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5 Organization Strategies for Productivity

Child standing in messy living room against couch

Balancing work, cleaning, and entertainment for the kids during Covid can be utterly exhausting. These tasks combined with a restless feeling that you aren’t being productive and life is on hold can make you feel emotionally and physically drained. How do you go about breaking out of this rut and returning to a sense of normalcy? Implementing some organization strategies.

Often the stress of children and family dynamics can be directly related to home organization and preparedness.  In 2013, a HuffPost survey asked families about their largest stressors and, believe it or not, 47% of respondents stated that their top stressor was “worrying [their] home isn’t clean or organized enough.”  It’s time to take the abundance of home time at your disposal and do something about your stress levels. Here are our 5 organization strategies to get a jump-start on taking control of your life.

1. Know it’s Process and Allow Yourself Time

Recognizing the variety of reasons that contribute to your disorganization is a good place to begin. Start by asking yourself a few simple questions. Why do you feel so disorganized? Is it habitual? Is time an issue? Are you trying to juggle too many things at once? Do you have any organization strategies in place that just aren’t working? Understanding why you feel so disorganized will guide you toward an effective solution so you can start feeling more productive at home.

About a year ago, I asked my husband to start waking me up when he left for work. I am talking super early, considering I love my mornings ZZzZz’s. This gave me an additional hour to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, watch the news, or organize a room before our three crazy munchkins blew through the house like a tornado. The point is, changing my routine to a routine that fit my lifestyle and schedule helped relieve stress and made me a more productive mother and wife. I found that I was more organized throughout the day and was able to stick to a balanced routine. Organization is a process, so allow yourself time to adjust and start small. 

2. Declutter and Purge – The Most Important Organization Strategy

Decluttering is a crucial step to organizing your home for productivity and is probably the most important organization strategy. Do you need an incentive to click yourself into gear? Clutter can actually increase stress levels and have a negative impact on mental well-being. This isn’t something we want to welcome into our home with open arms. Start in each room and determine what items you would like to keep. A few questions that may help guide you through the process are:

  • Do you need it?
  • How often is it used?
  • Are there duplicates of the same item?
  • Does it bring sentimental value?
  • Is it past the expiration date? Seriously, have you checked your medicine cabinet or condiment collection lately?

Decluttering will make you feel one step ahead and improve your mental health immensely. Next time you nearly break your leg by tripping on a toy car or set of Legos in the hallway, ask yourself if you really need to keep it around. Less clutter will set you on the right path toward a more productive home space.

3. Maximize Your Space

Once you have a routine that fits your schedule and have determined what you want to keep, it’s time to brainstorm how to maximize your space. Here are a few general principles to keep in mind when determining how to organize the items you want to keep so you can feel more productive at home.

Where and how do you use the items?

This might seem obvious, but think creatively when you’re considering this. For example, I hate having clutter on my bathroom countertops, so I have three baskets: one for things to get ready in the morning, one for things to get ready in the evening, and one for weekly tasks, like manicure and pedicure tools. When I need things, I pull out the basket to use them. Are there other items in your home that you use in specialized ways? When you determine where and how you use items, the best organization strategy may go against what you would have initially thought. 

Give everything a place

This goes for things that you might not think you need a separate spot for as well. If you usually leave mail on the kitchen countertop, purchase or build a mail organizer to hang on the wall next to the door. If you often have blankets strewn over the couch, get a basket to store them next to the couch. Hang a key hook (this could be as simple as a Command hook) next to the door to hang them up when you come in so that you won’t have to look for them at the last minute in the morning. Put snacks for the kids in one bin for them to look through when they’re hungry, and snacks for you to grab on your way out the door.

Put things that you do not frequently use in small, stackable plastic bins and put them on the upper shelves of your closet. I even have a bin in my house for all of the things I have no clue what to do with. About once a month, I go through the bin and determine if I need the items or if I’ve come up with an effective place for them. Although all of these things might seem little and unnecessary, you will feel much better when your space is free of clutter and everything is put away. 

