Persuasive marketers would like for you to believe that the key to getting and staying organized is the latest, greatest organizing gadget or product. While there are many, very useful organizing products on the market today, none are the true keys to getting or staying organized.
So, what are they?
Minimizing is the act of reducing, eliminating, or decreasing in size or content. Simply put for the purpose of this article, it is reducing the amount of belongings in your space.
Although similar to decluttering, I tend to see it as the opposite. Most often, decluttering is deciding what to let go of, whereas minimizing is the act of deciding what deserves to stay. It is ruthlessly looking around your home (or office, dorm, apartment, etc.) and keeping only what is absolutely needed for your utility, comfort and peace of mind (as well as those with whom you reside or work.)
Deciding to minimize your belongings (vs decluttering) makes it a lot easier to let go of anything that you no longer truly need or love, regardless of its usefulness, beauty or history.
Minimizing belongings has a huge, positive impact on the ability to get and stay organized, even when we don’t have perfect systems or organizing products in place.
A few examples: A small countertop basket with 4 necessary items in it, is far more functional than the same basket with 18, mostly unused items in it. Our chances of finding what we need (and remembering where the item is) is greatly improved by keeping fewer things.
A tee-shirt drawer with 6 or 7 beloved tees (that are actually worn) is far easier to maintain than a drawer with 25 tees, stuffed or stacked in place. One might argue that as long as you properly fold and gently place them, more is fine. This may be true, but 6 or 7 tees will always take far less time and effort to fold, put away and keep neat than 25 tees.
Similarly, a pantry with 15 different snack foods will fall into disarray much faster than a pantry with just 2-3 snack choices at a time.
The second vital key to staying organized is maintenance. Although second in importance and effectiveness to minimizing, consistent maintenance is non-negotiable for keeping any organizational systems intact.
My personal organizing hero and author of many wonderful books on organizing, Julie Morgenstern, calls this process, Equalizing. I love the word equalizing since it truly denotes the process of returning balance to the system.
Whether you are using baskets, bins, drawers, shelves, etc., to keep items organized, eventually things may get a bit mixed up with frequent use. Maybe your kids don’t always put things away as the system requires or your roommate rebels against your system altogether, things can get out of order over time.
How often you need to maintain your systems will depend on the frequency of their use. A kitchen pantry may need weekly maintenance (especially when other humans are involved) where as your linen closet may only need monthly maintenance.
Of course, the longer you wait, the longer it will take you to reset the system to a neat and workable one. Whether you set a specific schedule or just keep a thoughtful eye open to maintaining your systems as needed, maintenance is a must in staying organized.
A final word of caution to those who might think, “I’ll skip the minimizing thing and just do the maintenance.” Do as you like, but know that maintenance is made infinitely easier and less time consuming by minimizing your belongings to begin with.