Getting Organized

4 Decluttering Hacks: How and Why to Get Organized

Getting yourself into an organized lifestyle is not as easy at the morning show hosts would make it seem. After an eclectic run at grad school which featured a half put-together dresser and experiments in paper flooring, I’ve at least learned that much. Looking back on those years, I’ve come to realize that my problem was as much a motivational one as it was a practical one. I simply wasn’t aware of how crucial it was to my health to get organized and, in my brief moments of clarity, I genuinely wasn’t sure where I could possibly begin.

If this sounds like you, then check out my analysis of the science behind organization and some tips of my own to get you off the ground.

Health and Organization

The psychology here is pretty clear: getting organized is good for you. When you’re organized you’re more easily able to identify where the balance in your life lies and, with less clutter, there’s less in the way of stopping you from achieving that balance yourself.

It’s not just the fruit of your labour that’s good for you here. Cleaning things up is itself good for you. Indeed, some therapists use decluttering in their therapy to help patients copes with their organization and other issues.

There’s no two ways about it, then. Getting organized is good for you, but it’s not always clear how to be healthy. I’ll tell you how below!

1. Don’t Just Tackle Little Projects

There are a lot of arenas in which it’s a good idea to divide and conquer, satisfying yourself with completing a few small tasks as frequently or infrequently as you’d like, finally fitting everything together into a completed project long after you started.

Decluttering is not one of these battlegrounds. Unlike other projects, decluttering your life is something that will get undone by waiting around. The good news is that the more organized you become, the less junk will creep up on you over time.

So you need to make a big push to hit your clutter, instead of just moving on thing at a time. Some ways to do this include: scheduling a cleaning party. You can’t clean everything in your house in one day, but a you and your friends can. Try trading decluttering favours and promising food afterwards. Doing a regular spring cleaning is also great idea.

2. Start Big

First things first, try to get rid of larger pieces of clutter. You can make a huge impact on your clutter by getting rid of old appliances or other big items that have stayed past their due. This gives you a morale boost and gives you more space to work with while you figure out the remainder.

Just be careful moving heavy appliances like old washers or refrigerators. These can contain harmful chemicals with greenhouse gasses that can be released if handled improperly, not to mention the backbreaking work of getting this stuff out the door. Don’t be afraid to get some help if you’ve got this kind of clutter.

3. Stay Organized

Don’t let all your hard work be for not. Find ways to preserve your efforts and stay organized. The fact of the matter is that it usually doesn’t take long for clutter to find its way back into your home. Either because we’re always bringing in new things or our haphazard piles of ex-clutter start to unwind.

To attack the first fork of de-organizing, think about frugal living. It’s amazing how much you can do without once you start to really think about what you need. For the second fork, consider how you can store your things in more efficient ways. Often times clutter starts to form when you store a bunch of stuff contrary to the way that you’re going to use it. For instance, throwing a bunch of books that you reference often on a bookshelf far from your desk. One great tip here is to get a set of small lockers and use them to store things. They’ll help out a lot when it comes to keeping stuff of the floor and you’ll find that with several separate compartments you’ll be able to split things up in terms of function. In the spirit of frugal living, you can find discounted lockers that schools aren’t buying up.

4. Be Mindful

Whatever you do to get organized, do it mindfully and with respect for the environment. All too often it’s popular to “get organized” by taking a garbage bag around the house and tossing everything that may or may not be junk inside. Ta-da! Everything’s clean.

Or not.

When you do this you’re not only running the risk of discarding dangerous items improperly (like appliances with those GHGs that we talked about earlier). Perhaps even worse, when you treat your junk like junk you can deprive people in need. They say that one declutterer’s junk is another’s treasure and that couldn’t be more true. Find ways of donating the things you don’t need anymore and do good when you declutter.

These are some of my tips for following the science and getting healthy through organization. Let me know how your decluttering projects went in the comments!


Nick is a violist and writer from Boise, Idaho. When he’s not writing he likes to find new ways to organize his viola practice and ride his bike in the beautiful Boise foothills. You can find Nick on Twitter @cesare_nick.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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