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6 Organizing Tips That'll Transform Your Home & Your Life

Learn professional organizing tips from the experts.

Home Improvement

This whole pandemic environment has thrown all of us for a loop. Whether you're new to working from home or have been doing it for years, you've probably felt the strain. Boundaries have gotten totally blurred, and sometimes it can feel like everything is just out of wack and a hot mess. We could all benefit from some professional organizer tips and tricks to help us find peace, promote productivity, and relieve stress. Take back your life and get your home all the way together by trying these 6 steps, with insights from professional organizers and the habits that keep them at peace:

1. Commit to becoming more organized and adjusting habits.

Kenika Williams, pro organizer and founder of Tidied by K in Atlanta, says organizing the home starts with making the commitment to incorporate daily tweaks to your habits. "There needs to be a mental shift or some point where you verbally and mentally commit to yourself that you're going to take your habits and embark on the journey of getting organized," she says. "Some of things you may have been used to doing previously are not going to fly. For example, if you're working from home, now is a good opportunity to adjust your habits or create new habits so that you can feel at peace in your space and up your productivity."

Being deliberate about taking care of basic household chores the night before, for example, can help you focus on keeping your home clean and free up time to organize in other ways. "If you know that you are used to leaving dishes in the sink and things like that, making small tangible changes in your habits is going to make a world of difference. Turn on a podcast for 20-30 minutes and get in your zone while tidying your kitchen before you go to bed so that when you wake up in the morning, you have created a new habit to counter what you're used to and you can continue with your day with that change in place."

2. Clear out the clutter, one space at a time.

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A key in actually organizing a space is to start with the clutter that currently exists before thinking about any organizational changes. "According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention study, 80% of our medical expenses are related to stress which clutter contributes to," says Dai Smith, founder of Simplicity By Day, a Houston-based organization solutions firm. "Therefore, tackling disorganization in your home can positively affect your mental health and help relieve stress."

Williams agrees. "Get rid of things that no longer have purpose in your home," she suggests. "[Maybe] you don't love something, you never liked it when someone gave it to you, or you've stuffed it somewhere in a closet. Try to purge as much as you can. What that can look like is every single day you get rid of five things."

Having a hard time getting rid of items you don't use or things with sentimental value? "I suggest repurposing the item," Smith says. "For example, snap a photo of the item, put it in a nice frame, and hang it on the wall. Cut a piece of the shirt or quilt from your deceased relative and put that in a shadow box to place on display. Many times those sentimental items are tucked away in a closet often forgotten about and this allows you to really honor their memory and minimize clutter as well."

And don't overwhelm yourself by starting large organizational projects first. "Find a small space—maybe that junk drawer or the linen closet," Williams adds. "Start with a space that is disorganized and small, and work through decluttering and finding a way to organize."

Sorting through items you'll keep, sell, or give away for charity is a good place to start, and setting a goal or incentive will help you with the motivation to truly clear out what's just unnecessary and hindering organization. If you know you'll be able to sell items to invest in something that will add to your home or donate to a worthy cause, you might be more apt to reach your organizing goals as well. (Check out a step-by-step guide here.)

3. Tailor systems for remaining organized, and adjust when needed.

"Working from home leads to many distractions so having a plan on what you need to focus on for the day or week is imperative," Smith says. "For my clients, I've suggested either a simple 'Want vs. Needs' to-do list or the more comprehensive decision matrix tool for creating to-do lists. I advise them to make daily, weekly, and monthly goals and then break them down based on priority. This will help you stay focused on what is the most important and urgent thing to do and dismiss or delegate the things that aren't as important or urgent."

Williams is a big fan of keeping things simple and recognizing what works best for you. "Don't create filing-cabinet systems with a hundred different categories if you don't have to because you want to be able to make sure it's long-lasting and you can manage it long-term."

Smith further recommends using a daily 15-minute rule to jump-start getting organized. "Spend 15 minutes before you start your day or 15 minutes at the end of the day organizing your space," she says. "That could look like clearing paperwork off your desk or filing items that you no longer need. You'd be surprised how much you can get done in 15 minutes. Set a timer on your phone and go in!"

Williams also leans on time management as a great way to remain organized, and incorporating time blocking or methods like the Pareto rule can help with getting tasks done and scheduling household chores.

4. Invest in organizational products, items, or practices that make sense.

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Williams encourages women to define what organized means based on their own needs, their home, and their lifestyle. This will help you decide on the best products and items for your home. "Being aware of the furniture you're buying is going to help determine the types of organizing products you need. My whole brand is about functionality and aesthetics—making a room functional and feel pretty. You want to enjoy being in that space, and your habits will start to adjust because you want to keep it up. If you don't really like being in the space, you're not going to keep it up as much as you should."

Smith has go-to "simplicity picks" she uses and recommends frequently for her clients. "The must-haves are bins—clear, wire, wicker, or whatever fits your style—shelf maximizers (lazy susans, tiered shelves, and shelf stackers, and drawer organizers—expandable or customizable."

Another great product-based hack is to further organize larger bins, drawers, or closet spaces with smaller bins. "Maybe you use one big bin that's decorative or a pretty basket that you put on the shelf, but you need to further compartmentalize. I'll use smaller dollar-store bins and label them to place inside the larger one. This way, you're adding more functionality. For the things that you know you are constantly misplacing or looking for, finding its own special home for you will help you always know where that item is. Even if it's just something that you come up with your own special way with keeping up with it, then you will."

5. Use tech to find organization solutions for automation and boosting efficiency.

"I work primarily with working parents, busy professionals, and entrepreneurs so they have less time than most to commit to organizing," Smith says. "I've created a simple four-step organizing process that works for organizing every space and uses a simple and efficient workflow via Dubsado to manage their organizing projects. This allows us to set realistic timelines and I provide tools to shorten the learning curve for them."

Use Web-based platforms or apps to help you keep up with deadlines, schedule household activities, get rid of paper waste, and remind you of key maintenance dates or appointments. Todoist, ProofHub, Wunderlist, Shoeboxed and Google Forms are all great for helping organize your to-do lists, sync calendars, track spending and bills, and provide notifications for upcoming deadlines.

Use Pinterest to create boards for organizing information on the latest hacks, products and unique ways to increase functionality of your space, and follow organization experts or platforms like Marie Kondo, Simplified, Apartment Therapy, or Simply Spaced. Automate payments by setting up via your service providers and use automation for household chores by investing gadgets like a robot vacuum or smart lawn mower. Also, incorporate smart tech wherever you can so that you can control appliances and gadgets by voice or phone from afar—saving you time, effort and money.

6. If all else fails, get some help.

Sometimes life just gets hectic, and organizing your home may not be something you can take on alone. It might also be something that's needed but not your favorite thing to do. Here's where getting help is your best bet. Professional organizers can guide you in coming up with solutions that are tailored to your home and lifestyle, and the National Association of Black Professional Organizers has a directory for finding one near you. You can also check out sites like Angie's List or Care.com for housekeeping, lawn maintenance, and professional organizer services if you'd like someone else to do the work of decluttering and organizing for you.

Retailers also offer services for professionals to visit your home (or conduct virtual consultations) for setting up your dream closet, kitchen system or other organizational improvements.

Whatever option you choose, it will more than serve as a lifesaver to getting your home in tip-top shape for you to live your best work-from-home life and find peace.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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