in our living room, that stuff that’s sitting in boxes in the garage for five years, or the pile of magazines you just can’t seem to throw away. While all of these things are definitely clutter, I think that the definition needs to be much broader. For me, clutter is anything that gets between you and the life you want to be living. While that can be the physical stuff, it can also be the stuff in your head that’s a hurdle for you – the negative speak that destroys your self-esteem, the quick rush to judgement, or the out-of-proportion angry response.  All of these are clutter also and – just like the physical stuff – can be things that stop you living the best life you can.

Someone once said that clutter is decisions delayed, and that’s a great observation!  The primary relationship of many of the people I work with is with their stuff. Think about that. They look to what they own to provide something it simply cannot – support, love, respect, communication, warmth, care, and so on. If you’re investing too much time in the acquiring and retention of stuff, I can guarantee that your relationships with family, friends, and yourself are suffering. If you’re not careful, what you own ends up owning you. That’s a place no one wants to be. 

The word organize and the word organic come from the same source – to be organized is to be fully whole, and complete. That’s the goal in all of this. If you’re organized in your home there is far less stress and anxiety. You can be more focused and motivated, More calm and at peace.

When we talk about clutter, we say that it makes us feel suffocated or buried. I think that’s because we know somewhere inside of us that that’s exactly what clutter does, it robs us of the ability to breathe in our own homes.  When a home is overrun with clutter, it robs us emotionally, making us feel stressed out. It robs us financially; the stuff costs a lot of money to acquire. It robs us socially; we are too embarrassed to have people over to our homes. It robs us of peace and calm, we can’t relax in our own homes. These are just some of the pitfalls of clutter once it takes over our spaces. It is impossible to live a rich, full, stress free and focused life in a home filled with clutter.

Your home is a reflection of your life. It’s impossible to make your best choices for your most authentic life in a cluttered, messy, disorganized space – it just doesn’t happen!  De-cluttering opens your space, allows you to focus, and helps you feel motivated.  By surrounding yourself only with those things that are beautiful and useful, you are able to truly create a space that reflects your best life.

Your Kitchen

Your kitchen is not just a place to prepare food – it’s so much more than that.  The kitchen is the room that nourishes your family in every sense of the word. Kitchens gather clutter usually because that’s where most of us gather most often and also because it’s usually the hub of the house. However, clutter in a kitchen quickly derails any attempt to prepare healthy meals or create a nourishing environment, simply because it’s impossible to make your healthiest choices in a cluttered, messy, disorganized space. It just can’t be done! If a kitchen is cluttered, it is no longer a welcoming place that encourages people to gather and share – it becomes a room to be avoided and a space that no one want to spend time in. Here’s how to clean up your kitchen clutter easily:

De-clutter your pots and pans. Use the vertical space available to you by applying adhesive hooks to the back of cabinet doors to hold the lids from your pots and pans. 

Invest in a metal desk file rack. Stand it on its end and you've created a simple but effective pan holder that will enable you to stack frying pans in your cupboard, saving you space and stress.

Make your fridge see-through. Use clear plastic containers to tame and conquer your refrigerator.  This will help you with the 3 Hs, which are:

  • Handling: Place like items into a clear container. You can now easily see what you have, move items efficiently to the kitchen counter, and never go searching in the back of the fridge for that favorite mustard you know you have to have for your perfect sandwich! 
  • Hygiene: Spills are a constant source of annoyance in a fridge, and a pain to clean up. By using clear containers you contain spills and reduce the time and effort needed to clean whole shelves in the case of a mishap.
  • Health: Clear containers enable you to put healthy snacks front and center in your fridge so your kids can easily grab the snacks they want.  Also, you can more easily maintain the portion control that is so important in the health and wellness of any family.

Your Master Bedroom

The master bedroom is the most important room in a home – it’s sacred ground that should be preserved as a haven and sanctuary for a couple. No other distractions allowed! No children’s toys, no computer, no piles of dirty clothes. If your bedroom doesn’t create the same sense of peace and calm that a spa creates then it’s time to step up and do something about it. Without exception, when clutter is cleared and harmony is restored to a home the sparks start flying! If only for your libido – clear the clutter!

The Closet

A fundamental rule in getting organized is to accept that fact that you only have the space you have. You must respect the physical limits that your closet places on you and pare down your clothing to adequately fit within that space. For me, it’s very straightforward. You should have only three types of clothing in your closet: things that fit you now, things that you love, and things that make you feel great wearing. Everything else should go. You should especially get rid of clothes that you are saving that you hope to fit into again one day. These clothes exist for only one reason – to mock you! Open you closet space by discarding all those things that you haven’t worn. You wear 20 percent of your clothing 80 percent of the time. Don’t believe me? Try these two tricks and see if they apply to you:

  • Reverse Clothes Hanger Trick: Turn all of the clothes hanging in your closet so that the hangers face back to front. For the next six months, if you wear an item of clothing, return it to the closet with the hanger facing the correct way. If you try it on but decide not to wear it, make sure you put it back with the hanger turned backwards. Be prepared for a shock, because after six months you’re going to look at which clothes are on hangers that are still facing in reverse. These are the clothes you have not worn. You should seriously consider getting rid of them all.
  • Lower Third Rule: We tend to use the same clothes over and over, while those less worn tend to remain untouched in our closets. If you have a stack of similar clothing - sweaters, T-shirts, jeans, or even underwear on a shelf in your closet or in your drawers, chances are that the lower third of that stack are items that you simply don't love or wear.  

Your Home Office

Your home office should be where you conduct the business of your home.  And like any well-run business, it should be organized for efficiency. 

Paperwork

Unless you have clear routines, paperwork will quickly overwhelm you. Getting organized will help prevent you from wasting hours looking for important paper work, bills, receipts, and invoices. Two easy steps can be taken to organize household paperwork: 

  1. Create zones in your home for paperwork. Make sure that you have clearly labeled areas for mail, bills to pay, magazine storage, school bulletins, and for any office-like functions that happen in your home. Clearly labeled zones create a more efficient home and limit clutter.
  2. Invest in a good filing system and make sure it is clearly labeled. Up to 80 percent of what goes into a filing system never sees the light of day.  An efficient filing system will allow you to quickly retrieve important information. Go through your files once a year to get rid of outdated and unwanted paperwork.

Receipts and Paid Bills

Keeping paid bills and/or receipts under control can often also be a problem, so to get these under control start by purchasing a 12-month expanding file. When you pay bills for June for example, place them in June section of the file. You’ll come back to June 12 months later. If you haven’t needed to look at the bills in that time, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever need them again and you should shred them. The same system works for receipts.

Article written by Peter Walsh
An expert in organizational design, Peter Walsh is a television & radio personality as well as the author of numerous New York...