20 Secrets of Extremely Organized People

Envy people who keep it all together? Don’t hate them -- be one of them. We went to professional organizers to find out what it takes to have a smooth-running household. Here are 20 of their top house rules to bring order to your roost.
  1. Have a vision for who you want to be.

    Photo by Melanie Acevedo / The Nest

    This makes it easier to know what to bring into your life -- from decorating your house to building your wardrobe to how you use your time.

  2. Get good at saying no.

    Photo by David A. Land / The Nest

    You can graciously (and guiltlessly) say no to doing things or accepting opportunities that you don’t have time for or don’t fit your life. Case in point: Your friends might love your cooking, but that doesn’t mean you have to host every dinner party. Give yourself a break and let someone else take the lead for once.

  3. Find a home for everything.

    Photo by Douglas Friedman / The Nest

    And return everything to its home after you’re done using it. When shopping, know where you’re going to put an item -- whether it’s a piece of furniture or a piece of art -- before you bring it into your home.

  4. Pick a purpose for each room.

    Photo by Mark Lund / The Nest

    This allows you to set up each room in the way you use it. Sometimes the function is obvious (think: kitchen and bath), but many rooms serve multiple purposes. In these instances, you can create order by carving out zones (see the next slide for more info on this).

  5. Carve out zones.

    Photo by Ellen Silverman / The Nest

    In rooms with open floor plans, set up an office, media center, exercise area and so on. Use room dividers, such as a bookcase, open cubbies or a couch, to delineate the space.

  6. Buy less stuff.

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    Some people are minimalists. It’s okay if you’re not. But never grab something because it’s on sale or free. Hidden costs include maintenance of the item (i.e., cleaning it) or the guilt of getting rid of it.

  7. Love your label maker.

    Photo by Mark Lund / The Nest

    Eyes can read faster than they can figure out what they’re looking at on a shelf -- be it spices or storage boxes. What’s more, labeling shelves in your linen closet or pantry helps you and your spouse return items where they belong.

  8. Keep surfaces clutter-free.

    Photo by Mark Lund / The Nest

    Follow this rule of thumb: If you use it every day, it gets to stay; if you don’t, put it away. Think about how often you use an item, and let that decide how much “real estate” it should take up on surfaces. Take the kitchen counter, for instance. Maybe the coffeemaker and toaster get to stay, but the food processor goes away.

  9. Don’t wait to put things away.

    Photo by Mark Lund / The Nest

    Before dumping something on a table or chair, always ask yourself: “Does it belong here?” For example, instead of placing a coat over a chair, hang it up. It takes mere seconds. Bonus: You’ll spend less time looking for it later.

  10. Choose multifunctional furniture pieces.

    Photo by Mark Lund / The Nest

    Look for furniture that does double duty: a storage ottoman that can corral magazines or books, a coffee table with drawers to stash the remote, a bookcase that can be used as a nightstand.

  11. Keep everyday items within arm’s reach.

    Photo by Mark Lund / The Nest

    Place frequently used items up front in a cabinet or closet. Things you use less often, you can put up high or way in back.

  12. Arrange like with like.

    Photo by David A. Land / The Nest

    In the pantry, place canned goods on one shelf, cereal on another, snacks on another. In the bathroom, hairbrushes go in one bin, moisturizers in another, makeup in another.

  13. Think vertical.

    Photo by Mark Lund / The Nest

    If your closet has only one shelf above the clothing rod, it’s a missed opportunity. Cubbies placed on shelves can compartmentalize storage and help you utilize underused space.

  14. Look back.

    Photo by Mark Lund / The Nest

    The back of the door is another great place to stash items. An over-the-door pocket shoe organizer can hold jewelry, scarves, mittens, household cleaners, hair care products and accessories -- and yes, shoes.

  15. Organize your wardrobe efficiently.

    Photo by Ellen Silverman / The Nest

    Slim-fit hangers will allow you to arrange more garments in tight spaces. First, sort your clothes by type of item (pants, skirts, blouses), then by color.

  16. Put a clock in the bathroom.

    Photo by Shutterstock / The Nest

    A lot of people lose track of time in the morning; a clock will keep you on schedule. If you need to save space, mount a wall clock.

  17. Get rid of duplicates.

    Photo by Thinkstock / The Nest

    When you’ve just gotten married and you’re merging your belongings, you’re bound to end up with two of certain household items, such as coffeemakers, vacuum cleaners, etc. The solution: Keep one and sell the other on eBay, Amazon or Craigslist. But first, ask yourself what you are going to do with the money: Buy something new for your nest? Put it toward a trip? A goal will make it easier to part with something.

  18. Set up a home office.

    Photo by Ellen Silverman / The Nest

    It can be anywhere -- kitchen, living room, dining room, bedroom -- but designate a place to park mail, bills, pens, and electronics (laptop, cell phone and tablet) and their chargers.

  19. Coordinate calendars.

    Photo by Shutterstock / The Nest

    It can be on paper or online (think Cozi or GoogleCal), but make sure both of you can access it so you can check each other’s schedule before making any commitments. (Tip: Send invites to each other so you can easily add events to your calendar.)

  20. Reassess every so often.

    Photo by Thinkstock / The Nest

    Tastes change, and so will your lifestyle. Make a point to purge on a regular basis, say once a year or every spring and fall. If you don’t use something in a given time period, rethink its value. This creates an environment that you love -- it’s your nest, after all.

    The Nestperts: Professional organizers Stephanie Denton, author of The Organized Life: Secrets of an Expert Organizer (F + W media, Inc., 2006), and Donna Smallin Kuper, author of How to Declutter and Make Money Now (Donna Kuper Worldwide, LLC, 2012)