We’re all guilty of buying something we already had just because we couldn’t find the damn thing. Before you think I’m going to tell you to lovingly rethink your sock drawer à la the KonMari method and bravely toss all the socks that no longer spark joy, note that my house is full of what productivity pro, Susan Pons, calls “visual markers”—I leave piles around so I can remember that I have to fill out the pizza lunch form, take those books back to the library or find a permanent “home” for that new toy. (Basically I procrastinate until the last possible moment.) Fortunately, there are four simple ways to keep clutter to a minimum and get organized.
1. Make homes for everything
Having a proper place for every item makes it easy to put things away. When rethinking your space, involve the kids. If they help choose the spots, they will be more likely to help put things away.
2. Keep like with like
I found seven different spots where Lego gathered in my house. I worked with my 11-year-old to narrow it down to one Lego zone, plus a portable Lego “tool box” (a plastic container with a handled lid from the dollar store) to contain his latest project. Are all the gadget chargers all over the house? Consider consolidating them to one central charging station. Use clear plastic bins where possible so kids can easily see what’s inside, and use labels for big kids and illustrations for little ones to help them identify where the homes are.
3. Apply the one-touch method
This is the most useful thing I learned during my productivity boot camp. The idea of not putting something down until you put it in its proper home is pure brilliance. If my kids walk in the door and chuck their backpacks and jackets on the couch, I simply say, “touch it once” and everything gets hung up where it should, as if by magic.
4. Use the real estate principle
“The top three rules in real estate are location, location, location. The same applies to the interior of your home,” says Pons. “Your prime real estate includes the heavy traffic areas, such as your entryway and kitchen. Your less-than-prime real estate may include your spare bedroom and storage room.” We need to make sure the things in our home can afford the rent. The less frequently you use something, the less valuable real estate it should inhabit.”
A version of this article appeared in our September 2016 issue, titled “Get organized,” pg. 88.