How to Be Organized


How to Be Organized

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit

If disorganization is congesting your life, and you’re feeling scattered and frustrated as a result, it’s time to get organized. To achieve organization on the outside, you will need to take steps to become organized on the inside, by clarifying your priorities, objectives, and how you want your belongings and your lifestyle arranged. Try to keep stuff where it belongs. Know what you need/want to do, when you are going to do it, and avoid the stressful situation of not knowing what needs to be done. Organization takes time, but when you get into the habit of it life becomes so much easier.


Everything in its Place

  1. Organize your space. Whether it’s your home, bedroom, kitchen, office, computer, closet, desk, or locker, you need to see what’s in there, throw away anything you don’t often use (or put it efficiently in storage) and give everything else a convenient and clearly designated space.
  • Organized doesn’t just mean tidy. The purpose of organization is to be able to find, exchange, and evaluate items quickly. But organization can also help keep them tidy by providing a quick, logical system for adding and removing things from easy-to-use, somewhat uniform-appearing groups, and by preventing unnecessary purchases on account of misplaced items.
  • Example: If you have a lot of books and fill a bookshelf with them in order of size, they’ll look neat, but you’ll have to skim over them one at a time whenever you don’t remember where one is – maybe even move some if you’ve put one row of small paperbacks in front of another – and rearrange many whenever you need to add a few more. If you give each category its own shelf area, and leave some extra space at the end or between bookended groups, you can find a book quickly by glancing at the category layout and skimming just the few books in the right category, and add or remove books here and there without disrupting the overall layout.
  • Computer scientists[1] are smart people who help stupid machines handle billions and billions of things fast. They’ve invented “B-trees”[2]for quickly looking up, adding to, and deleting from huge databases, so they should work just great for your humble piles of clutter. Don’t try to follow the programming rules perfectly – just apply their principles.
    • By organizing your items hierarchically, you’ll just have to make a few decisions as you work your way down the hierarchy into increasingly narrower categories (e.g., rack, shelf, crate, bag), rather than browsing. For instance, you could put all your sports stuff on a shelf, with a crate for each sport, and small items like golf tees in a bag in the golf crate. A few big odd things like skis would go elsewhere. You could put cleaning supplies on another, sorted by the kind of area they clean.
    • Don’t overdo it, because it’s much faster to look at several items than to open and close or remove and replace a container. Two or three levels is plenty. Organize electrical, electronic and computer parts and cords and other very-small or awkwardly shaped items that tend to sink to the bottom of piles or tangle by putting them in more accessible, jam-free containers like slippery plastic zipper bags.
    • Leave some empty space in each of your storage areas to add things without disrupting the scheme. Set aside a “buffer” space[3], such as a small table or shelf, for items that need to be put away in order to avoid misplacing things or too-frequently being distracted from other activities to deal with sorting, and save time by putting things into a given storage space a few at once rather than individually.
  • Some items need layout or ordering rather than just grouping. Frequently used unique items, like spices, should be kept handy and each viewable and accessible, not tucked away with something they’re somehow related to. Perishable items, like food, should be consumed on a first-in, first-out basis: you could load stacks from underneath, or rows from the back. Interchangeable but not identical items in which one enjoys variety, like clothes, should also be queued or periodically churned so nothing lingers at the bottom of a pile. Very large, messy or dangerous items may need special places.
  • Clean out your belongings before you think about organizing (organizational tools, furniture, etc.). Don’t do it the other way around. You can only really accurately know what space you have when you’ve cleaned up. If you don’t really take a hard look at what you’re stuffing in your spaces, you’ll waste time and money organizing stuff you don’t need anyway.
  • Observe how you use your things and work out how to use your space efficiently. If it’s inconvenient to get to things (or to put them away), your organization system is more likely to fail. Make it easy to get to and put away the things you need most often. In that vein, put things where you use them most. Pots get stored near the stove, envelopes and stamps are stored in the desk, stain remover and bleach goes in the laundry room or linen closet. (It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people just put things “wherever” and then are surprised when doing anything is tremendously inconvenient.)
  • Do you have items in your house that just take up space? Be sure to de-clutter regularly. Good questions to ask yourself in deciding: Do I need this? Will I need this in a year? Have I used this in the last year? Do I really love it? Is there someone else who could use this more? Do I have more than I could reasonably use in foreseeable future? Will I miss this if I don’t have it? If I do happen to need it, can I replace it with an equivalent easily?
  • Know what “organized” looks and feels like. Organized spaces are simple to use. They have enough room for the items there. It makes sense. Every item in your home has a location. Organized spaces also feel calm, open, and welcoming.
  • Use timers. Set a timer for how long you think a cleaning organizing task should take then work like crazy to get it done in the allotted time.
  • Have a spot for all bills. Open all mail immediately and dispose of the outer envelope with the junk mail. Keep only the bill in a prominent location.
  • Put it back. Right now. Once you establish where everything belongs, you need to get in the habit of putting it back there as soon as you’re finished using it.Don’t put it on the kitchen table or on the couch and move onto something else, thinking to yourself that you’ll put it away later. That’s a big no-no.
  • Reusable plastic baggies (like Ziploc bags) are your friends. Store away items in plastic bags. This way, the items will be compact, clean, and dust-free. But they will also be all over the place if you don’t have a storage system! Place the bags in closets, desk drawers, cabinets, and other places. Ziploc bags are convenient, useful, and cheap, so use them!
    • Try drawer organizers for drawers that are enclosed. You can purchase a wide selection or make your own by slicing off the tops of empty plastic bottles of various sizes. Milk jugs are handy because they are fairly square, but any bottle or jar will do if you can trim it so it fits in the drawer.

