Did you know that the average American wastes 55 minutes a day looking for things they own but can’t find? Sounds crazy, right?
The site Simply Orderly has compiled statistics related to clutter and organization, including the one above. The statistics are startling. For example, 80 percent of what we keep we never use, but getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40 percent of the housework in the average home.
As we start a new year, for many people this symbolizes the opportunity for a fresh start. I’m always extra motivated to get organized at the beginning of the year, but I want it to last beyond January. This desire has kept me on the lookout for strategies for staying organized. It’s an ongoing process that I don’t have entirely down, but something I continue to work toward.
Here are some organizational tips to get 2016 off to a good start and hopefully build some practical habits that will last throughout the year!
- Invest in a good planner. Using the calendar on your phone can be helpful, but in my experience, actually manually writing in a planner helps me better keep track of all my meetings, appointments and to do lists. There are so many planners to choose from, whether you pick up a cheap, basic one or a customizable, stylish planner such as Plum Paper or Erin Condren.
- Gather the organizational materials you need. Clear plastic containers, plastic drawers, file folders, etc. Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend money to get organized though – for instance, some old shoeboxes used as drawer dividers can do the trick.
- Declutter and get rid of excess. There is nothing like clutter to make you feel more stressed, whether it’s at home or in the office. In her New York Times bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo suggests asking “Does this spark joy?” about every item you own. If it doesn’t, get rid of it, keeping only those things that you truly enjoy. While this may not work for everything (tax documents, contracts, etc. may not bring joy but they are necessary!), it is a good rule of thumb for figuring out how to pare down the things taking up space in your world.
- Pay special attention to papers. I don’t think anything is as organizationally troublesome as papers – they can be so hard to keep under control. Even if we feel like we have a fairly good system for filing papers, the reality is that most of us continually accumulate and never reference most of the papers again. Carve out time to sort through existing stacks and files of papers and then aggressively discard any unnecessary papers moving forward.
- A place for everything. Most of us have “junk drawers” or even “junk closets.” These can keep us from achieving true organization and can also cause a lot of wasted time when we’re looking for things and unable to find them. The old saying “a place for everything and everything in its place” might be cliché, but there is some truth in it when it comes to organizing your belongings. If everything has a designated area, it makes it much easier to stay organized in the long run. Keep in mind, this is much easier to accomplish if you’ve already determined the things worth keeping and given away or discarded the rest.
- Develop a budget and organize your finances. While disorderly finances may not look outwardly cluttered, it can contribute to a lot of mental clutter and unnecessary stress. There are a variety of systems you can use, but I’ve found developing an Excel spreadsheet to track expenses to be helpful. Categorizing spending (groceries, medical, clothing, car, etc.), allows for future reference if you’re looking for areas to cut back. Keep any financial documents that are necessary, but shred ones that you have no need for (i.e., old paper credit card statements, etc.). Work toward paying off any outstanding debts as quickly as possible. Organized finances will make everything else feel more manageable.
- Plan out meals. I hate the feeling of looking through my fridge and panty and not being able to come up with any ideas for dinner. That’s where meal planning is an amazing organizational and efficiency tool. Make a point of planning the following week’s meals before you go shopping, and write out your grocery list accordingly. Not only will having a plan make for a less stressful week, but it will likely save you time and money when you don’t have to make a bunch of extra grocery store runs for missing ingredients.
- Clean up after yourself. It can be very frustrating to have your house organized and a few hours later find all your efforts undone. While this is pretty much inevitable (especially if you have kids!), planning time to tidy daily can make a big difference. For example, try creating a routine of spending 15 minutes or so of putting away clutter in the evening, perhaps after dinner or after you put the kids to bed. This can set the stage for a more relaxing evening, and can help you avoid compounding messes.
Ultimately, the goal of organization is to reduce stress and to promote a peaceful and relaxing environment. Even if you can’t tackle all these organizational goals or feel that organizing isn’t your forte, pick just a few to focus on this year. You may feel like you don’t have the time for it, but remember the statistic about how much time we waste looking for things? It is worth the effort to try to be organized, whether or not it comes naturally.
Here’s to an organized 2016!
Anna Keagy is an Insights Analyst at Mitchell. For more trendspotting and consumer insights from Anna, click here.