Look for wasted space

Often times, we will end up with a large amount of wasted space in our homes. What about that corner cabinet in your kitchen? Or the vertical space above your closet shelving? How about the empty space under the stairs? There are thousands of ideas online for specialized storage for these areas of wasted space, but be careful with this one. Wasted space can be a much-needed area that is free of visual clutter, so try to keep any added storage tucked away. 

Re-address functionality frequently

Once you’ve organized everything, it’s much easier to keep up with it than it is to re-do in a year. Pay attention to areas that are often messy and consider if the area is being used in a way that’s different than you thought. Do you need more organization, or just more diligence? Is the organization that you set up impractical to keep up with? Do you have too much of something that is getting overwhelming?

4. Focus on a Single Room at a Time

Cognitive science tells us that the greatest driver for motivation is visible progression. This is why we suggest that you focus on one room at a time as our fourth organization strategy. We recommend keeping “sorting time” to a minimum. To do this, limit yourself to 5 seconds per item and bring your collection of unknown items along as you organize. Those lingering decisions become a lot faster with your arms full!

Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

Remember that organization, or lack thereof, can have a spreading impact throughout the home. If you are very disorganized, you probably don’t feel too productive at home. Try to start with high-traffic areas, if only to instill a sense of organization in those that may be separate from your efforts. Organization is 80% setting the right model, and 20% following the plan. Make sure that your hard work isn’t undone by the subtle influences of a crowded mud room.

While it’s easy to harp on the home office as a key to productivity, it’s equally important to consider and address the detritus that we encounter from the bedroom to the conference call. If coffee is a critical component to productivity, consider creating a coffee counter of your own or ensure that your favorite beverages are appropriately stocked and ready for you the night before. Each part of your daily flow through the home has a cumulative impact on your mental health and well-being. We can only truly be productive when we feel that we are engaging in the right task at the right time.

Consider what home productivity requires of you. If you work in the creative field, having a stark white void may not be the best environment. Conversely, having an exposed crafts room or a direct view onto a busy street may cause the calmest of accountants to pull out more than a few hairs. Ultimately, understanding the implements and modalities required in each part of the day is the only way to plan your space effectively. 

If this sounds like a lot of work, try to focus on what you’re focusing on as you walk through your home and take down a few notes. It doesn’t take more than a post-it note and you’ll be surprised what thoughts come to mind as you take inventory in each space. Ask yourself, does this belong here? Does this distract or encourage? What would I need to get this out of the way?

5. Keep the Rules of Organization in Mind

Organization follows a couple of simple rules that can really help get your mind around a space you’re struggling with and help you feel more productive at home. When implementing organization strategies, keep these rules in mind.

Visibility

Put things back where they belong every time.  When items or valuables are in their homes, we find that we are not off-balance and open to creativity. Clutter clouds the mind and prevents those great moments of insight from occurring 

Accessibility

Make sure the items you use the most are easily accessed and at the forefront of your mind.  Begin by categorizing things you would be upset to lose because they’re in your most frequently used collection.  For items you don’t use as frequently, place them in the back of storage spaces or in harder to reach spots.  If you find they remain there for long periods of time without use, consider donating or disposing of them so that clutter doesn’t return

Flexibility

Keep in mind that not everything is going to have the perfect home.  Storage is expensive and sometimes those really useful items are best kept in a garage drawer than in a pretty plastic container that will never be used.  If you’re not sure what qualifies, get an outside, expert opinion from someone you trust who keeps an ordered home. Keep an open mind and realize that you’re doing all of this to improve your mental health

Organizing and designing your home for maximum productivity isn’t an overnight affair. These organization strategies will take time and adjustment. You will spend many hours and days working through emotional attachment and sentimentality, fighting with your heart over what makes sense to store and stash and what makes sense to re-home.  Be encouraged though, as this process will help de-clutter your mind and your family, not just your home.  Spend the following weeks reminiscing over the items that used to take up your mental space and celebrating that you’re now free from your home’s attachments. 

The human mind is eager to engage and following these organization strategies is an excellent way to take away the unnecessary noise. When you begin to question the value of spaces and their contents, you can begin to recognize the important elements and discard those that are no longer necessary. Remember, either you control the stimuli, or the stimuli controls you.

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2 Comments

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