By Pauline Wiles
In my work as a Professional Organizer, I observe many different approaches to keeping our hectic lives in order. You don't have to be born organized to pick up some tips from highly organized people. These habits seem to work well and are easy to imitate. Why not give them a try?
1. Keep a single calendar - You only have one life, so aim to have just one calendar. Otherwise, sooner or later, home and work will get tangled up and you'll find you're at the dentist when you should be in a breakfast meeting. Make sure your calendar contains annual reminders (like birthdays and insurance renewals) as well as appointments. Electronic calendars are particularly helpful for storing things which repeat, but you can use a paper calendar in the same way.
2. Write your to-do list - No matter how brilliant you are, it's impossible to keep all your actions in your head and still have any bandwidth to think and focus. Make a note of them and you'll free up lots of mental energy. A good book to browse on the importance of capturing to-dos somewhere outside your brain is“Getting Things Done” by David Allen.
3. Plan for the week or month ahead - You'll never appear or feel organized if you don't know what's coming up next. Try sitting down with your family, perhaps on Sunday evening, for a joint planning session. This is a great way to teach your kids the importance of considering other people when they're planning hobbies and activities. It may also prevent you finding out on a Thursday evening that you “need” to bake cookies for school on Friday!
4. Bundle your errands and shopping - Planning ahead helps you find opportunities for grouping errands and shopping – you can buy all birthday gifts for the next couple of months, or visit the bank and dry cleaner in the same trip. For example, I love to buy all my greetings cards while waiting at the car wash. Not only can this help you save gas, but it's a much better use of your time.
5. Assign a home to everything - You'll never be able to find things, and encourage others to put items back in the right place, if they don't have somewhere to live. This sounds obvious, but when you look around your house, you'll probably find several possessions which are genuinely homeless. Having assigned a spot for everything, go ahead and label what goes where. This will greatly increase the chances that things find their way back to where they belong.
6. Keep like with like - Keeping similar items together simplifies life hugely. Do all your shoes live in one place? How about umbrellas, DVDs, or sunscreen? If you can go one step further and store things close to where they're used, you'll cut down on a major source of clutter.
7. Practice one in, one out - A rather extreme approach to clutter control is to decide that when you buy a new item, another must go. For a slightly easier option, allocate storage space for each item, and when that gets full, take this as your signal to edit – don't simply spill over into extra space somewhere else.
8. Purge daily - Are you at home for dinner? If not, how about breakfast? Highly organized people tend to take time during their daily routine to process incoming paper mail and tidy clutter. Spending just five minutes every day can be a huge help in preventing those dreaded piles from stacking up.
If all eight habits seem too much at once, just pick one or two and see what difference they make to your life. I can pretty much guarantee, things will start to run just a little more smoothly.
Pauline Wiles is a Professional Organizer and founder of The English Organizer, http://englishorganizer.com