Do you spend your day running from task to task, barely completing each one, and always feeling slightly behind? Or maybe you can't seem to keep track of your belongings. You lose your keys, your kids' school papers, or that really important photo that you were planning to frame...once you get the time. If any of these scenarios sounds familiar, you might benefit from getting organized. But who has the time?
The organizational process can be time-consuming and can feel intimidating to some people. But there are some simple organizational hacks that can help you streamline various aspects of your life to keep things in their place and keep your life running smoothly.
Simple Hacks to Organize Your Life
What, exactly, does it mean to organize your life? The answer to that question might vary from person to person. Maybe you just want all of your socks to have a matching pair and doing so would help you to have a sense of control when you get dressed in the morning. Or maybe you feel that you need to organize your work priorities so that you have a sense of accomplishment at the end of each workday. Take some time to think about what you really want and, more importantly, what you need.
At the end of the day, you only have to worry about organizing your life in a way that makes sense to you. After you have your lifestyle and personal goals in mind, you can take the necessary steps to make changes for a more streamlined life. These hacks are divided into the lifestyle areas where people often seek greater organization.
1. Make Food Prep a Snap
The food that you put into your body gives you energy, fuels your muscles, and helps regulate the function of all of your cells. Food also provides comfort and gives us a way to connect with others in our families or in social circles. But meal preparation can feel like a grueling chore - especially on days when you are already tired.
Luckily, there are many strategies that can help you to maintain a healthy diet that fits your lifestyle. Some ways to manage your nutrition include:
- Plan your meals for the week ahead of time.
- Try to choose meals during the week that have similar ingredients (ex: baked chicken on Monday and chicken Parm on Tuesday).
- Create a menu for the month if you really like to plan ahead.
- Make a grocery list before you head to the store.
- Keep track of what you bought and go paperless by using the notes app on your phone.
- Buy your main ingredients in bulk to take advantage of any deals.
- Dedicate one evening per week for meal prep
- Get loved ones involved in meal prep to make it easier and more fun.
- Make double portions of your favorite meals and freeze half for another day.
- Freeze any leftovers for a bonus, stress-free dinner or lunch in the future.
- Try one new fruit or vegetable per month to expand your palette and find new meal ideas.
- Keep a food journal with recipes and foods you like and don't to keep track of the hits and misses.
- After you make a meal, write down how long it took you to complete it from start to finish. When you know how difficult a meal is to put together, you can use that information in the future when planning dinners.
2. Become a Time-Management Pro
Efficient time management is not an easy skill to acquire. Not only is it hard to set a schedule, but it's also difficult to stick to it. While smart time management isn't likely to happen overnight, you can gradually learn to incorporate simple skills into your life one at a time.
If you constantly feel like there's too much to do and not enough time to do it, look at the techniques below to help you get organized.
- Make a list of the activities you must accomplish in a day (for example, take the kids to school, take a shower)
- Make a separate list of the things you would like to accomplish during the day (hit the gym, clean out the closet)
- Rank the activities on your must-do list in order from most to least important.
- Be sure to schedule your high-priority items first before including other activities in your routine.
- Use a daily planner to help you schedule work, leisure activities, family events, bills, and other activities.
- Use Google Calendar, Clockify, or other time-tracking apps if you prefer to go paperless.
- Color code activities in your planner to identify high priority, medium priority, and low priority tasks.
- Check your planner the night before so that you can be prepared for the next day.
- Set three goals a day, one big and two small, to help you keep track of your accomplishments and stay motivated.
- Set reminders on your phone about doctor's appointments, birthdays, and events for a week before, a day before, and the day of important activities.
- Make sure you give yourself some time between activities to take a breath and shift your focus.
- Be honest with yourself and others about how much you already have on your plate, and remember to say no activities that might stretch you beyond your bandwidth.
3. Get Your Space in Order
It can be hard to keep your life under control when the spaces where live and work are in disarray. One way to reduce mess-related stress is to set aside some time to organize your most important areas. Once you have everything in its correct spot, you might not have to do the heavy lifting of reorganizing these areas again for a very long time. Some ways to organize your spaces are:
- Focus on one room at a time instead of trying to clean up all areas at once.
- In each area, separate items into three piles: keep, donate, or throw away.
- In your closet, hang clothes with the hook end of the hanger facing you. Then, when you wear an item and hang it back up, flip the hanger around so that you know you've worn them.
- At the end of the year, consider donating any clothing on hooks that show they might not have been worn.
- Use baskets, bins, and boxes to help you organize smaller items in your drawers, closets, pantry, and other areas.
- Create a to-do list of the chores that are required to keep your space in order and schedule them on your weekly calendar.
- Dedicate your time and attention to high-priority chores first to ensure that they are accomplished.
- In the car, place over-the-door plastic shoe organizers over the back of your car seats to store tissues, kids' toys, snacks, and more to keep your on-the-go items all in one place.
- Use peg boards, hangers, and hooks to hang up and hold your smaller items in the house, such as jewelry, and larger items in the garage, like tools and brooms.
4. Sort Your Finances
The end of the month always seems to come around too fast. And with it comes countless bills that need your urgent attention. If your finances are not in order, this time can feel stressful and concerning.
