Do you have the best of intentions to get organized and have a general system in place, but your home is still bulging at the seams? Then you might have what professional organizer Melissa Picheny calls an optimist organization personality. Chances are your existing system is failing due to lack of time management. Scheduling organizing time on your calendar is a must-do to keep up with your household. It's also the easiest task to push back when anything else feels more important. To avoid this pitfall, schedule a weekly date with yourself and commit to it -- no excuses. Use this time to pay and file bills or declutter a trouble spot in your home.
When you're always on the go, it's hard to keep things organized. Rather than littering multiple surfaces with piles of paperwork and clothing, create one landing place for items such as mail and outerwear in your entry. Specify one location for your keys to live so you never have to search for them again. Set up file folders for mail and kids' schoolwork so you can quickly file them away. To encourage everyone to hang up their own gear, install wall hooks at heights each family member can reach.
Let technology help streamline your communication. Use a shared digital calendar system to manage multiple schedules and keep all family members on the same page. Color-coding your calendar by person or activity can make it easy to keep track of who needs to be where when. If you still crave the feel of paper in hand, print updated copies to review and hang in a central location for everyone to see.
A well-organized kitchen equals less time spent looking for ingredients and equipment. Try organizing cabinets by like items so you can find what you need in a flash. For example, group entertaining supplies and snacks in one cabinet. Weed out kitchen gadgets you rarely use and duplicate pots, pans, and dishes to foster breathing room -- both prep and cleanup is easier when your cabinets aren't overstuffed. Still tight on space? Try using organizing products to boost cabinet functionality, such as a three-tier organizer to make spice, sauce, and can labels more visible, or stackable shelves that let you separate big plates from small ones.
When you can no longer see the surface of a vanity, dresser, or bedside table, you know it's time to get your bedroom organized. Instead of emptying the remains of your day from your pockets and loading them onto any available surface, try using decorative trays to capture -- and contain -- pieces. Set out a box for notes and receipts, and use a series of small bowls corralled on a tray to hold loose change, jewelry, and miscellaneous items. Make time every Sunday night to put things away so you start the week with a clean slate.
Did you know it can take four to eight hours to properly declutter your bedroom closet? Being realistic about your time constraints and the amount of work that lies ahead will help you plan efficiently. Schedule the time you need with your spouse, and if you have kids, make arrangements for child care so you can focus on the task at hand.
Take a fresh look at what you're storing inside the shower and on top of counters in your bath. Discard half-empty bottles that you no longer use or use infrequently to leave room for everyday items. Create more functional storage inside a linen closet or in a vanity cabinet by grouping like items in easy-to-access baskets. Make a rule to only keep one or two extras of any category (depending on how often the item is used), and be strict about your new policy.
Pass down the organizing gene by decluttering with your kids. It's genius: You get to spend quality time with your children while instilling habits that will serve them for a lifetime. Plus, many hands make light of big tasks. Teach your little ones early on that being organized is not only about putting things back where they belong, but also about considering the most logical places to store them in the first place.
If you find yourself lacking the motivation to maintain the new systems you've put in place, spice things up and get excited again with a decorative refresher course. For example, replace plain folders with patterned ones, swap out plastic hangers for a unified set of softly padded ones, or ditch a dented metal filing cabinet for one that looks like a real piece of furniture. You can live in a functional world that is also beautifully designed.