7 organizing tips that really work

Make your desk, closet, entry, or pantry a more beautiful, useful place. Our experts show you how
Jess Chamberlain and Monica Ewing

New years inspire us to get organized. We think about tackling big projects ― the garage, that closet (you know the one). But we often fall short of our lofty goals because we forget that January can be just as busy as every other month of the year.

This year can be different. Read on for easy organizing tips (that won't take you all weekend to accomplish) from Sunset home writer Jess Chamberlain and designer/organizational guru Monica Ewing of CraftyNest.

Even if you only have 15 minutes a day, these 7 steps will help you start the year off right.

Office Time to get old news off your desk. Start at one area in your office and make your way around the room. Sort loose papers into piles: file (tax info and the like), shred (credit card and bank info you no longer need), and recycle (junk mail). Then label with reckless abandon. Monica labels all of her boxes, bins, drawers, and binders.

Closet If you haven't worn it in the last year, move it out of the closet. Sort by destination: giveaway, resale shop, and keepsake (though very little should go in this pile). Be ruthless: If you don't love it, move it.

Pantry Empty food items onto a counter space. Sort into three piles: keep (have intention to do something with it); giveaway (canned or packaged goods that have not exceeded their expiration dates, but that you have no intention to use in the near future); and toss or compost (items that have exceeded expiration dates, or opened goods that you have no intention to use). Clean shelves and let dry. Restock the "keep" pile; make a list of things you need to replace on your next trip to the market.

Digital Desktop Your computer needs to be organized just like the rooms of your home. Move every item on your computer's desktop into folders on your hard drive. Typically, you shouldn't need more than five folders on your desktop for files you use regularly. Instead of clutter on your desktop, you'll see your favorite photo of Fluffy.

Entry Your entry is the first place clutter piles up. It's also the first space you (and your guests) see upon arrival. Resist the urge to drop whatever you've brought in (purse, mail, shopping bags, keys) on the closest surface to your front door.

Have an organized system: a spot for keys, a rack for coats and handbags, and a letter box for incoming and outgoing mail. (See how to make an entry organizer.)

Next: Reduce your junk mail

 

Then, work on reducing your junk mail ― stop the flow at the source! Try these resources:

Maintenance Organizing doesn't have to consume a whole weekend. Spend 15 minutes at the end of the day sorting mail, clearing tabletops, and folding laundry, and chores won't seem so overwhelming.

Make it fun Make organizing and cleaning fun. Put on some music, light an aromatic candle, and use a softly fragrant cleaning spray. Seriously, it'll make you want to clean more. We love Caldrea's Citrus Mint Ylang Ylang All-Purpose Cleanser.

Also, there's no point in organizing a space that you don't enjoy. For instance, even if you only pay bills at your desk, add photos, art, and color so you look forward to spending time there. Once the clutter is gone, reward yourself by hanging your favorite cards and pictures on your bulletin board. Frame family photos. Color coordinate your boxes and binders. Put favorite pens in a pretty jar.

Companies that have organizing and storage products we covet:

The Container Store (anything and everything organizing related)
See Jane Work (anything office related)
IKEA (storage boxes and bins, magazine files)

More: Click through our gallery of creative workspaces