Use a Calendar, Planner & Smartphone

  1. Use a calendar. Get a calendar and put it in a place where you see it every day, preferably in the morning. For most people, that’s on the refrigerator, on their desk, or on their computer desktop. Wherever you put it, make it part of your routine to refer to it every day. For example, you can put it on the inside of the bathroom cabinet where you get your toothpaste. Every morning, while you’re brushing your teeth with one hand, touch today’s date on the calendar with the other, and look to see what’s marked for today and for the upcoming week.
    • Keep your calendar close at hand when sorting papers. Often, you can file or even toss the announcement for an event if it is recorded in your calendar. Your calendar can remind you to do things on time. There’s no need to rely on that stack of paper.
  2. Use a planner. A planner is especially useful if you have a lot of appointments and your days are so varied that you have trouble keeping track of your schedule. For example, if you travel a lot or attend classes at various times of day, it’s much easier to carry a planner with you to consult frequently–you can’t do that with a calendar. You can also usually fit more information in a planner.
  3. Try a smartphone. A smartphone, particularly synchronized with network-based personal information manager[4] software running on other computers, is even better than paper calendars and notes because the data is searchable, it can easily be entered into phone or Web-based tasks that need to be done, and reminders of urgent information and purges of unneeded information are automatic.

Make a List

  1. Write it down! A short pencil is better than a long memory. Anything and everything you need to remember should be written down. Even if your memory is great, nobody’s perfect and it doesn’t hurt to put it on paper, just in case. Record phone numbers, appointments, birthdays, shopping lists, and things to do, and record them where you can easily find and refer to them when you need them.
  2. Make to do lists.
    • Make a to do list for your day. Your daily or immediate list should never be more than 5 items long, or else you’re taking on too much and setting yourself up for failure. Mark one or two of those items as things you absolutely must get done that day, and pursue those tasks relentlessly until you get them done.
    • Make a to do list for the week. Appropriate items here would be: Grocery shopping, fix air conditioner, etc. Draw from this list to make your daily to-do list. A white board or board with erasable markers can help to remember all one has to do every day, or long term goals.
    • Make a to do list for the month. This list would have more general tasks like: Birthday gift to Jill, get car serviced, dentist appointment. Draw from this list to make your daily and weekly to-do list.
    • Make a to do list for your life. Drastic, yes, but why not use this time to rethink your life and where it’s going? Getting organized is all about priorities, and it never hurts to get your ducks in a row.
  3. Taking the time to organize receipts for things going back, whether to the store or to the library, can really help. It creates order and structure, and will also help avoid not being able to return things to stores and fines.

Keep to the Schedule

  1. Follow through. There’s no point in making a to-do list if you don’t discipline yourself to complete the tasks you’ve assigned yourself. There are many ways to stick to your to-do list. Stop procrastinating, remove or ignore distractions, and hop to it.
    • If something keeps slipping to the bottom of your to-do list, take a good look at it. Is it really important? If so, get it over with, or at least get it started. If not, put it back in the long-term list for “someday” or get it off the list altogether. Don’t let yourself get hung up on something for too long.
    • If you find yourself bored, or your normal routine interrupted, you might distract and satisfy yourself by attacking the to-do backlog.
  2. Setting a time frame in which each task has to be done through out the day is another good way to keep one from procrastination, and keeping to their agenda. Having a time frame is a very effective way to organize one’s day. Knowing that one has designated a time slot for each item on the list lets one know that there is no need to rush to finish things. Just take the time that you have granted yourself and do the job well. Don’t rush to finish it. If one were to rush to finish a task, it might not have been done as accurately as if one had taken the time and done it gradually and more effectively.
  3. Combine similar activities. Make all your phone calls at one time. Do all your errands at the same time. Pay all your bills at the same time. Do all shopping in one trip.


  1. Multitask. Task-switching[5] takes time, so don’t try to think about one thing, like a TV show, while thinking about another, like studying. It’s most effective to multitask when one task is mindless, like folding towels, or can be set aside for automatic processing for a length of time. You could load the washing machine, send some emails or load a stew pot while it churns away, load the dryer, arrange your travel supplies, then hang the clothes as soon as they’re dry so they don’t stay wrinkled.
    • Just keep in mind that some studies have shown that multitasking may diminish one’s ability to focus on one thing at a time.


