5 ways to get organized this year

Jan 13, 2014, 7:57 PM | Updated: 7:58 pm

Whether it's the beginning of a new year or the middle of July, the best time to get it all together is now. If you've ever struggled to organize your life, know that you're not alone. Running a household is hard work, but there are steps you can take to stop simply surviving and start thriving.

If you're looking for some easy ways to get your life in order, here are five places to start.

1. De-clutter ruthlessly. We all have stuff. We all need stuff. Unfortunately, most of us have way, way more stuff than we actually need. All that extra clutter requires cleaning and organizing, so you can instantly free up your time and mental energy by simplifying.

Start by eliminating duplicates. Who really needs three can openers or four pairs of black high heels? Keep the best and donate the rest. Next, eliminate anything you haven't used in the past year. Chances are, if you haven't touched it in twelve months, you don't need it. Let it go. Your last step in de-cluttering is organizing and storing sentimental items so they stay safe and out-of-the-way.

2. Find an organizer that works. Modern family life comes with its share of obligations. You need a system to keep track of basketball practice, carpool, piano lessons and the million other things you do each day. There is no one size fits all solution to scheduling, so experiment until you find a system you love. Some parents swear by using a day planner that fits in mom's purse while other families use a large-grid calendar posted on the kitchen wall. If you have a hard time committing to a planning system, find one that you find beautiful and you'll be more likely to stick with it.

3. Evaluate your expenses and budget. Disagreements about money are one of the most common reasons for divorce. However, the entire family experiences difficulties when parents are experiencing money problems. It might not feel great, but you need to take a hard look at your finances and formulate a workable budget. Not all budgets are difficult to put together or time-consuming to update. There is a system out there for every personality, from the frugalista to the free-spirited spender.

4. Develop a family filing system. Buy a file storage box and some hanging files, and create a family filing system. Designate folders for tax documents, pay stubs, insurance forms (home, auto, and health), utility bills, mortgage (or rent) payments, car loan documents and credit card documents. Create one folder specifically for bills that need to be paid and empty it out once a week. As soon as the mail comes, sort it into the right folders and be done with it. Commit to no more stacks of forlorn mail on the kitchen counter.

5. Get on a cleaning schedule. No one likes spending an entire day catching up on housework. Tackle the dirt before it takes on a life of its own. Create a relaxed, flexible schedule that allows you to do a few chores and a load of laundry or two each day. Post the schedule in a communal space and get the family to pitch in. Before bedtime each night, get everyone to spend ten or fifteen minutes picking up the day's debris.

A final word of advice: don't tackle organizing your entire life in one day. Take each suggestion one by one, and make changes slowly and steadily. No need to create a family rebellion! Routine creates calm. Pretty soon, your household will run like a well-oiled machine.

Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan, mom to two crazy boys, and wife to one amazing husband. You can learn more about her eco-conscious lifestyle at moderatelycrunchy.com.

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5 ways to get organized this year