a stack of three folded sweaters, green, ivory and brown, sitting on a white chair against a white wall

Organizing: A Helpful Beginner’s Guide

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If you spend any time at all on Pinterest, you know the tips and ideas and inspiration for organizing your home are limitless. Even if you are someone who enjoys organizing, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by all of the options out there. What should you do? What works for your space? Does everything have to match? How much is it going to cost? 

Organizing Your Home

This article is all about helping you as a busy mom know where to begin with organizing. You probably have a lot of questions, and the aim of this article is to get those questions answered and get you started today on the road to a well-ordered, organized home. If you missed my post on decluttering basics, you might want to read that one before you start here.

I am someone who has a love-hate relationship with organizing. I detest clutter and don’t really have a problem getting rid of it, but when it comes to organizing, I’m always second-guessing myself. How should I arrange the spices? Where should I store the Instant Pot? Where’s the best place to keep my cleaning supplies, and should they be in a basket or a tote?

 My indecision has led to multiple attempts at different systems, much to my husband’s annoyance when he can’t find something he needs. And yet, organizing well brings such a rewarding outcome that I’m determined to continue learning and growing to become a better organizer. Maybe you can relate. 

What is Organizing? 

In its most basic form, organizing is arranging things in an orderly manner. Now just what constitutes an “orderly manner” is, of course, different for different people, but an important thing to note is we often make organizing a more complicated affair than it actually is. Organizing is not matching bins and perfectly printed labels and color coded file folders. It certainly can be, but organizing in its purest form is far simpler. 

Organizing Clothes Closet

How to Get Started with Organizing

All you need to get started organizing is a decluttered space (see my previous post all about decluttering) and a solid idea of how you need the space to function. That’s it. Once you have those things figured out, you can go as simple or as fancy as you want with bins and containers and peel-and-stick labels. 

Tips for Success in Organizing

Evaluate the purpose of the space. How much time do you spend there? What do you do there? Where do you find clutter piling up? What isn’t working with how the space functions now? Consider carefully. These are all important questions for determining how you’re going to organize this specific area. 

Account for how you’re wired. Are you naturally messy? Are you a perfectionist? Are you a detail person or a big picture kind of person? Don’t implement systems you know from the start you won’t maintain in the day-to-day grind of life. If you’re naturally messy or hate details (like me), don’t implement a system that requires you to do six different steps to put your coat away. Throw a hook on the wall where you can hang it and call it good. Cas from Clutterbug has great advice for helping people organize according to how they’re naturally wired.

Measure the space. This is a biggie, and I’ve been guilty of skipping this step on more than one occasion. In order to know what can fit on that top shelf you’re organizing, you need to know how big the shelf is. Take the time to write down measurements before you run to buy organizing bins or sit down to DIY something.

Organizing Toys

Buy or make containers you like. This is where people can really get tripped up. If you’re on a budget like me, sometimes running out to buy containers for $20 a pop is not an option. If no one else is telling you this, let me be the one to say it: You don’t have to do that! You don’t have to spend a fortune for your space to look attractive and pulled together.

There are plenty of places to buy containers on the cheap (Dollar Tree has some great options), or you can easily DIY some boxes or containers you already have to make them look a little more attractive. I don’t know about you, but we always have spare diaper boxes on hand (Here’s a nice little tutorial from Do It On A Dime about how to repurpose diaper boxes as attractive storage containers).

Common Questions about Organizing

How do I know which container is the right choice? 

Some of the primary considerations for containers are accessibility and durability. You want something that’s going to be easy to access regularly (as well as easy to label or easy to see what’s inside), and something that’s going to stand up to the wear and tear of normal life activity. Within those parameters, you still may have several different options, so from that point, simply choose the one you like best. I have a post coming soon on great container options that won’t break the budget.

I don’t have any money. Can I still organize on a budget?

From my talk above about repurposing diaper boxes, you know my answer is going to be a resounding yes. In many ways, it can be more fun to get creative and repurpose stuff you already have than to just go out and buy new stuff. Though it will take more time to go the DIY route, you’ll be able to customize your setup just how you like it, plus save your budget. 

I’m too paralyzed to start. What if I put things in the wrong place?

You will put things in the wrong place. You just will. This is the nature of setting up a new organizing system. Even the most expert organizers place things, then move them, then move them again. It’s the nature of setting up a system that works. The sooner you jump in and start organizing, the sooner you can settle into a system you like and can live with successfully. 

Does everything have to color coordinate? 

Nope. If you want it to, that’s totally fine, but don’t let the lack of a perfectly color coordinated organizing system keep you from getting things organized. Get things organized with what you have, then trade out bins or add matching baskets over time to achieve the look you want. 

What if my organizing system isn’t working? 

See the above question about putting things in the wrong place. Sometimes, you’ll find the system you’ve set up is not working for you. Usually, you’ll know because it’s either a huge pain to try to maintain, or you give up maintaining it altogether and the space goes to pot. If this is the case, evaluate what you don’t like and what’s tripping you up. Is stuff inaccessible? Is something more complicated than it needs to be?

These are important questions to ask. For any organizing system, you always want to have as little friction as possible. It shouldn’t be hard to put stuff away. You should be able to hang, toss, slide, or chuck whatever item you’re using into its proper place with little to no mental or physical effort. 

What if my family members want to organize things differently?

It’s never easy living in shared spaces. Always organize your personal space exactly how you desire, but then for group spaces, it’s important to communicate about who needs what and how different people are wired. Open storage? Hidden storage? High? Low? Baskets or bins? It all depends on who’s using the space and what their needs are.

You will almost certainly need to come to some compromises, but at the foundation of it all, remember everyone’s goals are the same: to have a functional space that’s pleasant and usable for everyone. Make your negotiations with one another from this baseline understanding and it should help to head off potential arguments. 

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Organizing

I mentioned these things above, but they definitely bear repeating.

Start Organizing Today

Don’t procrastinate. If your space is decluttered, start organizing it now. Don’t wait for the perfect little cloth baskets or the right neutral bins. If you want to pick those up or make them, great! But don’t let the lack of having them stop you from getting a space organized. 

Move stuff until you like it. If you put something in a particular spot, it doesn’t have to stay there. Shuffle your things, shuffle your containers, and just keep moving things around until you find an arrangement that works. You can’t rush this, and the time you’ll save and joy you’ll get from a well-ordered space once it’s all said and done is worth every pain you take now to get it right. 

If this post was helpful, please share it with a friend. We need to encourage each other in this journey of organizing and beautifying our spaces. It’s not easy, but the reward of a flourishing home is a wonderful reward to work towards. 

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