15 Things Professional Organizers Do Daily to Stay Clutter-Free
If you're struggling with how to stay organized, take a cue from the professionals. Their daily decluttering habits will help keep your home mess-free.
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Quick tidy-ups a day keep clutter away
If you struggle to stay organized, you may be missing one key strategy: consistency. Small, manageable daily routines help you declutter your life and train your mind to be more organized. Whether you’re busy, tired or just have a lot going on, learning how to stay organized every day doesn’t have to be hard or take much time. In fact, it’s all about tackling clutter hot spots daily and making messes more manageable.
We’ve gathered organization tips from the pros, and one thing we’ve learned is that daily tidying makes all the difference. Instead of another chore, think of these tiny tasks as daily declutter challenges. Motivate yourself (and others in your home), and keep in mind: This isn’t about taking on major chores; it’s about consistently taking care of the little things before they pile up. Professionals know how to stay organized by focusing on things to get rid of and putting stuff back when they’re finished. Hear from them and heed their advice (like knowing what things professional organizers never buy) to keep clutter from taking over your life, one tiny tidy-up at a time.
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Add an item to a donation bag
“I always have a donation bag ready to go, usually by the front door,” says Katherine Lawrence, a professional organizer coach, who has an ongoing plan to get unused items out the door. You can accelerate your decluttering efforts by scanning your home for something to give away each day. Take a quick look for things that have not been used in a while, like clothing, food storage containers, kitchen gadgets and these items not to buy if you want a clutter-free home. Once the donation-ready shopping bag is full, load it in the car, take it to the local charity thrift shop, then repeat.
Process incoming mail
Once you’ve eliminated unwanted junk mail, the simplest way to manage your incoming mail is to deal with every piece of it as soon as it comes through the door. Professional organizer Ellen DeLap’s daily five-minute triage prevents unsightly mail clutter and ensures you don’t miss anything important. Designate a command center for your paperwork with a shredder, a recycling bag and a way to categorize mail. She suggests an accordion file for paperwork you need, with labels like “to do,” “to pay” and “to file.”
Contain everyday stuff
Certified professional organizer Kathy Vines, author of Clever Girl’s Guide to Living with Less, has a specific spot to store things she uses every day, like her keys, sunglasses and earbuds. It’s one of those organization ideas that will keep you sane. Upon returning home, she places the items right where they belong. “It can be so easy, with running around and disrupted routines, to lose sight of our most critical items,” Vines says. A lidless basket hung on the wall will do the trick, and if there are multiple people in the house, it’s a good idea to give each of them their own. Large countertop bowls can also work. To make sure your containers don’t become untidy, take a moment every day to straighten them up, discarding old receipts and anything else that doesn’t belong in there.
Weed your work bag
Resist the temptation to just grab another bag when the first one is filled with receipts, a half-eaten snack and other clutter. Instead, every evening, empty the bag you carry with you daily (whether it’s your laptop bag, a stylish work bag or a handbag). Put away what you don’t need, and refill it with what you’ll need the next day. And remember: Bags within bags are helpful! Use a few small zip-top bags to prevent clutter from accumulating at the bottom of the tote. One could be for charging cables and earbuds, another for pens or work necessities and another for personal products. Keep loose change in a jar at home so it doesn’t weigh you down.
Hang the coats
The floor of your main entryway and nearby chairs can quickly become a dumping ground for coats and bags. DeLap’s solution is to hang a series of peel-and-stick or decorative hooks (for the appropriate weight) to hold coats and scarves near the door you use most often. Inexpensive hooks are some of the best home organization tools and will go a long way toward keeping the passageway clear. Comb the area once per day, and make sure there’s only one coat, scarf or bag hanging per person. That way you won’t overload the hooks and accidentally make the area an eyesore.
Sort out the shoes
The first thing you want to do when you get home is kick off your shoes. The problem is, so does everyone else. Suddenly, you have an enormous, messy pile cluttering your entryway. That’s why Vines suggests designating a place for everyone’s shoes—ideally, a separate basket or shoe storage solution for each person in your household. If your coat closet organization is subpar, an entryway bench with built-in basket storage is a good option. But you’re not done yet. Vines says you should also give each basket a once-over every day and return extra pairs to the closet. Trust us: With one pair of go-to shoes waiting by the door when you’re in a rush, you’ll be glad to have a system in place.
Put away the clothes
Even if you have an organized closet, clothes can still end up where they don’t belong. This is something Janine Adams, a certified professional organizer, always tells her clients and reminds herself. Whether it’s dirty clothes that missed the hamper, a sweater stranded on a chair, jeans hung over the treadmill handlebars or clean clothes folded in a laundry basket, clothing items need to be dealt with before you go to sleep. For any worn-once garments not dirty enough to wash again, a simple over-the-door hook is a great solution and one of the best closet organizers. It’s a convenient place to air dresses, shirts and pants with belt loops that are easily hung.
