We'd all like to be more organized. We'd all like to be that person: the one who never forgets her kids' sunscreen, who pops dinner in the slow cooker before heading to work, whose house never looks like a "before" picture. So what sets super organized people apart, and how can we steal their tricks?
Lauren Sams spoke to four leading professional organizers: Carol Posener of Get Organized, Clutterfly's Georgie Rees, Chelsea Smith of The Organizing Platform, and Linda Eagleton of Creative Surrounds to get their top tips for keeping yourself and your home more organized.
1. Write everything down.
Lists and diaries are your best friend when it comes to staying organized. Posener says that if she doesn't write down her appointments, contacts, and reminders, she'll forget them. "Relying on your memory is exhausting!"
2. No distractions.
Don't stop working."If another task comes to mind while you're working, don't stop what you're doing," says Rees. "Simply write down the thought on a sticky note and get back to work."
3. Productive days start the night before.
Smith spends 15 to 20 minutes at the end of each day tidying the house, cleaning up from dinner, putting toys away, turning the dishwasher on, and doing a load of laundry overnight. "When I get up in the morning, I'm not waking up to chaos."
4. Give everything a home.
"Create a home for everything," says Posener. And that goes for things you're thinking about buying for the home. She doesn't buy anything unless she knows where it will go.
5. Set reminders.
"Set reminders for your appointments. Not only does this help you remember them, but having an electronic record of things like doctor's visits can be helpful down the track," says Rees. Printing out electronic calendars is helpful, too, as you can then fill available blocks of time with small tasks.
6. Master time management.
Time management is more than just keeping a diary, says Eagleton. "You also need to factor in how much time it'll take to get to your appointment and back, and ensure you include that in your diary as well."
7. Create folders for your inbox.
Save time sifting through hundreds of emails and keep important files and information handy by keeping your inbox organized. "I have a folder for each client, for instance, so I don't get confused," says Posener.
8. Sync your calendars.
Share your online calendars to cut down wasted time. Use iCal or Google Calendar to sync your calendars with your partner or people you work closely with.
9. Don't multitask.
While Posener acknowledges that to-do lists will always grow longer, doing more at once isn't the answer. "Keep chipping away at one task before moving on to the next. You'll be more productive and get more done."
10. Take a break.
On that note, shorter bursts of work are better for productivity. Rees follows the Pomodoro Technique — 25 minutes work, then 5 minutes rest — while Smith does 45 minutes of work with a 15 minute break. Choose what works for you.
11. Tackle tasks when you can.
If Eagleton has 30 minutes to spare, she'll pick a surface that's become a dumping ground and focus on putting everything away. "If you focus, it doesn't actually take too much time."
12. It's the little things that count.
"Do little things every day to stay on top," says Posener. "Clean your kitchen before you leave for work, put a dishwasher load on before bed."
13. Stop accumulating.
Got more stuff than you know what to do with? Instead of asking for things for your birthday or Christmas, ask for experiences such as movie vouchers or restaurant bookings.
14. Delegate if you can't do it yourself.
"If your computer isn't working, don't ignore the problem; hire someone to fix it," says Posener.
15. Say no.
Doing too much is what makes us feel overwhelmed, and then it's impossible to stay organized," says Rees.
16. Unpack as soon as you get home.
Whether it's shopping bags, your handbag, or even your luggage when you come home from a vacation, unpacking right away wipes the slate clean.
17. Have a routine.
Smith says that a weekly routine — one that's uncomplicated and flexible — will help you plan. "Have a day for groceries, a day for washing your sheets, a day for catching up on 'life admin.' This will also allow you to find blocks of time for exercise, catching up with friends, or even sleeping in!"
18. Write lists.
Rees swears by making to-do lists and shopping lists to stay productive. "Lists help you focus and give you a sense of achievement as you tick things off!"
19. Label it.
Eagleton uses labels on everything, not just so that she knows where everything is, but so her family does, too (so they don't have to ask her constantly)!
20. Declutter — ruthlessly.
This is one thing all of our organizers could agree on: Regular decluttering is the number one way to stay organized and efficient. "Having only items that you love or that serve a purpose in your home is not only refreshing but it is easier to keep your space neat, tidy, and organized," says Smith.
This article was originally written by Lauren Sams. For more, check out our sister site, Homes to Love.