Organizing your life starts with organizing your stuff -- whether it be paperwork, DVDs, or clutter. Knowing where things are will ensure you can find them easily when you need or want them, and that saves time and headaches.

Getting Started

The first step to solving the problem is admitting there is a problem. If you waste a lot of time looking for items, or you get frustrated that your home or office is a mess, taking some time to organize could be the key to easing your stress and freeing up time in the long run.

Look at your stuff. Are things neat and tidy on shelves, or are there piles around the room? Do you know where items are? Do you find yourself constantly shuffling through things to locate anything? How about your paperwork: if you were audited by the IRS tomorrow, would you be able to whip out the paperwork they want or is all of your paperwork sitting in a box, mixed up and disorganized?

Once you've determined what needs organizing, the next step is finding an organization method that works best for you. The solution will be different for everyone, and it may change as you work with your new system and tweak it to suit your needs. But don't run out and buy a lot of containers and cabinets and shelves to organize your items without first determining what will work for your lifestyle and personality; that would just waste time and money. Instead, look at the ideas below and make a list of items to pick up that will truly help you.


Books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, and more can all be classified as "media," and the easiest way to organize them is usually to line them up on shelves. How you sort them, however, can vary. You can choose to alphabetize by title or author, sort by genre, or any other method that works for you. For magazines, it may be helpful to pick up magazine storage bins to help them stand up and stay neat on the shelves, rather than fall over. Again, you can sort them by magazine name, type of magazine, or date published. The sky's the limit, and however you think of the item should be how you sort it. If you're a movie buff who thinks of movies by their directors, then sort the movies by director. If you look up books by title, sort them by title, not author. Whatever method works for you should be the method that you use.

Possible purchases to organize your media would be bookshelves, CD/DVD racks, and magazine storage bins or binders. See what will fit in your space and be visually appealing while still providing sufficient storage space. Keep in mind that as your collections grow, additional space may be necessary. Plan accordingly. While you're organizing, you may also want to take the opportunity to go through your items and clear out anything that you no longer use.

Clothes, Shoes, and Accessories

As with media, how you organize your clothing, shoes, and accessories will vary depending on your personality and how you find yourself looking for things. It will also depend on what kind of storage space you have available: walk-in closet or just drawers? small closet or dresser? a combination of everything? If space is an issue, don't forget the underbed option. Plastic or cardboard underbed storage containers can be excellent options for items that aren't used often, such as out-of-season items or formal shoes and accessories. To maximize space under the bed, you can also purchase bed risers that will literally lift your bed a few inches off the floor, giving you extra storage space underneath.

With clothing, certain items should be hung up if possible. Dresses and suits, and anything made from a material that wrinkles easily, such as silk or linen, should be hung up. Casual attire and undergarments can be folded and stored in drawers. How you organize them will depend on how you select your clothes:
With shoes, the easiest method is usually on some kind of shoe rack or cabinet, or lined up on shelves. For those who accumulate a large quantity of shoes that they don't wear often, it may be prudent to keep them in their original boxes for protection. To make them easy to find, take a picture of each pair and tape the pictures to the sides of the boxes, then stack the boxes on a shelf with the pictures facing out. Or you can purchase clear plastic storage boxes that are about the same size as a shoebox and provide see-through storage.

There are a variety of products you can purchase to help you organize your accessories, from belt and scarf racks to lingerie chests, jewelry armoires, and over-the-door pocket organizers. If you have a lot of the same kind of accessory, it may be wise to pick up an appropriate item to help you organize them. However if you have a variety of different items, a specific tool will not help. The comparments will be frustrating, since not everything will fit properly. It may be easier to just place them neatly in drawers, perhaps with drawer separators or small bins to keep like items together.

Food and Kitchen Supplies

Food can usually be found in the kitchen, and depending on your kitchen, you may have cabinets, shelves, pantries, and other areas to fill with food and supplies. And, of course, the refrigerator and freezer offer storage options as well.

