So, I turned 30 recently, and it was pretty okay. My girlfriend wanted to make my 30th epic, because round numbers call for that sort of thing and so we got a nice hotel for the weekend and adventured in another city. Of course, ever since I was very young, I’ve always gotten incredibly depressed on my birthday, so any birthday I’m not depressed is by definition epic. So this one was actually pretty awesome. That being said, I’m increasingly awakening to the fact that something has got to give in my life, and that something is my utterly disgusting level of disorganization.

I’ve constantly struggled with both disorganization and procrastination, and have come to the conclusion that one leads to the other and vice versa. What I’ve realized is discipline isn’t a strong suit of mine, and that my attempts to just WILL! organization into my life invariably fail. What’s the definition of insanity again? So I’ve been seeking ways to make organization organic and easy. So this means no Google Calendar, for instance- because that shit is hard to use (or not so much hard as it is sort of fiddley/finicky.) I find it easier to use a Slingshot planner. I’m always looking at my phone, so I have a widget that displays my checklist for the day’s To-Dos every time I unlock my phone.

A while back, I started a bag recommendation thread. I held off buying one for a while and made do with my tiny canvas messenger bag, but it limits how long I can stay on campus, which is often a key to studying longer. I finally shelled out for a Tom Bihn bag, and I’m eagarly awaiting its arrival. (You’ve got to love a company that does this.) Still, generally I don’t want to spend money to get organized. If it’s worth it, sure, but I feel like acquiring objects I don’t need isn’t going to help my disorganization problem. I needed a bag, so I picked one that I felt would encourage productivity and organization, but otherwise, I’m avoiding buying storage. To that end, I’m getting rid of things I don’t need.

Beyond this, are there any suggestions, tips, hacks, or other ideas for organization that people have? I’m mainly soliciting organization tips from the formerly disastrously disorganized, because they understand the struggle and aren’t going to give me the same, “Dude, just do these organizey things. It’s easy.” line I’ve heard over and over again. Basically, if it’s not something that is thoughtlessly easy, or organically implantable in my life, or if it requires I invest in a “system” it’s probably not going to work for me. I’ve tried it.


No, it isn’t easy at all.

I am hyper-organized, mainly because I have to be. I wasn’t always. It’s a mindset as much as a learned skill, but it takes constant application and practice. It’s a constant battle; there is always a “next thing” demanding attention and concentration.

There’s a pretty good but long list of things you can do on WikiHow: How to Be Organized It’s a daunting list, but you don’t have to do all of it at once. Start small and work into it. Start with whatever annoys you the most about being disorganized. Constantly forgetting the keys? Set a place to put them and DO IT EVERY SINGLE TIME until it becomes second nature. On to the next thing. Plan. Make lists. And constantly evaluate what you’re doing and stop doing the things that aren’t helping.

It’s excellent that you’ve realized that getting organized doesn’t necessarily mean just storing your stuff. That’s the hardest thing for me to get past. I am a packrat, and I want to save things because I know I’ll need them someday. I constantly struggle with knowing that I no, I won’t need this someday, and if I do, I will re-acquire it. If you don’t use it, get rid of it.

Some of the stuff I do is so dumb I’m hesitant to mention it, but maybe it will help. Like: if you pick something up, or use something, put it away as the VERY NEXT THING. If you get it dirty, clean it before you put it away. Don’t pick up something else in the meantime; this way lies madness, and worse, disorganization.

It’s really hard, but it you work at it you can do it. Good luck!


It sounds like you’re being unduly mean to yourself.

That said, and partly to practice kindness to yourself, try to clarify one (and only one) benchmark to signify for yourself increased organization.

For example, if you lose your keys, try to put your keys down and pick them up from only one spot in your house. (Apologies to @RatMan for repeating the keys example.)

Or if you’re late to appointments, schedule yourself to arrive 20 minutes early to all appointments and read while you wait.

Be sure to ask yourself why you care so you’re more likely to pick a benchmark that signifies an objective that’s meaningful (to you).

If a resolution is not sticking, consider that maybe you’re recognizing on some level that it’s value should be discounted or reevaluated.

Trust your judgment more. After all, you’re 30 now. You’ve learned more meaningful organizational practices than you’re accustomed to acknowleging.

And after you hit a benchmark, don’t move it. Admit that you’re more organized.

And if you abandon a benchmark, entertain the possibility that it says more about the value of the benchmark than whether or not you’re sufficiently organized.


Apart from @hello_friends’s excellent suggestion of benchmarks, or plateaus, as I think of them, the only thing that helps me is small steps forward.

If I attempt any new regime without first breaking it down into basically imperceptible chunks then it’s out the window pdq.

