The five secrets of organising


One: There are no secrets.

And that’s me out of a job!

Really, though. There are no hidden formulas, and no rules. You choose what you want to keep, find a place for it to reside, and always put it back there. These three simple steps require you to do some objective thinking, exercise your analytical skills, and to form a few habits, but there are no secrets. Sorry to disappoint.

Two: Just do it.

You can start with the easiest item on your list, or the hardest. You can throw out all the old newspapers in one pass, then move on to harder stuff like magazines. You can declutter once for the easy stuff, then home in on the tricky items with each successive session. Or you can tackle the room that scares you the most. It really doesn’t matter. Just start somewhere.

If you haven’t worked on this before, starting small will give you a quick win. But starting with the toughest area means it’s all downhill from there. I think you can be trusted to decide which is likely to get you the best results. Just get one bit done. The rest will follow like that avalanche of stuff that falls out of the hall cupboard every time you open it (I’m just guessing).

Three: Everything you need to know is in the Sesame Street song.

You know. “One of these things is not like the other ones”? Storing like with like is such an obvious and simple idea, but it’s fundamental to being organised. Keeping things in categories means you don’t even have to think where something goes, or where to go to find it. A jumble of unlike items is a recipe for chaos, clutter, and despair.

Sesame Street aficionados will know that the lyrics go on to say “Three of these things are kind of the same.” Three of these towels, shirts, dinner plates? Fine. Three of these printers? Wheelbarrows? Grand pianos? Not so much.

Four: It never, ever, ever ends.

More bad news. There’s no such thing as “once and for all”. You are going to buy new things, people will give you gifts, appliances will break and be replaced, and random stuff will drift into your home seemingly on the breeze. So you will purge, tidy, and repeat not just again, but pretty much forever.

Sometimes it feels never-ending, but I prefer to think of it as a spiral. Yes, you’re still going around in circles, but you’re moving in ever-tighter loops. There is less and less to deal with each time, and you get better and faster at preventing unwanted items from entering your life, and moving them on once they do.

Five: To have less clutter, have less.

This might seem obvious, but the best organisational system in the world will get overwhelmed if there are just too many items to organise. Before buying more storage products, or starting a complicated system with lots of rules about what goes where, look at how much you have. If you had less, it would be easier to manage. That’s all.