  1. Delegate responsibilities. Make sure the person you appoint to do the task has all the tools necessary to do the task. Remember that most things are much better done than set aside for doing perfectly, and that doing them can teach the person (maybe a child) not only how to do them but how to address related problems. It’s hard to be organized if you insist on doing everything yourself.

Get it Done!

  1. Make more decisions. Clutter and disorganization is often the result of failing to decide what to do about, or with, something. Start flexing your decision muscles with little things, and you’ll soon find yourself more confident about taking action on the stuff around your home, on your desk and in your office. Try it today!


  • It’s a good idea to carry a notepad and pen with you at all times so you can write things down as they come to you (usually at the most inconvenient times, which is why they’re so promptly forgotten). If you’re worried about fitting a notepad in your pants pocket, don’t be. Check bookstores and office supply centers to find a notepad and pen short and slim enough for any pocket and some wallets, or just use a small stack of self-adhesive notes and a golf pencil. Of course, if your planner is compact enough, it can serve this purpose as well. Another idea would be to have a PDA, Blackberry or PalmPilot. Some cell phones have notification or note-taking menus. If you are using one of those, they may be practical too. As a last resort, call your own phone number and leave yourself a voice mail.
  • When running errands, map out the best path so you get the most done and keep chit chat to a minimum. Don’t get sidetracked. Target what you need to do. If something else comes to your mind, write it in your notebook to do at a later date.
  • Sticky notes (Like Post-it notes) are your friend. Put them in nifty spots as reminders. For example, if you know you need to wash your car, then put a note on your steering wheel so that next time you get in your car, you remember to get it done. Other good spots for sticky notes are doorknobs, mirrors, and PC monitors (the borders, not the actual screen).
  • Start your phone conversations with “I only have ____ minutes to talk.” Then stick with it. When calling for appointments, make sure you have all information you will need and write down any questions in advance.
  • Do the task you’re least looking forward to first from your to do list. Most procrastinantion is due to someone not wanting to do the task that they put off. If you make the effort to do that task first you’ll feel better and won’t spend the day dreading the task that you will eventually put off!
  • If you know that you’re not naturally inclined to be organized, you can change that by starting with one small area of your living space and focusing on keeping that small area organized. Keeping a small area organized over time is easier to do, and it will help you build a new habit. After about 2-3 months of keeping one corner organized, you will naturally tend to expand your new-found organizing instincts to other areas.
  • “A place for everything and everything in its place” is always a good organizational rule of thumb to live by.
  • Remember: “Organized minds make successful people.”
  • Make sure you always have what you need for the day with you.
  • When making your to-do list for the week, remember things may occur that could be entirely unexpected. So, do not set in stone what you need to do – be flexible when circumstances change.
  • You are able to log the divide in time spent on productive pursuits versus those times you spend on unproductive pursuits with the aid of chess clocks.
  • Treat yourself right – get plenty of sleep the night before and eat healthily (or healthier). To accomplish anything you need to be able to think clearly and need energy to do it.
  • There are many valid ways to get organized. One person might organize a sock drawer by color. Another person might simply fold pairs of socks together and dump them in. Yet another person might buy a whole bale of socks all alike and not sort them at all. Regardless of what you are organizing, choose the system that makes most sense to you.
  • Keep your surfaces clear. Reducing visual clutter helps reduce mental clutter, overstimulation, and the feeling of overwhelm. Get rid of stuff you don’t need – so that you can put things you do need away and out of everyday sight. You’ll feel instantly calmer.
  • Warehouse, office, and restaurant-supply dealers have all kinds of stronger and more functional but less pretty bins and shelves than closet and home-improvement shops tend to have. They’re great for where looks don’t matter much, like a basement, garage, or closet. Try commercial establishments’ moving sales for bargains.


  • Don’t expect to get organized overnight unless you’re really fast at it, or it’s a small area.
  • Don’t expect your family and friends to instantly jump on the organization bandwagon, but do stick with it. In the long run, you will be glad you did.
  • Don’t worry if you’re not “perfectly” organized, as long as your area is safe, sanitary, and reasonably efficient for you.
  • Don’t rush everything, but more importantly, take your time to develop a habit of organizing behavior.
  • Take a day off out of your own time and dedicate it to organizing your life and the things in it. It will surely pay off the next day!
  • Once you get organized, you may go back to your old habits. Just keep pushing yourself and you’ll eventually get organized for life!
  • Don’t try this if you have a newborn baby. Wait a month or two.

Things You’ll Need

  • Equipment. Whether it be paper and pen, or boxes, files, chess clocks, or labels, assemble all the equipment applicable.
  • Patience. The habit of becoming an organized person may take quite some time to acquire. And remember, not everything works the same way for everyone. It’ll take time to find out what works best for you.

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations


Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Be Organized. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.


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