Top Ten Organizing Tips for Families | Kids Out and About Westchester

Top Ten Organizing Tips for Families

by Robin Harisis

1. Define a main goal.

What is your main organizing goal for the new year?  It is important to know where you are going before you begin your organizing adventure. Make sure you have a clear and realistic goal in mind. Make it attainable, not grandiose and out-of-reach. For example, your goal can be as small as having an organized junk draw or a functional mud room rather than striving for the goal of a perfectly organized house in one weekend.

2. Find a starting point.

The question that is most often asked of me is “Where do I start an organizing project?” Sometimes the project is so overwhelming it is hard to define a true starting point. I equate it to asking a child to pick up his toys in a room scattered with his belongings. Most of the time, the child will stand there, staring at the mess, arms at his side, still as can be. The child cannot do what he is asked because it is too overwhelming. He cannot identify a starting point.

We can be just like the child when we are staring at an organizing project. Here are some ways to help define a starting point:

  • Deal with the project that would make the most meaningful change in the shortest amount of time
    • Set up a bill payment system as the first step to a paper management system
    • Organize the foyer or entryway as a start to organizing your home
  • Cup your hands around your eyes and pan the room. This limits your view of the project, allowing you to see it in smaller portions and giving the project some definition. Choose a section and begin your project.
  • Determine a main or final goal for your organizing project. Break the project into steps working backward from your goal. This will not only help you find a starting point, but will give you a plan to follow until your project is complete.

3. Connect the dots.

Once you have a starting point and an end point, begin to build the steps between them. This can look different for each person, depending on your learning styles and process. You may jump from one area to a completely unrelated area and then pull it all together in the end. Others may progress in a very linear, logical fashion. If you aren’t sure what the steps should be, how to get from start to end, ask for help. Call a professional organizer or ask a friend to help you connect your dots.

4. Sort like with like…According to you.

If a pile of seemingly random objects were dumped on a table in front of a group of people, each person might sort them differently. One person may sort by color, another by shape, and yet another by use. Each way is correct, showing the difference in how people view “like with like.” Sort your items according to what "like with like" means to you.

5. Label…According to you.

Labeling can be straight-forward, like a box of Christmas decorations labeled “Christmas.” However, there are times creative labels can be helpful in classifying items. “Financial Documents” may not mean anything to you, rendering the papers hard to find. But when the same papers are labeled in a file called “Papers that make me money,” they are located in a snap. Label items according to what makes sense to you and forgo the traditional titles, if need be.

6. Buy containers once you know what to contain.

Many times, we buy containers BEFORE we start an organizing project. But why would we buy containers if we don’t know what has to go in them? How do we know it’s the right size or will function correctly? Buy containers after you have sorted your items, you know what has to go in them, and where the container will be stored. This will give you a much better chance of choosing the appropriate container for the job.

7. Motivate yourself.

Getting organized is not an event. It’s a process that has to be continued and maintained. Find what motivates you to start and finish the process. Perhaps it’s a sweet treat or a weekend trip as a reward. Maybe it’s finding an organizing buddy that will make the process more fun. Maybe the final result is motivation enough. Whatever motivates you, find it and complete your organizing project.

8. Make it routine.

Once you have motivated yourself to accomplish your organizing goals, you have to maintain the organized state. The best way to maintain your organizing systems is to make their maintenance routine. Making the repetitive tasks in our life routine allows us to free up more time to be creative, enjoy different activities, and spend time with loved ones. We are no longer spending 15 minutes looking for our keys because we routinely put them in the same place when we come in the house. We can now spend that 15 minutes doing something we really want to do.

9. Know thy self.

Organizing is a personal act. Finding the right solution that fits you is key. Are you a paper piler or filer? Do you like details or are you more of a big picture kind of person? Are you a visual person who enjoys functionality as well as aesthetics? The more information you know about yourself, the better you can customize your organizing system to your needs.

10. Take organizing tips with a grain of salt.

I love organizing tips. We all love organizing tips. There is something very comforting about a simple statement that seems to sum up the answer to our perplexing problems. While they can help us try new ideas, be careful which tips you decide to use. Choose to follow tips that adhere to your own organizing style. Understand, also, that they may give you only part of the picture, not the entire solution. Tips can be wonderful resources, but we have to make sure that the ones we choose are the right resource for us.



Robin Harisis is a former professional organizer who now uses her talents to sell advertising at She still loves to be organized and finds joy in reorganizing the offices.

(c) 2018 Robin Harisis