My Best Organizing Tip

Number one tipGetting and staying organized can incorporate many activities: reviewing and sorting out clutter, buying bins or supplies, setting up systems for belongings and more. All of these are important. However, there is one habit which every organized person has embraced, and you can’t be organized without it.

My number one tip is… “Put it away NOW”

Sure, it is tempting to put items down instead of away. Life is busy and we are frequently doing more than one thing at a time. When pressed, taking the extra minute or two to put something away seems like it takes too much time.

But here is the catch: if you delay putting something away now, you are creating more work for yourself later. At a minimum, it will take the same amount of time to put an item away later. More likely, it will take longer. Furthermore, if you don’t take the time to put an item in its place, you may not be able to find it later, which will zap yet more time from your day.

For example…

 … let’s say your child/employee/boss/spouse walks in with a paper you need to file. If you do it right away, perhaps it will take 2 minutes to walk across the room, open a file drawer, find the appropriate hanging file, and put it inside. (If you don’t have a hanging file set up, this is another problem for another blog post!)

Now let’s say that instead of putting it away, you put it on the kitchen counter/desk. Odds are that something else will get piled on top of that paper during the course of the day. As a result, when you go to put it away, you will need to dig it out from underneath the pile (which takes time), and then spend the 2 minutes putting it away.

In addition, once the paper is out of sight, you may forget about. As a result, when you need to access that piece of paper in the future, you will waste a lot of time hunting for it.

The same principle applies to clean laundry that doesn’t get put away, coats that don’t get hung up, sporting equipment that gets dumped on the floor, etc.  If it doesn’t get put away now, it may never get put away. The result? Wasted time and/or wasted money if things get lost or damaged.

“Great!” you think, but sometimes I actually can’t put it away in the moment! This is valid… there are times when we can’t get an item immediately to its final destination. For instance, maybe we are watching small children and can’t leave them unattended to run something upstairs. In this case, at least get it one step closer to its “home.” Put things on the stairs so they can be carried up on the next trip, or stage items that belong in the car on a table near the door. Do whatever is possible to make the job easier in the future, and then continue to move items closer to their storage location until you get them there.

There are always excuses we can generate to avoid putting something away… we don’t have time, we just want to relax, its inconvenient… the list goes on an on. But putting things away is a gift we give ourselves because it enables us to easily find what we need, when we need it.

What’s your #1 tip for being organized?


38 thoughts on “My Best Organizing Tip”

  1. I am SO good about this with everything EXCEPT paperwork…you know, the stuff that you need to file. Ugh. Part of my issue is I keep my files in tubs in the basement and some days I have no reason to go down there, so I start a pile. When I do go down there, I tend to not file it, but just put it on top of the tub it should go in. I HAVE to get better at that.

    My best tip for staying organized…keeping up with our family joke and never being ashamed about it. We have this running joke in our house that I can find ANYTHING in two minutes or less. I HATE the walk of shame if I can’t. Talk about motivation!

    1. I absolutely love your running family joke, Kerith! You really have your act together! The basement stairs and the lids on the tubs are what I call “barriers”… they are obstacles that make it just hard enough to put something away that it is a deterrent to following through. Maybe you need to get a filing ottoman that can be more convenient. Remove the barrier, and I’m sure you will put it away. Way to go!!

    1. Sometimes I want to scream this too:) You have really hit the nail on the head, though… its a habit! And new habits CAN be formed! You can do it, Karen!!

    1. Thanks, Susannah. It really is simple, but it can also be surprisingly difficult. But like many things, its a habit. Once we form a habit, we do it automatically:)

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Jodi. And I know… it isn’t rocket science, but it can be a hard habit to put in place. It’s definitely worth the effort though, because once it becomes habit, it will be automatic!

  2. This is so true and easy, but so hard to do sometimes! I think taking the the time to do it would easily result in forming a habit of just getting it done… with time.

    1. Totally agree, Savanna. It is a habit. Forming new habits can be hard, but the good news is that once we form one, they become “automatic” and we perform them without thinking about it. That’s the win!

  3. Filing. Ugh.
    My cabinet is a foot to my left, yet I constantly pile my paperwork on top of the file instead of inside. Then when it starts to cascade to the floor because the pile is too high, THEN I take the time to file.
    Perhaps I will start filing right away. 🙂
    Thanks for the nudge.

  4. My best tip is similar to what you said – deal with paperwork or tasks asap and then put things where they belong. I love your point about taking more time – so true. Why not put things away now in less time than it will take you to put it away later? I wonder if my husband and kids would buy into that. It’s hard to be the most organized person in the house!

    1. I don’t know about you, Dana, but somehow my family doesn’t appreciate all the great organizing advice I have to give them:) Can’t understand…!

  5. HI Seana! I tried to leave you a comment on google plus and was having difficulty. I love this tip! I try to tell my daughter this all the time and her room is living proof of what happens when you don’t put things back, or clothes in the hamper, etc., etc.

    1. Is your daughter a teenager? I’ve got one of those too:) I tend to just close the door on her space. But in my zone of the house – don’t you dare put anything down! My poor family….

  6. This really is the best tip. I’m not always good at putting things away immediately, but I make it a priority for things like laundry and mail. Those two items seem to just pile up higher and higher if you don’t do it straight away. Now if I could just make myself put everything else away immediately…..

    1. If you are dealing with mail and laundry, I give you the gold star, Leslie! I agree that the paperwork seems to pile up like weeds!!

    1. Well, we all have our strengths, right Tamara? But you can start by just putting one type of item away faithfully – and then it will often spread out into others when you build some confidence… like maybe always hang up keys, or just tackle the mail daily..?

  7. Oh Seana, you took the words right out of my mouth! Since I’m the type of person who absolutely HATES clutter, this has got to be a stickler for me. To go along with what you’ve mentioned, I also know that in order for this to work…there must be a place for EVERYTHING! As always…thanks for sharing with us Seana! Have a lovely rest of your week!

    1. You are absolutely right, Michell. First you’ve gotta have a home for things (hard to put something back if there is no “back”). You and I could be roommates – no clutter zones galore:)

  8. I have to agree with you, Seana. I don’t know when I developed this habit, but I do remember a time when one of my weekend chores was to put away all the stuff I’d brought home and dumped on the coffee table or elsewhere throughout the week.

    Another valuable strategy I’ve learned is to do a walkaround every day, just tidying up and returning things to their proper homes. This takes less and less time as tip #1 becomes an ingrained habit.

    1. That’s so true, Janet. If you get in the habit of putting stuff away, then the daily “restore order” isn’t such a big deal. This is one of the truths that just seems so hard to embrace in the moment. But hey, we can all have goals and you never know!!

    1. I hear that, Amy! For many of us, out of sight is out of mind. There are some tricks we can use to remind us of what we need to do/read/pay/etc.. maybe I should write a blog on that:) Thanks for your comment!!

    1. And looking at piles of stuff can make it seem like a huge job, right Amber? BUT, you can start with a very small area… like the entry table or corner of a desk. Don’t get discouraged.. you can do it!

  9. Oops – looking around at my office I have definitely not been following this one but I can also see from that why it’s important. There’s always time to file away one piece of paper but never time to file 500 right?

  10. I love this idea! I’d like to put away things as much as I can and when I’m not able to do it, I usually go back to it right away so I can keep it.

    1. I’m guessing you have a pretty clutter-free space! I’m like you… if I can’t do it in the moment, I go back to it as soon as I can:)

    1. Paperwork is pretty much everyone’s nemesis, Michelle:) But having a system at least gives you a place to be ABLE to put it away, which is a great feeling! Good luck in the snow!

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