Balancing a job, workouts, laundry, bills, and a social life makes it easy to let lots of stuff pile up—constantly. And we hear you: Whether it's our inbox, desk, closet, or well, pretty much anything (and anywhere), the clutter can start to feel overwhelming. But we've got your back. We combed through the greatest and latest organization advice to find the easiest and most effective mess-mastering tips so you can control the chaos—once and for all.
- First, clean out the pantry. And we’re not just talking stale cereal—toss those grimy Tupperware containers and cloudy water bottles too.
- Store supplies close to where you use them. Translation: Keep plates and cups close to the dishwasher/sink area and pots and pans near the stove.
- Group “like with like” in the cabinets: Coffee mugs, wine glasses, and cereal bowls should be stored together neatly.
- Stash smaller kitchen utensils or food items, such as packets of ketchup, oatmeal, or protein powder, in labeled plastic containers or spare bowls.
- First things first: Clean out the closet. Trust us, this is the hardest part! Start by donating anything you don’t wear often (unless it’s a special item, like a wedding dress or ball gown).
- This clever tip makes the process a lot less painful: When you wear an item of clothing, place its hanger back on the rod facing the opposite direction. By the end of a season, you’ll know the items on hangers facing the original direction can go.
- Another closet hack we love: Put everyday items at eye-level, place less-used items (pants in the summer, tanks in the winter) on the lowest shelves, and store any special occasion items up high.
- Consider investing in furniture that offers additional storage, like hollow ottomans or a bed frame with built-in drawers underneath (or use flat boxes to stow out-of-season clothes and extra accesssories under the bed).
- First things first: Get rid of the old. (See a pattern here?) Mascaras and eyeliners have a shelf life of about three months, while powder and foundation can last up to two years. It should be easy to tell when perfume or nail polish goes bad, but if you're not sure, toss after two years. And sunscreen only lasts about one year.
- When it comes to medication, throw it out if it has changed color, texture, or smell, even if it hasn't expired.
- Finally, stash extra toilet paper, towels, and hair dryers in a basket on the floor and use divided containers (silverware trays work great) to keep makeup neat and organized.
- Toss unnecessary papers (like menus, old receipts, and magazine clippings—Pinterest can serve as your virtual corkboard) and only keep important docs such as financial statements, your lease, or tax returns. And remember: Most paper bills can be transferred to electronic versions.
- Keep personal papers (like those love letters) in a shoebox or plastic container.
- Store desk supplies according to how often you use them: Frequently used items belong in the top drawer on the side of your dominant hand and move “might-need” items to lower drawers.
- Finally, plug all cords into one power-surge protector under your desk and secure with twist-ties.
Take Control of Your Tech
Back Up Files
- Dropbox: Place docs, photos, and videos in your account, access them from anywhere, and restore all your your files in a snap (free for a basic account; starting at $10 per month for more storage).
- Carbonite: Back up all of your home office files to this cloud service to keep them safe, secure, and easy to retrieve (starting at $60 per year for unlimited storage).
- iCloud: Sync photos, emails, contacts, and calendar for access on up to 10 devices (free for 5GB of storage; starting at $1 per month for more storage).
Organize Your Photos
- Picasa: This Google-based site lets you organize, edit, upload, and share photo and videos with friends and family (free; starting at $2 per month for more storage).
- Flickr: You’ll get 1TB of storage for free (which can hold some two million photos) with no limit on picture resolution (free; starting at $50 per year for pro version).
- SmugMug: Safely store, share, and even sell your photos online in this site’s visually appealing, user-friendly format (starting at $3 per month).
Never Forget a Password Again
Hit Inbox Zero
- Archive everything. And we mean everything. Gmail’s Google-like search function allows you to comb through your entire archive by a phrase, sender (“from:”), recipient (“to:”) or even a period of time.
- Use filters. If you have repeating emails that don’t need immediate attention (listserv emails, newsletters, automatic reminders, etc.), set up an appropriate filter and check the box that says “skip the inbox.” Then, set all label folders to “hide unless unread.” This ensures you won’t miss any emails but de-clutters your inbox like whoa.
- Set up automatic reminders with NudgeMail. This completely free, in-email service allows you to set up reminders for a specific date and time (“follow up with So-and-So April 19th at 12:30pm”) or at a recurring time every week (“send traffic analytics roundup to the team”). Lifesaving.
- Remove distractions. The less you look at your inbox, the more you’ll be able to get done, whether it’s (actually) working or knocking out 10 emails in a row. Try uninstalling any desktop notifications, disable unread message icons, and turn off syncing refresh intervals on your phone to 15 minutes or longer.
Master Your To-Do List
- Create a Google Document that will serve as your all-inclusive, always-accessible planner. Set it up with: 1) today’s date, 2) today’s schedule followed by all your, 3) to-dos, 4) ideas/thoughts, and then 5) an archive (under “Done”).
- Download Evernote, a free app that lets you save and share notes, articles you find online, and jot down any thoughts or ideas that come to mind.
- Busy cooks will love the free Epicurious app, where you can search for recipe inspiration and manage your shopping lists on the go.