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Fundamental Organizing Skills Everyone Should Know

As Published In Smead Organomics
Fundamental Organizing Skills Everyone Should Know

Publicity -- Smead Organomics

Why is it that so many of us suffer from weak organizing skills? In part, it’s because no one teaches “Decluttering 101”at school! If you were never instructed on how to create order as a kid, how can you do it effectively now as an adult? Let’s take a step back to those days of youth and look at the problem from a much shorter perspective. Tot-hood is a time of acquiring new abilities — you don’t know how to do it until someone shows you. Organizing skills are very much the same. So let’s pretend that class is in session and look at some basic systematization techniques through the eyes of a child.

Group Like With Like

Try singing the Sesame Street song “which of these things is not like the other?” as you organize your storage spaces. When you look around, do you see anything that is clearly out of place? Is there a drill in your pantry or shoes in your file drawer? We can fix that! Sort your belongings into piles according to their purpose — grooming, sports, office supplies, etc. Then as you store each category, keep similar items together (travel alarm with your luggage, pots and pans in the same cabinet, ink cartridges near the printer).

Give Everything A Home

Anyone who’s ever attended a Montessori school understands basic organizing principles! Every crayon and building block has a set home, containers are labeled and color coded, and kids know exactly where to go to find the toy they want. But as we become adults, we forget our organizing skills and randomly stick things in the first available cabinet (then complain later when we can’t find them). So let’s go back to pre-k for a refresher. Each time you assign an item to a storage space, ask yourself why you are stashing it there. Because it’s close to where you will use it? It will be easy to see or reach? That’s the first place you would think to look for it? Make sure you always have a good reason for storing an item in a certain spot.

Pick Your Favorites

If you put a child in a room full of toys, s/he will eventually choose just a few favorites to focus on and ignore the rest. Grownups are the same way — we use 20% of our belongings 80% of the time, and vice versa. You have that one outfit that you wear to death, the same dishes you pull out for every meal, and a few books that you read again and again — the rest go untouched. Give preference to these “favorites,” and see if you can’t weed out some of the other 80% that is just taking up space.

Allow Room To Grow

Do you know why children’s furniture is modular? Because a 10-year-old doesn’t have the same stuff as he did when he was five! But once adults set up a storage system, they like to imagine that it is “finished” — no such thing. As your lifestyle and interests change, your storage must evolve to match. Always leave approximately 15% of your space free for expansion. And each year, take a minute to re-evaluate your storage, making sure it still meets your needs. If not, it may be time to tweak your system.

You can apply these organizing skills with any system, any project, any space — at home or at work. And once you do, you’ll find yourself at the top of a very organized graduating class!

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and

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