Happy New year! Did you know January is National Get Organized Month? And so, I’m here to help you take quick action to energize your space for the new year. This will not be an in-depth organization strategy but rather some actionable and efficient steps you can take in under 30 minutes to organize visual clutter and reclaim your space. A study conducted by Dr. Darby Saxbe in 2010 found that women who perceived their homes as cluttered or unfinished have higher depressive moods throughout the day as opposed to women who found their home space restorative and relaxing.
Having said that, we do not need studies to tell us that our overall well-being depends on the functionality and aesthetics of our spaces. And not just our physical spaces like homes and office desks but our digital workspaces too. We are constantly bombarded with emails and texts and pictures and videos, but how many of us take the time to clear out our digital trash? Not many. Therefore, it’s important to discuss some digital decluttering tips along with some easy professional organizing tips to reduce visual clutter in our lives.
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Before we start with “How to reduce visual clutter and get organized in under 30 minutes,” I just want to put it out there that I love organizing. It’s my happy place. It’s my way of gaining perspective when all seems lost. Even when I’m not actively organizing, I’m what you’ll call an overall organized person. I have built systems in my space to keep clutter from taking charge.
In spite of that, I also know that for most people, it’s a chore they’d rather not do. And bringing yourself into the mind space of cleaning and organizing can be daunting so I have a few tips to take care of that problem.
How to get organized when you don’t like organizing
- Don’t wait for motivation to strike. Action precedes motivation. If you can, do it now.
- Clean and organize on a timer, so you know you have to get something done before the timer goes off. It will prevent you to get buried under a pile of stuff, figuratively.
- If it takes less than two minutes to do, do it now. Like cleaning the counter after you cook. Making your bed after you get out of it. Putting the dishes away. Returning the glue to the drawer after you finish using it. It’s your space, make it functional. Don’t wait for the weekends to clean and organize. Don’t wait until after you get overwhelmed to start the organization process.
- Whenever you exit a room, look for stuff to take back to its original place. Why does this work? Because you are already on your feet, you are already going to that place. E.g. You drank coffee and now there’s a mug in your room. You are going to the kitchen to get some water for yourself. Just take the coffee mug back with you to the kitchen. Now, you might be wondering well who doesn’t do that? And I would say a lot of people don’t do that and then they get frustrated when they have to dig out a week’s old coffee mugs from all over their house. Just saying, it’s the easiest trick in the book to keep stuff from piling up. You just clean as you go.
Okay back to actually getting organized. I’ve got a super easy checklist to reduce visual clutter and get you back on your feet for the new year with new energy. You don’t have to do it all today. You don’t even have to do it just this month. But use it as a foundation to organize your space and see instant results.
How to reduce and prevent visual clutter
Tackle the trash
The first thing we need to take care of is trash and laundry. (Don’t worry you don’t have to do laundry right away) Take a trash bag and go from room to room. Collect all the trash in the bag. Don’t do anything else, don’t stop anywhere. Especially after the holidays, this is the fastest way to a clean home.
- Plastic bags
- Tissue papers
- Disposable masks
- Individual room dustbins
- Wrapping paper
- Pine needles
- Empty boxes
- Price tags
You get the picture. It doesn’t matter if you have a $1000 rug when it’s covered in clothes and knickknacks all the time. So, clearing our space is the best place to start before you think about getting organized.
Now take a laundry basket and do the same. If you wish you could start a load of laundry while you get other things done. If not, you can always take care of it later.
Clear the horizontal surfaces
Pick up non-essential stuff from all the horizontal surfaces. Kitchen counters, dining table, coffee table, console table, nightstands, vanity, and don’t forget the floors. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Leaving random stuff on the floor, especially clothes.
Back to the point, clearing out the horizontal surfaces will instantly introduce negative space around the stuff that actually belongs there, giving a sense of an organized home.
When there is stuff everywhere and too little negative space around different objects, the focus of the eyes goes everywhere instead of on the primary object, (Like a vase at the centre of your dining table). We can reduce visual distraction in an instant by introducing negative space around things we want to make pop.