But there are ways to sort through your accounts and avoid financial stress in the future. Some ways to manage your finances include:
- Track your net income each month so that you know the amount you take home after taxes.
- Use your income to general a budget for each month based on past spending habits.
- Make separate budgets for necessary items (like groceries and gas) and also for secondary items, such as entertainment.
- Think about how much you want to save each month for retirement or your rainy day fund or just for fun trips in the future.
- Evaluate your credit card and bank statements to look for subscriptions you no longer use. Cancel them even if the amount seems small. Those small items add up quickly.
- Sign up for auto-pay and/or use online billing to ensure that you never miss a payment.
- Make an appointment to talk with a financial planner to discuss how you can put your best foot forward for your future and learn about investment opportunities.
5. Clear Your Mind
One of the most important relationships in your life is the one you have with yourself. Your thoughts guide your emotional health throughout the day. Just like your physical body needs care and rest, so does your mind. So decluttering your mental state by examining your thoughts can give your brain a much-needed break.
Some ways to care for your mental health include:
- Do a mood-check every hour or few hours and think about how you feel. Is your mood helpful or not? Is there anyway that you can change your mood if necessary? Sometimes a small break, a short walk, or a few deep breaths can reset a negative mood.
- Start a meditation practice.
- Try yoga, tai chi, or gi-gong to help relieve stress and improve your sleep.
- Create a gratitude journal to remind yourself of what you're thankful for.
- Explore breathing practices.
- Say no to the things that you want to say no to.
- Develop a relaxing nighttime routine and try to stick to it.
- Try your best to go to sleep and wake up at about the same time each day.
- Allow yourself to be creative and explore different hobbies and activities.
- Unapologetically take breaks whenever you need to.
- Practice self-care activities like indulging in your favorite snack or taking a relaxing bath.
- Take a class on mindfulness or meditation to learn more about the practices.
- Consider exploring therapy or joining a support group.
6. Tend to Your Relationships
While your relationship with yourself is important, so are the relationships you have with the people around you. Having healthy relationships is sometimes referred to as social wellness.
But sometimes the work required to repair or build relationships doesn't yield a strong sense of trust and mutual understanding. It can be helpful to think about new ways to foster growth in the relationships that matter to you. Consider these tips to build value in your social connections:
- Make time for your social life in your schedule.
- Reach out to your loved ones when you miss them. Even a simple text can make a difference.
- Let the people in your life know that you appreciate and care for them.
- Don't be afraid to make new connections or to leave relationships that no longer serve you.
- If you want to repair a relationship, have those important conversations with the people in your circle.
- Join a community group that goes on hikes or attends local events to meet new people in your area.
7. Take Charge of Your Physical Health
When life comes at you fast, it can be easy to neglect your physical health. But, it can also be hard to muster the energy needed for organization if your body doesn't feel good. If you've put off addressing aspects of your physical health, consider these different ways to tend to your body's needs:
- Schedule an appointment for a medical check-up and make sure you ask the questions you may have about your health.
- Find some form of physical activity you enjoy and try to do it for at least 30 minutes each day on most days of the week.
- Remember to take stretching and walking breaks throughout the day to check to release tension in your body.
- Reach out for help whenever you're feeling sick or experiencing pain. Use online resources (like virtual health appointments) to get the care you need.
- Stay home from work and cancel plans when you feel under the weather to avoid making your symptoms worse.
8. Clean Out Your Virtual World
We spend a lot of time online. Like, a lot of time. In fact, the average time spent on social media alone is about 147 minutes per day. That estimate doesn't include time spent on other apps, websites, or streaming platforms.
Social media, in particular, has been linked to depression and anxiety, and the rates of these mental health concerns continue to rise. If you find yourself spending more time than you'd like online, take some time to declutter your virtual spaces to make sure they are serving your mental and emotional health. Some ways to sort through your digital world are:
- Monitor how much time you spend online per day. Many phones have options, such as screen monitoring, which will track the time you spend on your phone throughout the day. You can also download apps such as Social Fever and Offtime to track your screen time as well.
- Pay attention to which apps you spend the most time on, and check in with yourself after you scroll. Ask yourself how it makes you feel, and see if you notice any changes in your stress level.
- If you feel like you spend too much time online, set a goal to decrease your screen usage. You can start small and decrease it by a few minutes each week to get it down to a number that feels healthier for you.
- Delete apps on your phone or remove bookmarks online for sites that you feel may be damaging to your mental health.
- Think about who you follow on social media. Unfollow accounts that lead you to make unhealthy comparisons or that lead to negative self talk.
- Follow accounts that help you foster a healthy self-image and leave you feeling inspired or empowered.
- If you feel pressured to post (or not post) on social platforms, take some time to check in and explore why you may be having those feelings.
- Take breaks from social media whenever you need to. You can always re-download the app or log back into your account when you're ready.
- While you're clearing out your virtual world, you might also find it helpful to sort through your email accounts. Unsubscribe from mailing lists that might be cluttering up your inbox. Delete junk mail in your spam folder and categorize important emails.
You don't have to organize every aspect of your life all at once. It's a process that takes time, but little by little you'll get to where you want to be. Once your life becomes more streamlined, you might find that you have the time and energy to do the things you've always thought about doing. You can turn those "maybe one day"s into a checklist of activities that you're finally ready to take on.