1. Know What You Have.
When you know what you have, you don't end up buying more than you need and you know generally where to find it. This will save you time, money, energy and frustration. I recommend going through your stuff once a year. This doesn't mean going through everything all at once. For myself, I allocate January as my “paper and files month”. I go through my files, prepare for tax season, shred documents I no longer need and create new files for the upcoming year. In spring I start with my coat closet when it starts getting warmer. A few weeks pass by and it's getting warmer so I'll tackle my wardrobe. When it starts getting really warm, then I hit my linen closet. When the holidays arrive, I look through them as well. While I'm looking through these items, it's not just a matter of me taking a look and thinking, “yes, that's the blender I own,” it's about me asking some questions about how I feel about my stuff.
2. Do I Like It?
When I'm going through my stuff to take stock at what I have, I'm always asking myself if I like what I own. Why? Because what you own and what you surround yourself with is a reflection of who you are. This means if you surround yourself with junk and old stuff, it's hard to imagine you're living a happy, healthy life. A few weeks ago a friend of mine who had just had a baby and was still in the midst of losing the weight asked, “I have an old bag of t-shirts that I still don't fit into. Should I keep them?” I simply asked her to think about what she just said and immediately she put those “old t-shirts” into the donation pile. It's one thing to keep an outfit that's slightly too small but you love the way you look in it when it does fit. That's a positive motivator but I promise you, no one was ever motivated to get back into their pre-baby body by keeping a bag of old t-shirts.
3. Merge Form with Function.
Not only is it smart to only keep items you like, it's imperative that what you own is functioning the way you need or want them to. A few years ago I was helping a client organize her room. She had paperwork she kept in there so she bought a clear plastic accordion file folder with bright colors on the tabs. She loved it and was excited to start using it. I had to tell her I doubted she would be able to use the accordion file folder effectively. I pointed out that it would be difficult for her to store as much as she wanted to in the folder because it held much less than it looked like it should hold. Not only that but those pretty colored tabs were so small that no one could write anything legible on them and because they didn't have slots for new tabs, you could really only use it once. While it looked great, the accordion filing system would never work for her needs. Buying items that look great AND function well for your needs will help ensure you can stay organized.
4. Keep Your System Simple!
Over complicating a system will ensure you never use it. I create systems so that I don't have to think about it. I know when I get home, I have a spot right near the door where I can kick off my shoes, set my purse down and put my keys in a bowl. There's no effort. Just as there's no effort when I'm in a rush to leave my home. I know where those shoes, purse and keys are without thinking so I don't waste time or energy when I'm going out. Think of it this way: you just moved into a new home and you're standing in the kitchen wondering where to place everything. You are standing in front of the stove/oven: think about what items you use most often in conjunction with your stove/oven. Place those items as close to the stove/oven as possible so you can find them easily and so that you are making the least amount of effort possible when going to find them. The easier it is, the less you have to think about where an item is, the more able you'll be able to keep up with your system.
5. Keep Like Items Together.
Put all your pots together. Put all your pans together. This way, when you think about needing a small pan to saute onions for your hamburger, you don't have to wonder where it is. You put it next to the stove with all your other pans so you just have to reach down and grab it. The more you keep like items together, the easier it is for you to remember where you keep them.
There will never be a time when new things aren't coming into your life so you'll constantly have to be taking things out of your life as well. If you create a system that is designed for how your home is planned, how you live YOUR life and what needs you currently have (i.e. perhaps you may not be able to keep all coats near your door, but you CAN keep all coats for the current season and temperature near until the weather changes) it will be quick, easy and painless for you to find everything you need without wasting time, buying something you already own or ending up frustrated.