Simple Organizing Hacks for Messy People

I’ve already admitted to you in this post about 15 Minute Interval Cleaning that I’m not a good housekeeper.  I also told you that I really don’t like a messy house.  I have this recurring day dream of waking up early on Saturday morning and sitting on the couch under a cozy throw blanket, drinking a cup of coffee and reading a book for an hour before the family wakes up.  ***The post “Simple Organizing Hacks for Messy People” contains affiliate links.  If you click one and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you***


My actual Saturday is more like: Get woken up by the cat who is knocking my water bottle off of my bedside table because he is hungry for food, drink a diet coke because I forgot to buy K Cups and decide whether to clear the kids back packs off the couch or just go back to bed.  Not nearly as pleasant, right?

Now, I’ve been on this planet for 42 years and I’ve been in this house for 10. You would think I was a bit more organized at this point, wouldn’t you? Here’s the problem. Most of the things I’ve learned about getting organized have come from people who are naturally organized.  I look at Pinterest and see things like this gorgeous peg board from A Girl and A Glue Gun:

You got to see my peg board organization HERE and I’ve since been seeing pegboards EVERYWHERE!!! So many amazing hacks and tips and colors and sizes!!! I just HAD to do a roundup! (had too!) I think I just love pegboards because they are so easy to change up the layout and what you put …

I want to have that.  I really do.  BUT, I know that is not my reality. That peg board would look like that ONE time in this house and then it would be a disaster of piles on the desk, pieces falling off the peg board and just general chaos.

Because you know what?  Peg boards don’t fix messy!  Peg boards don’t organize.  People organize and they may use a peg board to do so, but you do have to actually commit to hanging each of those scissors and washi tapes BACK UP after you’ve finished using them.

Messy people don’t do that.  We put things down in the spot where it will take the least amount of energy to put down.  I think the organized brain goes like this, “I’m going to hang this back up so that the next time I need it, I’ll know exactly where it is”. The messy brain is more, “Cutting done, put down scissors, move on to the next thing because whatever I did .2 seconds a go is no longer relevant to my life”.

Why do I feel confident that messy people say this to themselves, subconsciously?  Because of Christmas wrapping.  When I wrap Christmas presents, I sit or stand in one place (either the floor or at a big table).  I get my stuff: scissors, tape, paper, etc.  I’ve got everything within an arm’s length radius.  And do you know what happens?  I end up looking for either the scissors or the tape every 37 seconds because I put them down in some random place that is now hidden under a pile of bows, paper and empty shopping bags.  I can’t keep a five foot radius organized enough to not lose stuff.  How am I supposed to contend with a whole house?

Well, I’ve done some digging.  Now, this isn’t just going to be a “Here’s a list of 101 ways to Get Organized!” list.  These are things that I’ve tried and that have actually worked in my messy world.  There is not a peg board to be found in this list. Most of what you are going to see is very, very simple.  I’m also not giving you 101 tips. Because, 1st, that’s a lot of tips to find and second, you don’t need that many.  You need a few simple, non-fussy ways to put stuff away.  Here we go.

The Old “List in a Bag” Trick

My first and very favorite tip is the old list in a bag trick. I learned it from an organizing book that I ready many years ago called Organizing from the Inside Out from Julie Morgenstern. She’s a reformed messy person and she writes about the anxiety of packing a diaper bag when you’ve just had a baby.

If you’re an organized person, this might not make sense to you (also, you probably don’t need to read this if you’re organized. Who am I kidding, no organized person clicked this post), but putting all of the things you need in order to properly care for a baby, a toddler, another child or even just yourself into a bag in advance of a long day, can be a daunting task.

The note in the bag trick is your savior.  The idea is that you make a list of all of the things that bag is going to need to carry.  THEN YOU PUT THE LIST IN THE BAG!  Now, when you’re trying to get ready in the morning and doing fifty things at once, you don’t have to use any part of your brain to fill that bag. You look at your list, add what you need and you’re done. It’s so brilliantly simple. Then, just leave the list in the bag for next time.  You never have to waste brain space on figuring out what to put in that bag again!

If you don’t have a baby, don’t think that this tip isn’t for you.  I don’t have babies anymore, but I still use this trick for lots of different things.  Sporting event bags, for one. My daughter has weekend long softball tournaments that are always far from home.  If you don’t plan ahead properly for those, there will be something you forget that will make you or your child miserable for oh, 5-13 hours of softball.   I use it when we’re going on vacation. I put a list of clothes, toiletries, medicines, snacks, games, etc. into the bags that they belong in.  I have even modified this tip to work for Thanksgiving.  I put out all of my serving bowls ahead of time and I write the name of a side dish on a little slip of paper and put that inside the dish.  Insane?  Perhaps.  But I haven’t forgotten to put the cranberry sauce out in years.

