The Simple Concept That Finally Got My Family (Mostly) Organized

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One of my first jobs in high school was as a receptionist at a day spa. The owner was an inspiring female entrepreneur who taught me a lot of powerful lessons about business and life along the way. It was from her that I first heard the expression "a place for everything and everything in its place." While I certainly applied it readily many years ago as a teenager, I'll admit it didn't resonate with me as strongly back then. 

As I got older and felt the stress and anxiety that can come from disorganization, clutter, or simply not knowing where things are, I'd often hear my former boss’ voice in my head saying this phrase. Over the years and across various cities, from being single with roommates to married with children, I've worked to chip away at this simple goal with varying degrees of success. 

What does it mean? Very simply, it means that you designate a space in your home for each item (e.g., wallet or keys) or type of item (e.g., tools or charging cables) and prioritize the return of that item to its place when you are done using it or by the end of the day. Sounds easy, right? Perhaps for some it is natural, but for whatever reason, I had never gotten to a place where all of my home was organized and planned out in this way at once. In fact, I’m still not there. But I’ve gotten much closer.

Being home with my children for most of the last 18 months of the pandemic heightened the sense of urgency I had around reducing clutter and keeping our home organized, as it was having a direct and negative impact on my mental health. At some point along the way, I realized I had to do something and eventually prioritized a massive overhaul of organization using this simple principle.  

I tackled one section of our home at a time (the kitchen cabinets and drawers; the entryway dresser, aka our former giant chest of junk drawers; bathroom and linen storage; tool cabinet, kids’ toys, etc.). I’d divide areas with small boxes like shoeboxes, Amazon boxes, or simple IKEA storage boxes, crates, and totes and label them with label maker or Sharpie where appropriate. Labeling may seem over the top, but it can be extremely helpful when you aren’t the only one responsible for getting things back where they go. 

The area underneath my bathroom sink, for example, is organized into clearly defined areas for hair products, hair tools, daily skin care products, occasional skin care products, body care, oral hygiene, and first aid. In the process of organizing them, I got rid of a lot of excess items. Have I used this in the last six months? Nope. Then it’s gotta go! I set the intention to never going to bed with items left on the bathroom vanity and make sure everything I’ve taken out that day makes its way back to its spot. I also set the intention not to have more of one type of item than fits into the designated area. This has helped quell the reaccumulation of products and overflow of the space. 

Periodic check-ins with each organized area are critical, too. At this very moment, I know that my previously meticulously organized kitchen cabinets are in need of some attention. 

It can certainly be difficult to maintain “a place for everything and everything in its place” when you are working to achieve the goal on your own, but it can be even more difficult when roommates, partners, spouses, and children are also responsible for getting it done along with you. It takes discipline and consistency. It takes communication with everyone in your home and setting clear expectations. And yes, even for me, it remains a work in progress. But with this simple guiding principle, you can make great strides in your home organization goals and yes, even eliminate that perpetual drop spot of junk on your kitchen counter. 


This piece is part of a series focused on helping parents prepare their kids for back-to-school. For more tips on getting organized, mastering multiple schedules, and prepping for the 2021 school year, see our full back-to-school guide.

Tags: Organization

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Written By

Kerstin Shamberg

Kerstin is a writer, editor and digital content/social media strategist working primarily with women-run small businesses. See Full Bio

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