Have you committed to being slightly more organized in the coming year? Need some New Year organization ideas that have a good chance of working? 

To make things easy for your New Year organization push, this blog post lists the top organization ideas and productivity tips recommended by organization experts to help us all stay organized throughout the coming year. 

1. Name the chaos, tame the chaos.

Getting organized for the New Year starts by understanding exactly where and what you want to organize. In fact, you might feel your house needs more organization than it actually does. But the vague unease of messy closets (and holiday season partying?) might be causing a feeling of chaos to loom large.

Rebecka Zucker, writing for the Harvard Business Review, suggests pinpointing the main cause of overwhelm by asking yourself what is causing 80% of the stress you are currently feeling. This concept applies to clutter as well. 

Instead of letting the feelings of disorganization loom large, think about what is giving you the largest amount of stress and put that at the top of your list. 

If you have several contenders for first place, list all the places you most want to get organized. And then prioritize the places that you spend the most time in.

2. Divide and conquer.

You might not feel ready to tackle the chaos lurking behind your kitchen cabinets in one go. But you could probably organize a junk drawer (or half a drawer) and feel OK. 

With a notepad in hand, go around and make a to do list of all the areas you want to tackle and then decide on actions per space.

Every large project can be broken down into smaller parts.

The accumulation of tiny wins will create forward momentum and push you toward your larger goal. Also, checking each box as you complete mini-tasks feels immensely satisfying.

3. Use the magic of calendar blocking to reduce friction. 

Calendar blocking, popularized by Cal Newport, is a time management technique where you block time on your calendar for certain tasks or projects.

By setting aside a specific time for decluttering and organizing, you’re more likely to focus on actions that will help you get organized. You’ll stop expending energy trying to figure out when is the best time to declutter because you’ll already have made space in your schedule for doing it.  

For a productive day, create a calendar event for specific area you wish to organize and set yourself a reminder. The more detailed you can get about the task you want to complete, the likelier you are to get it done.

calendar blocking

Calendar blocking example, Todoist.

4. Start a digital filing system for receipts, tax docs, and all your paper.

According to a Zapier report, 73% of office workers spend 1 to 3 hours trying to find information or a particular document.

By digitizing all your documents and implementing a digital filing system, you reclaim time previously spent on sifting and sorting. 

Consider outsourcing to a document and receipt scanning service such as Shoeboxed and get rid of a year’s paperwork without spending hours scanning items one by one.

Every month, or more often if needed, Shoeboxed will send you a pre-paid Magic Envelope. Simply stuff the envelope with receipts, paper documents, and anything you want digitized. Shoeboxed will scan it all up, and you’ll get notified when it’s all in your online Shoeboxed account.

How to use and send Shoeboxed’s Magic Envelope

Start the new year with an office cleared of paper clutter. Of all the tips in this article, this new year’s resolution will free you up to do deep work on high-level projects. Also, the satisfaction of everything digitized and stored neatly in a digital filing system is immense.

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5. Use this one question to declutter your whole home.

The Minimal Mom on YouTube suggests using the following question to help reduce clutter in your home: Is it adding value? 

She explains that every item serves a purpose and should help to make our lives better in some way. If it doesn’t—if it isn’t adding the type of value you wanted when you first bought the item—then there’s no reason to hold on to it. 

“The whole purpose of stuff is to make our life easier, is to make our life better. And if there are things that are not accomplishing that, why would we keep them? Because we know the cost now of keeping that stuff is that it takes our time and energy to manage it.”

Is your item adding value? by The Minimal Mom

6. Place an empty box in your closet. 

A great decluttering tip you can use as you do your new year cleaning comes from Olivia Muenter over at Apartment Therapy. Muenter suggests keeping an empty box in your closet or near your most disorganized space. 

Throughout the week, any item that you think you’ll use “eventually” goes into the box. That’s the key here. You’re not asking yourself whether to keep it or not. Instead, you’re asking yourself if you’ve made up a story about how you’ll use this or that item in some distant future. 

It’s supremely clever because you’re spotting the tricks your mind is likely playing to make you hold onto stuff that you actually won’t ever use. 

At the end of the week or month, donate all of your stuff to a consignment store. For good measure, I would suggest labeling this box “Maybe toss?” or “To donate” so that it doesn’t become another box with an uncertain purpose in your home.

7. Do a favor-exchange with your most organized friend.

Do you have a friend who is terribly good at organizing? Ask them to go through your closets for you. 

You—of course—need to make it worth their while. Do a favor in return. Are you good at design? Offer to design a logo for them using a logo maker. Have a green thumb? Help nurse a sickly plant back to life.

Make sure the favor you return is equal to what you’re asking of your friend. 

Of course, if you’re lucky to have the kind of friend who is good at organization, they likely have been itching to get at your disorganized mess for a long time.

Promise your eternal gratitude for helping you get organized—but also provide wine and snacks.

8. Watch organization masters at work. 

Sometimes we don’t make any changes because we don’t know what new storage solutions or new storage systems we might be able to try out.