Baskets Are the Messy Person’s Best Friend

Do you know a person at work whose desk is an absolute pit of despair?  Like, when you walk by it, papers fall off the desk?  And not because you’ve created a breeze whilst creeping past.  It’s because the paper is trying to escape the mess that is that person’s desk.  Do you ever ask that person for something and they immediately put their sticky finger on it and hand it over? That person is magical to me.

I’m not actually like that. My desk can get messy, but I can’t do that “put your finger on it” thing. If I start accumulating piles, the piles start taking on a life of their own.  I get paper piles.  I get piles of shoes on the floor.  Stacks of books.  Gatherings of pens and pencils.  It carries through to my whole house.  So, what to do?  Baskets.  That’s what. Baskets for storing shoes.  Baskets for all of your cozy throw blankets.  Teeny tiny baskets for crafting supplies. (ps, sometimes is not an actual basket, just a vessel).

You can pretty much put anything in a basket and it is suddenly, A.  Contained B. Neater and C. Protected.  Why are these three things important?

Contained:  Papers and/or any other stuff you leave in a pile somewhere, will find a way to migrate to other areas of     your home. It happens very slowly and you might not notice for, like, a week, but it happens.

Neater:  If you put your crap in a basket, it looks neater. Do you want to look neater?  Then put your crap in a basket.

Protected: Have you ever had to send back your kids permission slip with barbecue sauce smeared on it?  You need baskets.

Purge Your Clothing Early and Often

My mom always, *always* tells me, “Bethie, your clothes are what is making your house messy!” (Tell no one that my mother calls me Bethie.  That’s our little secret).  And she’s partly right.  One time I read the Konmari Method book  and I started (and pretty much finished) by purging my clothing.  I pulled literally every piece of clothing I had out of every nook and cranny of the house and I ended up  with a pile that was nearly the size of my daughter.  She was 10 at the time.

The best thing that giant purge session did for me was make me feel sick to my stomach over the gluttunous volume of clothing I had accumulated.  It was truly, just gross.  So, I tackled that pile with fervor.

The simplest way to decide what clothing you should dump is to ask yourself,

“Would I buy this in a store?”

Is it ripped?  Not buying it. Is it too small or too big? Not buying it.  Is it ugly? Not buying it.

The only exception I will make is if the article is super special to me, like the dress I wore to my son’s Christening.  I will never wear that again in my life, but I love it and I can always dream.

Purging is important to keep your house tidy because if you have more than your closets/drawers will fit (and this goes for more than just clothing) you’re going to get that “bursting at the seams”, sloppy look.  Your laundry will be easier, too.  Less to fold, less to put away, more time for watching The Bachelor.  I have also found that having less clothing actually makes it easier to pick out outfits.  If you keep your closet pared down to only the stuff that you love and that fits you, then you will always have something you love to wear.

If you’re looking for what to do after you’ve purged all your clothes, check out this post on building a capsule wardrobe after a big purge from my girl Jen at Practical by Default.

The Hack to Save All Important Papers

My children’s schools still have the annoying practice of sending home important papers.  Like permission slips, sign up forms, flyers for school events.  And there’s stuff like receipts that need to be kept!  Who has a good filing system for receipts?  I mean it’s gotta be one of the oldest jokes in the book when the frazzled business owner shows up at the accountant with a bag full of crumpled receipts, right?  It boggles my mind that we are still doing this in this digital age, but I have found a ridiculously easy way to never lose any of that important information.  Ready for it?

I take a picture of the paper with my phone.

Is your mind blown?  Ok, maybe not, but this has saved me many, many times.  What day is that field trip?  Hang on, let me check my phone.  What time does the after school club end?  Oh, I have it right here in my phone.  I’ve also used this trick when I’m at the hairdresser reading a magazine and come across a recipe or something that I like.  I snap a photo of it and I don’t have to be the jerk who rips out a piece of the magazine.

Briana Berner, blogger at Spiked Parenting, professional organizer at Organized Fixology and productivity coach believes in going digital with as much of your paper work as possible, too.  Request e-bills whenever you can and for things you know you want long term, she suggests scanning them to your computer.  And as for all of that paper you DON’T need to keep, shred it!  Who doesn’t love a good shredding session, right?  If you’re ready to take your Organizing game to the next level, you should check out Briana’s course:

Ok, fellow messies, I’ve got you started.  Pick one of these and try it for a week or two.  See if it doesn’t motivate you to try more!

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2 thoughts on “Simple Organizing Hacks for Messy People”

  1. Hey, I know you! Lol! I recognized your picture from slack. Thanks so much for stopping by. Want the real truth? I work on my couch because my desk is covered AND my dining room table is now covered with Christmas decorations. At least I took them down, lol. Thanks! Marybeth

  2. I laughed out loud while I was reading this. I am sitting at my dining room table on a laptop, with a pile of papers next to me. I’m at the table because the office has just become too messy and I don’t want to look at it!

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