This article originally appeared on LifeHack.org
Really organized people are not born organized people. They have to cultivate healthy habits, which then help them to stay organized. Here are the essential ten habits they use to keep their lives in order:
1. Write Things Down
We all know someone that remembers every birthday and sends cards for every holiday. It’s not magic and they don’t use memorization. Trying to remember things will not help you to stay organized. You should try writing things down.
A pen and some paper is our way of remembering things externally, and it’s much more permanent. You can also use a computer or a smart phone. You will only further complicate your life by trying to contain important dates and reminders in your head. Write down everything: shopping lists for groceries, holiday gifts, home decor, and important dates like meetings and birthdays.
As an experiment, try writing down people’s names shortly after you meet them (when they’re not looking). I’ll bet you remember a lot more names that way.
2. Make Schedules and Deadlines
Organized people don’t waste time. They recognize that keeping things organized goes hand-in-hand with staying productive. They make and keep schedules for the day and week. They make deadlines and set goals. And most importantly, they and stick to them! Similarly, by living a cluttered lifestyle, you will not have the time or space to make your deadlines or achieve your goals.
As an experiment, look at your bucket list or make one. Write down the things you want to achieve this year or in your life. Then write down what you need to do to achieve them.
3. Don’t Procrastinate
The longer you wait to do something, the more difficult it will be to get it done. If you want your life to be less stressful and less demanding, then organize as soon as you can. Putting in the effort to get things done as soon as possible will lift the weight off of you from doing it later.
As an experiment, think of one thing that you should organize in your life. Write it down. Then write down when you can do it and what you need to get it done. If you can get it done right now, then go do it!
4. Give Everything a Home
It’s easy to get lost if you don’t have a home. Keeping your life organized means keeping your things in their proper places. Organized people keep order by storing things properly and by labeling storage spaces.
Make easy-to-access storage spaces for things you use all the time, and don’t let your storage spaces get cluttered. Be creative about finding places for things. In addition, as a BIG NO: never label a storage space as “miscellaneous!”
As an experiment, choose one place in your home that you can re-organize. If there are scattered items, then group them together. Once you’ve sorted everything, find or make a “home” for similar items, label the “homes,” and put them in the proper places. For example, a cup holder for your pens and pencils should go in an easily accessible place, but the rarely used craft materials can be stored out of sight.
5. Declutter Regularly
Find time each week to organize. Highly organized people make sure they find time every week, or more, to organize there things. Stuff does not stay organized on its own; it needs to be reorganized continuously and consistently.
As an experiment, look at your schedule and find a time to organize, then do it.
6. Keep Only What You Need
More stuff means more clutter. People who live organized lives only keep what they need and what they really really want. Having fewer things also means that you enjoy those things more and feel better about using everything you own, rather than letting half of what you own collect dust.
Have you ever felt like you don’t have the space to keep all the stuff you own? Instead of renting a storage unit or buying a larger home, get rid of some things.
As an experiment, write down the number of things you think you actually need. Then, write a list of all the things that you own. If the number of things you actually own exceeds your ideal need list, then it’s time to organize.
7. Know Where to Discard Items
Do whatever you can to get rid of stuff. Less stuff means less clutter. Donate to thrift stores. Sell on Craigslist or eBay. Take a trip to the recycling center. Set up a garage sale. Find a place to get rid of your things.
As an experiment, choose one space in your house to purge. Go through shelves, drawers, and boxes. Everything you find that you don’t need, set aside. Make a pile of things to maybe keep, which you can go through later, and a pile of things to discard now. Then find a way to kick those things out the door immediately.
8. Stay Away from Bargains
You have removed the things you don’t need. Will you replace them when you see something on sale? Instead of bargain shopping without planning ahead, write down down exactly what you need and buy only those items. Organized people do not give in to false advertising. Items on sale will only produce more clutter.
As an experiment, go to a shopping mall with no money. Just look at all the things on sale that you wish you could buy if you had brought your wallet or purse. If you find nothing, then good for you. If you made a list, then keep that list somewhere and look at it a month from now. If you still want it, then it’s safe to buy.
9. Delegate Responsibilities
A really organized life is not overfilled with responsibilities, meetings, and deadlines. In fact, it has less because things that create stress have been slowly organized out.
As an experiment, look at your to-do list or make one. Go through the list and find one task that you can remove from your list or give to someone else. Now feel the stress of having to do it fall away.
10. Work Hard
Put in a little effort. Actually, put in a lot of effort when necessary. Once you have delegated responsibilities and made a schedule, then you can organize what you have to do and when you can do it. Staying organized is not all a breeze. It requires that you work hard with recognition that when you work harder, you can enjoy your clutter-free home life later.
As an experiment, worker harder when you feel like giving up today.