Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: Why Do None of Our Organization Systems “Stick?”

Despite our best efforts, we struggle to keep the house organized. These three simple rules, when implemented, will straighten up your home — and keep it that way — even if you have ADHD.

Q: “Since I became a mother three years ago, our house has slowly spun out of control. Our biggest hurdle is figuring out HOW to organize. I’ll go through a re-org and then slowly it unravels as things get stuck here and there. Is there such a thing as a home organization plan that actually sticks?  I’m feeling overwhelmed and buried under the piles of papers, toys, clothes, pictures, and crafts.” —Buried

Hi Buried:

Your question is among the most common — and commonly frustrating — when it comes to home organization. It’s not always about finding the time, but rather about finding the home organization plans that truly work. Here are my general rules of thumb.

1. Everything Needs a Home

If you’ve been reading my column over the past year, you will see that this is my #1 answer to almost every home organizing question! A wise woman once said that clutter is delayed decision-making. So if you don’t know where something lives in your home, then a decision on where it belongs hasn’t been made and clutter begins to form. Simply put, you’re more apt to let things sit wherever they land if you haven’t designated specific “homes” for all your belongings. And with young children in the home, we tend to bring in new items all the time. Which brings me to my second tip.

[Free Guide: Organize Everything Today!]

2. Space BEFORE Stuff

Do you have room in your home for everything you want to keep? Determine how much space you actually have for all your stuff. That includes books, kitchenware, clothing, toys, and even paper. Once you truly know how much storage you have, assign a specific amount of space to each category of stuff. For example, you might dedicate two shelves in the garage or a corner in the basement for kitchen overflow items. In other words, you choose FIRST how much space to devote to specific categories and THEN what goes there. By doing so, you will feel in control of your space and your stuff.

3. Make Storage Multi-Purpose

If you are feeling buried under your belongings and need additional “space,” invest in multi-purpose furniture. So, instead of a living room coffee table, purchase storage ottomans; swap out a regular bed for a platform one with drawers underneath. Or replace your kitchen table chairs with a storage bench. In other words, multi-purpose places will instantly maximize your hidden storage space.

If you want more tips and tools to organize your home, visit Order Out of Chaos.

[Self-Test: Is Your Clutter and Disorganization Out of Control?]

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time. Submit your questions to our Dear Organizing Coach here!