How to Be More Organized

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Do you have a messy room that you dread coming home to? Are you often unable to find things when you need them? Do you have a desk piled high with paperwork that you need to get under control? Is your computer desktop cluttered with several disorganized files and folders? If so, you may wonder how you can start being more organized.

This article explores some of the characteristics of organized people, the benefits of this trait, and some steps you can take to be more organized.

How to Be More Organized 

Below are some tips that can help you be more organized. 

Choose an Area of Focus

Getting organized can take time and effort, so trying to do multiple things at once can be quite overwhelming. Pick an area of focus to begin with and work on getting that under control. For instance, you could start with your closet, your important documents, or your desk at work. 

Once you’re able to get one piece organized, you can start expanding to the other areas in your life. The more you practice being organized, the better you will get at it.

Keep a To-Do List

A 2016 study notes that having a to-do list helps improve productivity, because having a written plan of action reduces the executive burden on the brain and frees it up to work on other tasks.

If you prefer writing things down, you can use a planner to keep track of all the things you need to do. Otherwise, if you prefer having things available at the click of a button, you can maintain a list on your phone, tablet, or laptop. There are several apps that can help you create a to-do list, set reminders, and track the progress of your tasks.

You can create separate lists for the different areas of your life, such as ‘Work Projects,’ ‘Home Chores,’ ‘Grocery List,’ etc. It can be helpful to sort the tasks in order of urgency, so you know what you need to do first.

What’s most important is to write down things you need to do immediately. Otherwise, if you tell yourself you’ll write them down later, you’re likely to forget them and miss doing them.

Set Goals

Write down a list of goals that you would like to achieve. Then, break each goal down into smaller, more manageable steps. Set timelines for each step and make it a point to track your progress.

For instance, if you’re looking for a job, your to-do list might include steps such as writing your resume, applying to a list of companies that interest you, and sending follow-up emails. It can be helpful to create a spreadsheet to track each of your applications. You can follow a similar process for all your goals. 

Clean Up Physical Clutter

A 2017 study notes that living in a cluttered space can disorient your brain, causing you to experience confusion and spatial uncertainty. Clutter also leads to a build-up of dust and mold, in addition to posing fire and tripping hazards.

Make it a point to clean up physical spaces, such as your home, your garage, your car, and your desk at work. Try to ensure that surfaces are as clean and clutter-free as possible.

This might take some time, but try to tackle one area every week, depending on your bandwidth. Keep only the things you need and donate the things you don’t. 

Get Rid of Digital Clutter

It can also help to declutter your digital spaces. For instance, uninstall any apps that you’re not using on your phone and delete any photos, videos, and documents you don’t need, as they tend to take up a lot of space. 

Maintain an organized filing system on your laptop for all your files and documents. Sort your emails into folders and delete any junk mail you don’t need. Unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read. Close browser tabs you don’t need, or bookmark them for later.

Put Things in Their Place

As you clean up, assign a fixed spot to all your things. Going forward, make it a point to always put things back in the same spot. This will make it easier for you to find your things, as you will start to associate the item with a specific location.

Maintain a Calendar

Maintain a physical or digital calendar where you note things such as:

  • Appointments
  • Meetings
  • Deadlines
  • Social events
  • Birthdays 
  • Anniversaries

This will help ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines or occasions. You can also use your calendar to set reminders for yourself, to buy your best friend a cake for their birthday, for example, so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Digitize Documents

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that it can be helpful to digitize important paperwork, as well as other paper items such as recipes and photographs, to help minimize clutter.

The CDC notes that this not only ensures you have a backup in case the originals are destroyed, it also makes it easier for you to access and share documents digitally. The CDC recommends digitizing your medical records and insurance information and saving them to a secure digital location that you can access in case of an emergency.

Use Organizational Aides

There are a host of products that can help you be more organized, so be sure to take advantage of them. 

For physical spaces, there are several types of storage solutions for items such as clothes, shoes, jewelry, makeup, utensils, and documents. For digital spaces, there are several apps and tools that can help you organize your notes, lists, tasks, and emails.

Initially, it may take a little time to get used to the organizer, but once you’re used to it, it will become a habit.

Characteristics of Organized People

These are some of the characteristics of organized people, compared to those of disorganized people.

Organized People
  • Do things immediately

  • Tend to be focused and goal-oriented

  • Have more discipline

  • Keep their spaces clean and tidy

  • Maintain a calendar of important events

  • Tend to be more punctual

  • Have fixed spots for things

  • Are better prepared for emergencies

  • Are more likely to plan ahead

Disorganized People
  • Keep things for later

  • Tend to be more laid-back

  • Are more impulsive

  • Keep their spaces messy or dirty

  • Tend to miss appointments and events

  • Tend to be tardy

  • Are often unable to find things

  • Are more likely to be caught unawares

  • Are more likely to be unprepared

Potential Pitfalls of Being Disorganized

Harvard Business Review (HBR) notes that being disorganized can have several drawbacks, including:

  • Time wasted as a result of being unable to find things
  • Difficulty focusing, reduced cognitive function, and lower productivity
  • Trouble with decision-making and emotional regulation
  • Higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Poorer sleep quality and eating habits
  • Lower quality of relationships, as people tend to have a poorer view of disorganized people

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s the best way to get organized?

    There are many different ways to organize something and there often isn’t a “right” way to do things. A method that works for one person may not necessarily work for another, and vice versa. The best method for you is the one that you can follow consistently.

  • Do you need to clean up every day to be organized?

    It certainly helps to keep a daily routine that involves basic tasks such as making your bed, tidying your room, doing the dishes, and seeing to the most urgent things on your to-do list. Doing small amounts every day can help prevent things from piling up. 

    Apart from this, you can plan to do other tasks over the weekend or when you have spare time.

A Word From Verywell

Being organized can help you maintain tidy and clutter-free physical and digital spaces. It can help you focus better on the task at hand and be more productive, while reducing your stress and anxiety levels.

If you’re not used to being organized, start slowly with small changes and work your way up to bigger ones. It definitely takes some discipline, particularly in the early stages. Over time, however, it will become a habit that’s part of your daily routine.

If you have a mental health condition that is making it difficult for you to find the motivation or energy to organize your things, reach out to a mental health professional.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Schrager S, Sadowski E. Getting more done: strategies to increase scholarly productivity. J Grad Med Educ. 2016;8(1):10-13. doi:10.4300/JGME-D-15-00165.1

  3. Harrison WJ, Bex PJ. Visual crowding is a combination of an increase of positional uncertainty, source confusion, and featural averaging. Sci Rep. 2017;7:45551. doi:10.1038/srep45551

  4. Aso Y, Yamaoka K, Nemoto A, Naganuma Y, Saito M. Effectiveness of a 'Workshop on Decluttering and Organising' programme for teens and middle-aged adults with difficulty decluttering: a study protocol of an open-label, randomised, parallel-group, superiority trial in Japan. BMJ Open. 2017;7(6):e014687. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014687

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get better prepared by getting organized.

  6. Harvard Business Review. The case for finally cleaning your desk.

  7. Siegel J. Getting organized in your job. J Orthop Trauma. 2013;27 Suppl 1:S8-S11. doi:10.1097/BOT.0b013e3182a52344

Additional Reading

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.