The art of tidying and organizing your home

The art of tidying and organizing is simple. It’s about giving everything you own a place where it lives and putting it back where it belongs after you use it.

Keeping your home tidy and organized is no big deal. But for people who were never taught how to do this while growing up, it’s a huge deal. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ might as well be words from an obscure foreign language for all the sense it makes.

No place for anything and nothing in its place

For someone without a laundry system, a wet towel left on the bathroom floor is “in its place”. For someone with no method of storing items in closets and drawers, things left out in the open are “in their place”. And for someone with no filing system for paperwork, documents are “in their place” wherever they happen to end up after they enter your home.

The problem is, piles of things grow if not tended to. Soon you have a heap of used towels on the bathroom floor and none you can use to dry yourself. Eventually you have so many things scattered around your home that it is sometimes easier to go out and buy a new item than to find the one you know you have. And paperwork becomes such a jumbled nightmare that you do your best to ignore it and carry on as best you can.

Without a daily tidying routine and an organized storage system, life very quickly gets out of control.

Tidying and organizing are an essential part of clutter clearing

In my book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, I define the four categories of clutter as:

  • Things you do not use or love
  • Things that are untidy or disorganized
  • Too many things in too small a space
  • Anything unfinished

You can see from this that “things that are untidy or disorganized” is a distinct type of clutter by itself.

However, it’s very unusual for anyone to have only this kind of clutter. Most people have a combination of two or more categories. So when tidying and organizing, it works best to sort through and declutter the items as you go. If you don’t, then what you end up with will be tidier and more organized but will still essentially be clutter.

3 steps to tidying and organizing your home

The three steps to tidying a messy home are:

  • Group items into categories
  • Store similar categories together
  • Have a daily tidy-up to keep everything organized

The best way to explain this is by giving an example. Suppose you decide to tidy your kitchen utensils. Most people have at least a few unnecessary items hiding in their kitchen drawers.

First, group them into categories, such as all peelers together, all graters together, and so on.

Then store similar things together. For example, if you have four drawers in your kitchen, you may divide your utensils into four groups, like this:

  • Food preparation utensils such as peelers, graters, slicers & knives
  • Cooking utensils such as spatulas, wooden spoons, whisks & mashers
  • Serving utensils such as large spoons, ladles & tongs
  • Gadgets such as can openers, corkscrews, timers & measuring aids

This makes it much easier to find things when you need them. And to make it easier still, use drawer organizers to split each drawer into separate areas, such as one section for all peelers, one for all graters, and so on (search for “drawer organizers” to find what options for this are available in your part of the world).

The final step is to understand that tidying is never just a one-time event. Each time you use a utensil you’ll need to wash it, dry it and put it back, ready for the next time, and this is a new habit you’ll need to develop.

The best way to develop a new habit is to link it to something you already do so that it becomes automatic. In this example, it might be that each time you finish eating, you straight away wash, dry and put away everything you used for the preparation and serving of that meal. If you have a dishwasher, you can stack everything in there, and get into the habit of running it when it’s full and unloading it before you cook the next meal. At the very least, aim to clean and tidy your kitchen at the end of each day so that you start the next morning afresh.

Why bother being tidy and organized?

In our modern world, most people have many more material possessions than previous generations ever had but not the tidying and organizing abilities to match that. This really is a life skill that ought to be taught in schools.

Tidiness provides a structure you can rest on that streamlines your life and allows you to be more productive and creative. This is because mess on the outside is always a reflection of some kind of mess on the inside, so when you straighten up your outer environment, there is a corresponding straightening of your inner one too. The simple fact is that life works better when your stuff is organized and you know where it is.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2018, updated 2022

Related articles
A beginner’s guide to clutter clearing
Five simple steps to taking control of your laundry

Fast-Track Clutter Clearing online course

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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5 Responses to The art of tidying and organizing your home

  1. For someone without a laundry system a wet towel on the floor is in its place? I don’t get this. Towels, at least where I live, have hangers sewn on to them so that they can be hung on hooks on the bathroom wall. You take one from its hook, use it and hang it back up to dry. Even the laziest, sloppiest person does that. I have never ever met a person who would throw a towel, be it wet or dry, on the floor. Who does that???

  2. How timely to be reading this as I finally move into my own home! My kitchen turns out to have a lot less storage space than I realised…and am currently devising clever space saving ideas. Anything unfinished is indeed also clutter which we tend to forget to – so part of Christmas Day was spent flinging out tons of paperwork in relation to my late daughter’s estate which in turn will make it much easier to finalise everything in the coming weeks. Thanks for your posts, every time I think I have mastered everything in your book – something else often crops up!

  3. I love your comments, made me feel calm & happy to just read them, wow this stuff is contagious, in a good way. Now I feel inspired to clean & declutter too. Thanks for sharing x

  4. Great article, Karen. “…mess on the outside is always an indication of some kind of mess on the inside….” I have found this to be true. Two recent examples for me:

    -We emptied a small bedroom so my husband could paint. I used this as an opportunity to streamline the contents of the room and toss what is no longer needed. I am in the process of putting the room back together and the only items in place so far are a recliner chair, a small round table next to it with a lamp on top, and a chest of drawers in another corner (this is an extra bedroom that I use to relax and to iron–it really has no other purpose). I sat in the chair this morning to meditate and was overwhelmed by how calming the unclutter room made me feel. The calm feeling has remained all morning! Not sure I want to move much more into the room!

    -We had a mouse in our breakfast room last week, which we caught straightaway. No others to be found. This spurred me to disinfect and clean out our entire kitchen. In my pantry I discarded much expired food and half-used bags of items that I don’t remember opening. I organized contents by shelf and it is now a sight of pure beauty, with plenty of empty space. It makes me feel calm and relaxed knowing that everything is fresh and what we use and like. And I plan to shop as needed and not stock up!

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