Home Organizing Systems: Mindset, Lifestyle, and Momentum

Before we start talking about how to organize your home, you first want to understand what you actually want. The building blocks of creating and maintaining an organized home are lifestyle, mindset, and momentum.

Having an organized home isn’t a one-and-done project. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard of TV shows where a crew comes into a messy home, removes everything, sets it up, and leaves. This may seem appealing to you–many people are overwhelmed at the thought of going through their belongings, making a decision about each item, and then maintaining an organized home. Wouldn’t it be easier to have someone just come in and do it for you?

The problem with one-and-done organizing is that it doesn’t help you build new habits. Your home might look nice right then, but if the way someone else organized your things doesn’t suit you, and you don’t know how to keep it organized, the clutter will come right back. It’s a learned skill and one that anyone can learn. And there is nothing wrong with using an organizing service like Organize to Excel to help you with that on a regular basis. An organized home is much easier to keep that way!

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Practical Tips to Organize Your Business Paperwork

Organizing business paperwork takes dedication and consistency, but once you have systems in place and you (and your employees) use them, it becomes a routine part of business life. Here are my ways to make organizing business paperwork go more smoothly.

Shred it and for-ged it

When paperwork is past its “keep until” date, shred it if it has personal information. If you have a small business you may be fine with a small shredder. For larger business, there are also services like Shred-It that pick up shreddable materials and turn them into recycled paper. 

New year, new folders

At the beginning of your financial year, create new folders you can use throughout the year. Keep in mind the 5-20 rule! Any folder with fewer than 5 items in it should be combined with another, and any folder with more than 20 should be subdivided into other folders. This streamlines searching for documents, saving you time and money!  

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Practical Tips to Organize Your Personal Financial Paperwork

Here are some of the ways I keep track of my personal financial paperwork, and help others keep theirs under control. 

Date, not category

Filing bills based on date instead of by category works better for me. Sorting by date allows me to keep what’s current in front of me and see all of my bills at a glance instead of having to correlate different bills from different files. 

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Practical Tips to Organize Your Financial Paperwork: Retrieving Paperwork

The whole point of saving paperwork (as actual paper or digitally) is to be able to refer to it later!. You need to be able to find it, or it’s just clutter! Here are some ways to make retrieving paperwork easy, navigable, and actually useful. 

Labels

Having nomenclature or “naming rules” for your paperwork helps you find things again when you need them. Use categories to simplify your files–but not too much! A file folder labeled “Home Expenses” packed with dozens and dozens of pieces of paperwork in it isn’t very useful. 

For paper systems: Create a hierarchy of categories and subcategories using hanging folders and interior folders. You could still use a “Home Expenses” folder! It just needs to be divided into subfolders like “Repairs,” “Mortgage Documents,” and “Yard Maintenance.” 

A good rule of thumb for folders is limiting the amount of paperwork to 5-20 individual documents in each folder. Any folder with fewer than 5 documents doesn’t need to be its own category. Any folder with more than 20 documents should be divided into subcategories. The 5-20 rule makes for easy retrieval, since you don’t have to sift through piles of paperwork to find what you need. 

For digital systems: The folder/subfolder system works just like paperwork, but you can use fewer levels of folders with digital filing because they are searchable through keywords. With that in mind, naming your files in a consistent, searchable way becomes very important!

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Practical Tips to Organize Your Financial Paperwork: Retention Guidelines

One of the most common problems I come across when helping clients go through their paperwork is keeping items because they’re unsure of when it’s time to let documents go. You don’t need all paperwork forever! For any specific questions it’s best to consult your CPA or attorney, but I have general rules you can follow to organize financial paperwork.

Forever

“Forever” documents should be kept your entire lifetime, and in some cases passed on to any beneficiaries you have. These are things like your social security card and your birth certificate. Keep these documents in a safe place so they can’t be lost or tampered with. Create backups online or in a separate location in case of a natural disaster or fire.

Permanent

“Permanent” documents are kept for the life of the item they’re for. These are things like documentation related to stocks and shares. Once you let go of an item, there’s no reason to keep its paperwork! Make paperwork a part of your overall decluttering process–if your vacuum is ready to donate, look around for any paperwork associated with it and let that go too. 