For example, things like changing the location of kitchen utensils within reachable distance of the stove. Or using plastic containers in the storage for easy viewing of the contents. Establishing a command center in a central location to keep track of important dates.

Organizing experts can inspire you and give you organizational tips that are immediately useable and immensely satisfying. Some fantastic sources of inspiration for your new year cleaning spree include Marie Kondo and The Home Edit, both available on Netflix.

organized counter and shelve space

An organized counter and shelve space, The Home Edit.

Another way that organizing experts help is by helping you shift your orientation of how you see your things, which will make it easier for you when it comes time to get rid of clutter. 

Holding on to the big picture is a challenge. Reading books on the topic of minimalism or listening to podcasts on the art of simple living can help.

9. Develop a system for problem areas. 

What is the area of your house that cannot stay organized? Or that accumulates clutter no matter how hard you try to get it organized? For me, it’s the foyer, where I will kick off my shoes and seldom take that extra step to put my shoes away.

I have an excellent shoe closet that spans the length of my foyer area. But opening this shoe closet reveals why I’ve never bothered putting things away. 

There was no space left over. I did a quick and ruthless edit. Any shoes I hadn’t used in the last year were tossed. Flipflops and summer shoes were stored in summer storage bins. And, at last, I had space for my shoes. 

Look at the problem areas in your house. Become a detective of your behavior. Ask yourself why you aren’t putting things away where they belong. It could be that there’s no more space where you used to be storing such items. Or it could be you never designated a space for that item to begin with. 

Which brings us to our next tip for New Year organization.

10. Everything must have a place. 

One thing that often prevents individuals from staying organized is simply not having a clear and thought-out location for every item they own. 

Having fewer belongings helps with this endeavor. The fewer things you own, the less time you need to spend organizing and designating places for your things. 

But let’s say you’re starting with an overflow of stuff in rooms throughout your home or in your storage space. The organizers over at the NEAT Method suggest you start by bringing every item in a certain category together. For instance, all your kitchen cleaning supplies, all of your dishes, all of your books, all of your knickknacks, etc.

Everything must have its place
Everything must have its place, NeatMethod.com

Once you have scoured your house for a certain category, you can see where you have duplicates and what you aren’t using. Then store everything of 1 category together in a designated space. Make sure this space is accessible and appropriate for the frequency with which you use it. Just knowing where to go for a certain item and where a certain item belongs goes a long way toward your new year’s resolution to start the year with a clean slate. Having a place for everything is the backbone of an organized home.

11. Close loops by blocking time for weekly & monthly cleaning tasks.

Part of the feeling of disorganization comes from open loops. 

  • “I need to do a load of laundry…”

  • “I need to clean out the fridge…” 

  • “I need to declutter my home office…” 

  • “I need to do meal planning…”

Decide on a time in your weekly and monthly calendar for cleaning and organizing tasks. The more granular you can get, the more loops you can close. 

  • Friday afternoon—clean off desk, reset for the next week

  • Saturday morning—laundry day

  • Saturday afternoon—clean out the fridge before the weekly grocery run on Sunday

  • Sunday evening—meal planning for the week with the whole family

Use time blocking to set a specific time on your calendar app of choice. Add it as a weekly recurring to-do. This will benefit you because you’ve cleared your mind of clutter by closing loops. Pretty soon, you may even start creating routines based on your timeblocks.

  • Saturday afternoon: clean out the fridge —> create a grocery list

Setting a specific date for yourself to do regularly reoccurring tasks allows you the freedom to not have to think about that thing until the appointed time. The result is it helps make life stress free or at least a little closer to that feeling. Doing this at the start of the year is a great way to take control of your calendar.

See also: +54 Life Hacks for Your Home, Office, and Everywhere in Between

12. If it’s not a hell yeah, it’s a no.

We’re almost to the end of our New Year organization ideas. Here’s one final tip that can serve to declutter your calendar as well as your closet. An important part of staying organized is simply saying no to the things that aren’t a “hell yeah.”

This “hell yeah or no” framework by Derek Sivers can help you with home organization by helping you say no to clutter and the accumulation of more things.It might even untangle you from less important events and obligations that have passed their usefulness or that no longer serve you.

13. An email organization tip that helps sort important email

Create a filter that automatically shunts every email with the word “unsubscribe” in it to a separate folder. All your mail promos and those newsletters you thought you wanted to read will all get nicely stored in this folder. When you’re looking for a promo code or a sale for a certain item, you can venture in there. But you won’t have to deal with them in your main inbox.

In closing

Don’t let failure to set realistic goals cause your new year’s resolutions to fail before you begin.

With your new year’s resolution to get organized, start small.

Instead of tackling one room at a time, zoom in even further. Do one drawer. One shelf. One area. The smallest possible unit. And work your way up to bigger wins.

Tomoko Matsuoka is managing editor for Shoeboxed, MailMate, and other online resource libraries. She covers small business tips, organization hacks, and productivity tools and software.

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