These are 8 simple tips that I have implemented to organize my life in the new year, and they’re so simple that you can maintain them throughout the year, not just during the new energy that January brings.
When the new year rolls around, I am always looking for ways to make it more successful, productive, and peaceful than the last. No doubt you’ve probably seen about a hundred other posts floating around with planners and courses you can purchase that will change your life. Some of them will, but for me, it comes down to simple, daily habits that make the biggest impact over time.
1. Make a List, Or Ten
I’m the queen of list-making. I have them on the fridge, on my laptop, in my planner. With my brain bouncing back and forth between homemaking, homeschooling, work, sports schedules, and about a million other things on a daily basis, something(s) will inevitably fall through the cracks if I don’t jot them down.
There’s nothing more embarrassing than arriving at a gathering and realizing that you forgot to bring a gift or a dish that you were supposed to contribute. Or heck, maybe there is something more embarrassing. How about not showing up to the thing at all because you didn’t write it on your calendar?!
Lists keep me on track. I love a good, old-fashioned pen to paper list, but I think there’s also an important place for digital ones. For those, I use an app called Trello, which I’ll talk more about later in this post.
And, full disclosure, I’m not sure what type of psychopath this makes me….but I’m one of those people who will write something down that’s already done, just to mark it off. I know I’m not alone because I have a friend that does the same. So I guess it’s just good we found each other to make lists with.
This is something that has been a huge struggle for me. So most of this section is me just talking to myself, because I by no means have this mastered.
With so many things on that neverending to-do list I mentioned earlier, it can be difficult to even know where to begin. Taking the time to recognize time-sensitive items, or tasks with a deadline, and placing those at the top of the priority list (even if they are things you dread doing) brings so much clarity. It helps me to avoid the last-minute scramble (not always, but a lot of the time).
I’m one of those people who will do every last scrap of laundry just to avoid sitting down to type out an email, or getting on the phone to schedule an appointment. Sometimes prioritizing means just laying out what I don’t want to do, but need to do, and knocking that out first so that I’m not dreading, thinking about, and avoiding it all day.
Another aspect of prioritizing, is identifiying the areas of your life that cause you extra stress or prevent you from being as productive as you’d like. Maybe it’s your laundry system, or meal times. Whatever it is, take notice. Identify exactly what it is about that area of your life that is not working, and brainstorm ways that you can solve that specific problem.
One of those areas for me is often meal time, which leads me into my next point.
3. Clean Out The Pantry and Take Inventory
Our lives pretty much revolve around meals, so this ranks pretty high on my priority list.
This is a task that I have to do each season, and sometimes in between. It’s amazing that, no matter how well organized your pantry might be, if you’re like me there will always be some forgotten something lurking in the back, months out of date.
Groceries are an area of my life that have been a huge source of stress in the past. Mainly because I wasn’t organized in my approach to purchasing, or using them. I would buy food with good intentions, then forget I had it, go buy more, and end up throwing out the original when it expired. Definitely not ideal.
A Well-Stocked Pantry
Last year I decided to really get a grip on the food situation. I wanted to up my homecooking game even more, which meant that I needed to have a god stock of pantry staples on hand at all times. This keeps me from having to run to the grocery store every few days because I’ve run out of oats or butter, or flour.
For my pantry staples, and even some of our snacks, and supplements, I started purchasing from Azure Standard, and I’ve been so pleased! Azure Standard is a family owned whole-food grocer out of Oregon that delivers at various drop points all throughout the U.S. each month.
I love being able to add things to my cart throughout the month as I run out, or as they pop into my head. Then, being able to edit my order down to what I actually need and picking it all up at once. I find that I save a ton of money when I’m intentional about my grocery list, and not just running to the grocery store every time I run out of something.
4. Unsubscribe From Emails – Just Not Mine!
I can’t stand to look at my phone and see hundreds of unread emails. I’m the person who always keeps that little red notification at bay. I read them or delete them a few times each day. There’s something about seeing a number there waiting for me that puts a strain on my mentally.
Find Useful Tools
One thing that has been instrumental in keeping my emails in check is a tool called Unroll Me. I’ve been using it for years to keep my inbox decluttered, and I have no complaints. Basically, you sign up (I believew it’s still free) then take a few minutes to go through the people you receive messages from. You categorize them into emails that you want to see individually, and emails that you want placed in the “Unroll Me” folder. Once a day, you will receive an email from UM with all of the emails that you deemed unimportant. You can choose to open it and read, or move on. I’m pretty sure I’ve never opened it, I can’t even remember all that I’ve added to that list. Clearly, they weren’t neccesary.
There’s something so personal about a well curated inbox. It’s a wonderful way to connect with people, outside of the realm of social media…which is a realm that I, quite honestly, want to be sparing with the amount of time that I spend.
For the most part, my email is now only filled with the messages that are important to me. Bills and subscriptions, a handful of businesses whose sales I follow, work, and of course newsletters from the handful of creators that I follow.