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Practical Tips to Declutter and Let Go of Stuff: Roadblocks

Often, knowing your items are going to a good home can be motivation enough to let them go. Sometimes that’s not enough. In this post I’m going to go over some common roadblocks that keep people from starting to declutter, or from decluttering effectively. I hope they’ll help you on your organization journey—and if you’re struggling with something or have a question, leave me a message in the comments!

Gifts

Gifts can be a sticking point for decluttering! You may feel someone would be disappointed if they found out you let go of their gift, but let me frame it this way: the person giving you the gift hoped you would enjoy it! If you’re not enjoying it anymore, the gift no longer serves its purpose.

When someone gives you a gift, the gift becomes yours to do with what you want, including letting it go! There’s no contract binding you to keep things past their point of use, so if a gift has outstayed its welcome, it’s time to pass it on.

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Practical Tips to Declutter and Let Go of Stuff: Have a Plan for the Things You’re Letting Go

You’ve discovered your unique rules for what stays and what goes in your home, you’ve used one of last week’s techniques to jump-start your decluttering, and now you have a big pile of things to get rid of! But unless you have a plan for what to do with them, you’ll either have a junk pile that hangs around, or send things to the landfill. 

Trash is always a last resort for unwanted objects. Before you toss things in the garbage, see if your clutter falls into any of these categories. 

Sell

Why not? One woman made more than $30,000 selling things she no longer wanted on her minimalist journey! I don’t expect you to sell everything you own, but if you’re not going to use that ice cream maker anymore, sell it. Listing something on eBay or Facebook Marketplace doesn’t take more than a few minutes, and can get your item to someone who needs it (while adding a few bucks to your bank account). 

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Practical Tips to Declutter and Let Go of Stuff: Break it Down

Any large project looks easier when broken into smaller pieces, and decluttering is no exception! Here are three easy ways to break down the decluttering process so you can start with confidence. 

Categories

Categories: Narrowing your focus to certain types of objects is a great way to break through the where-do-I-start anxiety. Whether you’re working solo, with family, or alongside an organizer like me, you can choose a category of item to go through to get used to the decluttering process.

You can choose to focus on one room in your home, or go by item type. When you collect one type of item and bring it all together, you can see at a glance how much you have. I’ve seen it over and over: you had no idea you had seven hairbrushes until you got the ones from the downstairs bathroom, upstairs bathroom, kids’ rooms, and the vanity all together! It’s easier to let go of extra things when you know they’re really extra.

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Practical Tips to Declutter and Let Go of Stuff: Your House, Your Rules

Many people feel overwhelmed when they think about letting go of items to declutter their home, but I’m here to tell you that you have more power than you think! Actually, you have all of the power! After all, this is YOUR home you’re decluttering. That means you make the rules. You get to decide:

what goes in it,

how much goes in it, AND

what to let go of!

Imagine your ideal home. What’s it like? Is it cozy, filled with objects you love and display proudly? Is it functional, with everything you need and nothing you don’t? Is it sleek and minimalist, a place where you can think clearly and feel freedom?

How does your ideal home differ from your home now?

I’m asking all these questions to clarify what your goal is when it comes to decluttering. As famed inventor Charles Kettering said, “A problem well-stated is half-solved.” When you know what you’re working toward, it’s easier to see the path to it. Find useful questions to ask about your space, like:

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10 Simple Ways to Maintain Organization

This seems to be the hardest part of “being organized” for many of my clients. So often, I see people put in a big effort to clear the clutter they have accumulated over many weeks, months or years without making the small changes every day that would help make their lives easier in the long term.

Being organized is all about the habits that you have and that you create. Habits that promote being organized will lead to an organized life, leaving you free from worries (at least, freer!) and the opportunity to live life in the moment – those Zen moments when you get to be totally involved in what you are doing, who you are being, or the experience you are having right now!

What could a small step towards a new habit be?

Here are a few options, and I hope you’ll find one or two that would be ridiculously easy to implement – that’s the idea. To maintain organization, start with your smallest achievable step, the one small change to make this week that you’ll find so easy. Then check the list again next week and if you find another ridiculously easy change to make, do that one too. And before you know it, you’ll be on the path to an organized you!

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