I’m probably a whole hell of a lot more disorganised than you, so I’ll be watching this with a keen eye… until I forget about it. :wink:


Not so much “organising” as “decluttering”.

Go through everything you own. Ask yourself “would my life be significantly worse if I didn’t have this?”.

If the answer is no, get rid of it. You don’t own it, it owns you.


Just to clarify - are we talking organizing the use of time, or organizing the placement of stuff? or both?


I’m only able to to this when I move. Time to look for a new job in a different city : )


This is the reason why I like the cleaning/organization blog Unfuck Your Habitat. They disavow all forms of “marathon” cleaning because it’s just not sustainable. Instead, you do your cleaning/organization in either 20/10 or 45/15 bursts - 20 minutes working with a 10 minute break (although I admit to often doing 20/30’s).

What I find great about this is not only does my tidying have a definable endpoint that isn’t “when everything’s clean”, it also teaches me exactly how much time a specific task takes. I now know that however awful my kitchen looks, 20 minutes will get it almost totally spotless. Which in turn makes it easier to actually get off my ass and do the work, because I know it doesn’t really take “all day”.

I always felt that I couldn’t organize my stuff the way I wanted to until I’d taken care of the “big” tasks. How dare I spend time rearranging my sock drawer when I haven’t vacuumed and there’s dirty dishes in the sink! But I feel like UFYH gives me permission to take on a smaller task at any point. ANY control you get over your environment is good. That’s why the daily task they recommend is making your bed. And yeah, I was always one of those “making my bed is dumb and pointless” people, but boy have I changed my mind since I started actually doing it.


I recently took the organizing course by Alejandra Castillo.

She has a lot of videos on YouTube that shows how she organizes various things, but the course is quite different. It’s REALLY good; worth the money.

The free intro videos are nice start but not the same as what you get in the actual course.

The course teaches you how to organize your own space, no matter how weird. I am slowly but surely getting my home organized.

Some things I have learned as a result of doing this:

  1. it doesn’t happen in a weekend; organizing is a long term project.

  2. Every time I get something organized at first, it’s more like a first stab at it. Usually the second time through I get it more where I need it to be.

  3. Labelmakers and labels are critical.

My pantry after this course. Seriously. This is freaking amazing.


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Wow, that looks amazing! And I like that the baskets match the Bonne Maman jam jar! :smile:


Thanks!!! That was like a couple of passes through. My house is teeny tiny so I started realizing that even though I like things basic and functional, I really need them to look “Martha perfect” in order for it to actually work in my space. I’m learning how to get there. The kitchen has been the most successful.


For organizing one’s ownables, getting rid of extraneous stuff is a good first step. I’m not really the best person to be giving advice about this - I’m not currently winning the battle against clutter. But, yeah, reducing the bulk is an awesome first step, and helps the actual organizing to feel less like losing a game of free-cell.

For organizing time - having a list can be pretty good. I remember the Getting Things Done approach involved offloading your to-dos into a written list, and the philosophy, as I recall, was that you actually need to make time to do the things on the list, but as long as you trust yourself to deal with and not ignore the list, then you can reduce the mental clutter of holding all your to-do items in your head.

I’ve been trying to use Habitica (website / app). I’ve heard several people say they like it a lot. I’m not totally crazy about it, but I still use it

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For organizing yourself, Evernote is THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD!!!

I use Evernote app on my iPhone and the Evernote web version. Mostly I take notes on the computer, but use the iPhone to read on the go.

You can make To Do lists with clickable checkboxes. You can clip articles. You can make multiple notebooks. You can add tags. You can snap pictures of post-it notes and it reads it as a post-it note. You can put pictures in your notes. You can store PDFs in it.

It’s the best thing in the whole world.

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I had to post my big organizing win somewhere.

I have a super teeny tiny house with weird storage spaces. The house has the shape of a Monopoly house. There are bedrooms upstairs, and the biggest storage areas are built into the eaves - so they are triangular in shape and otherwise not the easiest to work with. I have to crawl into the ones in my bedroom.

I’ve been working on this for a long time, several months. When it got time to do the ones in my daughter’s room, I hired a cleaning person to help me because I need to get it all done while she is at school.

Last time she came we got a lot of stuff put into appropriate containers and saw what was in there. It felt like we had made progress but not exactly. This week I had her move all the boxes of books we are just storing and other things we don’t use much to the furthest away closets, and voila! Now the closet we use the most actually has stuff we need to get to - and nothing else. And the one that is hard to get to has a bunch of books we never need to get into.

And yes, yes, yes, a ton of crap from the downstairs now has a place to go that we can access.

I am SO happy!!!


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