Can You Learn To Be Organized?

Can You Learn To Be Organized

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Organization is not my strong suit.

I love the feeling when everything is in its place and I can find it.

I don’t love the actual process of creating its place, and putting it away every time I use it.

I am closer to the person who has piles of paper on their desk and can usually find what they need. However, with kids, this quite often doesn’t work. I can’t count the number of times the kids or the cat toppled one of my piles of paper. It can take a long time to reorganize a simple stack of paper!

After the last debacle, I wanted to make a change, but wasn’t sure I could do it. So, I read up on how to become a more organized person. I discovered that some people have a perfect pitch when it comes to neatness. I, on the other hand, have a tin ear. Nevertheless, I have come to feel strongly that I need to set a good example for my kids. My hope is they will learn to be neat now and not have my organizing challenges.

I looked around my home and chose three areas that needed the most improvement: my office, the bathroom and the kids’ rooms (to foster future neatness in their lives). For the last two months, I have been organizing these spaces and practicing keeping them neat.


Admittedly, my office was in the most need of help. I had paper everywhere; stacked on the desk, piled in a chair and even on the bookshelf. I tackled this problem in two steps. First, I made use of my mostly empty filing cabinet. I started by creating files for paperwork I needed to keep: contracts, product manuals, receipts, tax information, etc. Then, I created three “holding” files: To Do, In Progress, and To Be Filed. All my paper is organized and I know what I need to with it. I just have to be diligent about filing, which I now do every Friday morning.

Once I had the current paper organized, my second step was to follow the “touch-once rule.” Any paper (mail) that comes into my office gets touched once. I toss it, deal with it or put it in the To Be Filed folder. It is amazing how much clutter this has eliminated and I have not lost anything, a previously common occurrence

I cleaned up the rest of the clutter on my desk by adding a few small containers – old jelly jar glass to corral my pens on top of the desk, small kitchen storage containers for the paper clips and pushpins, and one more folder for the loose, blank paper. Nothing matches, but everything is neat and tidy.

There was one final piece to my office: old or dead equipment has been stored in my office for quite a while. I found a monitor, cell phone, a couple of hand-held video games, and an e-reader. I knew that it was important to recycle electronics for their hazardous components, but just hadn’t made the time to do it. For all functioning items, I removed all personal information, and then I called around to find out where I could dispose of these items safely.

Turns out, there are services that will pick up electronics for you. There was a small fee, but it was less than the cost of my time and gas to drop the items off at different charities or the county hazardous waste disposal site. They also took the broken chair that had been stored in my office. It felt like a completely new place with the junk removed and the top of the desk clear. I have found that I actually accomplish more in my neat office!


In my extensive reading, I learned that a big part of organizing is cutting down on clutter. This was certainly true for the bathroom. I decided to be brutal and follow the six-month rule: I threw out or donated anything not used for six months. I had makeup and nail polish from college! I sifted through everything, even the items in the back of the cabinet under the sink.

I really only had to create two new spaces here. I moved the extra toilet paper, towels, and washcloths from under the sink to high shelves I installed on an open wall. Then I put in a large lazy Susan under the sink. This made it easy to access the weekly cleaners kept in the back, but keep the daily items up front.

Kids’ Rooms

For my kids, I had to identify for them where they needed to put things, and then instill a habit of putting it away. The first was infinitely easier, if a little more costly.

I took a cue from one of the great blogs posts I read and included my kids in the process. I talked with them, found out which items didn’t have good homes and which did. Then we talked about what kind of home they thought each item should have.

They had good ideas for this. We ended up getting plastic storage bins of different sizes for most of the toys. These bins are now stored in corners and the closet floor. Then my husband found discounted lockers online and we created additional storage in their rooms with them. The kids loved the idea and had fun decorating the lockers like the “big kids” do at school.

Next, I wanted to introduce them to the idea of a “To Do” list. If I can get my kids to use lists to organize themselves now, maybe it will be a good tool for them later. I wanted to keep it fun, creative and environmentally friendly – no piles of paper lists to throw away.

I thought about a white board, but between the dangers of pen marks on the walls or carpet and initial expense I vetoed that idea and settled on chalkboard paint. The paint is relatively inexpensive and easy to apply. Chalk is cheap and comes in a myriad of colors. My kids can create a new to do list every day, experiment with color-coding the list, or use the space to draw. The only consideration here is that chalk dust is bad for children with allergies.

The harder step has been getting my kids to put things away in the correct place and use their lists. It required more diligence on my part than theirs. I worked at making it a part of their daily routine. In the morning before breakfast, did they make their beds and create their to do list?

Before going to bed, we check the list for uncompleted items and if toys are stowed away. It is been a bit of struggle to always remind the kids of everything and convince them it is important, but we are making progress. They do seem to focus better on tasks, and it is starting to become second nature for them to put things away, not down.

What I Learned

Organizing is not second nature to me and there are days when I long to just drop everything wherever and be a couch potato. I keep myself going with the knowledge that my kids will be better equipped than I am to stay organized. Plus, I have learned you can teach an old dog new tricks; I am slowly becoming neater myself. Through this two-month process, I have learned four things:

  • Organization is learned and it is a habit.
  • Decluttering makes organizing easier.
  • Everything needs a home and put it away, not down.
  • It is easier to clean when it is neat.

I have made progress with my kids and myself. Next task, my husband.

Valerie Jocums

Valerie Jocums

Writer & Blogger
She loves the sun, her Australian Shephard dog, and her fiancé George. When she isn’t mountain biking, practicing her public speaking skills, or reading, she is writing about everything she has learned.
Valerie Jocums

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