I'm sure you've seen lists all over your feeds claiming to get you organized in just a few simple steps. Hey, I've written the process I go through to organize a space as well (shameless link to my past blog here!). Let's face it, lists read well. People like them and if you throw in some pretty images they're super-pinnable. But lately I've begun noticing the missing link in all of those posts (mine included), the last step that is so important but doesn't always make the cut. "Put it back!"
I can often be heard saying that there is no magic wand to wave when it comes to organizing. It's not a well-kept secret that some of us have neglected to share. Like anything else, it requires work. No matter how fabulous an organization system you have set up, it isn't going to maintain itself. That super cute new closet system you just installed isn't going to look quite so pretty a week in if you keep leaving your clothes all over the floor.
This "put it back" step is something that everyone struggles with. I've had tell myself to take a deep breath in front of clients after I've seen all the hard work they've done crumble. I'm guilty of it too; sometimes I'm just too tired, too busy or, let's face it, too lazy to put something back. We all have our moments but they need to be just that. Moments. Our default reaction after we have taken something out and used it can't be to just leave it. All of those little things we leave throughout the day or week can add up to overwhelm fast. Obviously this is all easier said than done but here are a few tips to help you crush this step.
Make It Pretty
I'm going to use the same concept as "if you look good, you feel good" for this one. If you have built a beautiful system to keep you organized, both in looks and function you'll be more likely to maintain it. So go ahead and line those drawers that no one but you sees with beautiful paper. Splurge on getting new hangers so they are all the same. Make pretty little labels for all of your things even if you don't need them. The better it looks the more likely you will be to keep it that way.
Follow The One Minute Rule
I've quoted her before, but it works. Gretchen Rubin urges us that if we have a task that takes less than one minute to just push ourselves to do it. In our fast paced life of list-making and prioritizing this rule takes away the self doubt. If you stop to think about it you'll be dead in the water, you'll spend your time thinking about the other things you could or should do with that minute. So put the dish away, replace the toilet paper, hang the dress back up, file that paper. It's a great way to keep up without feeling like you put too much effort or time in.
Make It A Habit
There are tons of ways to make something a habit or routine. Just Google it (when you're done reading this of course) and find the way that works for you. Sometimes we need to just do something every day to make it happen. If you get into the habit of dealing with your mail as you get it instead leaving it in a pile near the door pretty soon you won't have to think about it, it will become second nature.
Just Do It
Sometimes you just need to force yourself to do something. It isn't fun. There are no neat little tricks. You just have to do it. There are tasks that aren't enjoyable and just plain suck but they still need to get done. So take a breath and pull up your big-girl panties (or boy panties, I guess I'm kind of gender stereotyping who is most likely to read this) and just get it done..
Good luck and happy organizing!
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
If you're stuck, start by setting a small goal, like tossing expired items found in your bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and closets. Not only are expired items the main thing Ashley Murphy and Molly Graves, the founders of NEAT Method, see their clients overlook, but they find getting rid of them encourages people to do more. Begin by checking the usual items, such as sunscreen and cosmetics, but don't forget about maple syrup, dish detergent and motor oil. (Use Real Simple's handy guideline for more surprising household staples that have expiration dates.) Once these items are gone, you'll see what you really need to organize.
In order to maintain a clutter-free home, you need to get to the root of why things pile up in the first place. The NEAT founders believe that most people fall into the following clutter personalities: Too Busy = Too Many Extras: You buy items you already own because you don't have a system in place for where to store them or the time to search through all possible storage spots. Constant Worrier = Must Save Everything: You're concerned that you "might" need something in the future, so you save everything, "just in case." Overwhelmed in Life = Overwhelmed at Home: You don't know where to begin—so you just live with the chaos. By identifying which category you fit into, you can avoid your weak spots. If you think you don't have time, start by carving out just 15 minutes a day to complete a small task like going through the mail (try using this coffee mug for inspiration). If you're a constant worrier, take inventory of your stuff to remind yourself that you have everything you need—for right now. And if you're overwhelmed in life, empty just one drawer, clean just one shelf; when a small task is completed successfully, that will inspire you to do more.
The NEAT duo has found that when most people shop for organizational solutions, they tend to overbuy plastic storage bins, to stow large things they don't use often, and small baskets, thinking they've got a lot of similar little items that need a home. But if they haven't first done a thorough purge, they end up with bins that don't fit their space and with fewer longterm storage needs and less itsy-bitsy clutter than they imagined. Ashley and Molly abide by this bedrock organizing principle: First, make piles of what you have, then shop with measurements-in-hand of the specific places in the home where the stuff will go. And don't forget to buy enough hangers and files; the two other items people underpurchase. They'll come in handy when you need to hang up costumes and put away cards -- which the organizers discovered are two of the most commonly hoarded items among men and women respectively.
If you're in awe of meticulously marked kitchen pantries but don't want to spend the time or money labeling, then Ashley and Molly recommend clear organizers, which do the same job. Whether you're storing linens or desk supplies, see-through containers make it obvious where everything goes.
If you've spent months unable to find a cutlery holder that fits, or a drawer caddy for your desk, it might be because you're not accurately measuring. Ashley and Molly kept running into this issue until they realized they needed to measure protruding screw heads, hinges and rounded sides or corners instead of just the width, length and height of the drawer. They suggest investing in a soft tape measure. Another hard-won tip? Carry a picture of what's inside the drawer with you while you're shopping, since they've found it easy to forget what items will go in the organizer.
Garment bags are a great way to move off-season clothes out of your small closet—but experts recommend avoiding plastic. Plastic garment protectors can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew in humid environments. Instead, make sure yours have linen on one or both sides, which lets clothes breathe. (Ashley and Molly suggest one like this.)
Follow Allison Weigensberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/organizer_alli