The most important thing to think about when it comes to food is expiration. Perishable items should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, and other items should be stored so that food that will expire sooner is placed in front. (This means that if you buy more of something you already had, put the ones you already had in front, and the new items in the back. That way you'll use the older ones first.)

Other than expiration, the only thing to affect your organization is practicality. Put pots and pans near the stove, so they're easily accessible. Put spices and other items near the stove, as well, so they can be easily grabbed while cooking. Store like items together, like cereals or soups, so you can quickly see what you have in each category without having to open every single cabinet. Keep plates and other dinnerware together. Keep silverware organized in a silverware tray in a drawer. Place items that you use regularly in an easy-to-access place, and store items that aren't used as frequently in hard-to-reach cabinets or high shelves. Make your life easier!

If space in the kitchen is a concern, considering putting a freezer or pantry elsewhere in your home. This can expand your storage space and enable you to stock up on items you normally wouldn't have room for. Items that aren't used often, such as party supplies, can also be stored elsewhere to free up space in your kitchen for more everyday items.


Perhaps the easiest item to get disorganized is paperwork. Bills, bank statements, important notices, and more can easily stack up and become overwhelming. To keep them in check, you have several options, but most can be divided into two categories: filing and going paperless.


The most common option, and definitely a more traditional approach, is filing. This is simply sorting the papers in some fashion and placing them into a cabinet. Cabinets vary in size and design, and choosing the best one is simply a question of determining your decor, function, and budget. File cabinets are designed to have hanging file folders placed inside, making documents easy to organize and easily accessible. File folderes can be labeled to identify contents, and, again, the sky's the limit when it comes to how to sort them. You can organize them by type of bill: home, office, utilities, car, etc. Or you can simply alphabetize the folders by who the bill or statement is from.

Another option, if shelf space is more abundant than cabinet space, is to punch holes in the paperwork and file them in 3-ring binders. Binders can then be labeled and lined up on shelves to make them accessible. Binders come in a variety of sizes, and the size you choose should be based on how many documents you expect to include in each binder.

Going Paperless

With the popularity of the internet, and the going green initiative, more and more people are choosing to go paperless. What this means is that instead of receiving paper bills and bank statements, they opt to view them online only. If they decide they want a hard copy of a particular document, they can print it out. Otherwise they avoid the paper clutter that the documents can create.

If you choose to go paperless, sign up with each individual bill supplier or bank. Often you can set this option by logging in to your account online. If you don't find the option, contact the company directly to see if they offer the option.

For companies that don't offer paperless billing or statements, or for items that can't be made paperless, such as receipts, you can go paperless yourself by scanning each document you get and storing it on your computer, then shredding the original paper documents. Documents can then be divided into folders on your computer for organization. If you choose this option, be sure you back up your documents in a safe place in the event your hard drive crashes or you get a computer virus. Documents that contain private information should be stored in a secure location, such as on a USB flash drive that is placed in a safe. Some online sites exist, as well, that can securely store your documents for a fee.

Crafts, Tools, and Other Items

Most likely all the items you have to organize will not fit neatly into media, clothing, food, and paperwork categories. That's where this section comes in, and how you organize the items will really depend on what it is you need to organize, how often you use the items, and how much space you have.

Visit any bargain store or department store, and you'll be bombarded with containers and storage solutions to fit just about everything. Specialty shops will have items specifically designed with those themes in mind. Go online, and the options are even more plentiful. It's easy to go crazy and buy everything that's "recommended" by the manufacturers.

Don't go crazy. They just want you to buy stuff.

Start by looking at what you want to organize, and how the items would be best sorted. Then determine how much space you have and what would work well for those items in that space. Will that system work for you? Will the items you use regularly be easily accessible? Will it be easy to put items away after you're done with them? Do you have something on hand that will let you try out the system to see if it works for you?

Only once you've determined the best solution for you should you go shopping. Then you'll know exactly what you need. Once you've set up the organization system, you can always go back and get something else if you need to.