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.
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.
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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