Whether it’s multi-tasking at work, organizing the shoe closet or tidying up after a dinner party, we all struggle to find the time, motivation and tools to stay on top of everything life throws our way.
When professional organizer Regina Leeds’s book The 8 Minute Organizer landed on my desk I was instantly drawn to its “easy solutions to simplify your life in your spare time.” Here’s 10 of her most efficient organizing tips to use at home, at work and everywhere else clutter seems to find you:
1. Ditch the junk drawer: As far as Regina’s concerned, you only need one pen, one pencil, a highlighter and a Sharpie. All the other stuff in there (and you know there’s a lot) should be stored in plastic baggies for when it’s time to replenish.
2. Tackle things daily: Items like the mail, online bills and voicemails should be organized every day, not saved for the end of the week/month/year when you’re scrambling to find receipts, manage money or need to reach people immediately. For mail and bills Regina recommends manila folders with labels like “To Do” and “To Call” so when it comes time to take action you know what’s up.
3. Help your kids stay organized: If your children are too young to read, make photo labels. Create a ‘truck’ bin, a ‘Music’ bin, ‘Lego’ bin to teach them early on that once play time’s over everything’s got a place to go home to.Subscribe To Chatelaine's Newsletters — And Get Home Décor Straight To Your Inbox
4. Don’t sweat the sweaters: Just like we don’t understand why they have sweater tables in retail stores, what to do with folded items in our closet has always baffled us. Instead of destroying the whole pile every time you want something at the bottom (and why do you always need the one at the bottom?), Regina suggests cutting cardboard pieces to put between each sweater. You can pull it out almost like a shelf to ensure the rest of the pile doesn’t budge.
5. Organize, don’t just tidy up: There’s a major difference between tidying (when you throw your dirty clothes under the bed before your guests arrive) and organizing. Ensuring every item in your home has its place provides a long-term solution to the amount of things that collect. Set up a blueprint for your home and, before you get overwhelmed, only tackle one at a time. If it’s the silverware drawer you tackle today, so be it. Doing more than one thing at once will only create more chaos in your home and your head.
6. Say no to multi-tasking: At work you’ve got Twitter, Facebook, email and Pinterest open at once (oh, that’s just us?) and can’t figure out why you never get anything done. Regina says, “there’s a time to engage in more than one activity and a time to just say no to the madness our society embraces as a sign of productivity.” Why not complete one task fully and enjoy the few seconds/minutes between each instead of spending the whole day frantically trying to finish one thing? Outside of work, you can answer emails while waiting for an appointment or do laundry while your dinner cooks — but the key is to ensure you finish every task you begin efficiently.
7. It doesn’t take any more time: It takes as much time to toss your keys on floor as it does to hang them up. But it will take a heck of a lot longer to get going the next morning when you can’t find your keys! When you start creating organized habits — like making your bed, hanging up your clothes or putting the dishes into the dishwasher — you save yourself time in the long run. Regina suggests picking two actions to start practicing (and mastering) before moving onto the next.
8. Invest some money: It may be difficult to see at first, but investing in things like magazine holders, shoe racks, new hangers or a proper cleaning kit will make life easier in the long run. Tools that give everything a place will help you optimize the space in your life and your home. Use items that help you display what you have. For example, if you can see all the scarves in your closet (as opposed to having them hiding in a bag) chances are you’ll remember to wear them more often.
9. Delegate: The old adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself” is a favourite, but what it does is set us up for exhaustion. If you’re prone to taking on too much, create a list of tasks others can help you with. Make a pre-bed list your children must check before calling it a night. Have the whole family pick out their clothes the night before and plan meals as best you can for the week to come and let everyone know what they can do to help.
10. Give it time: “Choose a single routine to add and work it for three weeks before adding another,” suggests Regina. It takes 21 days for the brain to adapt to a new habit, so don’t overwhelm yourself or your family.
Watch: How to organize a bathroom drawer
Originally published in 2016; updated in 2017.