The way I see it, there are three types of people in the world: the ones who couldn’t care less about organization, the ones who like organization but can’t commit to it for one reason or another, and the ones who are downright obsessed.
I’m firmly the latter.
As that weirdo in college with an obsessive habit of cleaning my apartment every weekend, something which my housemates were not always on board with, I admit that my passion for organization tends to fall on the extreme side of the spectrum. (Hey, is it my fault I want my house to look like a scene from Architectural Digest?). Yet as a 26-year-old with a full-time job and a side hustle to boot, I’m the first to ‘fess up to the fact that sometimes my love of organization falls to the wayside amid jam-packed schedules and ever-expanding to-do lists.
Since I know that nonstop days are inevitable, I’ve come up with a few tricks. Call them life hacks if you will, these habits make it possible for me to keep my home organized even when life threatens to overwhelm order. By committing to these five daily habits, I keep my clutter under control—and you can too.
1. Unpack your bag after work
This is a holy grail step for me, and for good reason. See, I’m a schlepper. I am absolutely that person who totes a massive purse with her to work every day. Why? It’s my carryall, with the contents of my life tucked firmly within its wide, open cavity. While I love the convenience of one oversized bag (it’s a lunchbox! It’s a backpack! It’s literally everything I need to survive at work!), I don’t love fishing around for my headphones when I want to watch a Youtube video at night.
To ease the burden of searching through the behemoth that is my work purse, I’ve taken to unpacking it first-thing when I get home. As soon as I roll through the door, I set my purse firmly on my dining room chair and pull things out of it à la Mary Poppins. Out goes the lunch containers, the heels I rocked at the office, the agenda I live by, the lipstick I wore that day. By the time I’m done, my purse is back to its streamlined self and filled only with the essential mints, tissues, and wallet combo. With the contents of the day in sight, I put every item where it belongs (lunch container on the kitchen counter, shoes on the shelf, lipstick in the organizer) right then and there. That way, not only do I have an empty purse that’s ready to roll in the a.m., but I also have zero knickknacks cluttering my dining room.
2. Clean the kitchen while the coffee brews
I don’t know about you, but I am a zombie before my morning cup of coffee. After brushing my face and washing my teeth (oh wait, the other way around? Maybe I need another cuppa), I stumble bleary-eyed into the kitchen to scoop three hefty spoonfuls of grinds into my beloved coffee machine.
Then comes the wait. By my calculation (or, you know, the kitchen clock), it takes eight minutes for the java to brew. That means I have eight minutes to tidy up before I can take that perfect first sip.
Once I return the bag of grinds back to its drawer, I spend the next few minutes cleaning off the counter so everything is ready to go when it’s time for dinner later that day. Whether that means loading the dishwasher or giving my thermos a quick scrub, I make sure that everything on the counter is washed and put away before I pour a single drop of joe into my favorite mug. Not only does this save me the hassle of having to straighten up after work when all I want to do is throw on sweatpants, but it’s also a way for me to make the most of those precious few morning minutes before it’s time to rush out the door.
3. Put the book back on the shelf
Sounds like common sense, right? Try telling yourself that when it’s 10pm and you’re cozy in bed with your pajamas on and a cup of tea in hand. Even then—and, I’d argue, especially then—it’s important to suck it up and put the book you’ve been flipping through back on your bookshelf. Of course, the book is just one example. Depending on the night, the item of clutter in question could be your laptop, a magazine, or your phone. The point is that when you’re done with whatever it is, put it back where it belongs. Don’t leave it precariously at the end of the bed, don’t let it take up extra square footage on the couch, and don’t relegate it to a pile of “stuff” on the coffee table. Doing so just creates a visual eyesore, and one that’s more time-consuming to put away in the long run as item upon item stacks up.
So, yes, that does mean leaving the comfort of your plush couch or your warm comforter to take the one minute you need to put the item in question away. I promise it’s not so bad and, besides, you probably have to get up to brush your teeth before bed or something like that, right?
4. Wash the pots and pans right after dinner
OK, hear me out. I know washing up after you’ve gone all MasterChef and prepared a showstopper of a dinner is probably the last thing you want to do at night. If we’re being honest though, it’s also the best time to do just that. Because food doesn’t have enough time to meld itself to pots and pans in a way that not even a Scrub Daddy can tackle, the post-dinner period is actually the easiest time to get the washing done. True, it might not be the most enjoyable time to do so, especially when your Netflix queue is calling, but it’s definitely the wisest time to accomplish the chore.
Because I’m the type of person who literally always needs dessert, whether it be a square of chocolate or a slice of pie, I’ve incorporated cleaning up into part of my dinnertime routine. After making and enjoying a *hopefully* scrumptious meal prepared by yours truly, I return to the kitchen to wash whichever pots and pans I used that night. While I’m washing, I multitask by turning on the kettle for tea. By the time I’ve scrubbed my last pot, the water is ready for my cup of chamomile. It’s then, and only then, that I pour a mug of tea, plate my dessert for the night, and hit the couch with whatever page-turner I’m reading at the moment (I swear I put it back on the shelf!).
5. Pick out your outfits on Sunday
A few months into working my current job, I noticed it was taking me longer and longer to get ready in the morning. I’m one of those people who needs to be on time, all the time, so this whole lateness thing was not going to work for me. When I stopped to ponder why the minutes were ticking by faster and faster, I realized it all came down to my outfits. I do my makeup while I savor my coffee, so I have this segment down to a relative science. When it comes time to select what to wear for the day, however, I’m a mess. I’ll put on a shirt, then realize it doesn’t work with my skirt. So I’ll swap it out for a sweater, only to decide it’s too bulky for the skirt. Then I replace the skirt for trousers and, wow, 15 minutes just on my outfit? I didn’t even pick out accessories yet.
Knowing I needed to nip this in the bud, I began carving out half an hour on Sunday mornings to pick out my outfits for the week. By doing it in advance, I have time to check the weekly forecast and review my calendar for events and meetings. That way, I can tailor my looks to the day and the temperature. On top of that, picking out everything in advance helps me visualize the outfits as separate looks and ensures I’m not repeating items or color schemes too much. As an added bonus, it’s an ideal time for me to challenge myself to incorporate pieces that haven’t gotten as much love as they deserve. Whether it’s a cardigan that’s been sitting at the back of my shelf or a bold-hued blouse, I love finding ways to work them into my lookbook for the week.