Now while you are clearing the horizontal surfaces, grab an all-purpose cleaner and wipe them down. We don’t want to make the dust pop, now do we? These activities go hand in hand so a trick to keep these surfaces clear at most times is to wipe them regularly. This will make it difficult for unnecessary things to find a home there because you’ll be clearing stuff as you clean.
Use deep baskets for storage
Another trick is to use deep baskets for things that cause the majority of the visual clutter in your house. Too many plants? Try arranging them on a plant stand. It’ll look much more intentional.
Too many toys. A rattan basket that’s deep enough to fit all the toys or one that has a cover would work just fine too. Too many books, arrange them in a nice horizontal line with bookends on either side.
You can shop for nice storage baskets here:
Related post: You Need These Target Summer Home Decor Items Now.
Club stuff into three’s.
Psychology says our brains are better equipped to grasp things that occur in sets of threes.
Not two, not four but three.
To organize your horizontal surfaces, club random decor items into threes (preferably different heights) to elevate the space and make it look intentional.
You could also use a tray or a lazy susan or even a book to group things together. Like on a vanity, you might have all your perfumes sitting on top of it. Put a tray underneath to make it look less visually cluttered. It’s like those things were always meant to be together even when they were not.
When we think of visual clutter, we don’t think about the visual clutter in our phones or on our laptops.
- Promotional text messages that you don’t need.
- Screenshots, like the ones sent by a friend asking for your opinion on a dress.
- Recently deleted.
- Order or Delivery Confirmations from the covid era.
- Duplicate pictures.
- If you have an iPhone, Go to Photos → Albums → Utilities → Duplicates → Merge. (If you don’t have any duplicate photos or videos, the “Duplicates Album” doesn’t appear.)
- Close the hundreds and hundreds of tabs open on your browser. There’s a feature to close all tabs with a single click. Or you could do it manually. Did you know Safari browser can only have 500 tabs open at one moment? Yeah, I’ve reached that limit, twice. So, close those tabs.
- Let go of the thought that if you close a tab, you’ll lose something you want in the future. Trust the algorithm to bridge that gap between you and the thing that you want. If you still can’t let go, make it a habit to add the website to your bookmarks or shopping list the moment you search for it. Organization is essentially about searching and adopting systems that work efficiently for you.
- Empty spam and promotional holiday emails from your inbox. You don’t have to tackle all of your emails at the moment but getting a head start will be good for you in the long run.
- Create folders for your apps. Clubbing similar apps is the easiest trick to reduce the visual clutter on our phones. One of my favorite things I’ve done is to rename my app folders as affirmations, so I read them whenever I open up the folder.
- Club your browser tabs into groups. An easy google search will let you know how to group tabs on the browser of your choice.
- Start using organization apps.
- Too many screenshots of recipes? Write down in a recipe book so you’ll actually try them. Or in a notes app. It’s easier to share with family and friends.
- Too many book recommendations? Shelf them in an app like Goodreads or Barnes and Noble. I prefer Goodreads.
- Photos of potential gifts for you or others? Add the name and link to a new note to transform it into a sort of gift registry. Share it with your family and friends, so they know exactly what to get you for your special occasions.
Similarly, declutter your computers and laptops:
- Delete shortcuts, you don’t need. Instead, try pinning the app on the taskbar.
And that’s it! Some easy organization ideas and tips that you can apply at home to achieve that clean yet lived-in look.
Aesthetic appeal is subjective, but the suggestions I’ve made should be useful regardless of how you interpret visual appeal. Use these tips as a guide to help you streamline your space and get rid of any unnecessary clutter that can negatively impact usability.
Keep in mind that your organization systems should always serve a purpose and strive to make them as simple and functional as possible. Don’t worry if your systems don’t happen overnight, since everybody’s space and habits are different, so will your systems. It will take a lot of tinkering to get to where you want, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying and testing new approaches.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
I hope and wish you a re-energized space in this new year.