Declutter the sink top
In one of the busiest rooms in the house, clutter can accumulate quickly, so clever bathroom storage ideas will maximize space. Bottles of perfume, tubes of lipstick and jars of face cream can take over the bathroom countertop. But creating a simple, daily habit of returning items to their storage spot is the secret to staying organized and decluttering flat surfaces. Novak uses her tooth brushing time to tidy up: By the time she’s finished, she has returned items to the vanity drawer, medicine cabinet or countertop storage station.
Clear the kitchen countertop
Kitchen organization doesn’t have to be difficult! Avoid items you shouldn’t store on your countertop, and immediately put your dirty dishes right into the dishwasher. Adams’s daily routine, which she swears by, includes running the dishwasher every night and emptying it every morning. That way, the dishwasher is always available for dirty dishes. Plus, you won’t need to use a dirty-or-clean dishwasher magnet to tell whether the dishes have been cleaned or not.
Sort out the leftovers
Leftovers don’t last forever (here’s how long leftovers can actually last in the fridge). Prevent food clutter in your (expertly) organized refrigerator by making it easy to see and serve what needs to be used first—before it has a chance to go bad. Seeing that leftover ground meat might inspire you to whip up a batch of chili, which is why DeLap suggests keeping leftover food front and center on a dedicated shelf. It only takes a moment a day to retrieve any containers that have been pushed to the back, where you would likely forget about them. DeLap reaches for clear leak-proof containers to store food and portions them into heat-and-eat serving sizes, so they are ready to grab and go. Clear containers are also must-have items if you’re wondering how to organize your pantry.
Tidy the desk
“I like to start the day with a clean desktop, so it’s easy to jump right into work,” says Adams. That’s why she clears off her desktop at the end of each workday. By making this a daily habit and utilizing these tiny storage hacks, you’ll have only one day’s worth of stuff to put away. Plus, if you have a spot for everything, it should only take a few minutes to clean. If you find it difficult to do so, it’s time to reassess your storage options and find more convenient solutions. To ensure that you always have a clear workspace, try putting down a desk mat. Then promise yourself you won’t leave anything on the blotter at the end of the day.
Write a daily to-do list
Organizing and cleaning fanatics who already write to-do lists will appreciate these cleaning gifts. But for those whose lengthy to-do list feels overwhelming, keep it simplified and stay on track. DeLap consults her calendar and writes out her daily planner to-do list based on priorities for the day. This short, focused list gives her clear direction. Whether you use a paper calendar or a digital version, get in the habit of checking it daily. And if you use a paper one, DeLap suggests keeping it in the same spot, so you always know where to find it.
Read the emails
Yes, digital clutter counts as clutter, which is why organizing your smartphone and inbox is vital. You’ll feel so much more on top of things with a streamlined inbox. To avoid being overwhelmed by messages, Adams spends a few minutes every day replying to and deleting emails. “With a small amount of effort, you can keep your inbox lean and make sure that important emails don’t fall through the cracks,” she says. What email management tips do the professionals swear by? Use a password book to remember your login credentials, and create rules or filters so certain emails (like newsletter subscriptions) go directly to a folder and bypass your inbox altogether.
Get the junk out of the car
Clutter tends to accumulate when you simply get used to it. Don’t make that mistake in your car. Instead, Vines suggests that once you get to any destination, park your car and take any trash with you when you exit. Get into the habit, and it won’t feel like a chore; it’ll just be something you do without thinking. “It’s a lot easier to keep your car maintained and clean if you’re getting rid of the trash every day,” says Vines. A multifunction center console holder can provide a spot for that, as well as a spot for an actual cup, your phone, hand sanitizer and anything else you want to keep close by.
Reset the main rooms
Before heading out for the day, declutter the rooms you frequent most by relocating items that belong elsewhere. It’s one of those things you can organize in under 30 minutes and part of certified professional organizer Kirsten Fisher’s morning routine. “This takes me about 5 to 10 minutes, and [I relocate] only those things that have been misplaced since the day before.” Carry a small basket as you walk around to gather the items you need to bring to other rooms. You will know you’re done when the basket is empty.
- Katherine Lawrence, certified professional organizer with Space Matters
- Ellen DeLap, professional organizer and owner of professional-organizer.com
- Kathy Vines, certified professional organizer and author of Clever Girl’s Guide to Living with Less
- Janine Adams, certified professional organizer and founder of Peace of Mind Organizing
- Kirsten Fisher, certified professional organizer and founder of Imagine Home Organization