How Do You Stay Organized?

By: Jen Shoop

How do you stay organized?

I’ve shared in the past a lot of my favorite organizational products for home (a more complete roundup of my favorite home products here), but currently on my shortlist for things that have de-cluttered my life:

+These under-the-bed shoe organizers.  I had to be realistic with myself — I just wasn’t taking the time to properly return and organize all of my shoes to shoe bags and sort them neatly in the bins in my closet.  Instead, I would line my shoes up underneath my bed, which inevitably turned into a mish-mash of shoes and a lot of crouching down, searching for a missing mate.  These organizers prevent my shoes from getting dusty or scuffed down there and also promote a good “return policy.”  I just cannot let myself toss my shoes under the bed when this is a literal inch away from making my life that much neater.

+These spice jars.  Oh the deep and abiding joy these have given me.  I used to reach up into an overstuffed bin, fishing around between baggies and jars, never quite sure where I’d find coriander or ginger, never completely convinced that we were actually out of peppercorns.  Now I have the spices organized alphabetically into two identical bins, and each jar is labeled on the top so it is easy to scan and find.  (And can we stop and talk about the labelmaker?!  It is pretty much a neat freak’s best friend.  So delightful.)

+These utility bins.  I use them throughout our storage closets to organize lightbulbs, batteries, dog stuff, etc.  I like them because they are neat-looking, inexpensive, and easy to wipe down.  I also use these little bins for smaller things like different sizes of batteries, pens, etc.

+Underwear organizer.  So, so much better than reaching into a pile. #thingsorganizedneatly

+Acrylic shelf dividers.  A brilliant, unobtrusive way to keep sweaters/t-shirts organized on a closet shelf.

+Drawer organizers.  I could probably buy 50 of these and still find uses for them all.  These are ideal for “junk drawers” (sort rubber bands, clips, pens, etc.), desk drawers, and bedside tables.

+Beyond the physical tools that help me lead a tidy life, I also have my own processes for staying sane when it comes to day-to-day tasks.  I use a thick day planner (like my mom…)to map out my to-dos against the calendar date.  To make sure nothing slips through the cracks, I’ll jot down things I want to remember to tackle in the future, i.e., if I make a return at J. Crew today, I will write down on one day next week to “confirm return” or “track package.”  If I emailed someone today asking for something, I’ll add a note two or three days hence reminding myself to follow up.  I’ll add reminders to mail rent, to renew cards, to place the monthly order for our pantry/linen closet from Google Express.  This in turn frees up the space in my mind otherwise occupied by fretting about whether I’ll remember to do something, or whether that package actually got there, or when I need to send the rent check in.

+I use Amazon’s subscribe and save program for items I order every single month so I don’t even need to think about them: laundry detergent, diapers, wipes, kitchen gloves, soap.  I just set it and forget it.

+Whenever a box/delivery arrives, I immediately unwrap everything and stow the contents, break down the box, and dispose of the packaging.  You’d be surprised at how much space the wrapping takes up and how much extra clutter it can add to your home.  And — Captain Obvious here — how much more configurable items are when they aren’t bundled together.  (Especially true of things like bar soap, toilet paper, toothpaste.)

+When I had a more traditional job and the volume of email I received was daunting, I used canned responses in Gmail like it was going out of style.  Using this tool, you can pre-write responses.  This was especially helpful when I was in a sales cycle and had a very repetitive series of messages I sent out, but it was also useful in another sense: I am an inbox zero gal, and I cannot get anything done until I’ve whittled my inbox down to nil.  The only items that will be in my inbox at any given time are “open” or “pending” matters, i.e., orders that need to be delivered, conversations that need to be followed up on, etc.  This was horrible for my productivity, as I’d often prioritize clearing out my inbox over meatier items on my to-do list.  So I came up with a canned message that said: “Thank you for the email.  I’ll get back to you by Tuesday.”  Then, when a new email would come in, I’d triage, either responding immediately if it was urgent or archiving it with the tag “Tuesday Follow Up.”  I’d then clear my Tuesday afternoon, sit down with a latte, and respond to all of the follow up emails in my “Tuesday Follow Up” archive.  This meant my inbox was empty and that I wouldn’t accidentally forget to follow up with someone.  Voila.

+Finally, and I’ve written about this exhaustively, but the app Wunderlist has been a true life-changer for Mr. Magpie and I.  Wunderlist is a shareable list app that exists in the cloud, meaning that two of us can update the same list simultaneously.  Genius.  We use it to keep track of grocery lists (so whoever is at the grocery knows what we need), household tasks, checklists before travel, etc.  We especially found it helpful before mini was born, as there were loads of admin items we needed to divvy up and tackle.  I also use my own personal lists on a daily basis to keep track of errands that need to be run and — often — blog post ideas I have.

What are your tips for staying organized?

P.S.  If you bought these slim tissue boxes on my recommendation, you might consider adding this aluminum tissue box cover for a sleek finish.

P.P.S.  Some of my absolute favorite Amazon purchases.

P.P.P.S.  Aerin’s scalloped plates (I own them in white and with a blue trim!) now come in classic red for the holidays!!

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9 thoughts on “How Do You Stay Organized?

  1. I’m about a month behind on all of your posts (!?!) and just wanted to pop in and say how helpful this post is. I am an organizational freak (at heart — currently dealing with a buildup of clutter in my apartment, ugh) and I love these ideas! I live by my Moleskine planner and iCal … still prefer the paper planner, though. Also, I, too, am an “inbox zero” person and I especially love your tip on managing email — so helpful!

  2. Such great stuff. I’ve found there are certain things I just will NOT fold back up after digging through – workout shorts, leggings, yoga pants – so I picked up bins and they all just are stored in their own bin on a shelf. Still looks nice, but way less pressure. I have plenty of hanging space but space for sweaters and other folded items is definitely my challenge!

  3. Jen, fellow day designer lover right here! Also, started reading your blog to procrastinate my first KonMari experience…so it’s only fitting this post is about the things I’ll need in the “storage” phase. Curious, do you follow the vertical folding method? It seems ambitious!

    1. Hi Veronica! That’s so funny — sorry to contribute to the procrastination but maybe it was a useful delay? I haven’t done the vertical folding! I have heard it works wonders. Maybe one day…xo

  4. What great tips, especially the day planner and email inbox ones! I feel like I’m on an endless struggle bus ride when it comes to being organized right now, so these are especially timely. I’m making progress little by little but can’t wait to feel more settled and in control of the chaos 😉 My purchase this weekend was of a storage bench for my bedroom – I plan to stock it with all my sweaters! I’m finding it most difficult to organize my sweater and tees – I’m going to give deep bins a try as I have limited closet and dresser space. With shoes, I either have piled them as high as possible on my closet shelf, or am trying to find organizers to go on the bottom of my closet. I’ll let you know if I come up with something that works well during all of this! xo

    1. Oooo storage bench for the win! I wish we had space at the foot of our bed for one. Such a smart addition to a bedroom — storage, plus a place to lay clothes or to sit while pulling on shoes. Deep bins sounds like a good way to go for those items. Keep me posted!!! xo

    2. Yes, I’m fortunate to have the space for it, and I’m already anticipating that it will become a place to fling clothes onto so I don’t have to deal with them 😉

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