I think that in a world that is throwing soooo much information at us constantly, there’s something very freeing about filtering that information. About allowing ourselves to put on our blinders and only absorb the information that actually benefits, inspires and encourages us.
Since you’ve found your way here, I’m praying that I fall into that category. If you want to join my email list to receive updates, deals, gardening tips, and new recipes, be sure to subscribe below!
5. Daily Delete
This is something that can, and probably should be done all year long. Take just 10 minutes each day to delete old photos, videos, and messages to clear space on your phone. This usually looks like me deleting a hundred pics of the inside of my children’s noses and silly selfies. It’s amazing that, no matter how intentional I am about this, there’s always plenty to delete! I really make an effort to stay on top of it because there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to video a precious moment and getting the error message that you don’t have enough storage space.
You can also go to the settings on your phone and set your messages to automatically delete after a certain amount of time. Another great feature I found on my newer iPhone is that you can delete multiples of the same photo. I’m sure there are great apps out there that also help with storage, I just haven’t found any that I would recommend.
6. Clean Out Toys
When I tell you that I do this alll theee tiiime, I swear, it’s constant.
My advice: do not attempt this with the kids around. They’ll profess their sudden and undying attachment to the broken G.I. Joe in the bottom of the bin and swear that they can’t bear to part with it. Yes, it only has one arm and they hadn’t seen it in three years until this moment. But it’s special and they can’t let it go!
You know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s no fun for anyone, and you get nothing accomplished.
This is something I do alone. I donate what I can, and trash what I can’t. I get rid of multiples, throw away any toys that are broken, any play dough that has turned to stone, all the broken pencils, and mismatched baby doll shoes.
This is also a great opportunity to take notice of which toys are actually played with, and which aren’t as loved. I find that I have a much easier time buying gifts that are actually enjoyed when I’ve paid closer attention to my children’s interests. Another benefit of minimizing the toys is that there isn’t as much overwhelm at playtime. My kids are much more inclined to play with their toys when they don’t have so many to choose from that they can’t even decide where to begin.
A Pre-Loved Gift
While we are on the subject of toys, I’d like to get on my little soap box and say can we please normalize the gifting of used toys? It kills me that we feel like birthday and Christmas gifts have to come in the box. What about those toys that, like I mentioned above, are just never really played with or enjoyed? Why can’t we regift those, out of the box, and not feel like a cheapo?
7. Clean Out Closets and Dressers
Right up there with toys, clothes are one of our biggest storage issues. I also feel the same way about clothes that I do toys, can we please normalize hand-me-downs? Growing up, I remember that I would get so excited to visit my cousin in Georgia and dig through her closet. I was thrilled to get her pre-loved clothes!
Even now, I only shop for my children at consignment shops, because for the most part, our clothes are going to be used and abused. I just can’t justify paying $40 for a pair of jeans that will have holes in both the knees and probably be highwaters in a matter of weeks.
The Seasonal Wardrobe
Anyway, back to organizing said clothing. We rotate our wardrobes seasonally. Summer clothes are packed away in the winter, and vice-versa. There are some clothes that overlap and are in rotation all year long, of course. Especially since we have pretty mild seasons.
This system of organization was born a bit out of necessity, because we have always lived in spaces with very minimal storage. But after living this way for several years, I actually find that I like having a smaller selection each season. It forces me to be intentional about the items that I bring in. I’m more likely to wear them, rather than have them shoved to the back of the closet.
Another perk of this system is that it isn’t permanent. You can always pack your things away and see how you like living with a seasonal wardrobe. If you would rather have everything in your closet all year long, it’s as simple as pulling your clothes back out of storage.
8. Organize Your Computer
This is an area that I’m actually really on top of. I thrive on organization, and often find myself sorting and planning things when I should actually be working. Yes, I know it’s just a form of procrastination, but at least it has its benefits!
I keep all of my documents organized into detailed folders. First, the big items in my life: personal, work, homeschool, rental house, etc. Then I break each of those folders down into subfolders: each family member’s personal files, blog, dōTERRA, Appalachian Reclamations, school subjects, various tenant contracts, and listing site info. You get the idea. Each file is more specific and narrowed. It clears up space in my brain to know exactly where to find things. There’s no time wasted diggin through endless files. I also keep things very precisely labeled so that I can search for them with ease.
I also keep my email inbox organized by folders, specifically my receipts for tax purposes. This is as simple as naming a folder “Tax Receipts 20_ _” and adding emails as they come in. Super exciting stuff.
As far as organizing all of the various fascets of my different businesses, and life in general, I love Trello. It’s a free project management app where I can create workspaces and lists specific to each category, collaborate with other team members, and automate various tasks. There are unlimited customizations and features. I’m sure I haven’t even come close to understanding them all, but what I do use, I absolutely love.
Organization Will Look Different for Everyone
Obviously, organization is unique, and will look different to each of you. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m just sharing what has worked for me in the past in hopes that maybe it’s useful to you too. Also, I’m always looking for new ideas, so please comment and share your organization tips and tricks with the rest of us!