How to get Organized
As an expat myself I know how it is to move every few years. And in a city as big as New York City it is not uncommon to move several times within the five boroughs.
Here are three simple tips for you on how to get organized and to maintain it:
1. Give all of your things a home
Most people dislike clutter. Seeing too much of it makes them anxious, and that’s why often junk drawers emerge. The driving force is the necessity of seeing clear surfaces. After the motto ‘out of sight out of mind.’ However, if you try to find something in these drawers, it can get tricky.
The most significant rule in the world of organizing is: Everything has to have its home. And a home is not a surface, but a contained space or hook.
Keys don’t ‘live’ on the counter, but in a small bowl which sits on top of the counter with other keys. Or they can be on a hook close to the entrance.
The same goes for clothes piled on a chair. The clothes don’t ‘live’ on top of the chair, but in your closet or dresser. It’s a rule of thumb that like goes with like. Your blue pair of pants wants to be close to your other pants, and your earrings wish to be altogether too.
It takes an effort to assign a home to everything, but it’s worth it. And then when things accumulate into piles again (which is a natural thing to happen), you know what to do with it. Each item goes back to where it belongs – into it’s assigned home and not to a junk drawer or on top of your kitchen island.
You can have the most beautifully designed space, but when there is clutter all around, its beauty is concealed. It’s a process to uncover the beauty and work through the layers of stuff. In the beginning, it can be quite overwhelming to get the clutter under control and to find good homes for each piece. If you feel that way, please consider getting help. You can ask a friend who has more distance to your belongings to help you find homes or you can hire a professional organizer – like myself – who can teach you the skills you need and help you to get started.
Each of us has a limited decision-making-budget each day and with work, family life and other responsibilities there might not be enough focus and energy left to start such a process. So be kind to yourself. You don’t have to find homes for everything in only one day or even in a week. It’s a process that takes time. Some items are more comfortable to decide than others. I do this professionally and still, sometimes it takes me a while to figure out the most functional space for an item, and I might try out different spots until I find the best one for my area.
Owning less makes it much more manageable. That is why I recommend to reduce your belongings and make decluttering your new hobby.
2. Declutter your belongings
‘Less is more’ – you probably already heard this sentence a million times. I know that advertisements make us believe that we need more things to be happy. However, especially if you are an expat, I think the opposite is often true. The fewer material possessions you own, the more relaxed you can organize your space and maintain it. And having fewer things to organize will give you more time to spend with family and friends and to experience true happiness.
The rule of thumb is: ‘If you have more space available, you can keep more things.’ I will give you a practical example on which steps you can take right away:
I love to read and for that reason used to have a whole wall of bookshelves. However, when we moved from a 3-bedroom apartment in Queens into a studio apartment in Manhattan (so we would have a shorter commute to work), I changed my perspective on how many books I need to own. I went through my whole library and made decisions about what to keep and what to donate to the library. Then I decided on a specific space and on how many books I wanted to keep. It can be a whole shelf or maybe a drawer or even a smaller box – depending on your available space. There is no right or wrong. It depends on your priorities. And you can still read a ton of books. Just borrow some from your closest library or buy more e-books.
3. Be conscious of your prime real estate
Real estate in New York City is expensive, and that is why most apartments are small and have limited kitchen and bedroom storage. With this in mind, I recommend you to think twice what to keep and then, where to store your things.
”Rule of thumb: ‘Prime real estate = easy to reach spaces”
Here are some examples:
Maybe you love to bake several times a week, and you have enough kitchen counter space. Then leave your Kitchen Aid outside and enjoy it. But if you only bake every other month and also have little counter space, it makes more sense to instead store the Kitchen Aid in one of the bottom cabinets of your kitchen.
For my husband and I, it was doable to give all our CDs and DVDs away and now use services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, etc. But if you love your record collection and your record player – then make room for it. If you have limited space, think about what else you could let go, something you are not that keen about after all.
Try to be conscious about the items you use the most and the spots that are the easiest to reach.
As I mentioned earlier, it is a process. Your decision-making muscles have to grow, and with each item you let go or that you will assign a home, they will get stronger.
Start growing these muscles with categories like clothes, kitchen items or books. They usually have a contained home in cabinets, drawers or shelves and so you can see what the limitations of your space are which makes it easier to understand. It’s an excellent way to use the momentum of spring cleaning to start this process.
I wish you good luck with your organizing journey. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to me.
Kati is as a Professional Organizer based in New York City. She is originally from Germany and moved to the Big Apple in 2014. She started organizing when she was a teenager and lived and organized homes in Germany, Portugal, Argentina and all over the United States. However, her biggest challenge came in NYC where the apartments are so small.
She loves to help her clients organize their spaces in the way it works best for them and their familiesKati Carrapa